Anecdote About Samuel Johnson And The Poor
from 'Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson LL.D' by H.L. Piozzi

Severity towards the poor was, in Dr. Johnson's opinion (as is visible in his Life of Addison particularly), an undoubted and constant attendant or consequence upon whiggism; and he was not contented with giving them relief; he wished to add also indulgence. He loved the poor as I never yet saw any one else do, with an earnest desire to make them happy.

—"What signifies," says some one, "giving halfpence to common 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 show even visible displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths."

In consequence of these principles he nursed whole nests of people in his house, where the lame, the blind, the sick, and the sorrowful found a sure retreat from all the evils whence his little income could secure them: and commonly spending the middle of the week at our house, he kept his numerous family in Fleet-street upon a settled allowance; but returned to them every Saturday, to give them three good dinners, and his company, before he came back to us on the Monday night—treating them with the same, or perhaps more ceremonious civility, than he would have done by as many people of fashion—making the holy scriptures thus the rule of his conduct, and only expecting salvation as he was able to obey its precepts.

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