Page images
PDF
EPUB

1777

upon the controversy concerning the right of Great-Britain to tax America,
and attempted to argue in favour of our fellow-subjects on the other side Ærat. 68.
of the Atlantick. I infifted that America might be very well governed,
and inade to yield a fuíficient revenue by the means of influence; as exem-
plified in Ireland, while the people might be pleased with the imagination
of their participating of the British conttitution, by having a body of re-
presentatives without whose consent money could not be exacted from them.
Johnson could not bear my thus opposing his avowed opinion, which he had
exerted himself with an extreme degree of heat to enforce; and the violent
agitation into which he was thrown while answering, or rather reprimanding
me, alarmed me so that I heartily repented of my having unthinkingly
introduced the subject. I myself however grew warm, and the change was
great, from the calm state of philosophical discussion in which we had a little
before been pleasingly employed.

I talked of the corruption of the British parliament, in which I alledged
that any question, however unreasonable or unjust, might be carried by a
venal majority; and I spoke with high admiration of the Roman Senate, as
if composed of men sincerely desirous to resolve what they should think best
for their country. My friend would allow no such character to the Roman
Senate; and he maintained that the British parliament was not corrupt, and
that there was no occasion to corrupt its members, asserting, that there was
hardly ever any question of great importance before parliament, any question
in which a man might not very well vote either upon one side or the other.
He said there had been none in his time except that respecting America.

We were fatigued by the contest, which was produced by my want of caution; and he was not then in the humour to side into easy and cheerful talk. It therefore so happened, that we were after an hour or two very willing to separate and go to bed.

On Wednesday, September 24, I went into Dr. Johnson's room before he got up, and finding that the storm of the preceding night was quite laid, I fat down upon his bed-side, and he talked with as much readiness and goodhumour as ever. He recommended to me to plant a considerable part

of large moorish farm which I had purchased, and he made several calculations of the expence and profit, for he delighted in exercising his mind on the science of numbers. He pressed upon me the importance of planting at the ' first in a very sufficient manner, quoting the saying “ In bello non licet bis errare;” and adding “ this is equally true in planting.”

I spoke

a

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

He has got a

1777. I spoke with gratitude of Dr. Taylor's hospitality; and as evidence that it Atat. 68. was not on account of his good table alone that Johnson visited him often,

I mentioned a little anecdote which had escaped my friend's recollection, and
at hearing which repeated, he smiled. One evening when I was sitting
with him, Frank delivered this message, “Şir, Dr. Taylor fends his compli-
ments to you, and begs you will dine with him to-morrow.
hare."-"My compliments (said Johnson,) and I'll dine with him, hare or
rabbit."

After breakfast I departed, and pursued my journey northwards. I took my poft-chaise from the Green Man, a very good inn at Ashbourne, the mistress of which, a mighty civil gentlewoman, curtseying very low, presented me with an engraving of the sign of her house; to which she had subjoined, in her own hand-writing, an address in such singular simplicity of style, that I have preserved it pafted upon one of the boards of my original Journal at this time, and shall here infert it for the amusement of my readers :

« M. KILLINGLEY's duty waits upon Mr. Boswell, is exceedingly obliged to him for this favour ; whenever he comes this way, hopes for a continuance of the same. Would Mr. Bofwell name the house to his extensive acquaintance, it would be a fingular favour conser’d on one who has it not in her power to make any

other return but' her most grateful thanks, and sincerest prayers for his happiness in time, and in a blefed eternity.

Tuesday morn."

From this meeting at Allbourne I derived a considerable accession to my

a Johnsonian store. I communicated my original Journal to Sir William Forbes, in whom I have always placed deserved confidence; and what he wrote to me concerning it is so much to my credit as the biographer of Johnson, that my readers will, I hope, grant me their indulgence for here inserting it, “ It is not once or twice going over it (says Sir William) that will fatisfy me; for I find in it a high degree of instruction as well as entertainment; and I derive more benefit from Dr. Johnson's admirable discussions than I should be able to draw from his personal conversation; for, I suppose there is not a man in the world to whom he discloses his sentiments so freely as to yourself.”

I cannot omit a curious circumstance which occurred at Edensor-inn, close by Chatsworth, to survey the magnificence of which I had gone a considerable way out of my road to Scotland. The inn was then kept by a very jolly

landlord,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Jandlord, whose name I think was Malton. He happened to mention that 1777.
“ the celebrated Dr. Johnson had been in his house." I inquired who this Dr. Ætat. 68.
Johnson was, that I might hear mine hoft's notion of him. “Sir, (faid he,)
Johnson, the great writer; Oddity, as they call him. He's the greatest
writer in England; he writes for the ministry; he has a correspondence
abroad, and lets them know what's going on.”

My friend, who had a thorough dependance upon the authenticity of my
relation without any embellishment, as falsehood or fition is too gently called,
laughed a good deal at this representation of himself.

Mr. Boswell to Dr. JOHNSON.
« MY DEAR SIR,

Edinburgh, Sept. 29, 1777.
" BY the first post I inform you of my safe arrival at my own house,
and that I had the comfort of finding my wife and children all in good
health.

" When I look back upon our late interview, it appears to me to have
answered expectation better than almost any scheme of happiness that I ever put
in execution. My Journal is stored with wisdom and wit ; and my memory is
filled with the recollection of lively and affectionate feelings, which now, I
think, yield me more satisfaction than at the time when they were first
excited. I have experienced this upon other occasions. I will be obliged

if
you will explain it to me; for it seeins wonderful that pleasure

,
should be more vivid at a distance than when near. I wish you may find
yourself in the humour to do me this favour; but I fatter myfelf with no
strong hope of it; for I have observed, that unless upon very serious
occasions, your letters to me are not answers to those which I write.”

[I then expressed to him much uneasiness that I had mentioned to him the
name of the gentleman who had told me the story so much to his disadvan-
tage, the truth of which he had completely refuted; for that my having done
so might be interpreted as a breach of confidence, and offend one whose
society I valued :therefore earnestly requesting that no notice might be
taken of it to any body, till I Mould be in London, and have an opportunity
to talk it over with the gentleman.]

to you

TO JAMES BOSWELL, E « DEAR SIR,

YOU will wonder, or you have wondered, why no letter has come
from me.

What you wrote at your return, had in it such a strain of
cowardly caution as gave me no pleasure. I could not well do what you
VOL. II.
Аа

willca;

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

;

17776 wished; I had no need to vex you with a refusal. I have seen Mr. Ætat. 76. and as to him have set all right, without any inconvenience, so far as I know, 68 to you. Mrs. Thrale had forgot the story. You may now be at ease.

“ And at ease I certainly wish you, for the kindness that you showed in coming so long a journey to see me. It was pity to keep you so long in pain, but, upon reviewing the matter, I do not see what I could have done better than as I did.

“ I hope you found at your return my dear enemy and all her little people quite well, and had no reason to repent your journey. I think on it with great gratitude. “ I was not well when you left me at the Doctor's, and I grew worse; yet

, I staid on, and at Lichfield was very ill. Travelling, however, did not make me worse; and when I came to London I complied with a summons to go to Brighthelmston, where I saw Beauclerk, and staid three days.

« Our club has recommenced last Friday, but I was not there. Langton has another wench'. Mrs. Thrale is in hopes of a young brewer. They got by their trade last year a very large sum, and their expences are proportionate.

« Mrs. Williams's health is very bad. And I have had for some time a very difficult and laborious respiration, but I am better by purges, abstinence, and other methods. I am yet however much behind-hand in my health and rest.

“ Dr. Blair's sermons are now universally commended, but let him think that I had the honour of first finding and first praising his excellencies. I did not stay to add my voice to that of the publick.

My dear friend, let me thank you once more for your visit; you did me great. honour, and I hope met with nothing that displeased you. I staid long at Ashbourne, not much pleased, yet aukward at departing. I then went to Lichfield, where I found my friend at Stowhill ? very dangerously diseased. Such is life. Let us try to pass it well, whatever it be, for there is surely something beyond it. « Well, now I hope all is well, write as soon as you can to, dear Sir,

« Your affectionate servant, « London, Nov, 25, 1777.

SAM. Johnson."

To Dr. SAMUEL JOHNson. “ MY DEAR SIR,

Edinburgh, Nov. 29, 1777. “ This day's post has at length relieved me from much uneasiness, by bringing me a letter from you. I was, indeed, doubly uneasy ;-on my own account and yours. I was very anxious to be secured against any bad 1777 consequences from my imprudence in mentioning the gentleman's name who Ærat. 68. had told me a story to your disadvantage; and as I could hardly suppose it possible, that you would delay so long to make me easy, unless you was ill, I was not a little apprehensive about you. You must not be offended when I venture to tell you that you appear to me to have been too rigid upon this occasion. The cowardly caution which gave you no pleasure,' was suggested to me by a friend here, to whom I mentioned the strange story and the detection of its falsity, as an instance how one may be deceived by what is apparently very good authority. But, as I am still persuaded, that as I might have obtained the truth, without mentioning the gentleman's name, it was wrong in me to do it, I cannot see that you are just in blaming my caution. But if you were ever so just in your disapprobation, might you not have dealt more tenderiy with me?

. A daughter born to him.

7 Mrs. Afton.

“ I went to Auchinleck about the middle of October, and passed some time with my father very comfortably.

“ I am engaged in a criminal prosecution against a country schoolmaster, for indecent behaviour to his female scholars. There is no statute against such abominable conduct; but it is punishable at common law. I will be obliged to you for your assistance in this extraordinary trial. I ever am, my dear Sir,

" Your faithful humble servant,

“ JAMES BOSWELL."

About this time I wrote to Johnson, giving him an account of the decision of the Negro cause, by the Court of Session, which by those who hold even the mildest and best regulated Navery in abomination, (of which number I do not hesitate to declare that I am none,) should be remembered with high respect, and to the credit of Scotland; for it went upon a much broader ground than the case of Somerset, which was decided in England '; being truly the general question, whether a perpetual obligation of service to one master in any mode should be fanctioned by the law of a free country. A negro, , then called Joseph Knight, a native of Africa, who having been brought to Jamaica in the usual course of the Nave trade, and purchased by a Scotch gentleman in that isand, had attended his master to Scotland, where it was

• See State Trials, Vol. XI. p. 339, and Mr, Hargrave's argument,

A a 2

officiously

« PreviousContinue »