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verses, I will send you a few which I made upon Inchkenneth; but remember the condition, you shall not show them, except to lord Hailes, whom I love better than any man whom I know so little. If he asks you to transcribe them for him, you may do it; but I think he must promise not to let them be copied again, nor to show them as mine.
"I have at last sent back lord Hailes's sheets. I never think about returning them, because I alter nothing. You will see that I might as well have kept them. However, I am ashamed of my delay; and if I have the honour of receiving any more, promise punctually to return them by the next post. Make my compliments to dear Mrs. Boswell, and to Miss Veronica.
See them in Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 337.-Boswell. He now sent me a Latin inscription for my historical picture of Mary queen of Scots, and afterwards favoured me with an English translation. Mr. Alderman Boydell, that eminent patron of the arts, has subjoined them to the engraving from my picture.
Maria Scotorum Regina,
Minis territa, clamoribus victa,
Libello, per quem
Mary Queen of Scots,
Harassed, terrified, and overpowered
Of her rebellious subjects,
With tears and confusion,
To a resignation of the kingdom.
You rate our lawyers here too high, when you call them great masters of the law of nations.
But nations, or bo
"As for myself, I am ashamed to say I have read little and thought little on the subject of America. I will be much obliged to you, if you will direct me where I shall find the best information of what is to be said on both sides. It is a subject vast in its present extent and future consequences. The imperfect hints which now float in my mind, tend rather to the formation of an opinion that our government has been precipitant and severe in the resolutions taken against the Bostonians. Well do you know that I have no kindness for that race. dies of men, should, as well as individuals, have a fair trial, and not be condemned on character alone. Have we not express contracts with our colonies, which afford a more certain foundation of judgement, than general political speculations on the mutual rights of states and their provinces or colonies? Pray let me know immediately what to read, and I shall diligently endeavour to gather for you any thing that I can find. Is Burke's speech on American taxation published by himself? Is it authentick? I remember to have heard you say, that you had never considered East Indian affairs; though surely they are of much importance to Great Britain. Under the recollection of this, I shelter myself from the reproach of ignorance about the Americans. If you write upon the subject, I shall certainly understand it. But, since you seem to expect that I should know something of it without your instruction, and that my own mind should suggest something, I trust you will put me in the way.
What does Becket mean by the originals of Fingal and other poems of Ossian, which he advertises to have lain in his shop"?
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"DEAR SIR,-You sent me a case to consider, in which I have no facts but what are against us, nor any principles on which to reason. It is vain to try to write thus with-out materials. The fact seems to be against you; at least I cannot know nor say any thing to the contrary. I am glad that you like the book so well. I hear no more of Macpherson. I shall long to know what lord Hailes says of it. Lend it him privately. I shall send the parcel as soon as I can. Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell.
'As to Macpherson, I am anxious to have from yourself a full and pointed account of what has passed between you and him. It is confidently told here, that before your book came out he sent to you, to let you know that he understood you meant to deny the authenticity of Ossian's poems; that the originals were in his possession; that you might have inspection of them, and might take the evidence of people skilled in the Erse language; and that he
* This question, which Johnson does not appear to have answered, alludes to the following letter which Becket printed in the newspapers : "Dr. Johnson having asserted in his late publication, that the translator of Ossian's poems never could show the original, nor can it be shown by any other; I hereby declare, that the originals of Fingal and other poems of Ossian lay in my shop for many months, in the year 1762, for the inspection of the curious," etc.
hoped, after this fair offer, you would not be so uncandid as to assert that he had refused reasonable proof: that you paid no regard to his message, but published your strong attack upon him; and then he wrote a letter to you, in such terms as he thought suited to one who had not acted as a man of veracity. You may believe it gives me pain to hear your conduct represented as unfavourable, while I can only deny what is said, on the ground that your character refutes it, without having any information to oppose. Let me, I beg it of you, be furnished with a sufficient answer to any calumny upon this occasion.
"Lord Hailes writes to me, (for we correspond more than we talk together,) As to Fingal, I see a controversy arising, and purpose to keep out of its way. There is no doubt that I might mention some circumstances; but I do not choose to commit them to paper? What his opinion is, I do not know. He says, 'I am singularly obliged to Dr. Johnson for his accurate and useful criticisms. Had he given some strictures on the general plan of the work, it would have added much to his favours.' He is charmed with your verses on Inchkenneth, says they are very elegant, but bids me tell you he doubts whether
Legitimas faciunt pectora pura preces,
be according to the rubrick: but that is your concern; for, you know, he is a presbyterian."
TO DR. LAWRENCE".
"Feb. 7, 1775.
"SIR,-One of the Scotch physicians is now prosecuting a corporation that in some publick instrument have
* His lordship, notwithstanding his resolution, did commit his sentiments to paper; and in one of his notes affixed to his Collection of Old Scottish Poetry, he says, that" to doubt the authenticity of those poems, is a refinement in scepticism indeed."-J. Boswell.
" The learned and worthy Dr. Lawrence, whom Dr. Johnson respected and loved as his physician and friend.—BOSWELL.
styled him doctor of medicine, instead of physician. Boswell desires, being advocate for the corporation, to know whether doctor of medicine is not a legitimate title, and whether it may be considered as a disadvantageous distinction. I am to write to-night; be pleased to tell me. I am, sir, your most, etc.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"MY DEAR BOSWELL,-I am surprised that, knowing as you do the disposition of your countrymen to tell lies in favour of each other*, you can be at all affected by any reports that circulate among them. Macpherson never in his life offered me a sight of any original, or of any evidence of any kind; but thought only of intimidating me by noise and threats, till my last answer, that I would not be deterred from detecting what I thought a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian,-put an end to our correspondence. "The state of the question is this. He, and Dr. Blair, whom I consider as deceived, say, that he copied the poem from old manuscripts. His copies, if he had them, and I believe him to have none, are nothing. Where are the manuscripts. They can be shown if they exist; but they were never shown. • De non existentibus et non apparentibus,' says our law, ' eadem est ratio.' No man has a claim to credit upon his own word, when better evidence, if he had it, may be easily produced. But, so far as we can find, the Erse language was never written till very lately for the purposes of religion.. A nation that cannot write, or a language that was never written, has no manuscripts.
"But whatever he has he never offered to show. If old manuscripts should now be mentioned, I should, unless there were more evidence than can be easily had, suppose
x My friend has, in this letter, relied upon my testimony, with a confidence of which the ground has escaped my recollection.-Boswell.