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which he speaks of my illustrious friend. “I must by no means omit Bolt-court, the long residence of doctor Samuel Johnson, a man of the strongest natural abilities, great learning, a most retentive memory, of the deepest and most unaffected piety and morality, mingled with those numerous weaknesses and prejudices which his friends have kindly taken care to draw from their dread abodem. I brought on myself his transient anger, by observing that in his tour in Scotland he once had long and woeful experience of oats being the food of men in Scotland as they were of horses in England. It was a national reflection unworthy of him, and I shot my bolt. In turn he gave me a tender hug”. Con amore he also said of me, “The dog is a whigo. I admired the virtues of lord Russel, and pitied his fall. I should have been a whig at the revolution. There have been periods since in which I should have been, what I now am, a moderate tory; a supporter, as far as my little influence extends, of a well-poised balance between the crown and people : but should the scale preponderate against the salus populi, that moment may it be said, “The dog's a whig!'”.
We had a calm after the storm, staid the evening and supped, and were pleasant and gay. But Dr. Percy told me he was very uneasy at what had passed; for there was a gentleman there who was acquainted with the Northumberland family, to whom he hoped to have appeared more respectable, by showing how intimate he was with Dr. Johnson, and who might now, on the contrary, go away with an opinion to his disadvantage. He begged I would mention this to Dr. Johnson, which I afterwards did. His observation upon it was, “ This comes of stratagem: had he told me that he wished to appear to advantage before that gentleman, he should have been at the top of the house all the time." He spoke of Dr. Percy in the handsomest manner. “Then, sir,” said I, “ may I be allowed to suggest a mode by which you may effectually counteract any unfavourable report of what passed? I will write a letter to you upon the subject of the unlucky contest of that day, and you will be kind enough to put in writing, as an answer to that letter, what you have now said ; and as lord Percy is to dine with us at general Paoli's soon, I will take an opportunity to read the correspondence in his lordship's presence.” This friendly scheme was accordingly carried into execution without Dr. Percy's knowledge. Johnson's letter placed Dr. Percy's unquestionable merit in the fairest point of view; and I contrived that lord Percy should hear the correspondence, by introducing it ạt general Paoli’s, as an instance of Dr. Johnson's kind disposition towards one in whom his lordship was interested. Thus every unfavourable impression was obviated that could possibly have been made on those by whom he wished most to be regarded. I breakfasted the day after with him, and informed him of my scheme, and its happy completion, for which he thanked me in the warmest terms, and was highly delighted with Dr. Johnson's letter in his praise, of which I gave him a copy.
m This is the common cant against faithful biography. Does the worthy gentleman mean that I, who was taught discrimination of character by Johnson, should have omitted his frailties, and, in short, have bedawbed him as the worthy gentleman has bedawbed Scotland ?--Boswell.
n See Dr. Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands, p. 296:-see his Dictionary, article Oats:—and my Voyage to the Hebrides, first edition,-PENNANT,
• Mr. Boswell's Journal, p. 286.---PENNANT,
copy. He said, “I would rather have this tban degrees from all the universities in Europe. It will be for me, and my children, and grandchildren.” Dr. Johnson having afterwards asked me if I had given him a copy of it, and being told I had, was offended, and insisted that I should get it back, which I did. As, however, he did not desire me to destroy either the original or the copy, or forbid me to let it be seen, I think myself at liberty to apply to it his general declaration to me concerning his own letters: “ That he did not choose they should be published in his lifetime; but had no objection to their appearing after his death.” 1 shall therefore insert this kindly correspondence, having faithfully narrated the circumstances accompanying it.
TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
“MY DEAR SIR-I beg leave to address you in behalf of our friend Dr. Percy, who was much hurt by what you said to him that day we dined at his house P; when, in the course of the dispute as to Pennant's merit as a traveller, you told Percy that he had the resentment of a narrow mind against Pennant, because he did not find every thing in Northumberland.' Percy is sensible that you did not mean to injure him; but he is vexed to think that your behaviour to him on that occasion may be interpreted as a proof that he is despised by you, which I know is not the case. I have told him, that the charge of being narrow-minded was only as to the particular point in question; and that he had the merit of being a martyr to his noble family.
“ Earl Percy is to dine with general Paoli next Friday; and I should be sincerely glad to have it in my power to satisfy his lordship how well you think of Dr. Percy, who, I find, apprehends that your good opinion of him may be of very essential consequence; and who assures me that he has the highest respect and the warmest affection
I have only to add, that my suggesting this occasion for the exercise of your candour and generosity is altogether unknown to Dr. Percy, and proceeds from my goodwill towards him, and my persuasion that you will be happy to do him an essential kindness. I am, more and more, my
" Your most faithful
" JAMES BOSWELL."
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
SIR,—The debate between Dr. Percy and me is one of those foolish controversies which begin upon a question of
p Sunday, April 12th, 1778.
which neither party cares how it is decided, and which is, nevertheless, continued to acrimony, by the vanity with wbich every man resists confutation. Dr. Perey's warmth proceeded from a cause which, perhaps, does him more honour than he could have derived from juster criticism. His abhorrence of Pennant proceeded from his opinion that Pennant had wantonly and indecently censured his patron. His anger made him resolve that, for having been once wrong, he never should be right. Pennant has much in his notions that I do not like; but still I think him a very intelligent traveller. If Percy is really offended, I am sorry; for he is a man whom I never knew to offend any
He is a man very willing to learn, and very able to teach; a man out of whose
without having learned something. It is sure that he vexes me sometimes; but I am afraid it is by making me feel my own ignorance. So much extension of mind, and so much minute accuracy of enquiry, if you survey your whole circle of acquaintance, you will find so scarce, if you find it at all, that you will value Percy by comparison. Lord Hailes is somewhat like him: but lord Hailes does not, perhaps, go beyond him in research; and I do not know that he equals him in elegance. Percy's attention to poetry has given grace and splendour to his studies of antiquity. A mere antiquarian is a rugged being.
· Upon the whole, you see that what I might say in sport or petulance to him, is very consistent with full conviction of his merit.
Sam. JOHNSON. " April 23, 1778.”
“ I am,
TO THE REVEREND DR. PERCY, NORTHUMBERLAND
“Dear Sir, I wrote to Dr. Johnson on the subject of the Pennantian controversy, and have received from
him an answer which will delight you. I read it yesterday to Dr. Robertson at the exhibition; and at dinner to lord Percy, general Oglethorpe, etc. who dined with us at general Paoli's ; who was also a witness to the high testimony to your honour.
“ General Paoli desires the favour of your company next Tuesday to dinner, to meet Dr. Johnson. If I can, I will call on you to-day. I am, with sincere regard, your most obedient humble servant,
“JAMES BOSWELL 9. “South Audley-street, April 25."
On Monday, April 13th, I dined with Johnson at Mr. Langton's, where were Dr. Porteus, then bishop of Chester, now of London, and Dr. Stipton. He was at first in a very silent mood. Before dinner he said nothing but “Pretty baby,” to one of the children. Langton said very well to me afterwards, that he could repeat Dr. Johnson's conversation before dinner, as Johnson had said that he could repeat a complete chapter of the Natural History of Iceland, from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus:
“Chap. LXXII. Concerning Snakes. “ There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.”
At dinner we talked of another mode in the newspapers of giving modern characters in sentences from the classicks, and of the passage,
Parcus deorum cultor et infrequens,
9 Though the bishop of Dromore kindly answered the letters which I wrote to him relative to Dr. Johnson's early history, yet in justice to him I think it proper to add, that the account of the foregoing conversation, and the subsequent transaction, as well as of some other conversations in which he is mentioned, has been given to the publick without previous communication with his lordship.-Boswell.