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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,
First be he true, for truth doth truth deserve;
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 :
To nature, fortune, time, and woman's breast.'" 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,
And alwaies one credit which her preserve :" 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,
fancy, will stay out to dinner. I have brought the papers about poor Dodd, to show you, but you will soon have dispatched them.
“Before I came away, I sent poor Mrs. Williams into the country, very ill of a pituitous defluxion, which wastes her gradually away, and which her physician declares himself unable to stop. I supplied her, as far as could be desired, with all conveniences to make her excursion and abode pleasant and useful. But I am afraid she can only linger a short time in a morbid state of weakness and pain.
“The Thrales, little and great, are all well, and purpose to go to Brighthelmstone at Michaelmas. They will invite me to go with them, and perhaps I may go, but I hardly think I shall like to stay the whole time; but of futurity we know but little.
“ Mrs. Porter is well; but Mrs. Aston, one of the ladies at Stowhill, has been struck with a palsy, from which she is not likely ever to recover. How soon may such a stroke fall upon us ! “Write to me, and let us know when we may expect you. I am, dear Sir,
“Your most humble servant,
“ MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, Sept. 9, 1777. [After informing him that I was to set out next day, in order to meet him at Ashbourne.]
“I have a present for you from Lord Hailes—the fifth book of Lactantius, which he has published with Latin notes. He is also to give you a few anecdotes for your Life of Thomson,' who I find was private tutor to the present Earl of Haddington, Lord Hailes's cousin, a circumstance not mentioned by Dr. Murdoch. I have keen expectations of delight from your edition of the English Poets.
“I am sorry for poor Mrs. Williams's situation. You will, however, have the comfort of reflecting on your kindness to her. Mr. Jackson's death, and Mrs. Aston's palsy, are gloomy circumstances. Yet surely we should be habituated to the uncertainty of life and health. When my mind is unclouded by melancholy, I consider the temporary distresses of this state of being as "light afflictions,' by stretching my mental view into that glorious afterexistence, when they will appear to be as nothing. But present pleasures and present pains must be felt. I lately read “Rasselas' over again with great satisfaction.
“Since you are desirous to hear about Macquarry's sale, I shall inform you particularly. The gentleman who purchased Ulva is Mr. Campbell of Auchnaba; our friend Macquarry was proprietor of two-thirds of it, of which the rent was 1561. 58. 11d. This parcel was set up at 4,0691. 58. 1d., but it sold for no less than 5,5401. The other third of Ulva, with the island of Staffa, belonged to Macquarry of Ormaig. Its rent, including that of Staffa, 831. 128. 2 d.-set up at 2,1781. 168. 4d.-sold for no less than 3,5401. The Laird of Col wished to purchase Ulva, but he thought the price too high. There may, indeed, be great improvements made there, both in fishing and agriculture; but the interest of the purchase-money exceeds the rent so very much, that I doubt if the bargain will be profitable. There is an island called Little Colonsay, of 101. yearly rent, which I am informed has belonged to the Macquarrys of Ulva for many ages, but which was lately claimed by the Presbyterian Synod of Argyle, in consequence of a grant made to them by Queen Anne. It is believed that their claim will be dismissed, and that Little Colonsay will also be sold for the advantage of Macquarry's creditors. What think you of purchasing this island, and endowing a school or college there, the master to be a clergyman of the Church of England ? How venerable would such an institution make the name of DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON in the Hebrides ! I have, like yourself, wonderful pleasure in recollecting our travels in those islands. The pleasure is, I think, greater than it reasonably should be, considering that we had not much either of beauty or elegance to charm our imaginations, or of rude novelty to astonish. Let us, by all means, have another expedition. I shrink a little from our scheme of going up the Baltic ? I am sorry you have already been in Wales; for I wish to see it. Shall we go to Ireland, of which I have seen but little? We shall try to strike out a plan when we are at Ashbourne.
“Your most faithful humble servant,
I am ever,
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.” “ DEAR SIR,
Ashbourne, Sept. 11, 1777. “I write to be left at Carlisle, as you direct me; but you cannot have it. Your letter, dated Sept. 6, was not at this place till this day, Thursday, Sept. 11; and I hope you will be here before this is at Carlisle. However, what you have not going, you may have returning; and as I believe I shall not love you less after our interview, it will then be as true as it is now, that I set a very high value upon your friendship, and count your kindness as one of the chief felicities of my life. Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any man at all times something to say.
1 It appears that Johnson, now in his sixty-eighth year, was seriously inclined to realise the project of our going up the Baltic, which I had started when we were in the Isle of Sky for he thus writes to Mrs. Thrale; Letters, vol. i., p. 366 :
“ Ashbourne, Sept. 13, 1777. “Boswell, I believe, is coming. He talks of being here to-day: I shall be glad to see him; but he shrinks from the Baltic expedition, which, I think, is the best scheme in our power. What we shall substitute, I know not. He wants to see Wales; but, except the woods of Bachycraigh, what is there in Wales that can fill the hunger of ignorance, or quench the thirst of curiosity? We may, perhaps, form some scheme or other; but, in the phrase of Hockley in the Hole, it is pity he has not a better bottom."
Such an ardour of mind, and vigour of enterprise, is admirable at any age; but more particularly so at the advanced period at which Johnson was then arrived. I am sorry now that I did not insist on our executing that scheme. Besides the other objects of curiosity and observation, to have seen my illustrious friend received, as he probably would have been, by a prince so eminently distinguished for his variety of talents and acquisitions as the late King of Sweden; and by the Empress of Russia, whose extraordinary abilities, information, and magnanimity, astonish the world, would have afforded a noble subject for contemplation and record. This reflection may, possibly, be thought too visionary by the more sedate and cold-blooded part of my readers; yet I own I frequently indulge it with an earnest, unavailing regret.--BOSWELL.
2 It so happened, the letter was forwarded to my house at Edinburgh.-BOSWELL.
“That distrust which intrudes so often on your mind is a mode of melancholy whi if it be the business of a wise man to be happy, it is foolish to indulge; and, if it be a duty to preserve our faculties entire for their proper use, it is criminal. Suspicion is very often an useless pain. From that, and all other pains, I wish you free and safe ; for I am, dear Sir,
"Most affectionately yours,
BOSWELL S ARRIVAL AT ASHBOURNE-GRIEF FOR THE LOSS OF FRIENDS" JOURNEY TO
THE WESTERN ISLANDS"-ASHBOURNE SCHOOL — Poor CURATES - JOHNSON'S ZEALOUS INTERFERENCE AND CORRESPONDENCE ON BEHALF OF DR. DODD-PETITION OF THE CITY OF LONDON IN HIS FAVOUR-DODD'S PETITION TO THE KING-MR. JENKINSON-MR. FITZHERBERT - DR. TAYLOR - HAMILTON'S POEMS - THE REV. MR. SEWARD-Johnson's OPINIONS OF HUME-GEN. PAOLI'S SENTIMENTS ON THE FEAR OF DEATH-Dr. BUTTERDUTIES OF A BIOGRAPHER — THE STUART FAMILY -COXETER'S COLLECTIONS OF THE POETS-JOHNSON'S CRITICISMS ON LYRIC POETRY.
ON Sunday evening, Sept. 14, I arrived at Ashbourne, and drove
directly up to Dr. Taylor's door ; Dr. Johnson and he appeared before I had got out of the post-chaise, and welcomed me cordially.
I told them that I had travelled all the preceding night, and bed at Leek in Staffordshire; and that when I rose to go to church in the afternoon I was informed there had been an earthquake, of which, it seems, the shock had been felt in some degree at Ashbourne. JOHNSON: "Sir, it will be much exaggerated in popular talk : for, in the first place, the common people do not accurately adapt their thoughts to the objects ; nor, secondly, do they accurately adapt their words to their thoughts : they do not mean to lie ; but, taking no pains to be exact, they give you very false accounts. A great part of their language