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BOSWELL A MARRIED MAN
in his opinion, were at all like real debates. The opinion of one who was himself so eminent an orator, must be allowed to have great weight. It was confirmed by Sir William Scott, who mentioned that Johnson had told him that he had several times tried to speak in the Society of Arts and Sciences, but had found he could not get on.' From Mr. William Gerrard Hamilton I have heard that Johnson, when observing to him that it was prudent for a man who had not been accustomed to speak in publick, to begin his speech in as simple a manner as possible, acknowledged that he rose in that society to deliver a speech which he had prepared; but (said he,) all my flowers of oratory forsook me.' I however cannot help wishing, that he had tried his hand' in Parliament; and I wonder that ministry did not make the experiment.
I at length renewed a correspondence which had been too long discontinued :—
'TO DR. JOHNSON.
'MY DEAR SIR,
'Edinburgh, April 18, 1771.
'I can now fully understand those intervals of silence in your correspondence with me, which have often given me anxiety and uneasiness; for although I am conscious that my veneration and love for Mr. Johnson have never in the least abated, yet I have deferred for almost a year and a half to write to him.'
In the subsequent part of this letter, I gave him an account of my comfortable life as a married man, and a lawyer in practice at the Scotch bar; invited him to Scotland, and promised to attend him to the Highlands, and Hebrides.
'To JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
'DEAR SIR,-If you are now able to comprehend that I might neglect to write without diminution of affection, you have taught me, likewise, how that neglect may be uneasily felt without resentment. I wished for your letter a long time, and when it came, it amply recompensed the delay. I never was so much pleased as now with your account of yourself; and sincerely hope, that between publick business, improving studies, and domestick plea
sures, neither melancholy nor caprice will find any place for entrance. Whatever philosophy may determine of material nature, it is certainly true of intellectual nature, that it abhors a vacuum: our minds cannot be empty; and evil will break in upon them, if they are not pre-occupied by good. My dear Sir, mind your studies, mind your business, make your lady happy, and be a good Christian. After this,
tristitiam et metus Trades protervis in mare Creticum Portare ventis."
'If we perform our duty, we shall be safe and steady, "Sive per," &c., whether we climb the Highlands, or are tost among the Hebrides; and I hope the time will come when we may try our powers both with cliffs and water. I see but little of Lord Elibank, I know not why; perhaps by my own fault. I am this day going into Staffordshire and Derbyshire for six weeks. I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate, and most humble servant, 'London, June 20, 1771.'
'TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, IN LEICESTER-FIELDS. 'DEAR SIR,-When I came to Lichfield, I found that my portrait had been much visited, and much admired. Every man has a lurking wish to appear considerable in his native place; and I was pleased with the dignity conferred by such a testimony of your regard.
'Be pleased, therefore, to accept the thanks of, Sir, your most obliged and most humble servant, 'Ashbourn in Derbyshire, July 17, 1771."
'Compliments to Miss Reynolds.'
'TO DR. JOHNSON.
'MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, July 27, 1771. 'The bearer of this, Mr. Beattie, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen, is desirous of being introduced to your acquaintance. His genius and learning, and labours in the service of virtue and religion, render him very worthy of it; and as he has a high esteem of your character, I hope you will give him a favourable reception. I ever am, &c. 'JAMES BOSWELL.'
1771] THE REVISION OF THE DICTIONARY
TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ., AT LANGTON, NEAR SPILSBY, LINCOLNSHIRE.
'DEAR SIR,-I am lately returned from Staffordshire and Derbyshire. The last letter mentions two others which you have written to me since you received my pamphlet. Of these two I never had but one, in which you mentioned a design of visiting Scotland, and, by consequence, put my journey to Langton out of my thoughts. My summer wanderings are now over, and I am engaging in a very great work, the revision of my Dictionary; from which I know not, at present, how to get loose.
'If you have observed, or been told, any errours or omissions, you will do me a great favour by letting me know them.
Lady Rothes, I find, has disappointed you and herself. Ladies will have these tricks. The Queen and Mrs. Thrale, both ladies of experience, yet both missed their reckoning this summer. I hope, a few months will recompence your uneasiness.
'Please to tell Lady Rothes how highly I value the honour of her invitation, which it is my purpose to obey as soon as I have disengaged myself. In the mean time I shall hope to hear often of her Ladyship, and every day better news and better, till I hear that you have both the happiness, which to both is very sincerely wished, by, Sir, your most affectionate, and most humble servant,
August 29, 1771.’
In October I again wrote to him, thanking him for his last letter, and his obliging reception of Mr. Beattie; informing him that I had been at Alnwick lately, and had good accounts of him from Dr. Percy.
In his religious record of this year, we observe that he was better than usual, both in body and mind, and better satisfied with the regularity of his conduct. But he is still 'trying his ways' too rigorously. He charges himself with not rising early enough; yet he mentions what was surely a sufficient excuse for this, supposing it to be a duty seriously required, as he all his life appears to have thought it. 'One great hindrance is want of rest; my nocturnal complaints grow less troublesome towards morning; and I am tempted
to repair the deficiencies of the night '.' Alas! how hard would it be if this indulgence were to be imputed to a sick man as a crime. In his retrospect on the following EasterEve, he says, 'When I review the last year, I am able to recollect so little done, that shame and sorrow, though perhaps too weakly, come upon me.' Had he been judging of any one else in the same circumstances, how clear would he have been on the favourable side. How very difficult, and in my opinion almost constitutionally impossible it was for him to be raised early, even by the strongest resolutions, appears from a note in one of his little paper-books, (containing words arranged for his Dictionary,) written, I suppose, about 1753: I do not remember that since I left Oxford I ever rose early by mere choice, but once or twice at Edial, and two or three times for the Rambler.' I think he had fair ground enough to have quieted his mind on this subject, by concluding that he was physically incapable of what is at best but a commodious regulation.
In 1772 he was altogether quiescent as an authour; but it will be found from the various evidences which I shall bring together that his mind was acute, lively, and vigorous.
'TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
'DEAR SIR,-Be pleased to send to Mr. Banks, whose place of residence I do not know, this note, which I have sent open, that, if you please, you may read it.
When you send it, do not use your own seal. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
'Feb. 27, 1772.'
'SIR,-I return thanks to you and to Dr. Solander for the pleasure which I received in yesterday's conversation.
1 Pr. and Med. p. 101 .
2 Thus translated by a friend :
'In fame scarce second to the nurse of Jove,
This Goat, who twice the world had traversed round,
1772] A SCOTCH SCHOOLMASTER'S CAUSE
I could not recollect a motto for your Goat, but have given her one. You, Sir, may perhaps have an epick poem from some happier pen than, Sir, your most humble servant, Johnson's-court, Fleet-street, 'SAM. JOHNSON.' February 27, 1772.'
'TO DR. JOHNSON.
'MY DEAR SIR,-It is hard that I cannot prevail on you to write to me oftener. But I am convinced that it is in vain to expect from you a private correspondence with any regularity. I must, therefore, look upon you as a fountain of wisdom, from whence few rills are communicated to a distance, and which must be approached at its source, to partake fully of its virtues.
'I am coming to London soon, and am to appear in an appeal from the Court of Session in the House of Lords. A schoolmaster in Scotland was, by a court of inferiour jurisdiction, deprived of his office, for being somewhat severe in the chastisement of his scholars. The Court of Session, considering it to be dangerous to the interest of learning and education, to lessen the dignity of teachers, and make them afraid of too indulgent parents, instigated by the complaints of their children, restored him. His enemies have appealed to the House of Lords, though the salary is only twenty pounds a year. I was Counsel for him here. I hope there will be little fear of a reversal; but I must beg to have your aid in my plan of supporting the decree. It is a general question, and not a point of particular law. I am, &c., 'JAMES BOSWELL.'
'To JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
* DEAR SIR,―That you are coming so soon to town I am very glad; and still more glad that you are coming as an advocate. I think nothing more likely to make your life pass happily away, than that consciousness of your own. value, which eminence in your profession will certainly confer. If I can give you any collateral help, I hope you do not suspect that it will be wanting. My kindness for you has neither the merit of singular virtue, nor the reproach of singular prejudice. Whether to love you be right or wrong, I have many on my side: Mrs. Thrale loves you,