Slike strani
PDF
ePub

70

BLAIR'S SERMONS

[1777

Colman has bought Foote's patent, and is to allow Foote for life sixteen hundred pounds a year, as Reynolds told me, and to allow him to play so often on such terms that he may gain four hundred pounds more. What Colman can get by this bargain, but trouble and hazard, I do not see. I am, dear Sir, your humble servant,

'Dec. 21, 1776.'

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

The Reverend Dr. Hugh Blair, who had long been admired as a preacher at Edinburgh, thought now of diffusing his excellent sermons more extensively, and encreasing his reputation, by publishing a collection of them. He transmitted the manuscript to Mr. Strahan, the printer, who after keeping it for some time, wrote a letter to him, discouraging the publication. Such at first was the unpropitious state of one of the 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 one hundred pounds. The sale was so rapid and extensive, and the approbation of the publick 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 fifty pounds, thus voluntarily doubling the stipulated price; and when he prepared another volume, they gave him at once three hundred pounds, being in all five hundred pounds, by an agreement to which I am a subscribing witness; and now for a third octavo volume he has received no less than six hundred pounds.

1777 ÆTAT. 68.]—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

1777] JOHNSON'S SURVEY OF PAST LIFE

71

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 injustice 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 1.' But we find his devotions in this year eminently fervent; and we are comforted by observing intervals of quiet, composure, and gladness.

[ocr errors]

On Easter-day we find the following emphatick 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 [incursions] of evil thoughts, and enable me to form and keep such resolutions as may conduce to the discharge of the duties which thy providence shall 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 pure affection and a cheerful mind. Have mercy upon me, O GOD, have mercy upon me; years and infirmities oppress me, terrour and anxiety beset me. Have mercy upon me, my Creator and my Judge. [In all dangers protect me.] 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 2."

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;

1 Pr. and Med. p. 155.

2 Ib. p. 158.

72

PARTICULARS OF GOLDSMITH'S LIFE [1777 and I wrote with my pencil in my Common Prayer Book,

"Vita ordinanda.

Biblia legenda.

Theologia opera danda.
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 authentick particulars of the life of her celebrated relation. Concerning her there is the following letter

"To GEORGE STEEVENS, Esq.

'DEAR SIR,-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 promise to make the enquiries 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.

'February 25, 1777.'

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'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 truely 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 year is no longer new. . . .

Dr. Memis's cause was determined against him, with £40 costs. The Lord President, and two other of the Judges, dissented from the majority, upon this ground;-that al

1777]

SIR ALLAN MACLEAN'S SUIT

73

though 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 malâ fide, to persist in naming him in a way that he disliked. You remember 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 wrongs. 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 Cases, 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.

[Here 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

74

SIR ALEXANDER DICK

[1777 certainly to be carried by appeal to the House of Lords, the assistance of such a 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 authour. He begged that might be marked on it. . . . I ever am, my dear Sir, your most faithful, and affectionate humble servant,

'JAMES BOSWELL.'

'SIR ALEXANDER DICK TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON. 6 SIR, 'Prestonfield, Feb. 17, 1777.

'I had yesterday the honour of receiving your book of your Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, which you was 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 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 Journeys 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 past 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 in this country, tells me, that of late the demand upon him for these articles is doubled, and sometimes tripled. I have, therefore, listed Dr. Samuel Johnson

« PrejšnjaNaprej »