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most successful theological books that has ever appeared. Mr. Strahan, however, had sent one of the sermons to Dr. Johnson for his opinion ;
and, after his unfavourable letter to Dr. Blair had been sent off, he received from Johnson, on Christmas-eve, a note in which was the following paragraph :
“I have read over Dr. Blair's first sermon with more than approbation; to say it is good, is to say too little.”
I believe Mr. Strahan had, very soon after this time, a conversation with Dr. Johnson concerning them, and then he very candidly wrote again to Dr. Blair, enclosing Johnson's note, and agreeing to purchase the volume, for which he and Mr. Cadell gave 1001. The sale was so rapid and extensive, and the approbation of the public
so high, that, to their honour be it recorded, the proprietors made Dr. Blair a present, first of one sum and afterwards of another of 50l., thus voluntarily doubling the stipulated price ; and when he prepared another volume they gave him at once 3001. , being in all 5001.
, by an agreement to which I am a subscribing witness ; and now for a third octavo volume he has received no less than 6001.
In 1777, it appears, from his “ Prayers and Meditations,” that Johnson suffered much from a state of mind “unsettled and perplexed,” and from that constitutional gloom which, together with his extreme humility and anxiety with regard to his religious state, made him contemplate himself through too dark and unfavourable a medium. It may be said
of him, that he “saw God in clouds." Certain we may be of his injus: tice to himself in the following lamentable paragraph, which it is painful
to think came from the contrite heart of this great man, to whose labours the world is so much indebted :-“When I survey my past life, I discover nothing but a barren waste of time, with some disorders of body, and disturbances of the mind, very near to madness, which I hope He that made me will suffer to extenuate many faults, and excuse many deficiencies.". But we find his devotions in this year eminently fervent ; and we are comforted by observing intervals of quiet, composure, and gladness.
1 Two more volumes were subsequently published. The fifth appeared after the death of the author, in 1801, and contained an account of his life, by the Rev. Dr. Finlayson.-Ed.
On Easter-day we find the following emphatic prayer :-"Almighty and most merciful Father, who seest all our miseries, and knowest all our necessities, look down upon me, and pity me. Defend me from the violent incursion of evil thoughts, and enable me to form and keep such resolutions as may conduce to the discharge of the duties which thy providence shali appoint me; and so help me, by thy Holy Spirit, that my heart may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found, and that I may serve thee with a pure affection and a cheerful mind. Have mercy upon me; O God, have mercy upon me; years and infirmities oppress me, terror and anxiety beset me. Have mercy upon me, my Creator and my Judge. In all perplexities relieve and free me; and so help me by thy Holy Spirit, that I may now so commemorate the death of thy Son our Saviour JESUS CHRIST, as that when this short and painful life shall have an end, I may for his sake, be received to everlasting happiness. Amen."
While he was at church, the agreeable impressions upon his mind are thus commemorated :—“I was for some time distressed, but at last obtained, I hope from the God of Peace, more quiet than I have enjoyed for a long time. I had made no resolution, but as my heart grew lighter, my hopes revived, and my courage increased ; and I wrote with my pencil in my Common Prayer Book,
6 Vita ordinanda.
Serviendum et lætandum.'” Mr. Steevens, whose generosity is well known, joined Dr. Johnson in kind assistance to a female relation of Dr. Goldsmith, and desired that on her return to Ireland she would procure authentic particulars of the life of her celebrated relation. Concerning her is the following letter :
“ TO GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ. “ DEAR SIR,
February 25, 1777. “You will be glad to hear that from Mrs. Goldsmith, whom we lamented as drowned, I have received a letter full of gratitude to us all, with promises to make the inquiries which we recommended to her.
“I would have had the honour of conveying this intelligence to Miss Caulfield, but that her letter is not at hand, and I know not the direction. You will tell the good news.
I am Sir, your most, &c.,
“SAM. JOHNSON.” 1 "Prayers and Meditations," p. 155.—BOSWELL.
2 Ibid., p. 158. 3 The celebrated dramatic commentator. He was an elegant scholar, well versed in old English literature, and was the principal contributor to the “ Biographia Dramatica." He was born at Stepney in 1736, and died in 1800.-ED.
MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON. “ MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, Feb. 14, 1777. “My state of epistolary accounts with you at present is extraordinary. The balance, as to number, is on your side. I am indebted to you for two letters ; one dated the 16th of November, upon which very day I wrote to you, so that our letters were exactly exchanged, and one dated the 21st of December last.
“My heart was warmed with gratitude by the truly kind contents of both of them; and it is amazing and vexing that I have allowed so much time to elapse without writing to you. But delay is inherent in me, by nature or by bad habit. I waited till I should have an opportunity of paying you my compliments on a new year. I have procrastinated till the new year is no longer new.
“Dr. Memis's cause was determined against him with 401. costs. The Lord President, and two other of the Judges, dissented from the majority, upon this ground: that, although there may have been no intention to injure him by calling him Doctor of Medicine, instead of Physician, yet, as he remonstrated against the designation before the charter was printed off, and represented that it was disagreeable, and even hurtful to him, it was ill-natured to refuse to alter it, and let him have the designation to which he was certainly entitled. My own opinion is, that our court has judged wrong. The defendants were in mala fide, to persist in naming him in a way that he disliked. You romember poor Goldsmith, when he grew important, and wished to appear Doctor Major, could not bear your calling him Goldy. Would it not have been wrong to have named him so in your · Preface to Shakspeare,' or in any serious permanent writing of any sort? The difficulty is, whether an action should be allowed on such petty grounds. De minimis non curat lex.
“ The negro cause is not yet decided. A memorial is preparing on the side of slavery. I shall send you a copy as soon as it is printed. Maclaurin is made happy by your approbation of his memorial for the black.
“Macquarry was here in the winter, and we passed an evening together. The sale of his estate cannot be prevented.
“Sir Allan Maclean's suit against the Duke of Argyle, for recovering the ancient inheritance of his family, is now fairly before all our judges. I spoke for him yesterday, and Maclaurin to-day ; Crosbie spoke to-day against him. Three more counsel are to be heard, and next week the cause will be determined. I send you the Informations or Cascs, on each side, which I hope you will read. You said to me, when we were under Sir Allan's hospitable roof, I will help him with my pen.' You said it with a generous glow; and though his Grace of Argyle did afterwards mount you upon an excellent horse, upon which you looked like a Bishop, you must not swerve from your purpose at Inchkenneth. I wish you may understand the points at issue, amidst our Scotch law principles and phrases.
įHere followed a full state of the case, in which I endeavoured to make it as clear as I could to an Englishman who had no knowledge of the formularies and technical language of the law of Scotland.]
“I shall inform you how the cause is decided here. But as it may be brought under the review of our Judges, and is certainly to be carried by appeal to the House of Lords, the assistance of such mind as yours will be of consequence. Your paper on Vicious Intromission is a noble proof of what you can do even in Scotch law.
“I have not yet distributed all your books. Lord Hailes and Lord Monboddo have each received one and return you thanks. Monboddo dined with me lately, and, having drank tea, we were a good while by ourselves, and as I knew that he had read the Journey,' superficially, as he did not talk of it as I wished, I brought it to him, and read aloud several passages; and then he talked so, that I told him he was to have a copy from the author. He begged that might be marked on it.
"I ever am, my dear Sir, your most faithful
SIR ALEXANDER DICK ? TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Prestonfield, Feb. 17, 1777. “I had yesterday the honour of receiving your book of your 'Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland,' which you were so good as to send me, by the hands of our mutual friend, Mr. Boswell, of Auchinleck; for which I return you my most hearty thanks: and, after carefully reading it over again, shall deposit it in my little collection of choice books, next our worthy friend's 'Journey to Corsica. As there are many things to admire in both performances, I have often wished that no Travels or Journey should be published but those undertaken by persons of integrity and capacity to judge well, and describe faithfully, and in good language, the situation, condition, and manners of the countries passed through. Indeed our country of Scotland, in spite of the union of the crowns, is still in most places so devoid of clothing, or cover from hedges and plantations, that it was well you gave your readers a sound Monitoire, with respect to that circumstance. The truths you have told, and the purity of the language in which they are expressed, as your 'Journey' is universally read, may, and already appear to have a very good effect. For a man of my acquaintance, who has the largest nursery for trees and hedges i the country, tells me, that of late the demand upon him for these articles 19 doubled, and sometimes tripled. I have, therefore, listed Dr. Samuel Johnson in some of my memorandums of the principal planters and favourers of the enclosures, under a name which I took the liberty to invent from the Greek, Papadendrion. Lord Auchinleck and some few more are of the list. I am told that one gentleman in the shire of Aberdeen, viz., Sir Archibald Grant, has planted above fifty millions of trees on a piece of very wild ground at Monimusk. I must inquire if he has fenced them well, before he enters my list; for that is the soul of enclosing. I began myself to plant a little, our Fround' being too valuable for much, and that is now fifty years ago ; and the trees, now in my seventy-fourth year, I look up to with reverence, and show them to my eldest son, now in his fifteenth year, and they are full the height of my country-house here, where I had the pleasure of receiving you, and hope again to have that satisfaction with our mutual friend, Mr. Boswell. I shall always continue, with the truest esteem, dear Doctor, your most obliged “ And obedient humble servant,
1 Sir Alexander Dick was a physician of some eminence, who studied at Leyden, under Boerhaave, and was afterwards elected President of the College of Physicians at Edinburgh. In 1774, he received the gold medal from the London Society for Promoting Arts and Commerce, for his success in cultivating the true rhubarb in Britain. He was born in 1703, and died in 1785.-ED.
For a character of this very amiable man, see “Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 3rd edit. p. 36.-BOSWELL. VOL. III.
“ ALEXANDER DICK.”
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “ DEAR SIR,
February 18, 1777. “ It is so long since I heard any thing from you,' that I am not easy about it; write something to me next post. When you sent your last letter everything seemed to be mending ; I hope nothing has lately grown worse. I suppose young Alexander continues to thrive, and Veronica is now very pretty company. I do not suppose the lady is yet reconciled to me, yet let her know that I love her very well, and value her very
much. “Dr. Blair is printing some sermons. If they are all like the first, which I have read, they are sermones aurei, ac auro magis aurei. It is excellently written both as to doctrine and language. Mr. Watson's book ? seems to be much esteemed.
“Poor Beauclerk still continues very ill. Langton lives on as he used to do. His children are very pretty, and, I think, his lady loses her Scotch. Paoli I
“I have been so distressed by difficulty of breathing, that I lost, as was computed, six-and-thirty ounces of blood in a few days. I am better but not well.
“I wish you would be vigilant, and get me Graham's 'Telemachus,' that was printed at Glasgow, a very little book; and “Jonstoni Poemata,' another little book, printed at Middleburgh.
Mrs. Williams sends her compliments, and promises that when you come nither she will accommodate you as well as ever she can in the old room. She wishes to know whether you sent her book to Sir Alexander Gordon.
“My dear Boswell, do not neglect to write to me: for your kindness is one of the pleasures of my life, which I should be sorry to lose.
“I am, Sir, your humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON."
By the then course of the post, my long letter of the 14th had not yet reached him.EOSWELL.
History of Philip the Second.-BOSWELL.