29 March 2012

We May Carry our Books in our Heads

James Boswell, Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill, Vol. 3 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1887), p. 312-3:
Having fallen into a very serious frame of mind, in which mutual expressions of kindness passed between us, such as would be thought too vain in me to repeat, I talked with regret of the sad inevitable certainty that one of us must survive the other.
JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, that is an affecting consideration. I remember Swift, in one of his letters to Pope, says, "I intend to come over, that we may meet once more; and when we must part, it is what happens to all human beings."' 
BOSWELL. 'The hope that we shall see our departed friends again must support the mind.' 
JOHNSON. 'Why yes, Sir.' 
BOSWELL. There is a strange unwillingness to part with life, independent of serious fears as to futurity. A reverend friend of ours (naming him) tells me, that he feels an uneasiness at the thoughts of leaving his house, his study, his books.
JOHNSON. This is foolish in *****. A man need not be uneasy on these grounds; for as he will retain his consciousness, he may say with the philosopher, Omnia mea mecum porto
BOSWELL. True, Sir, we may carry our books in our heads; but still there is something painful in the thought of leaving for ever what has given us pleasure. I remember, many years ago, when my imagination was warm, and I happened to be in a melancholy mood, it distressed me to think of going into a state of being in which Shakspeare's poetry did not exist. A lady whom I then much admired, a very amiable woman, humoured my fancy, and relieved me by saying, "The first thing you will meet in the other world, will be an elegant copy of Shakspeare's works presented to you." 
Dr. Johnson smiled benignantly at this, and did not appear to disapprove of the notion.
A footnote says this reverend friend was Thomas Percy, Bishop of Dromore.