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It may be proper to add, that this selection was undertaken in the life-time of Mr. Boswell, and with his cordial approbation: had that gentleman lived, it might probably have been rendered more acceptable to the Reader.
Johnson's usual phrase for conversation was talk; yet he made a distinction; for having once dined at a friend's house with what he termed " very pretty company," and being asked if there was good conversation, he answered, “ No, Sir; we had talk enough, but no conversation; there was nothing discussed.”
He had a great aversion to gesticulation in company, and called once to a gentleman who offended him in that point, “ Don't attitudenise." When another gentleman thought he was giving additional force to what he uttered, by expressive movements of his hands, Johnson fairly seized them, and held them down.
He also disapproved of introducing scripture phrases into secular discourse.
Mr. Boswell having on some occasion observed, that he thought it right to tell one man of a handsome thing which had been said of him by another, as tending to increase benevolence, Johnson answered, “ Undoubtedly it is right, Sir.”
He thus defined the difference between physical and moral truth: “ Physical truth is, when you tell a thing as it actually is. Moral truth is, when you tell a thing sincerely and precisely as it appears to you. I say such a one walked across the street; if he really did so, I told a physical truth. If I thought so, though I should have been mistaken, I told a moral truth."
“A man,” he said, “ should be careful never to tell tales of himself to his own disadvantage. People may be amused and laugh at the time; but they will be remembered, and brought out against him upon some subsequent occasion."
At another time he observed, “ A man cannot with propriety speak of himself, except he relates simple facts; as, “I was at Richmond:' or what depends on mensuration; as, ' I am six feet high.' He is sure he has been at Richmond; he is sure he is six feet high: but he cannot be sure he is wise, or that he has any other excellence. Then, all censure of a man's self is oblique praise. It is in order to shew how much he can spare. It has all the invidiousness of self-praise, and all the reproach of falsehood.” Mr. Boswell however re