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“I wish I had written sooner, lest, writing now,
I should renew your grief; but I would not forbear saying what I have now said.
“This loss is, I hope, the only misfortune of a family to whom no misfortune at all should huppen, if my wishes could avert it. Let me know how you all go on. Has Mr. Langton got him the little horse that I recommended ? It would do him good to ride about his estate in tine weather.
“Be pleased to make my compliments to Mrs. Langton, and to dear Miss Langton, and Miss Di, and Miss Juliet, and to everybody else.
“THE CLUB holds very well together. Monday is my night. I continue to rise tolerably well, and read more than I did. I hope something will yet come on it. I am, Sir,
“ Your most affectionate servant,
“Sam. JOHNSON.” After I had been some time in Scotland, I mentioned to him in a letter, that " on my first return to my native country, after some years of absence, I was told of a vast number of my acquaintance who were all gone to the land of forgetfulness, and I found myself like a man stalking over a field of battle, who every moment perceives some one lying dead.” I complained of irresolution, and mentioned my having made a vow as a security for good conduct. I wrote to him again without being able to move his indolence : nor did I hear from him till he had received a copy of my inaugural Exercise, or Thesis in Civil Law, which I published at my admission as an Advocate, as is the custom in Scotland. He then wrote to me as follows:
“TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. • DEAR SIR,
London, Aug. 21, 1766. “The reception of your Thesis put me in mind of my debt to you. Why
I will punish you for it, by telling you that
your Latin wants correction. In the beginning, Spei alteræ, not to urge that it should be prime, is not grammatical : altere should be alteri. In the next line you seem to use genus absolutely, for what we call family, that is, for illustrious extraction, I doubt without authority. Homines nullius originis for Nullis orti majoribus, or, Nullo loco nati, is, as I am afraid, barbarous.-Ruddiman is dead.
“I have now vexed you enough and will try to please you. Your resolution
1 of his being in the chair of The LITERARY CLUB, which at this time met once a week in the evening.-Boswell.
2 The passage omitted alluded to a private transaction.—BOSWELL.
“Viro nobilissimo, ornatissimo, Joanni, Vicecomiti Mountstuart, atavis edito regibus excelsæ familie de Bute spei alteræ ; labente seculo, quum homines nullius originis genus æquare opibus aggrediuntur, sanguinis antiqui et illustris semper memori, natalium splendorem virtutibus augenti : ad publica populi comitia jam legato; in optimatium vero magnæ Britanniæ senatu, jure hæreditario, olim consessuro: vim insitam varia doctrina pro. movente, nec tamen se venditante, prædito: prisca fide animo liberrimo, et morum elegantia insigni : in italiæ visitandæ itinere, socio suo honoratissimo, hasce jurisprudentiæ primitias devinctissimæ amicitiæ et observantiæ, monumentum, D.D.C.Q. JACOBUS BOSWELL."
to obey your father I sincerely approve ; but do not accustom yourself to enchain your volatility by vows ; they will sometimes leave a thorn in your mind, which you will, perhaps, never be able to extract or eject. Take this warning; it is of great importance.
The study of the law is what you very justly term it, copious and generous ;1 and in adding your name to its professors, you have done exactly what I always wished, when I wished you best. I pe that you will continue to pursue it vigorously and constantly. You gain, at least, what is no small advantage, security from those troublesome and wearisome discontents, which are always obtruding themselves upon a mind vacant, unemployed, and undetermined.
“ You ought to think it no small inducement to diligence and perseverance, that they will please your father. We all live upon the hope of pleasing somebody, and the pleasure of pleasing ought to be greatest, and at last always will be greatest, when our endeavours are exerted in consequence of our duty.
“Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent : deliberation, which those who begin it by prudence, and continue it with subtilty, must, after long expense of thcught, conclude by chance. To prefer one future mode of life to another, upon just reasons, requires faculties which it has not pleased our Creator to give us.
“ If therefore the profession you have chosen has some unexpected inconveniences, console yourself by reflecting that no profession is without them; and that all the importunities and perplexities of business are softness and luxury, compared with the incessant cravinys of vacancy, and the unsatisfactory expedients of idleness.
Hæc sunt quæ nostrâ potui te voce monere;
“ As to your History of Corsica, you have no materials which others have not, or may not have. You have, somehow or other, warmed your imagination. I wish there were some cure, like the lover's leap, for all heads of which some single idea has obtained an unreasonable and irregular possession. Mind your own affairs, and leave the Corsicans to theirs. I am, dear Sir,
“ Your most humble servant,
" TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
“ Much ESTEEMED AND DEAR SIR, Auchinleck, Nov. 6, 1766. “ I plead not guilty to 2
• Having thus, I hope, cleared myself of the charge brought against me, I presume you will not be displeased if I escape the punishment which you have decreed for me unheard. If you have discharged the arrows of criticism against an innocent man, you must rejoice to find they have missed him, or have not been pointed so as to wound him.
1 This alludes to the first sentence of the Proæmium of my Thesis. “ JURISPRUDENTIÆ studio nullum uberius, nullum generosius: in legibus enim agitandis, populorum mores, variasque fortunæ vices ex quibus leges oriuntur, contemplari simul solemus."BusWELL.
2 The passage omitted explained the transaction to which the preceding letter had alluded.-BOSWELL.
“ To talk no longer in allegory, I am, with all deference, going to offer a few observations in defence of my Latin, which you have found fault with.
• You think I should have used spei primæ, instead of spei altere. Spes is, indeed, often used to express something on which we have a future dependence, as in Virg. Eclog. i. I. 14,
modo namque gemellos Spem gregis, ah ! silice in nudâ connixa reliquit : and in Georg. iri. 1. 473,
Spemque gregemque simul,' for the lambs and the sheep. Yet it is also used to express anything on which we have a present dependence, and is well applied to a man of distinguished influence, -our support, our refuge, our præsidium, as Horace calls Mæcenas. Æneid xii. I. 57, Queen Amata addresses her son-in-law, Turnas :- Spes tų nunc una :' and he was then no future hope, for she adds, -
decus imperiuinque Latini
Te penes ;' which might have been said of my Lord Bute some years ago. Now I consider the present Earl of Bute to be • Excelsæ familiæ de Bute spes prima ;' and my Lord Mountstuart, as his eldest son, to be 'spes altera.' So in Æneid xii, I. 168, after having mentioned Pater Æneas, who was the present spes, the reigning spes, as my German friends would say, the spes prima, the poet adds,
• Et juxta Ascanius, magnæ spes altera Romæ.' “You think alteræ ungrammatical, and you tell me it should have been alteria You must recollect, that in old times alter was declined regularly ; and when the ancient fragments preserved in the Juris Civilis Fontes were written, it was certainly declined in the way that I use it. This, I should think, may protect a lawyer who writes alteræ in a dissertation upon part of his own science. But as I could hardly venture to quote fragments of old law to so classical a man as Mr. Johnson, I have not made an accurate search into these remains, to find examples of what I am able to produce in poetical composition. We find in Plaut. Rudens, act iii, scene 4,-
Nam huic alteræ patria quæ sit profecto nescio.' Plautus is, to be sure, an old comic writer ; but in the days of Scipio and Lelius, we find Terent. Heautontim. act ii. scene 3,-
hoc ipsa in itinere alter® Dum narrat, forte audivi.' “You doubt my having authority for using genus absolutely, for what we call family, tliat is, for illustrious extraetion. Now I take genus in Latin, to have much the same signification with birth in English: both in their primary meaning expressing simply descent, but both made to stand kar étoxuv, for noble descent. Genus is thus used in Hor. lib. ii. Sat. v. I. 8,
• Et genus et virtus, nisi cum re, vilior alga est.'
And in lib. i. Epist. vi, 1. 37,—
genus et formam Regina pecunia donat.' And in the celebrated contest between Ajax and Ulysses, Ovil's Metamorph. lib. xiii. 1. 140,
genus et proavos, et quæ non fecimus ipsi,
Vix ea nostra voco.' Homines nullius originis,' for 'nullis orti majoribus,' or 'nullo loco nati,'is, 'you are afraid, barbarous.' Origo is used to signify extraction, as in Virg. Æneid i. 286,
• Nascetur pulchrâ Trojanus origine Cæsar.' And in Æneid x. l. 618,
• Ille tamen nostrâ deducit origine nomen;' and as nullus is used for obscure, is it not in the genius of the Latin language to write nullius originis, for obscure extraction ?
“ I have defended myself as well as I could.
'Might I venture to differ from you with regard to the utility of vows ? I am sensible that it would be very dangerous to make vows rashly, and without a due consideration. But I cannot help thinking that they may often be of great advantage to one of a variable judgment and irregular inclinations. I always remember a passage in one of your letters to our Italian friend Baretti ; where, talking of the monastic life, you say you do not wonder that serious men should put themselves under the protection of a religious order, when they have found how unable they are to take care of themselves. For my own part, without affecting to be a Socrates, I am sure I have a more than ordinary struggle to maintain with the Evil Principle; and all the methods I can devise are little enough to keep me tolerably steady in the paths of rectitude.
“I am ever, with the highest veneration,
JAMES BOSWELL." It appears from Johnson's diary, that he was this year at Mr. Thrale's, from before Midsummer till after Michaelmas, and that he afterwards passed a month at Oxford. He had then contracted a great intimacy with Mr. Chambers of that University, afterwards Sir Robert Chambers, one of the judges in India.
He published nothing this year in his own name ; but the noble dedication* to the King, of Gwyn's “ London and Westminster Improved,” was written by him ; and he furnished the preface,t and several of the pieces, which compose a volume of Miscellanies by Mrs. Anna Williams, the blind lady who had an asylum in his house." Of these,
1 In a paper already mentioned, (see vol. i., p. 41, and near the end of the year 1736) the following account of this publication is given by a lady (Lady Knight) well acquainted 'with Mrs. Williams :
"As to her poems, she many years attempted to publish them : the half-crowns she had
there are his “Epitaph on Phillips ;'* “ Translation of a Latin Epitaph on Sir Thomas Hanmer;"+ "Friendship, an Ode;"* and, “The Ant,"* a paraphrase from the Proverbs, of which I have a copy in his own handwriting ; and, from internal evidence, I ascribe to him, Miss - on her giving the Author a gold and silk net-work Purse of her own weaving ;"and “The Happy Life."+ Most of the pieces in this volume have evidently received additions from his superior pen, particularly “ Verses to Mr. Richardson, on his Sir Charles Grandison;" “ The Excursion ;" “ Reflections on a Grave digging in Westminster Abbey.” There is in this collection a poem, “On the Death of Stephen Grey, the Electrician ;"* which, on reading it, appeared to me to be undoubtedly Johnson's. I asked Mrs. Williams whether it was not his. “ Sir,” said she, with some warmth, “ I wrote that poem before I had the honour of Dr. Johnson's acquaintance. I, however, was so much impressed with my first notion, that I mentioned it to Johnson, repeating, at the same time, what Mrs. Williams had said. His answer was, “ It is true, Sir, that she wrote it before she was acquainted with me; but she has not told you that I wrote it all over again, except two lines.” “ The Fountains,”+ a beautiful little fairy tale in prose, written with exquisite simplicity, is one of Johnson's productions; and I cannot withhold from Mrs. Thrale the praise of being the author of that admirable poem, " The Three Warnings."
He wrote this year a letter, not intended for publication, which has, perhaps, as strong marks of his sentiment and style, as any of his compositions. The original is in my possession. It is addressed to the late Mr. William Drummond, bookseller, in Edinburgh, a gentleman of good family, but small estate, who took arms for the house of Stuart in 1745 ; and during his concealment in London till the act of general pardon came out, obtained the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson, who justly esteemed him as a very worthy man. It seems, some of the members of the society in Scotland for propagating Christian knowledge had opposed the scheme of translating the Holy Scriptures into the Erse or Gaelic language, from political considerations of the disadvantage of keeping up the distinction between the Highlanders and the other inhabitants of North Britain. Dr. Johnson being informed of this, I
suppose by Mr. Drummond, wrote, with a generous indignation, as follows :
got towards the publication, she confessed to me, went for necessaries, and that the greatest pain she ever felt was from the appearance of defrauding her subscribers: ‘But what can I do? the Doctor [Johnson) always puts me off with · Well, we'll think about it,' and Goldsmith says, “Leave it to me.' However, two of her friends, under her directions, made a new subscription at a crown, the whole price of the work, and in a very little time raised sixty pounds. Mrs. Carter was applied to by Mrs. Williams's desire, and she with the utmost activity and kindness, procured a long list of names. At length the work was published, in which is a fine written, but gloomy tale of Dr. Johnson. The money Mrs. Williams had various uses for, and a part of it was funded."—BOSWELL.
By this publication Mrs. Williams got £150. Ibid.—MALONE.