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Poor Beauclerk is so ill that his life is thought to be in danger. Lady Di nurses him with very great assiduity. Reynolds has taken too much to strong liquor," and seems to delight in his new character. “This is all the news that I have ; but as you love verses, I will send you a few which I made upon Inchkenneth; * but remember the condition—you shall not show them, except to Lord Hailes, whom I love better than any man whom I know so little. If he asks you to transcribe them for him, you may do it, but I think he must promise not to let them be copied again, nor to show them as mine. “I have at last sent back Lord Hailes's sheets. I never think about returning them, because I alter nothing. You will see that I might as well have kept them. However, I am ashamed of my delay; and if I have the honour of receiving any more, promise punctually to return them by the next post. Make my compliments to dear Mrs. Boswell, and to Miss Veronica. I am, dear Sir, yours most faithfully, “SAM. JoHNson.” “
" It should be recollected that this fanciful description of his friend was given by Johnson after he himself had become a water-drinker.
* See them in Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3rd ed., p. 337.
* He now sent me a Latin inscription for my historical picture, Mary Queen of Scots, and afterwards favoured me with an English translation. Mr. Alderman Boydell, that eminent patron of the arts, has subjoined them to the engraving [by Legat] from my picture —
“Maria Scotorum Regina,
‘Mary, Queen of Scots,
MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
“ Edinburgh, Jan. 27, 1775.
“ You rate our lawyers here too high, when you call them great masters of the law of nations.
“ As for myself, I am ashamed to say I have read little and thought little on the subject of America. I will be much obliged to you, if you will direct me where I shall find the best information of what is to be said on both sides. It is a subject vast in its present extent and future consequences. The imperfect hints which now float in my mind tend rather to the formation of an opinion that our government has been precipitant and severe in the resolutions taken against the Bostonians. Well do you know that I have no kindness for that race. But nations, or bodies of men, should, as well as individuals, have a fair trial, and not be condemned on character alone. Have we not express contracts with our colonies, which afford a more certain foundation of judgment, than general political speculations on the mutual rights of states and their provinces or colonies ? Pray let me know immediately what to read, and I shall diligently endeavour to gather for you any thing that I can find. Is Burke's speech on American taxation published by himself? Is it authentic ? I remember to have heard you say, that you had never considered East Indian affairs ; though, surely, they are of much importance to Great Britain. Under the recollection of this, I shelter myself from the reproach of ignorance about the Americans. If you write upon the subject, I shall certainly understand it. But, since you seem to expect that I should know something of it, without your instruction, and that my own mind should suggest something, I trust you will put me in the way.
“What does Becket mean by the Originals of Fingal and other poems of Ossian, which he advertises to have lain in his shop”?
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“Jan. 28, 1775. “DEAR SIR,
“You sent me a case to consider, in which I have no facts but what are against us, nor any principles on which to reason. It is vain to try to write thus without materials. The fact seems to be against you; at least I cannot know or say anything to the contrary. I am glad that you like the book so well. I hear no more of Macpherson. I shall long to know what Lord Hailes says of it. Lend it him privately. I shall send the parcel as soon as I can. Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell.
I am, Sir, &c., “SAM. Johnson.”
“As to Macpherson, I am anxious to have from yourself a full and pointed account of what has passed between you and him. It is confidently told here, that before your book came out he sent to you, to let you know that he understood you meant to deny the authenticity of Ossian's poems; that the originals were in his possession ; that you might have inspection of them, and might take the evidence of people skilled in the Erse language; and that he hoped, after this fair offer, you would not be so uncandid as to assert that he had refused reasonable proof. That you paid no regard to his message, but published your strong attack upon him; and then he wrote a letter to you, in such terms as he thought suited to one who had not acted as a man of veracity. You may believe it gives me pain to hear your conduct represented as unfavourable, while I can only deny what is said, on the ground that your character refutes it, without having any information to oppose. Let me, I beg of you, be furnished with a sufficient answer to any calumny upon this occasion.
“Lord Hailes writes to me (for we correspond more than we talk together), “As to Fingal, I see a controversy arising, and
purpose to keep out of its way. There is no doubt that I might mention some circumstances; but I do not choose to commit them to paper.'? What his opinion is I do not know. He says, *I am singularly obliged to Dr. Johnson for his accurate and useful criticisms. Had he given some strictures on the general plan of the work, it would have added much to his favours.' He is charmed with your verses on Inchkenneth, says they are very elegant, but bids me tell you, he doubts whether
“Legitimas faciunt pectora pura preces' be according to the rubric, but that is your concern; for, you know, he is a Presbyterian."
TO DR. LAWRENCE.?
“ Feb. 7, 1775. “SIR,
“One of the Scotch physicians is now prosecuting a corporation that in some public instrument have styled him doctor of medicine instead of physician. Boswell desires, being advocate for the corporation, to know whether doctor of medicine is not a legitimate title, and whether it may be considered as a disadvantageous distinction. I am to write to-night; be pleased to tell me. I am, Sir, your most, &c.,
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“Feb. 7, 1775. “ MY DEAR BOSWELL,
“I am surprised that, knowing as you do the disposition of your countrymen to tell lies in favour of each other, you can be
1 His lordship, notwithstanding his resolution, did commit his sentiments to paper, and in one of his notes to his Collection of Old Scottish Poetry, says, “ to doubt the authenticity of those poems is a refinement in scepticism indeed.”—J. Boswell, jun.
2 The learned and worthy Dr. Lawrence, whom Dr. Johnson respected and loved, as his physician and friend.
3 My friend has, in this letter, relied upon my testimony, with a confidence, of which the ground has escaped my recollection.
at all affected by any reports that circulate among them. Macpherson never in his life offered me a sight of any original, or of any evidence of any kind; but thought only of intimidating me by noise and threats, till my last answer—that I would not be deterred from detecting what I thought a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian—put an end to our correspondence. “The state of the question is this. He, and Dr. Blair, whom I consider as deceived, say, that he copied the poem from old manuscripts. His copies, if he had them, and I believe him to have none, are nothing. Where are the manuscripts? They can be shown if they exist, but they were never shown. De non existentibus et non apparentibus, says our law, eadem est ratio. No man has a claim to credit upon his own word, when better evidence, if he had it, may be easily produced. But so far as we can find, the Erse language was never written till very lately for the purposes of religion. A nation that cannot write, or a language that was never written, has no manuscripts. “But whatever he has he never offered to show. If old manuscripts should now be mentioned, I should, unless there were more evidence that can be easily had, suppose them another proof of Scotch conspiracy in national falsehood. “Do not censure the expression; you know it to be true. “Dr. Memis’s question is so narrow as to allow no speculation; and I have no facts before me but those which his advocate has produced against you. I consulted this morning the President of the London College of Physicians, who says, that with us, doctor of physic (we do not say doctor of medicine) is the highest title that a practiser of physic can have; that doctor implies not only physician, but teacher of physic; that every doctor is legally a physician; but no man, not a doctor, can practise physic but by licence particularly granted. The doctorate is a licence of itself. It seems to us a very slender cause of prosecution.
# # # # # # “I am now engaged, but in a little time I hope to do all you would have. My compliments to Madam and Veronica. I am, Sir, your most humble servant, “SAM. Johnson.”
What words were used by Mr. Macpherson in his letter to the venerable sage, I have never heard; but they are generally said to have been of a nature very different from the language of literary contest. Dr. Johnson's answer