This concludes the series on Samuel Johnson and depression. This quote does not come from Boswell, or even my Zotero “note cards” of Johnsoniana, but from Jack Lynch’s great The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page. Originally it was recorded in the “Anecdotes of the Revd. Percival Stockdale”, which was then collected and included in Johnsonian Miscellanies, edited by G.B. Hill.
I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, the blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him where she had dined the day before. “There were several gentlemen there,” said she, “and when some of them came to the tea-table, I found that there had been a good deal of hard drinking.” She closed this observation with a common and trite moral reflection; which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does great injustice to animals — “I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves.” “I wonder, Madam,” replied the Doctor, “that you have not penetration to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”