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[“ DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. MONTAGU. MSS.
“17th Dec. 1775. “Madam, - All that the esteem and reverence of mankind can give you has been long in your possession, and the little that I can add to the voice of nations will not much exalt; of that little, however, you are, I hope, very certain.
“I wonder, madam, if you remember Col in the Hebrides? The brother and heir of poor Col has just been to visit me, and I have engaged to dine with him on Thursday. I do not know his lodging, and cannot send him a message, and must therefore suspend the honour which you are pleased to offer to, madam, your most humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”]
[“ DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. MONTAGU. MSS.
21st Dec. 1775. Madam,-I know not when any letter has given me so much pleasure or vexation as that which I had yesterday the honour of receiving. That you, madam, should wish for my company is surely a sufficient reason for being pleased ;—that I should delay twice, what I had so little right to expect even once, has so bad an appearance, that I can only hope to have it thought that I am ashamed.
“ You have kindly allowed me to name a day. Will you pleased, madam, to accept of me any day after Tuesday? Till I am favoured with your answer, or despair of so much condescension, I shall suffer no engagement to fasten itself upon me.-I am, madam, your most obliged and most humble servant,
Not having heard from him for a longer time than I supposed he would be silent, I wrote to him Dec. 18, not in good spirits :
“ Sometimes I have been afraid that the cold which has gone over Europe this year like a sort of pestilence has seized you severely : sometimes my imagination, which is upon occasions prolifick of evil, hath figured that you may have somehow taken offence at some part of
6 TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
6623d Dec. 1775. “ DEAR SIR, -Never dream of
offence. How should you offend me? I consider your friendship as a possession, which I intend to hold till you take it from me, and to lament if ever
by my fault I should lose it. However, when such suspicions find their way into your mind, always give them vent; I shall make haste to disperse them ; but hinder their first ingress if
Consider such thoughts as morbid. “ Such illness as may excuse my omission to Lord Hailes, I cannot honestly plead. I have been hindered, I know not how, by a succession of petty obstructions. I hope to mend immediately, and to send next post to his lordship. Mr. Thrale would have written to you if I had omitted; he sends his compliments, and wishes to see you.
“ You and your lady will now have no more wrangling about feudal inheritance. How does the young Laird of Auchinleck ? I suppose Miss Veronica is grown a reader and discourser.
“I have just now got a cough, but it has never yet hindered me from sleeping; I have had quieter nights than are common with me.
“I cannot but rejoice that Joseph' has had the wit to find the
way back. He is a fine fellow, and one of the best travellers in the world.
Young Col brought me your letter. He is a very pleasing youth. I took him two days ago to the Mitre, and we dined together. I was as civil as I had the means of being.
“I have had a letter from Rasay, acknowledging, with great appearance of satisfaction, the insertion in the Edinburgh paper. I am very glad that it was done.
“My compliments to Mrs. Boswell, who does not love me; and of all the rest, I need only send them to those that do; and I am afraid it will give you very little trouble to distribute them. - I am, my dear, dear sir, your affectionate humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”
[“DR. JOHNSON TO MR. GRANGER 2.
(About 1775, but has no date.) “ Sir,-When I returned from the country I found your letter ; and would very gladly have done what you desire, had it been in my power. Mr. Farmer is, I am confident, mistaken in supposing that he gave me any such pamphlet or cut. I should as soon have suspected myself, as Mr. Farmer, of forgetfulness; but that I do not know, except from your letter, the name of Arthur O'Toole, nor recollect that I ever heard of it before. I
1 Joseph Kitter, a Bohemian, who was in my service many years, and attended Dr. Johnson and me in our tour to the Hebrides. After having left me for some time, he had now returned to me.-BosWELL.
? [The author of the “ Biographical History of England."-Ev.]
think it impossible that I should have suffered such a total obliteration from my mind of any thing which was ever there. This at least is certain ; that I do not know of any
pamphlet ; and equally certain I desire you to think it, that if I had it, you should immediately receive it from, sir, your most humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”]
In 1776, Johnson wrote, so far as I can discover, nothing for the publick : but that his mind was still ardent, and fraught with generous wishes to attain to still higher degrees of literary excellence, is proved by his private notes of this year, which I shall insert in their proper place. “ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ 10th January, 1776. “ DEAR SIR,—I have at last sent you all Lord Hailes's papers. While I was in France, I looked very often into Henanlt; but Lord Hailes, in my opinion, leaves him far and far behind. Why I did not despatch so short a perusal sooner, when I look back, I am utterly unable to discover ; but human moments are stolen away by a thousand petty impediments which leave no trace behind them. I have been afflicted, through the whole Christmas, with the general disorder, of which the worst effect was a cough, which is now much mitigated, though the country, on which I look from a window at Streatham, is now covered with a deep snow. Mrs. Williams is very ill: every body else is as usual.
Among the papers I found a letter to you, which I think you had not opened ; and a paper for • The Chronicle, which I suppose it not necessary now to insert. I return them both.
“I have, within these few days, had the honour of receiving Lord Hailes's first volume, for which I return my most respectful thanks.
“I wish you, my dearest friend, and your haughty lady, (for I know she does not love me), and the young ladies, and the young laird, all happiness. Teach the young gentleman, in spite of his mamma, to think and speak well of, sir, your affectionate humble servant,
- Sam. JOHNSON."
At this time was in agitation a matter of great
[No doubt an advertisement of apology to Rasay.-Ed.]
consequence to me and my family, which I should not obtrude upon the world, were it not that the part which Dr. Johnson's friendship for me made him take in it was the occasion of an exertion of his abilities, which it would be injustice to conceal. That what he wrote upon the subject may be understood, it is necessary to give a state of the question, which I shall do as briefly as I can.
In the year 1504, the barony or manour of Auchinleck (pronounced Affléck) in Ayrshire, which belonged to a family of the same name with the lands, having fallen to the crown by forfeiture, James the Fourth, King of Scotland, granted it to Thomas Boswell, a branch of an ancient family in the county of Fife, styling him in the charter, “ dilecto familiari nostro ;” and assigning as the cause of the grant,
pro bono et fideli servitio nobis præstito.” Thomas Boswell was slain in battle, fighting along with his sovereign, at the fatal field of Floddon, in 1513.
From this very honourable founder of our family, the estate was transmitted, in a direct series of heirsmale, to David Boswell, my father's great-grand uncle, who had no sons, but four daughters, who were all respectably married, the eldest to Lord Cathcart.
David Boswell, being resolute in the military feudal principle of continuing the male succession, passed by his daughters, and settled the estate on his nephew by his next brother, who approved of the deed, and renounced any pretensions which he might possibly have, in preference to his son. But the estate having been burthened with large portions to the daughters, and other debts, it was necessary for the nephew to sell a considerable part of it, and what remained was still much encunibered.
The frugality of the nephew preserved, and, in some degree, relieved the estate. His son, my grandfather, an eminent lawyer, not only re-purchased a great part of what had been sold, but acquired other lands; and my father, who was one of the judges of Scotland, and had added considerably to the estate, now signified his inclination to take the privilege allowed by our law ', to secure it to his family in perpetuity by an entail, which, on account of his marriage articles, could not be done without my consent.
In the plan of entailing the estate, I heartily concurred with him, though I was the first to be restrained by it ; but we unhappily differed as to the series of heirs which should be established, or, in the language of our law, called to the succession. My father had declared a predilection for heirs-general, that is, males and females indiscriminately. He was willing, however, that all males descending from his grandfather should be preferred to females; but would not extend that privilege to males deriving their descent from a higher source. I, on the other hand, had a zealous partiality for heirs-male, however remote, which I maintained by arguments, which appeared to me to have considerable weight. And in the particular
1 Acts of Parliament of Scotland, 1685, cap. 22.–Boswell.
2 As first, the opinion of some distinguished naturalists, that our species is transmitted through males only, the female being all along no more than a nidus, or nurse, as Mother Earth is to plants of every sort ; which notion seems to be confirmed by that text of Scripture, “ He was yet in the loins of his FATHER when Melchisedeck met him” (Heb. vii. 10), and consequently, that a man's grandson by a daughter, instead of being his surest descendant, as is vulgarly said, has, in reality, no connexion whatever with his blood. And, secondly, independent of this theory (which, if true, should completely exclude heirsgeneral), that if the preference of a male to a female, without regard to primo. geniture (as a son, though much younger, nay even a grandson by a son, to a daughter), be once admitted, as it universally is, it must be equally reasonable and proper in the most remote degree of descent from an original proprietor of an estate, as in the nearest; because, however distant from the representative at the time, that remote heir-male, upon the failure of those nearer to the original proprietor than he is, becomes in fact the nearest male to him, and is, therefore, preferable as his representative, to a female descendant. A little extension of mind will enable us easily to perceive that a son's son, in continuation to whatever length of time, is preferable to a son's daughter, in the succession to an ancient inheritance; in which regard should be had to the representation of the original proprietor, and not to that of one of his descendants. I am aware