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Reply To A Paper In The Gazetteer
by [?]

Nothing now remains, but that I review my positions concerning the foundling hospital. What I declared last month, I declare now, once more, that I found none of the children that appeared to have heard of the catechism. It is inquired, how I wandered, and how I examined. There is, doubtless, subtlety in the question; I know not well how to answer it. Happily, I did not wander alone; I attended some ladies, with another gentleman, who all heard and assisted the inquiry, with equal grief and indignation. I did not conceal my observations. Notice was given of this shameful defect soon after, at my request, to one of the highest names of the society. This, I am now told, is incredible; but, since it is true, and the past is out of human power, the most important corporation cannot make it false. But, why is it incredible? Because, in the rules of the hospital, the children are ordered to learn the rudiments of religion. Orders are easily made, but they do not execute themselves. They say their catechism, at stated times, under an able master. But this able master was, I think, not elected before last February; and my visit happened, if I mistake not, in November. The children were shy, when interrogated by a stranger. This may be true, but the same shiness I do not remember to have hindered them from answering other questions; and I wonder, why children, so much accustomed to new spectators, should be eminently shy.

My opponent, in the first paragraph, calls the inference that I made from this negligence, a hasty conclusion: to the decency of this expression I had nothing to object; but, as he grew hot in his career, his enthusiasm began to sparkle; and, in the vehemence of his postscript, he charges my assertions, and my reasons for advancing them, with folly and malice. His argumentation, being somewhat enthusiastical, I cannot fully comprehend, but it seems to stand thus: my insinuations are foolish or malicious, since I know not one of the governours of the hospital; for, he that knows not the governours of the hospital, must be very foolish or malicious.

He has, however, so much kindness for me, that he advises me to consult my safety, when I talk of corporations. I know not what the most important corporation can do, becoming manhood, by which my safety is endangered. My reputation is safe, for I can prove the fact; my quiet is safe, for I meant well; and for any other safety, I am not used to be very solicitous.

I am always sorry, when I see any being labouring in vain; and, in return for the journalist’s attention to my safety, I will confess some compassion for his tumultuous resentment; since all his invectives fume into the air, with so little effect upon me, that I still esteem him, as one that has the merit of meaning well; and still believe him to be a man, whose failings may be justly pardoned for his virtues [2].


[1] From the Literary Magazine, vol. ii. p. 253.

[2] And of such a man, it is to be regretted, that Dr. Johnson was, by whatever motive, induced to speak with acrimony; but, it is probable, that he took up the subject, at first, merely to give play to his fancy. This answer, however, to Mr. Hanway’s letter, is, as Mr. Boswell has remarked, the only instance, in the whole course of his life, when he condescended to oppose any thing that was written against him. C.