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hold it at a moment (1) when it is not possible that I should be suspected of being an interested flatterer. But how weak would be my voice after that of the millions whom he governed! His condescending and obliging compliance with my solicitation, I with humble gratitude acknowledge; and while by publishing his letter to me, accompanying the valuble communication, I do eminent honour to my great friend, I shall entirely disregard any invidious suggestions that, as I in some degree participate in the honour, I have, at the same time, the gratification of my own vanity in view.
LETTER 392. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ Park Lane, Dec. 2. 1790. “Sir, — I have been fortunately spared the troublesome suspense of a long search, to which, in perform. ance of my promise, I had devoted this morning, by lighting upon the objects of it among the first papers that I laid my hands on; my veneration for your great and good friend, Dr. Johnson, and the pride, or I hope something of a better sentiment, which I indulge in possessing such memorials of his good will towards me, having induced me to bind them in a parcel containing other select papers, and labelled with the titles apper. taining to them. They consist but of three letters, which I believe were all that I ever received from Dr. Johnson. Of these, one, which was written in quan druplicate, under the different dates of its respective despatches, has already been made public, but not from any communication of mine. This, however, I have joined to the rest; and have now the pleasure send
(1) January, 1791 still pending. -C
- Mr. Hastings's impeachment was
ing them to you, for the use to which you informed me it was your desire to destine them.
My promise was pledged with the condition, that if the letters were found to contain any thing which should render them improper for the public eye, you would dispense with the performance of it. You will have the goodness, I am sure, to pardon my recalling this stipulation to your recollection, as I shall be loth to appear negligent of that obligation which is always implied in an epistolary confidence. In the reservation of that right I have read them over with the most scrupulous attention, but have not seen in them the slightest cause on that ground to withhold them from you. But, though not on that, yet on another ground I own I feel a little, yet but a little, reluctance to part with them : I mean on that of my own credit, which I fear will suffer by the information conveyed by them, that I was early in the possession of such valuable instructions for the beneficial employment of the influence of my late station, and (as it may seem) have so little availed myself of them. Whether I could, if it were necessary, defend myself against such an imputation, it little con. cerns the world to know. I look only to the effect which these relics may produce, considered as evidences of the virtues of their author : and believing that they will be found to display an uncommon warmth of private friendship, and a mind ever attentive to the ima provement and extension of useful knowledge, and solicitous for the interests of mankind, I can cheerfully submit to the little sacrifice of my own fame, to contribute to the illustration of so great and venerable a character. They casinot be better applied, for that end, than by being intrusted to your hands.
Allow me with this offering, to infer from it a proof of the very great esteem with which I have the honour to profes myself, Sir, your, &c. WARREN HASTINGS.
“ P.S. At some future time, and when you have no
further occasion for these papers, I shall be obliged to you if you
will return them.' The last of the three letters thus graciously put into my hands, and which has already appeared in public, belongs to this year; but I shall previously insert the first two in the order of their dates. They altogether form a grand group in my biographical picture. LETTER 393. TO THE HONOURABLE WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ.
“ March 30. 1774. " SIR, — Though I have had but little personal knowledge of you, I have had enough to make me wish for more ; and though it be now a long time since I was honoured by your visit, I had too much pleasure from it to forget it. By those whom we delight to remember, we are unwilling to be forgotten; and therefore I cannot omit this opportunity of reviving myself in your memory by a letter which you will receive from the hands of my friend Mr. Chambers ('); a man whose purity of manners and vigour of mind are sufficient to make every thing welcome that he brings.
“ That this is my only reason for writing will be too apparent by the uselessness of my letter to any other purpose. I have no questions to ask; not that I want curiosity after either the ancient or present state of re. gions in which have been seen all the power and splendour of wide-extended empire; and which, as by some grant of natural superiority, supply the rest of the world with almost all that pride desires and luxury enjoys. But my knowledge of them is too scanty to fur. nish me with proper topics of inquiry: I can only wish for information; and hope that a mind compre
(1) Afterwards Sir Robert Chambers, one of his majesty's Judges in India.
hensive like yours will find leisure, amidst the cares of your important station, to inquire into many subjects of which the European world either thinks not at all, or thinks with deficient intelligence and uncertain conjecture. I shall hope that he who once intended to increase the learning of his country by the introduction of the Persian language will examine nicely the traditions and histories of the East ; that he will survey the wonders of its ancient edifices, and trace the vestiges of its ruined cities ; and that, at his return, we shall know the arts and opinions of a race of men from whom
very little has been hitherto derived.
You, Sir, have no need of being told by me how much may be added by your attention and patronage to experimental knowledge and natural history. There are arts of manufacture practised in the countries in which you preside, which are yet very imperfectly known here, either to artificers or philosophers. Of the natural productions, animate and inanimate, we yet have so little intelligence, that our books are filled, I fear, with conjectures about things which an Indian peasant knows by his senses.
Many of those things my first wish is to see ; my second to know, by such accounts as a man like you will be able to give.
“ As I have not skill to ask proper questions, I have likewise no such access to great men as can enable me to send you any political information.
Of the agitations of an unsettled government, and the struggles of a feeble ministry, care is doubtless taken to give you more exact accounts than I can obtain. If you are in. clined to interest yourself much in public transactions, it is no misfortune to you to be distant from them.
“ That literature is not totally forsaking us, and that your favourite language is not neglected, will appear from the book (1), which I should have pleased myself
(1) Jones's “ Persian Grammar.'
more with sending, if I could have presented it bound. but time was wanting. I beg, however, Sir, that you will accept it from a man very desirous of your regard ; and that if you think me able to gratify you by any thing more important you will employ me.
“ I am now going to take leave, perhaps a very long leave, of my dear Mr. Chambers. That he is going to live where you govern may justly alleviate the regard of parting: and the hope of seeing both him and you again, which I am not willing to mingle with doubt, must at present comfort as it can, Sir, your, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
LETTER 394. TO THE SAME.
“ London, Dec. 20. 1774. “ Sır,— Being informed that by the departure of a ship there is now an opportunity of writing to Bengal, I am unwilling to slip out of your memory by my own negligence, and therefore take the liberty of reminding you of my existence by sending you a book which is not yet made public.
“ I have lately visited a region less remote and less illustrious than India, which afforded some occasions for speculation. What has occurred to me, I have put into the volume (1), of which I beg your acceptance.
“Men in your station seldom have presents totally disinterested: my book is received, let me now make my request. There is, Sir, somewhere within your government, a young adventurer, one Chauncey Lawrence, whose father is one of my oldest friends. Be pleased to show the young man what countenance is fit; whether he wants to be restrained by your authority, or encouraged by your favour. His father is now pre. sident of the college of physicians; a man venerable , for his knowledge, and more venerable for his virtue.
“ I wish you a prosperous government, a safe return, (1) The “ Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland."