« ElőzőTovább »
“ The catastrophe is affecting. The Father and Ætat. 74.
Daughter both culpable, both wretched, and both penitent, divide between them our pity and our
“ Thus, Madam, I have performed what I did not willingly undertake, and could not decently refuse. The noble writer will be pleased to remember that sincere criticism ought to raise no resentment, because judgement is not under the controul of will; but involuntary criticism, as it has still less of choice, ought to be inore remote from possibility of offence.
“ I am, &c. « Nov. 28, 1783.
« Sam. JOHNSON.
I consulted him on two questions of a very differ, ent nature: one, whether the unconstitutional influence exercised by the Peers of Scotland in the election of the representatives of the Commons, by means of fictitious qualifications, ought not to be resisted ;-the other, What in propriety and humanity, should be done with old horses unable to labour, I gave him some account of my life at Auchinleck ; and expressed my satisfaction that the gentlemen of the county had, at two publick meetings, elected ne their Præses, or Chairman.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ Like all other men who have great friends, you begin to feel the
pangs of neglected merit; and all the comfort that I can give you is, by telling you
that you have probably more pangs to feel, and more 1783. neglect to suffer. You have, indeed, begun to com
Ætat. 74 plain too soon; and I hope I am the only confidant of your
discontent. Your friends have not yet had leisure to gratify personal kindness; they have hitherto been busy in strengthening their ministerial interest. If a vacancy happens in Scotland, give them early intelligence: and as you can serve Government as powerfully as any of your probable competitors, you may make in some sort a warrantable claim.
“ Of the exaltations and depressions of your mind you delight to talk, and I hate to hear. Drive all such fancies from
you. « On the day when I received your letter, I think, the foregoing page was written ; to which one disease or another has hindered me from making any additions. I am now a little better. But sickness and solitude press me very heavily. I could bear sickness better, if I were relieved from solitude.
“ The present dreadful confusion of the publick ought to make you wrap yourself up in your hereditary possessions, which, though less than you may wish, are more than you can want; and in an hour of religious retirement return thanks to God, who has exempted you from any strong temptation to fac. tion, treachery, plunder, and disloyalty.
“ As your neighbours distinguish you by such honours as they can bestow, content yourself with your station, without neglecting your profession, Your estate and the Courts will find
you ployment; and your mind well occupied will be quiet.
“ The usurpation of the nobility, for they appafently usurp all the influence they gain by fraud
1783. and misrepresentation, I think it certainly lawful, Ætat. 74.
perhaps your duty, to resist. What is not their own, they have only by robbery.
Your question about the horses gives me more perplexity. I know not well what advice to give you. I can only recommend a rule which you do not want;-give as little pain as you can. I
suppose that we have a right to their service while their strength lasts; what we can do with them afterwards, I cannot so easily determine. But let us consider. Nobody denies, that man has a right first to milk the cow, and to sheer the sheep, and then to kill them for his table. May he not, by parity of reason, first work a horse, and then kill him the easiest way, that he may have the means of another horse, or food for cows and sheep? Man is influenced in both cases by different motives of self-interest. He that rejects the one must reject the other.
“ I am, &c. “ London, Dec. 24, 1783.
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
“ A happy and pious Christmas; and many happy years to you, your lady, and children.”
The late ingenious Mr. Mickle, some time before his death, wrote me a letter concerning Dr. Johnson, in which he mentions, “ I was upwards of twelve years acquainted with him, was frequently in his company, always talked with ease to him, and can truly say, that I never received from him one rough word.”
In this letter he relates his having, while engaged in translating the Lusiad, had a dispute of considerable length with Johnson, who, as usual declaimed
upon the misery and corruption of a sea life, and
1783. used this expression :-" It had been happy for the
Ætat. 74. world, Sir, if your hero Gama, Prince Henry of Portugal, and Columbus, had never been born, or that their schemes had never gone farther than their own imaginations."-"This sentiment, (says Mr. Mickle,) which is to be found in his Introduction to the World displayed,' I, in my Dissertation prefixed to the Lusiad, have controverted; and though authours are said to be bad judges of their own works, I am not ashamed to own to a friend, that that dissertation is my
favourite above all that I ever attempted in prose. Next
year, when the Lusiad was published, I waited on Dr. Johnson, who addressed me with one of his good-humoured smiles :
-Well, you have remembered our dispute about Prince Henry, and have cited me too. You have done your part very well indeed :
have made the best of your argument; but I am not convinced yet.'
“ Before publishing the Lusiad, I sent Mr. Hoole a proof of that part of the introduction, in which I make mention of Dr. Johnson, yourself, and other well-wishers to the work, begging it might be shewn to Dr. Johnson. This was accordingly done; and in place of the simple mention of him which I had made, he dictated to Mr. Hoole the sentence as it now stands.
“ Dr. Johnson told me in 1772, that, about twenty years before that time, he himself had a design to translate the Lusiad, of the merit of which he spoke highly, but had been prevented by a number of other engagements."
Mr. Mickle reminds me in this letter, of a conversation at dinner one day at Mr. Hoole's with Dr.
1783. Johnson, when Mr. Nicol the King's Bookseller, and
1, attempted to controvert the maxim, “better that Etat, 74.
ten guilty should escape, than one innocent person suffer ;” and were answered by Dr. Johnson with great power of reasoning and eloquence. I am very sorry that I have no record of that day: but I well recollect my illustrious friend's having ably shewn that unless civil institutions ensure protection to the innocent, all the confidence which mankind should have in them would be lost.
I shall here mention what, in strict chronological arrangement, should have appeared in my account of last year;
may more properly be introduced here, the controversy having not been closed till this. The Reverend Mr. Shaw, a native of one of the Hebrides, having entertained doubts of the authenticity of the poems ascribed to Ossian, divested himself of national bigotry; and having travelled in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and also in Ireland, in order to furnish himself with materials for a Gaelick Dictionary, which he afterwards compiled, was so fully satisfied that Dr. Johnson was in the right upon the question, that he candidly published a pamphlet, stating his conviction, and the proofs and reasons on which it was founded. A person at Edinburgh, of the name of Clark, answered this pamphlet with much zeal, and much abuse of its authour. John, son took Mr. Shaw under his protection, and gave him his assistance in writing a reply, which has been admired by the best judges, and by many been considered as conclusive. A few paragraphıs, which sufe ficiently mark their great Authour, shall be selected,
“My assertions are, for the most part, purely negative; I deny the existence of Fingal, because in a