because it admits, in its original rigour, no gradations of injury; but keeps guilt and innocence apart, by a distinct and definite limitation. He that intromits, is criminal; he that intromits not, is innocent. Of the two secondary considerations it cannot be denied that both are in our favour. The temptation to intromit is frequent and strong; so strong and so frequent, as to require the utmost activity of justice, and vigilance of caution, to withstand its prevalence; and the method by which a man may entitle himself to legal intromission, is so open and so facile, that to neglect it is a proof of fraudulent intention; for why should a man omit to do, (but for reasons which he will not confess) that which he can do so easily, and that which he knows to be required by the law? If temptation were rare, a penal law might be deemed unnecessary. If the duty enjoined by the law were of difficult performance, omission, though it could not be justified, might be pitied. But, in the present case, neither equity nor compassion operate against it. A useful, a necessary law is broken, not only without a reasonable motive, but with all the inducements to obedience that can be derived from safety and facility.

“ I therefore return to my original position, that a law, to have its effects, must be permanent and stable. It may be said, in the language of the schools, · lex non recipit majus et minus,'—we may have a law, or we may have no law, but we cannot have half a law. We must either have a rule of action, or be permitted to act by discretion and by chance. Deviations from the law must be uniformly punished, or no man can be certain when he shall be safe.

“ That from the rigour of the original institution this court has sometimes departed, cannot be denied. But, as it is evident that such deviations, as they make law uncertain, make life unsafe, I hope that of departing from it there will now be an end ; that the wisdom of our ancestors will be treated with due reverence; and that consistent and steady decisions will furnish the people with a role of action, and leave fraud and fraudulent intromissions no future hope of impunity or escape.”

With such comprehension of mind, and such clearness of penetration, did he thus treat a subject altogether new to him, without any other preparation than my having stated to him the arguments which had been used on each side of the question. His iutellectual powers appeared with peculiar lustre, when tried against those of a writer of such fame as lord Kames, and that too in his lordship's own department.

This masterly argument, after being prefaced and concluded with some sentences of my own, and garnished with the usual formularies, was actually printed and laid before the lords of session, but without success. My respected friend lord Hailes, however, one of that honourable body, had critical sagacity enough to discover a more than ordinary hand in the petition. I told him Dr. Johnson had favoured me with his pen. His lordship, with wonderful acumen, pointed out exactly where his composition began, and where it ended. But that I may do impartial justice, and conform to the great rule of courts, Suum cuique tribuito,'I must add, that their lordships in general, though they were pleased to call this a well-drawn paper, preferred the former very inferiour petition which I had written ; thus confirming the truth of an observation made to me by one of their number, in a merry mood : “ dear sir, give yourself no trouble in the composition of the papers you present to us; for, indeed, it is casting pearls before swine.”

I renewed my solicitations that Dr. Johnson would this year accomplish his long-intended visit to Scotland.



“DEAR SIR,—The regret has not been little with which I have missed a journey so pregnant with pleasing expectations, as that in which I could promise myself not only the gratification of curiosity, both rational and fanciful, but

* * *


the delight of seeing those whom I love and esteem.

But such bas been the course of things, that I could not come; and such has been, I am afraid, the state of my body, that it would not well have seconded my inclination. My body, I think, grows better, and I refer my hopes to another year; for I am very sincere in my design to pay the visit, and take the ramble. In the mean time, do not omit any opportunity of keeping up a favourable opinion of me in the minds of any of my friends. Beattie's book is, I believe, every day more liked; at least, I like it more, as I look more upon it.

“ I am glad if you got credit by your cause, and am yet of opinion, that our cause was good, and that the determination ought to have been in your favour. Poor Hastie, I think, bad but his deserts.

“ You promised to get me a little Pindar, you may add to it a little Anacreon.

The leisure which I cannot enjoy, it will be a pleasure to hear that you employ upon the antiquities of the feudal establishment. The whole system of ancient tenures is gradually passing away; and I wish to have the knowledge of it preserved adequate and complete. For such an institution makes a very important part of the history of mankind. Do not forget a design so worthy of a scholar who studies the laws of his country, and of a gentleman who may naturally be curious to know the condition of his own ancestors. “I am, dear sir, “ Yours with great affection,

SAM. JOHNSON. " August 31, 1772."



Edinburgh, Dec. 25, 1772.




"I was much disappointed that you did not come to Scotland last autumn. However, I must own that your letter prevents me from complaining ; not only because I am sensible that the state of your health was but too good an excuse, but because you write in a strain which shows that you have agreeable views of the scheme which we have so long proposed.

“ I communicated to Beattie what you said of his book in your last letter to me. He writes to me thus: "You judge very rightly in supposing that Dr. Johnson's favourable opinion of my book must give me great delight. Indeed it is impossible for me to say how much I am gratified by it; for there is not a man upon earth whose good opinion I would be more ambitious to cultivate. His talents and his virtues I reverence more than


words can express. The extraordinary civilities, (the paternal attentions, I should rather say,) and the many instructions I have had the honour to receive from him, will to me be a perpetual source of pleasure in the recollection,

Dum memor ipse mei, dum spiritus hos reget artus.

I had still some thoughts, while the summer lasted, of being obliged to go to London on some little business; otherwise I should certainly have troubled him with a letter several months ago, and given some vent to my gratitude and admiration. This I intend to do, as soon as I am left a little at leisure. Mean time, if you have occasion to write to him, I beg you will offer him my most respectful compliments, and assure him of the sincerity of my attachment and the warmth of my gratitude,


I am, etc.


In 1773, his only publication was an edition of his folio Dictionary, with additions and corrections; nor did be, so far as is known, furnish any productions of his fertile pen to any of his numerous friends or dependents, except the preface *% to his old amanuensis Macbean's Dictionary of ancient Geography. His Shakspeare, indeed, which had been received with high approbation by the publick, and gone through several editions, was this year republished by George Steevens, esq. a gentleman not only deeply skilled in ancient learning, and of very extensive reading in English literature, especially the early writers, but at the same time of acute discernment and elegant taste. It is almost unnecessary to say, that by his great and valuable additions to Dr. Johnson's work, he justly obtained considerable reputation :

Divisum imperium cum Jove Cæsar habet.


“ DEAR SIR,-I have read your kind letter much more than the elegant Pindar which it accompanied. I am always glad to find myself not forgotten; and to be forgotten by you would give me great uneasiness. My northern friends have never been unkind to me: I have from you, dear sir, testimonies of affection, which I have not often been able to excite; and Dr. Beattie rates the testimony which I was desirous of paying to his merit, much higher than I should have thought it reasonable to expect.

I have heard of your masquerade b. What says your synod to such innovations? I am not studiously scrupulous, nor do I think a masquerade either evil in itself, or very likely to be the occasion of evil; yet as the world thinks it a very licentious relaxation of manners, I would

8 He, however, wrote, or partly wrote, an epitaph on Mrs. Bell, wife of his friend John Bell, esq. brother of the rev. Dr. Bell, prebendary of Westminster, which is printed in his works. It is in English prose, and has so little of his manner, that I did not believe he had any hand in it, till I was satisfied of the fact by the authority of Mr. Bell.—Boswell.

h Given by a lady at Edinburgh.--Boswell.

« VorigeDoorgaan »