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“TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, Feb. 24, 1777. “Your letter, dated the 18th instant, I had the pleasure to receive last post. Although my late long neglect, or rather delay, was truly culpable, I am tempted not to regret it, since it has produced me so valuable a proof of your regard. I did, indeed, during that inexcusable silence, sometimes divert the reproaches of my own mind, by fancying that I should hear again from you, inquiring with some anxiety about me, because for aught you knew, I might have been ill.
“You are pleased to show me that my kindness is of some consequence to you. My heart is elated at the thought. Be assured, my dear Sir, that my affection and reverence for you are exalted and steady. I do not believe that a more perfect attachment ever existed in the history of mankind, And it is a noble attachment; for the attractions are Genius, Learning, and Piety.
“ Your difficulty of breathing alarms me, and brings into my imagination an event which, although in the natural course of things I must expect at some period, I cannot view with composure.
“My wife is much honoured by what you say of her. She begs you may accept of her best compliments. She is to send you some marmalade of oranges of her own making.
“I ever am, my dear Sir, your most obliged
“ And faithful humble servant,
“ JAMES BOSWELL."
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
March 14, 1777. “I have been much pleased with your late letter, and am glad that my old enemy, Mrs. Boswell, begins to feel some remorse.
As to Miss Veronica's Scotch, I think it cannot be helped. An English maid you might easily have; but she would still imitate the greater number, as they would be likewise those whom she must most respect. Her dialect will not be gross. Her mamma has not much Scotch, and you have yourself very little. I hope she knows my name, and does not call me Johnston,
“The immediate cause of my writing is this:-One Shaw, who seem modest and a decent man, has written an Erse Grammar, which a very learned Highlander, Macbean, has, at my request, examined and approved.
“The book is very little, but Mr. Shaw has been persuaded by his friends to set it at half a guinea, though I advised only a crown, and thought myself liberal. You, whom the author considers as a great encourager of ingenious men, will receive a parcel of his proposals and receipts. I have undertaken to give you notice of them, and to solicit your countenance. You must ask no poor man, because the price is really too high. Yet such a work deserves patronage.
| Johnson is the most common English formation of the surname from John; Johnston the Scotch. My illustrious friend observed, that many North Britons pronounced his name in their own way.-BOSWELL.
“It is proposed to augment our club from twenty to thirty, of which I am glad; for as we have several in it whom I do not much like to consort with, I am for reducing it to a mere miscellaneous collection of conspicuous men, without any determinate character.
“I am, dear Sir,
“SAM. JOHNSON “My respects to Madam, to Veronica, to Alexander, to Euphemia, to David."
MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, April 4, 1777. After informing him of the death of my little son David, and that I could not come to London this spring
“I think it hard that I should be a whole year without seeing you. May 1 presume to petition for a meeting with you in the autumn? You have, I believe, seen all the cathedrals in England, except that of Carlisle. If you are to be with Dr. Taylor, at Ashbourne, it would not be a great journey to come thither. We may pass a few most agreeable days there by ourselves, and I will accompany you a good part of the way to the southward again. Pray think of this.
“You forget that Mr. Shaw's Erse Grainmar was put into your hands by myself last year. Lord Eglintoune put it into mine. I am glad that Mr. Macbean approves of it. I have received Mr. Shaw's proposals for its publication, which I can perceive are written by the hand of a MASTER.
“Pray get me all the editions of Walton's Lives.' I have a notion that the republication of them with Notes will fall upon me, between Dr. Horne and Lord Hailes."
Mr. Shaw's proposals for “An Analysis of the Scotch Celtic Language,” were thus illuminated by the pen of Johnson :
“ Though the Erse Dialect of the Celtic Language has, from the earliest times, been spoken in Britain, and still subsists in the northern parts and adjacent islands, yet, by the negligence of a people rather warlike than lettered, it has hitherto been left to the caprice and judgment of every speaker, and has floated in the living voice, without the steadiness of analogy, or direction of rules. An Erse Grammar is an addition to the stores of literature ; and its author hopes for the indulgence always shown to those that attempt to do what was never done before. If his work shall be found defective, it is at least all his own; he is not, like other grammarians, a compiler or transcriber; what he delivers, he has learned by attentive observation among his countrymen, who perhaps will be themselves surprised to see that speech reduced to principles, which they have used only by imitation.
i On account of their differing from him as to religion and politics.-BOSWELL.
2 None of the persons here mentioned executed the work which they had in contemplation. Walton's valuable book, however, has been correctly republished in quarto, with notes and illustrations, by the Rev. Mr. Zouch.-MALONE.
“The use of this book will, however, not be confined to the mountains and islands ; it will afford a pleasing and important subject of speculation to those whose studies lead them to trace the affinity of languages, and the migrations of the ancient races of mankind."
“ TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON,
“ MY DEAR SIR,
Glasgow, April 24, 1777. "Our worthy friend Thrale's death having appeared in the newspapers, and been "afterwards contradicted, I have been placed in a state of very uneasy uncertainty, from which I hoped to be relieved by you: but my hopes have as yet been vain. How could you omit to write to me on such an occasion. I shall wait with anxiety.
"I am going to Auchinleck to stay a fortnight with my father. It is better not to be there very long at one time. But frequent renewals of attention are agreeable to him.
“Pray tell me about this edition of The English Poets, with a preface, biographical and critical, to each author, by Samuel Johnson, LL.D.' which I see advertised. I am delighted with the prospect of it. Indeed I am happy to feel that I am capable of being so much delighted with literature. But is not the charm of this publication chiefly owing to the magnum nomen in the front of it ?
“What do you say of Lord Chesterfield's Memoirs and Last Letters ?
“My wife has made marmalade of oranges for you. I left her and my daughters and Alexander all well yesterday. I have taught Veronica to speak of you thus :-Dr. Johnson, not Johnston.
“ I remain, my dear Sir,
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “ DEAR SIR,
May 3, 1777. “The story of Mr. Thrale's death, as he had neither been sick nor in any other danger, made so little impression upon me, that I never thought about obviating its effects on anybody else. It is supposed to have been produced by the English custom of making April fools; that is, of sending one another on some foolish errand on the 1st of April.
“ Tell Mrs. Boswell that I shall taste her marmalade cautiously at first. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. “Beware,' says the Italian proverb, of a reconeiled enemy. But when I find it does me no harm, I shall then receive it, and
be thankful for it, as a pledge of firm, and, I hope, of unalterable kindness. She is, after all, a dear, dear lady.
* Please to return Dr. Blair thanks for his sermons. The Scotch write English wonderfully well.
*Your frequent visits to Auchinleck, and your short stays there, are very laudable and very judicious. Your present concord with your father gives me great plonsure; it was all that you seemed to want.
"My health is very bad, and my nights are very unquiet. What can I do to mend them? I have for this summer nothing better in prospect than a journey into Staffordshire and Derbyshire, perhaps with Oxford and Birmingham in my way.
* Make my compliments to Miss Veronica ; I must leave it to her philosophy to comfort you for the loss of little David. You must remember, that to keep three out of four is more than your share. Mrs. Thrale has but four out of eleven.
" I am engaged to write little Lives, and little Prefaces, to a little edition of The English Poets.' I think I have persuaded the booksellers to insert something of Thomson; and if you could give me some information about him, for the life which we have is very scanty, I should be glad.
“I am, dear Sir,
Dr. Ronson's AGREEMENT TO WRITE “THE LIVES OF THE BRITISH Poets"--DILLY THE
BOKSELLER-CHARLES O'CONNOR-BISHOP PEARCE-PROLOGUE TO KELLY'S COMEDYSAVAGE'S TRAGEDY OF “SIR THOMAS OVERBURY" - SHERIDAN - HARRIS - THOMSON ANDERSON-DR. DODD_BoSWELL'S LETTER FROM THE TOMB OF MELANCTHON-SEWARD -DE GROOT—DR. WATTS-DR. VYSE — Sir ALLAN MACLEAN'S LAW-SUIT Johnson's VHIT TO ASHBOURNE-DEATH OF HARRY JACKSON-SIR PHILIP SIDNEY-LORD HAILESSALE OF MACQUARRY'S ESTATES—ULVA AND STAFFA-PROJECTED TRIP TO THE BALTIO— FOLY OF MELANCHOLY.
To hose who delight in tracing the progress of works of literature, it
will be an entertainment to compare the limited design with the ampl execution of that admirable performance, “The Lives of the English Poets,” which is the richest, most beautiful, and indeed most perfeet, production of Johnson's pen. His notion of it at this time appears in the preceding letter. He has a memorandum in this year“29 Way, Easter-eve, I treated with booksellers on a bargain, but the time was not long.” The bargain was concerning that undertaking ; but his tender conscience seems alarmed, lest it should have intruded too nuch on his devout preparation for the solemnity of the ensuing day. But, indeed, very little time was necessary for Johnson's concluding a treaty with the booksellers ; as he bad, I believe, less attention to profit from his labours than any man to whom literature has been a profession. I shall here insert (from a letter to me from my late worthy frien!, Mr. Edward Dilly, though of a later date), an account of this plan so happily conceived ; since it was the occasion of procuring for us an elegant collection of the best biography and criticism of which our langiage can boast.
1 "Prayers and Meditations,” p. 155.--BOSWELL