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was indifferent when the persons were weak, as in the case of women and parsons, or of those whom he disliked and despised, as rivals or competitors in the task he had on hand, and whom he hated with a feverish jealousy (in which case he might presume they were weaker than he was); or in the case of those who were dead and could make no sign. In most cases he kept these considerations before his eyes, and in many instances this “canny” view was borne out by the event. There are many of these little exhibitions through the work, but one detailed specimen will be found highly characteristic.” Bishop Percy, it will be recollected, figures a good deal in the Boswellian conversations. The Bishop, with a sagacious mistrust that he would not appear with dignity in the chronicle, while kindly sending Boswell a vast number of communications, requested that his name might not be mentioned in the work. Boswell replied, flatly refusing to comply with the request, declaring that it was a duty he owed “to the authenticity of his book, to its respectability, and to the credit of his illustrious friend, to ”—and the reader will wonder what was the shape of this sacred obligation—“to introduce as many names of eminent persons as I can.” “Believe me, my lord,” he goes on, “you are not the only Bishop in the number of great men with which my pages are graced. I am quite resolute in this matter.” The Prelate had no redress. There was something, indeed, ungracious in the gusto with which Boswell recorded Johnson's speeches and sneers at the expense of his episcopal friend, such as that about the “History of the Grey Rat.” But the warm discussion on Pennant— one of the most dramatic in the book, and evidently recorded with an amazing accuracy, shows that Boswell possessed a dull miaiserie utterly inconsistent with the faithful acumen and accuracy which admirers have claimed for him. Annoyed at the attack on his connection and patron the Duke of Northumberland, the Bishop had retorted by a reflection on Johnson's failing eyesight, which had nearly brought about an open rupture. As it was, rude language had been used. However, a few words of good-natured explanation, and all was made up. Unfortunately the Bishop had been indiscreet enough to confide to Boswell that he “was uneasy at what had passed,” for a person had witnessed the scene, a friend of the Duke of Northumberland, who would, of course, report how contemptuously the friend of Johnson had been treated. On this very natural speech the busybody proceeded to work, and, as I said, exhibits his mind and its processes to posterity in a fashion incredibly stupid and “fussy.” We can imagine the Bishop's feelings as he read the opening words. “There was a man,” he was made to say, “who had recently been admitted into the confidence of the Northumberland family, to whom he hoped to appear more respectable by showing him how intimate he was with the great Dr. Johnson, and now the gentleman would go away with an impression much to his disadvantage, as if Johnson treated him with disregard, which might do him an essential injury.” So sycophantic and candid a confession of motives is rarely found. It is evident a warm remonstrance and even contradiction followed, for we find in the later editions “the gentleman recently admitted, &c.,” becomes merely “acquainted with the Northumberland family,” the “essential injury” that might follow is omitted. And the “great Dr. Johnson,” which suggests the idea that Percy had been boasting in the country of his intimacy, was toned down to “Dr. Johnson.” Boswell reported this to Johnson—who remarked that “this only came of stratagem”—a fresh indirect reflection on the Bishop; he proceeded to speak of Dr. Percy “in the handsomest terms”—or “manner,” as Boswell chose to alter it later : “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, “. . . I contrived that Lord Percy should hear the correspondence. Our friend Percy was raised higher in the estimation of those by whom he wished most to be regarded.” The passage in italics must again have given offence: for “our friend” Boswell later shaped it: “Thus every unfavourable impression was obviated that could possibly have been made on those by whom,” &c. Naturally Dr. Percy was grateful and pleased at the idea, and its being so successfully carried out. But the meddling Boswell did not show him the letter to which Johnson's letter was an answer; and which he had read out:-‘‘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. . . . 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. 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 for you.” It was bad to read this in the “Life,” but what will be said when we find that Mr. Boswell actually read it aloud at the dinner in presence of Lord Percy: for he uses the phrase, “read the correspondence,” thrice to Johnson: but when writing to Percy he takes care to say that he only “read Johnson's answer”. Finally, at the close of his characteristic episode he adds a kind of disclaimer to this effect:-‘‘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 public without previous communication with his lordship.” The meaning of which is to convey the idea that the Bishop was no party to the publication of portions of this little history: though Boswell was so dull as not to see that he was making his friend ridiculous. That the Bishop's remonstrances on the way he was mentioned in the work were rather “tart,” is evident from a passage or two later introduced by Boswell. In the amusing passage about Dr. Grainger and his heroic introduction of “Let's sing of Rats | " (changed from mice, as more dignified), Percy had originally furnished a defence of his friend—which Boswell had introduced in a note. In his second edition, Boswell maliciously supplies the following from his recollection:—“Dr. Johnson said to me, ‘Percy, sir, was angry with me for laughing at his “Sugar Cane:” for he had a mind to make a great thing of Grainger's rats'— and adds this comment to the Bishop's original defence of his friend; ‘the above was written by the Bishop when he had not the poem itself to recur to; and though the account given of it was true at one period, yet, as Dr. Grainger afterwards altered the passage in question, the remarks in the text do not now apply to the printed poem.’” No wonder Dr. Percy wrote to his friend Anderson : “Boswell's ludicrous account of the “Sugar Cane' deserves no attention.” Indeed, Percy's disgust at his treatment is shown in what he says of the account of the manner of writing the dictionary, “as given by Mr. Boswell, is confused and erroneous, and a moment's reflection will convince every person of judgment, could not be correct.” What shows a radical weakness of character in Boswell is this idea that his reports would be accepted, as matter of course, by those who figured unpleasantly in them. “One of them,” he writes of a Presbyterian minister, “though a man of sincere good powers, discovered a narrowness of information, &c. He talked before Johnson of fat Bishops and drowsy Deans. . . . Dr. Johnson was so highly incensed, that he said to him : “Sir, you know no more of our church than a Hottentot.' I was sorry that he brought this on himself.” Yet in the first edition the name of this divine is given—Mr. Dunn, Boswell's own parish minister, with whom they were dining. So with the case of young Mr. Tytler, who was described “with his forehead ready brased,” and giving a picture of an offensive and forward young man, who was set down by Johnson. This Boswell had to amend into “one gentleman in company expressing his opinion,” &c. The treatment of Sir A. Macdonald—and the rather degrading amende which Boswell had to make—is shown at length by Mr. Croker. An interesting question next arises—What was the method adopted by Boswell in his system of reporting, and, how did he manipulate his notes. He himself explains to us that “though I did not write what is called stenography, or shorthand, in appropriate characters devised for the purpose, I had a method of my own of writing half words and leaving out some altogether, so as yet to keep the substance and language of any discourse which I had heard so much in view, that I could give it very completely soon after I had taken it down.” One of his notebooks came into Lord Houghton's possession, who states that it contains “several sheets filled with anecdotes and observations of the most various character, written without order, and generally without dates. At the end are inserted many scraps of paper and backs of letters, on which Boswell has jotted down memoranda of stories and reflections.” This record, however, seems to have been different from the one in which he entered his notes of Johnson's conversations. In fact, there is in existence one of these latter books, and which is distinct from the one described by Lord Houghton. In Mr. Pocock's catalogue of “Johnsoniana we find —“A notebook in which Boswell jotted down from day to day the actual sayings and doings of the eminent Lexicographer. This volume contains literary opinions and aphorisms of this great man, and of which many have never been published. He gives a specific account of the manner in which he compiled the Dictionary, and relates other matters of interest bearing on his long literary career and contemporaries.” But I can illustrate this matter in a still more curious way. All readers will recall Johnson's powerful letter to Macpherson, which begins:— “MR. JAMES MACPHERSON,+I received your foolish and impudent letter. Any violence offered me I shall do my best to repel; and what I cannot do for myself, the law shall do for me. I hope I never shall be deterred from detecting what I think a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian.” Now this was written down by Boswell at Johnson's dictation; but imperfect evidence of the original letter in a court of law, for Johnson may not have recalled the exact words. Indeed, he endorsed it, “This, I think, is a true copy.” However this may be, Mr Pocock actually came into possession, not of Boswell's copy, but of the original letter itself. “MR. JAMES MACPHERSON,+I received your foolish and impudent note. Whatever insult is offered me, I will do my best to repel, and what I cannot do for myself, the law will do for me. I will not desist from detecting what I think a cheat from any fear of the menaces of a ruffian.” The words in italics are the variations: the date is January 2O, I 775. But how is the different shape of the same story in the printed version and in these notes to be accounted for P Did Boswell “work them up,” as it is called, when he addressed himself to the task of writing the “Life,” or did he take them directly from his notes. The latter course he could hardly have followed. As we understand the account, what Boswell took down in his peculiar “shorthand” was the substance of a sentence, its meaning, the forcible words used ; then he selected the essence, not of the argument merely, but even of the expression, and he knew how to add strength by discarding all that seemed de trop. This is evident, even from the text itself, which never could have represented the talk as it came from Johnson's lips. The whole is too
* This I borrow and abridge from a work of my own, already published, Croker's Boswell and Boswell, p. 235.