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Virtue and Vice
145. Charity; Life; Poverty
What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to beggars? they
only lay it out in gin or tobacco. "And why should they be
denied such sweeteners of their existence (says Johnson)? it is
surely very savage to refuse them every possible avenue to
pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a
pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet
for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, and are not
ashamed to shew even visible displeasure, if ever the bitter
taste is taken from their mouths."
"Every one in this world has as much as they can do in caring for
themselves, and few have leisure really to think of their
neighbours distresses, however they may delight their tongues
with talking of them."
"No, Sir; to act from pure benevolence is not possible for
finite beings. Human benevolence is mingled with vanity,
interest, or some other motive."
"You cannot spend money in luxury without doing good to the poor.
Nay, you do more good to them by spending it in luxury, than by
giving it; for by spending it in luxury, you make them exert
industry, whereas by giving it, you keep them idle. I own,
indeed, there may be more virtue in giving it immediately in
charity, than in spending it in luxury; though there may be a
pride in that too."
"If it is thoughtlessly done, we may neglect the most deserving
objects; and, as every man has but a certain proportion to give,
if it is lavished upon those who first present themselves, there
may be nothing left for such as have a better claim. A man
should first relieve those who are nearly connected with him, by
whatever tie; and then, if he has anything to spare, may extend
his bounty to a wider circle."
Boswell: Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
381. Charity; Self-Preservation
"He that pines with hunger, is in little care how others shall be
fed. The poor man is seldom studious to make his grandson
Johnson: Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland
462. Celibacy; Charity; Involvement;
Marriage; Stoicism; Solitude
"To live without feeling or exciting
sympathy, to be fortunate
without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without
tasting the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude;
it is not retreat, but exclusion from mankind. Marriage has many
pains, but celibacy has no pleasures."
Johnson: Rasselas [Princess Nekayah]
Note: If you haven't read it yet, please read this note of caution regarding quotes from
"To wipe all tears from off all faces is a task too hard for
mortals; but to alleviate misfortunes is often within the most
limited power: yet the opportunities which every day affords of
relieving the most wretched of human beings are overlooked and
neglected with equal disregard of policy and goodness."
Johnson: Rambler #107 (March 26, 1751)