135. Depression; Diversion;
Talking of constitutional melancholy, he observed, "A man so
afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat
with them." Boswell: "May not he think them down, Sir?"
Johnson: "No, Sir. To attempt to think them down
is madness. He should have a lamp constantly burning in his bed
chamber during the night, and if wakefully disturbed, take a
book, and read, and compose himself to rest. To have the
management of the mind is a great art, and it may be attained in
a considerable degree by experience and habitual exercise.."
Boswell: "Should not he provide amusements for himself?
Would it not, for instance, be right for him to take a course of
chymistry?" Johnson: "Let him take a course of
chymistry, or a course of rope-dancing, or a course of any thing
to which he is inclined at the time. Let him contrive to have as
many retreats for his mind as he can, as many things to which it
can fly from itself."
932. Hobbies; Vanity
"Between men of different studies and professions may be observed
a constant reciprocation of reproaches. The collector of shells
and stones derides the folly of him who pastes leaves and flowers
upon paper pleases himself with colours that are perceptibly
fading, and amasses with care what cannot be preserved. The
hunter of insects stands amazed that any man can waste his short
time upon lifeless matter, while many tribes of animals yet want
their history. Every one is inclined not only to promote his own
study, but to exclude all others from regard, and having heated
his imagination with some favourite pursuit, wonders that the
rest of mankind are not seized with the same passion."
Johnson: Rambler #83 (January 1, 1751)