« PreviousContinue »
"DR. JOHNSON TO MR. EDWARD DILLY.
"SIR, Bolt-court, Fleet-street, July 7, 1777. "To the collection of English Poets I have recommended the volume of Dr. Watts to be added; his name has long been held by me in veneration, and I would not willingly be reduced to tell of him only that he was born and died. Yet of his life I know very little, and therefore must pass him in a manner very unworthy of his character, unless some of his friends will favour me with the necessary information. Many of them must be known to you: and by your influence perhaps I may obtain some instruction. My plan does not exact much; but I wish to distinguish Watts, a man who never wrote but for a good purpose. Be pleased to do for me what you can. I am, Sir, "Your humble servant,
"TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
"MY DEAR SIR, Edinburgh, July 15, 1777. "The fate of poor Dr. Dodd made a dismal impression upon my mind.
"I had sagacity enough to divine that you wrote his speech to the Recorder, before sentence was pronounced. I am glad you have written so much for him; and I hope to be favoured with an exact list of the several pieces when we meet.
"I received Mr. Seward, as the friend of Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, and as a gentleman recommended by Dr. Johnson to my attention. I have introduced him to Lord Kames, Lord Monboddo, and Mr. Nairne. He is gone to the Highlands with Dr. Gregory; when he returns I shall do more for him.
"Sir Allan Maclean has carried that branch of his cause, of which we had good hopes: the President and one other Judge only were against him. I wish the House of Lords may do as well as the Court of Session has done. But Sir Allan has not the lands of Brolos quite cleared by this judgment, till a long account is made up of debts and interest on the one side, and rents on the other. I am, however, not much afraid of the balance.
"Macquarry's estates, Staffa and all, were sold yesterday, and bought by a Campbell. I fear he will have little or nothing left out of the purchase-money.
"I send you the case against the negro, by Mr. Cullen, son to Dr. Cullen in opposition to Maclaurin's for liberty, of which you have approved. Pray read this, and tell me what you think as a Politician, as well as a Poet, upon this subject.
"Be so kind as to let me know how your time is to be distributed next autumn. I will meet you at Manchester, or where you please; but I wish you would complete your tour of the cathedrals, and come to Carlisle, and I will accompany you a part of the way homewards.
"I am ever most faithfully yours,
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
July 22, 1777.
"Your notion of the necessity of an early interview is very pleasing to both my vanity and tenderness. I shall, perhaps, come to Carlisle another year; but my money has not held out so well as it used to do. I shall go to Ashbourne, and I purpose to make Dr. Taylor invite you. If you live awhile with me at his house, we shall have much time to ourselves, and our stay will be no expense to us or him. I shall leave London the 28th; and, after some stay at Oxford and Lichfield, shall probably come to Ashbourne about the end of your Session; but of all this you shall have notice. Be satisfied we will meet somewhere.
"What passed between me and poor Dr. Dodd, you shall know more fully when we meet.
"Of law-suits there is no end; poor Sir Allan must have another trial, for which, however, his antagonist cannot be much blamed, having two judges on his side. I am more afraid of the debts than of the House of Lords. It is scarcely to be imagined to what debts will swell, that are daily increasing by small additions, and how carelessly in a state of desperation debts are contracted. Poor Macquarry was far from thinking that when he sold his islands he should receive nothing. For what were they sold? And what was their yearly value? The admission of money into the Highlands will soon put an end to the feudal modes of life, by making those men landlords who were not chiefs. I do not know that the people will suffer by the change; but there was in the patriarchal authority something venerable and pleasing. Every eye must look with pain on a Campbell turning the Macquarrys at will out of their sedes avida, their hereditary island.
"Sir Alexander Dick is the only Scotsman liberal enough not to be angry that I could not find trees where trees were not. I was much delighted by his kind letter.
"I remember Rasay with too much pleasure not to partake of the happiness of any part of that amiable family. Our ramble in the islands hangs upon my imagination; I can hardly help imagining that we shall go again. Pennant seems to have seen a great deal which we did not see: when we travel again, let us look better about us.
"You have done right in taking your uncle's house. Some change in the form of life gives from time to time a new epocha of existence. In a new place there is something new to be done, and a different system of thought arises in the mind. I wish I could gather currants in your garden. Now fit up a little study, and have your books ready at hand; do not spare a little money, to make your habitation pleasing to yourself.
"I have dined lately with poor dear I do not think he goes on well. His table is rather coarse, and he has his children too much about him.1 But he is a very good man.
1 This very just remark, I hope, will be constantly held in remembrance by parents, who are in general too apt to indulge their own fond feelings for their children at the expense of their friends. The common custom of introducing them after dinner is highly injudicious. It is agreeable enough that they should appear at any other time; but they should not be
"Mrs. Williams is in the country, to try if she can improve her health; she is very ill. Matters have come so about, that she is in the country with very good accommodation; but age, and sickness, and pride, have made her so peevish, that I was forced to bribe the maid to stay with her, by a secret stipulation of half-a-crown a week over her wages.
"Our CLUB ended its session about six weeks ago. We now only meet to dine once a fortnight. Mr. Dunning, the great lawyer, is one of our members. The Thrales are well.
"I long to know how the negro's cause will be decided. What is the opiniou of Lord Auchinleck, or Lord Hailes, or Lord Monboddo? I am, dear Sir, "Your most affectionate, &c. "SAM, JOHNSON.
"DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. BOSWELL.
July 22, 1777. "Though I am well enough pleased with the taste of sweatmeats, very little of the pleasure which I received at the arrival of your jar of marmalade arose from eating it. I received it as a token of friendship, as a proof of reconciliation, things much sweeter than sweetmeats, and upon this consideration I return you, dear Madam, my sincerest thanks. By having your kindness I think I have a double security for the continuance of Mr. Boswell's, which it is not to be expected that any man can long keep, when the influence of a lady so highly and so justly valued operates against him. Mr. Boswell will tell you that I was always faithful to your interest, and always endeavoured to exalt you in his estimation. You must now do the same for me. We must all help one another, and you must now consider me as, dear Madam,
"Your most obliged and most humble servant,
"MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
"MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, July 28, 1777.
"This is the day on which you were to leave London, and I have been amusing myself, in the intervals of my law-drudgery, with figuring you in the Oxford post-coach. I doubt, however, if you have had so merry a journey as you and I had in that vehicle last year, when you made so much sport with Gwyn, the architect. Incidents upon a journey are recollected with peculiar pleasure; they are preserved in brisk spirits, and come up again in our minds, tinctured with that gaiety, or at least that animation with which we first perceived them."
I added that something had occurred which I was afraid might prevent me from meeting him; and that my wife had been affected with complaints which threatened a consumption, but was now better.
suffered to poison the moments of festivity by attracting the attention a manner compelling them, from politeness, to say what they do n
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Oxford, Aug. 4, 1777.
"DEAR SIR, "Do not disturb yourself about our interviews; I hope we shall have many; nor think it anything hard or unusual, that your design of meeting me is interrupted. We have both endured greater evils, and have greater evils to expect.
"Mrs. Boswell's illness makes a more serious distress. Does the blood rise from her lungs or from her stomach? From little vessels broken in the stomach there is no danger. Blood from the lungs is, I believe, always frothy, as mixed with wind. Your physicians know very well what is to be done. The loss of such a lady would, indeed, be very afflictive, and I hope she is in no danger. Take care to keep her mind as easy as is possible.
"I have left Langton in London. He has been down with the militia, and is again quiet at home, talking to his little people, as, I suppose, you do sometimes. Make my compliments to Miss Veronica. The rest are too young for ceremony.
"I cannot but hope that you have taken your country house at a very seasonable time, and that it may conduce to restore or establish Mrs. Boswell's health, as well as provide room and exercise for the young ones. That you and your lady may both be happy, and long enjoy your happiness, is the sincere and earnest wish of
"Dear Sir, your most, &c.,
66 MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
[Informing him that my wife had continued to grow better, so that my alarming apprehensions were relieved; and that I hoped to disengage myself from the other embarrassment which had occurred, and therefore requesting to know particularly when he intended to be at Ashbourne.]
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Aug. 30, 1777.
"I am this day come to Ashbourne, and have only to tell you, that Dr. Taylor says you shall be welcome to him, and you know how welcome you will be to me. Make haste to let me know when you may be expected.
"Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and tell her I hope we shall be at variance no more. I am, dear Sir, your most humble servant,
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Ashbourne, Sept. 1, 1777.
"DEAR SIR, "On Saturday I wrote a very short letter, immediately upon my arrival hither, to show you that I am not less desirous of the interview than yourself.
1 This young lady, the author's eldest daughter, and at this time about five years old, died in London, of a consumption, four months after her father, Sept. 26, 1795.-MALONE.
Life admits not of delays; when pleasure can be had, it is fit to catch it: every hour takes away part of the things that please us, and perhaps part of our disposition to be pleased. When I came to Lichfield, I found my old friend Harry Jackson dead. It was a loss, and a loss not to be repaired, as he was one of the companions of my childhood. I hope we may long continue to gain friends; but the friends which merit or usefulness can procure us are not able to supply the place of old acquaintance, with whom the days of youth may be retraced, and those images revived which gave the earliest delight. If you and I live to be much older, we shall take great delight in talking over the Hebridean Journey.
"In the mean time it may not be amiss to contrive some other little adventure, but what it can be I know not; leave it, as Sidney says,
'To virtue, fortune, time, and woman's breast;'
for I believe Mrs. Boswell must have some part in the consultation. "One thing you will like. The Doctor, so far as I can judge, is likely to leave us enough to ourselves. He was out to-day before I came down, and, I
By an odd mistake, in the first three editions we find a reading in this line to which Dr. Johnson would by no means have subscribed; wine having been substituted for time. That error, probably, was a mistake in the transcript of Johnson's original letter, his handwriting being often very difficult to read. The other deviation in the beginning of the line (virtue instead of nature) must be attributed to his memory having deceived him; and therefore, has not been disturbed.
The verse quoted is the concluding line of a sonnet of Sidney's, of which the earliest copy, I believe, is found in Harrington's translation of Ariosto, 1591, in the notes on the eleventh book:-" And therefore," says he, "that excellent verse of Sir Philip Sidney, in his first ARCADIA (which, I know not by what mishap, is left out in the printed booke, 4to, 1590), is, in mine opinion, worthie to be praised and followed, to make a good and virtuous wife:
'Who doth desire that chaste his wife should bee,
And, alwaies one, credit with her preserve;
Not stirring thoughts, nor yet denying right,
Never hard hand, nor ever rayns [reins] too light;
Th' one doth enforce, the t'other doth entice;
All filthie mouths that glorie in their vice:
I take this opportunity to add, that in England's "Parnassus," a collection of poetry printed in 1600, the second couplet of this sonnet is thus corruptly exhibited :
"Then he be such as he his words may see,
a variation which I the rather mention, because the readings of that book have been triumphantly quoted when they happened to coincide with the sophistications of the SECOND folio edition of Shakspeare's plays in 1632, as adding I know not what degree of authority and authenticity to the latter; as if the corruptions of one book (and that abounding with the grossest falsifications of the authors from whose works its extracts are made) could give any kind of support to another, which, in every page, is still more adulterated and unfaithful.-MALONE.