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JOHNSON'S TOUR TO WALES
"To JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
'DEAR SIR,-Yesterday I returned from my Welch jour ney. I was sorry to leave my book suspended so long; but having an opportunity of seeing, with so much convenience, a new part of the island, I could not reject it. I have been in five of the six counties of North Wales; and have seen St. Asaph and Bangor, the two seats of their Bishops; have been upon Penmanmaur and Snowden, and passed over into Anglesea. But Wales is so little different from England, that it offers nothing to the speculation of the traveller.
When I came home, I found several of your papers, with some pages of Lord Hailes's Annals, which I will consider. I am in haste to give you some account of myself, lest you should suspect me of negligence in the pressing business which I find recommended to my care, and which I knew nothing of till now, when all care is vain 1.
'In the distribution of my books I purpose to follow your advice, adding such as shall occur to me. I am not pleased with your notes of remembrance added to your names, for I hope I shall not easily forget them.
'I have received four Erse books, without any direction, and suspect that they are intended for the Oxford library. If that is the intention, I think it will be proper to add the metrical psalms, and whatever else is printed in Erse, that the present may be complete. The donor's name should be told.
'I wish you could have read the book before it was printed, but our distance does not easily permit it.
'I am sorry Lord Hailes does not intend to publish Walton; I am afraid it will not be done so well, if it be done at all.
'I purpose now to drive the book forward. Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and let me hear often from you. I am, dear Sir, your affectionate humble servant,
London, Octob. 1, 1774.'
This tour to Wales, which was made in company with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, though it no doubt contributed to his health and amusement, did not give an occasion to such a discursive
1 I had written to him, to request his interposition in behalf of a convict, who I thought was very unjustly condemned.
exercise of his mind as our tour to the Hebrides. I do not find that he kept any journal or notes of what he saw there. All that I heard him say of it was, that instead of bleak and barren mountains, there were green and fertile ones; and that one of the castles in Wales would contain all the castles that he had seen in Scotland.'
Parliament having been dissolved, and his friend Mr. Thrale, who was a steady supporter of government, having again to encounter the storm of a contested election, he wrote a short political pamphlet, entitled The Patriot,* addressed to the electors of Great-Britain; a title which, to factious men, who consider a patriot only as an opposer of the measures of government, will appear strangely misapplied. It was, however, written with energetick vivacity; and, except those passages in which it endeavours to vindicate the glaring outrage of the House of Commons in the case of the Middlesex election, and to justify the attempt to reduce our fellowsubjects in America to unconditional submission, it contained an admirable display of the properties of a real patriot, in the original and genuine sense; a sincere, steady, rational, and unbiassed friend to the interests and prosperity of his King and country. It must be acknowledged, however, that both in this and his two former pamphlets, there was, amidst many powerful arguments, not only a considerable portion of sophistry, but a contemptuous ridicule of his opponents, which was very provoking.
'To MR. PERKINS 1.
'SIR,-You may do me a very great favour. Mrs. Williams, a gentlewoman whom you may have seen at Mr. Thrale's, is a petitioner for Mr. Hetherington's charity: petitions are this day issued at Christ's Hospital.
1 Mr. Perkins was for a number of years the worthy superintendant of Mr. Thrale's great brewery, and after his death became one of the proprietors of it; and now resides in Mr. Thrale's house in Southwark, which was the scene of so many literary meetings, and in which he continues the liberal hospitality for which it was eminent. Dr. Johnson esteemed him much. He hung up in the counting-house a fine proof of the admirable mezzotinto of Dr. Johnson, by Doughty; and when Mrs. Thrale asked him somewhat flippantly, 'Why do you put him up in the counting-house?' he answered, Because, Madam, I wish to have one wise man there.' 'Sir,' (said Johnson,) 'I thank you. It is a very handsome compliment, and I believe you speak sincerely.'
YOUNG COL'S DEATH
I am a bad manager of business in a crowd; and if I should send a mean man, he may be put away without his errand. I must therefore intreat that you will go, and ask for a petition for Anna Williams, whose paper of enquiries was delivered with answers at the counting-house of the hospital on Thursday the 20th. My servant will attend you thither, and bring the petition home when you have it.
'The petition, which they are to give us, is a form which they deliver to every petitioner, and which the petitioner is afterwards to fill up, and return to them again. This we must have, or we cannot proceed according to their directions. You need, I believe, only ask for a petition; if they enquire for whom you ask, you can tell them.
'I beg pardon for giving you this trouble; but it is a matter of great importance. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
October 25, 1774.'
"To JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. 'DEAR SIR,-There has appeared lately in the papers an account of a boat overset between Mull and Ulva, in which many passengers were lost, and among them Maclean of Col. We, you know, were once drowned 1; I hope, therefore, that the story is either wantonly or erroneously told. Pray satisfy me by the next post.
'I have printed two hundred and forty pages. I am able to do nothing much worth doing to dear Lord Hailes's book. I will, however, send back the sheets; and hope, by degrees, to answer all your reasonable expectations.
'Mr. Thrale has happily surmounted a very violent and acrimonious opposition; but all joys have their abatement: Mrs. Thrale has fallen from her horse, and hurt herself very much. The rest of our friends, I believe, are well. My compliments to Mrs. Boswell. I am, Sir, your most affectionate
'London, Octob. 27, 1774.'
This letter, which shews his tender concern for an amiable young gentleman to whom he had been very much obliged in the Hebrides, I have inserted according to its date, though
1 In the news-papers.
THE JOURNEY FINISHED
before receiving it I had informed him of the melancholy event that the young Laird of Col was unfortunately drowned.
"To JAMES BOSWELL, Esq.
'DEAR SIR,-Last night I corrected the last page of our Journey to the Hebrides. The printer has detained it all this time, for I had, before I went into Wales, written all except two sheets. The Patriot was called for by my political friends on Friday, was written on Saturday, and I have heard little of it. So vague are conjectures at a distance 1. As soon as I can, I will take care that copies be sent to you, for I would wish that they might be given before they are bought; but I am afraid that Mr. Strahan will send to you and to the booksellers at the same time. Trade is as diligent as courtesy. I have mentioned all that you recommended. Pray make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell and the younglings. The club has, I think, not yet met.
Tell me, and tell me honestly, what you think and what others say of our travels. Shall we touch the continent ? ? I am, dear Sir, your most humble servant,
'Nov. 26, 1774.'
In his manuscript diary of this year, there is the following entry :
'Nov. 27. Advent Sunday. I considered that this day, being the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, was a proper time for a new course of life. I began to read the Greek Testament regularly at 160 verses every Sunday. This day I began the Acts.
'In this week I read Virgil's Pastorals. I learned to repeat the Pollio and Gallus. I read carelessly the first Georgick.'
Such evidences of his unceasing ardour, both for 'divine and human lore,' when advanced into his sixty-fifth year,
Alluding to a passage in a letter of mine, where speaking of his Journey to the Hebrides, I say, 'But has not The Patriot been an interruption, by the time taken to write it, and the time luxuriously spent in listening to its applauses?'
2 We had projected a voyage together up the Baltick, and talked of visiting some of the more northern regions.
MR. HOOLE'S CLEONICE
[1774 and notwithstanding his many disturbances from disease, must make us at once honour his spirit, and lament that it should be so grievously clogged by its material tegument. It is remarkable, that he was very fond of the precision which calculation produces. Thus we find in one of his manuscript diaries, '12 pages in 4to. Gr. Test. and 30 pages in Beza's folio, comprize the whole in 40 days.'
'DR. JOHNSON TO JOHN HOOLE, ESQ.
'DEAR SIR,-I have returned your play 1, which you will find underscored with red, where there was a word which I did not like. The red will be washed off with a little water.
'The plot is so well framed, the intricacy so artful, and the disentanglement so easy, the suspense so affecting, and the passionate parts so properly interposed, that I have no doubt of its success. I am, Sir, your most humble servant, 'December 19, 1774.’
1775 ÆTAT. 66.]—THE first effort of his pen in 1775 was, 'Proposals for publishing the Works of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox,'t in three volumes quarto. In his diary, January 2, I find this entry: Wrote Charlotte's Proposals.' But, indeed, the internal evidence would have been quite sufficient. Her claim to the favour of the publick was thus enforced :
'Most of the pieces, as they appeared singly, have been read with approbation, perhaps above their merits, but of no great advantage to the writer. She hopes, therefore, that she shall not be considered as too indulgent to vanity, or too studious of interest, if, from that labour which has hitherto been chiefly gainful to others, she endeavours to obtain at last some profit for herself and her children. She cannot decently enforce her claim by the praise of her own performances; nor can she suppose, that, by the most artful and laboured address, any additional notice could be procured to a publication, of which Her MAJESTY has condescended to be the PATRONESS.'
He this year also wrote the Preface to Baretti's Easy Lessons in Italian and English.†