Page images

I spoke with gratitude of Dr. Taylor's hospitality; and as evidence that it was not on account of his good table alone that Johnson visited him often, I mentioned a little anecdote which had escaped my friend's recollection, and at hearing which repeated, he smiled. One evening, when I was sitting with him, Frank delivered this message: “Sir, Dr. Taylor sends his compliments to you, and begs you will dine with him to-morrow. He has got a hare.”— “My compliments,” said Johnson, " and I'll dine with him -hare or rabbit.”

After breakfast I departed, and pursued my journey northwards. I took my post-chaise from the Green Man, a very good inn at Ashbourne, the mistress of which, a mighty civil gentlewoman, courtesying very low, presented me with an engraving of the sign of her house ; to which she had subjoined, in her own handwriting, an address in such singular simplicity of style, that I have preserved it pasted upon one of the boards of my original journal at this time, and shall bere insert it for the amusement of my readers.

« M. KILLINGLEY'S duty waits upon Mr. Boswell, is exceedingly obliged to him for this favour; whenever he comes this way, hopes for a continuance of the same. Would Mr. Boswell name the house to his extensive acquaintance, it would be a singular favour conferr'd on one who has it not in her power to make any other return but her most grateful thanks, and sincerest prayers for his happiness in time, and in a blessed eternity.

Tuesday morn."

From this meeting at Ashbourne I derived a considerable accession to my Johnsonian store. I communicated my original journal to sir William Forbes, in whom I have always placed deserved confidence; and what he wrote to me concerning it is so much to my credit as the biographer of Johnson, that my readers will, I hope, grant me their indulgence for here inserting it. " It is not once or twice going over it,” says sir William, “ that will satisfy me; for I find in it a high degree of instruction as well as entertainment; and I derive more benefit from Dr. Johnson's admirable discussions than I should be able to draw from his personal conversation; for I suppose there is not a man in the world to whom he discloses his sentiments so freely as to yourself.”

I cannot omit a curious circumstance which oecurred at Edensor inn, close by Chatsworth, to survey the magnificence of which I had gone a considerable way out of my road to Scotland. The inn was then kept by a very jolly landlord, whose name, I think, was Malton. He happened to mention that “ the ce'ebrated Dr. Johnson had been in his house." I enquired who this Dr. Johnson was, that I might hear mine host's notion of him. “ Sir," said he, “ Johnson the great writer; Oddity, as they call him. He's the greatest writer in England; he writes for the ministry! he has a correspondence abroad, and lets them know what's going on.”

My friend, who had a thorough dependence upon the authenticity of my relation without any embellishment, as falsehood or fiction is too gently called, laughed a good deal at this representation of himself.


[ocr errors]

“ Edinburgh, Sept. 29, 1777. “ MY DEAR SIR,-By the first post I inform you of my safe arrival at my own house, and that I had the comfort of finding my wife and children all in good health.

" When I look back upon our late interview, it appears to me to have answered expectation better than almost any scheme of happiness that I ever put in execution. My journal is stored with wisdom and wit; and my memory is filled with the recollection of lively and affectionate feelings, which now, I think, yield me more satisfaction than at the time when they were first excited. I have experienced this upon other occasions. I shall be obliged to you if you will explain it to me; for it seems wonderful that pleasure should be more vivid at a distance than when

near. I wish you may find yourself in a humour to do me this favour; but I flatter myself with no strong hope of it; for I have observed, that, unless upon very serious occasions, your letters to me are not answers to those which I write."

[I then expressed much uneasiness that I had mentioned to him the name of the gentleman who had told me the story so much to his disadvantage, the truth of which he had completely refuted; for that my having done so might be interpreted as a breach of confidence, and offend one whose society I valued :—therefore earnestly requesting that no notice might be taken of it to any body till I should be in London, and have an opportunity to talk it over with the gentleman.]


you wrote

seen Mr.

“ DEAR SIR,-You will wonder, or you have wondered, why no letter has come from me. What at your return had in it such a strain of cowardly caution as gave me no pleasure. I could not well do what you wished ; I had no need to vex you with a refusal. I have

and as to him have set all right, without any inconvenience, so far as I know, to you. Mrs. Thrale had forgot the story. You may now be at ease.

And at ease I certainly wish you, for the kindness that you

showed in coming so long a journey to see me. It was pity to keep you so long in pain; but, upon

reviewing the matter, I do not see what I could have done better than I did.

" I hope you found at your return my dear enemy and all her little people quite well, and had no reason to repent of your journey. I think on it with great gratitude,

“I was not well when you left me at the doctor's, and I

grew worse ; yet I staid on, and at Lichfield was very ill. Travelling, however, did not make me worse; and when I came to London, I complied with a summons to

go to Brighthelmstone, where I saw Beauclerk, and staid three days.

“Our club has recommenced last Friday, but I was not there. Langton has another wencho. Mrs. Thrale is in hopes of a young brewer. They got by their trade last year a very large sum, and their expenses are proportionate.

“ Mrs. Williams's health is very bad. And I have had for some time a very difficult and laborious respiration; but I am better by purges, abstinence, and other methods. I am yet, however, much behind hand in my health and rest.

“ Dr. Blair's sermons are now universally commended; but let him think that I had the honour of first finding and first praising his excellencies. I did not stay to add my voice to that of the publick.

My dear friend, let me thank you once more for your visit; you did me great honour, and I hope met with nothing that displeased you. I staid long at Ashbourne, not much pleased, yet awkward at departing. I then went to Lichfield, where I found my friend at Stow-hill" very dangerously diseased. Such is life. Let us try to pass it well, whatever it be, for there is surely something beyond it. Well, now I hope all is well.

Write as soon as you can to, dear sir, “ Your affectionate servant,

" SAM. JOHNSON. " London, Nov. 25, 1777..


· Edinburgh, Nov. 29, 1777. “MY DEAR SIR,—This day's post has at length relieved me from much uneasiness, by bringing me a letter from you. I was, indeed, doubly uneasy ;-on my own account and yours.

I was very anxious to be secured against any bad consequences from my imprudence in mentioning the gentleman's name who had told me a story to your disadvantage; and as I could hardly suppose it possible that you would delay so long to make me easy, unless you were ill, I was not a little apprehensive about you.

9 A daughter born to him.

r Mrs. Aston,

You must not be offended when I venture to tell you that you appear to me to have been too rigid upon this occasion. The cowardly caution which gave you no pleasure,' was suggested to me by a friend here, to whom I mentioned the strange story, and the detection of its falsity, as an instance how one may be deceived by what is apparently very good authority. But as I am still persuaded that, as I might have obtained the truth without mentioning the gentleman's name, it was wrong in me to do it, I cannot see that you are just in blaming my caution. But if you were ever so just in your disapprobation, might you not have dealt more tenderly with me?

“I went to Auchinleck about the middle of October, and passed some time with my father very comfortably.

[blocks in formation]

“I am engaged in a criminal prosecution against'a country schoolmaster, for indecent behaviour to his female scholars. There is no statute against such abominable conduct; but it is punishable at common law. I shall be obliged to you for your assistance in this extraordinary trial. I ever am, my dear sir, · Your faithful humble servant,

“ JAMES Boswell.

About this time I wrote to Johnson, giving him an account of the decision of the negro cause by the court of session, which, by those who hold even the mildest and best regulated slavery in abomination, (of which number I do not hesitate to declare that'I am none,) should be remembered with high respect, and to the credit of Scotland; for it went upon a much broader ground than the case of Somerset, which was decided in England '; being

* See State Trials, vol. xi. p. 339, and Mr. Hargrave's argument.

« PreviousContinue »