��I suppose, and in eighteen years contrived to weary the patience of a woman x . When Mr. Johnson felt his fancy, or fancied he felt it, disordered, his constant recurrence was to the study of arith metic 2 ; and one day that he was totally confined to his chamber, and I enquired what he had been doing to divert himself; he shewed me a calculation which I could scarce be made to under stand, so vast was the plan of it, and so very intricate were the figures : no other indeed than that the national debt, computing it at one hundred and eighty millions sterling, would, if con verted into silver, serve to make a meridian of that rnetal, I for get how broad, for the globe of the whole earth, the real globe. On a similar occasion I asked him (knowing what subject he would like best to talk upon), How his opinion stood towards the question between Paschal and Soame Jennings 3 about number and numeration ? as the French philosopher observes that infinity, though on all sides astonishing, appears most so when the idea is connected with the idea of number ; for the notions of infinite number, and infinite number we know there is, stretches one's capacity still more than the idea of infinite space ; ' Such a notion indeed (adds he) can scarcely find room in the human mind V Our English author on the other hand exclaims, let no man give himself leave to talk about infinite number, for infinite number is a contradiction in terms ; whatever is once numbered, we all see cannot be infinite 5 . ' I think (said Mr. Johnson after a pause) we must settle the matter thus : numeration is certainly infinite, for eternity might be employed in adding unit to unit ; but every number is in itself finite, as the possibility of doubling
1 See /<?.$/, pp. 331, 341. the second article of the first part of
2 Boswell tells how 'Johnson de- Pascal's Penstes. In that case she lighted in exercising his mind on the does not give his meaning correctly, science of numbers.' Life^ iii. 207. 5 ' An infinite number is a contra- The only book which he took with diction in terms, and therefore every- him on his tour to the Hebrides was thing that is infinite or eternal must Cocker's Arithmetic. Ib. v. 138, n. 2. exist in some manner which bears See/^/, p. 301. no manner of relation to Space or
3 Soame Jenyns. Johnson reviewed Time, and which must therefore be to his Free Enquiry into the Nature us totally incomprehensible.' Jenyns's and Origin of Evil. Life, i. 315; Miscellaneous Pieces, ed. 1761, ii. Works, vi. 47. 209.
4 Mrs. Piozzi refers, I suppose, to