Slike strani
PDF
ePub

August 14.] Boswell's house in James's court.

23

Mr.

thought, that I now had him actually in Caledonia. Scott's amiable manners, and attachment to our Socrates, at once united me to him. He told me that, before I came in, the Doctor had unluckily had a bad specimen of Scottish cleanliness'. He then drank no fermented liquor. He asked to have his lemonade made sweeter; upon which the waiter, with his greasy fingers, lifted a lump of sugar, and put it into it. The Doctor, in indignation, threw it out of the window. Scott said, he was afraid he would have knocked the waiter down. Mr. Johnson told me, that such another trick was played him at the house of a lady in Paris'. He was to do me the honour to lodge under my roof. I regretted sincerely that I had not also a room for Mr. Scott. Mr. Johnson and I walked arm-in-arm up the High-street, to my house in James's court: it was a dusky night: I

'Boswell writing of Scotland says:-'In the last age it was the common practice in the best families for all the company to eat milk, or pudding, or any other dish that is eat with a spoon, not by distributing the contents of the dish into small plates round the table, but by every person dipping his spoon into the large platter; and when the fashion of having a small plate for each guest was brought from the continent by a young gentleman returned from his travels, a good old inflexible neighbour in the country said, "he did not see anything he had learnt but to take his broth twice." Nay, in our own remembrance, the use of a carving knife was considered as a novelty; and a gentleman of ancient family and good literature used to rate his son, a friend of mine, for introducing such a foppish superfluity.'-London Mag. 1778, p. 199.

* See ante, ii. 462. Johnson, in describing Sir A. Macdonald's house in Sky, said: The Lady had not the common decencies of her teatable; we picked up our sugar with our fingers.' Piozzi Letters, i. 138. 'Chambers says that James's Court, till the building of the New Town, was inhabited by a select set of gentlemen. They kept a clerk to record their names and their proceedings, had a scavenger of their own, and had balls and assemblies among themselves.' Paoli was Boswell's guest there in 1771. Traditions of Edinburgh, i. 219. It was burnt down in 1857. Murray's Guide to Scotland, ed. 1883, p. 49. Johnson wrote:- Boswell has very handsome and spacious rooms, level with the ground on one side of the house, and on the other four stories high.' Piozzi Letters, i. 109. Dr. J. H. Burton says that Hume could

[ocr errors]

The streets of Edinburgh.

[August 14.

could not prevent his being assailed by the evening effluvia of Edinburgh. I heard a late baronet, of some distinction in the political world in the beginning of the present reign, observe, that walking the streets of Edinburgh at night was pretty perilous, and a good deal odoriferous.' The peril is much abated, by the care which the magistrates have taken to enforce the city laws against throwing foul water from the windows'; but from the structure of the houses in the old town, which consist of many stories, in each of which a different family lives, and there being no covered sewers, the odour still continues. A zealous Scotsman would have wished Mr. Johnson to be without one of his five senses upon this occasion. As we marched slowly along, he grumbled in my ear, 'I smell you in the dark'!' But he

24

occupied them just before Boswell. He continues:-' Of the first impression made on a stranger at that period when entering such a house, a vivid description is given by Sir Walter Scott in Guy Mannering; and in Counsellor Pleydell's library, with its collection of books, and the prospect from the window, we have probably an accurate picture of the room in which Hume spent his studious hours.' Life of Hume, ii. 137, 431. At Johnson's visit Hume was living in his new house in the street which was humorously named after him, St. David Street. Ib. p. 436.

'The English servant-girl in Humphry Clinker (Letter of July 18), after describing how the filth is thus thrown out, says:-'The maid calls gardy loo to the passengers, which signifies Lord have mercy upon you!

'Wesley, when at Edinburgh in May, 1761, writes:- How can it be suffered that all manner of filth should still be thrown even into this street [High Street] continually? How long shall the capital city of Scotland, yea, and the chief street of it, stink worse than a common sewer? Wesley's Journal, iii. 52. Baretti (Journey from London to Genoa, ii. 255) says that this was the universal practice in Madrid in 1760. He was driven out of that town earlier than he had intended to leave it by the dreadful stench. A few years after his visit the King made a reform, so that it became one of the cleanest towns in Europe.' Ib. p. 258. Smollett in Humphry Clinker makes Matthew Bramble say (Letter of July 18):-The inhabitants of Edinburgh are apt to imagine the disgust that we avow is little better than affectation.'

acknowledged

August 14.] Prescription of murder in Scotland.

25

acknowledged that the breadth of the street, and the loftiness of the buildings on each side made a noble appearance'.

My wife had tea ready for him, which it is well known he delighted to drink at all hours, particularly when sitting up late, and of which his able defence against Mr. Jonas Hanway' should have obtained him a magnificent reward from the East-India Company. He shewed much complacency upon finding that the mistress of the house was so attentive to his singular habit; and as no man could be more polite when he chose to be so, his address to her was most courteous and engaging; and his conversation soon charmed her into a forgetfulness of his external appearance3.

I did not begin to keep a regular full journal till some days after we had set out from Edinburgh; but I have luckily preserved a good many fragments of his Memorabilia from his very first evening in Scotland.

We had, a little before this, had a trial for murder, in which the judges had allowed the lapse of twenty years since its commission as a plea in bar, in conformity with the doctrine of prescription in the civil law, which Scotland and several other countries in Europe have adopted. He at first disapproved of this; but then he thought there was something in it, if there had been for twenty years a neglect to prosecute a crime which was known. He would not allow that a murder, by not being discovered for twenty years, should escape punishment'. We talked of the ancient trial by duel. He did not think it so absurd as is generally supposed; For (said he) it was only allowed when the question

1 'Most of their buildings are very mean; and the whole town bears some resemblance to the old part of Birmingham.' Piozzi Letters, i. 109. 2 See ante, i. 362.

Miss Burney, describing her first sight of Johnson, says :- Upon asking my father why he had not prepared us for such uncouth, untoward strangeness, he laughed heartily, and said he had entirely forgotten that the same impression had been at first made upon himself; but had been lost even on the second interview.' Memoirs of Dr. Burney, ii. 91.

* See post, Aug. 22.

was

Sir William Forbes.

[August 15.

was in equilibrio, as when one affirmed and another denied ; and they had a notion that Providence would interfere in favour of him who was in the right. But as it was found that in a duel, he who was in the right had not a better chance than he who was in the wrong, therefore society instituted the present mode of trial, and gave the advantage to him who is in the right.'

26

We sat till near two in the morning, having chatted a good while after my wife left us. She had insisted, that to shew all respect to the Sage, she would give up her own bed-chamber to him and take a worse'. This I cannot but gratefully mention, as one of a thousand obligations which I owe her, since the great obligation of her being pleased to accept of me as her husband'.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 153.

Mr. Scott came to breakfast, at which I introduced to Dr. Johnson and him, my friend Sir William Forbes, now of Pitsligo; a man of whom too much good cannot be said; who,

1 See ante, iii. 245.

2

' Boswell writes, in his Hypochondriacks:- Naturally somewhat singular, independent of any additions which affectation and vanity may perhaps have made, I resolved to have a more pleasing species of marriage than common, and bargained with my bride that I should not be bound to live with her longer than I really inclined; and that whenever I tired of her domestic society I should be at liberty to give it up. Eleven years have elapsed, and I have never yet wished to take advantage of my stipulated privilege.' London Mag. 1781, p. 156. See ante, ii. 161, note I.

* Sir Walter Scott was two years old this day. He was born in a house at the head of the College Wynd. When Johnson and Boswell returned to Edinburgh Jeffrey was a baby there seventeen days old. Some seventeen or eighteen years later he had the honour of assisting to carry the biographer of Johnson, in a state of great intoxication, to bed. For this he was rewarded next morning by Mr. Boswell clapping his head, and telling him that he was a very promising lad, and that if "you go on as you've begun, you may live to be a Bozzy yourself yet."' Cockburn's Jeffrey, i. 33.

He was one of Boswell's executors, and as such was in part responsible for the destruction of his manuscripts. Ante, iii. 342, note 1.

[ocr errors]

Boswell's ancestors.

August 15.]

with distinguished abilities and application in his profession of a Banker, is at once a good companion, and a good christian; which I think is saying enough. Yet it is but justice. to record, that once, when he was in a dangerous illness, he was watched with the anxious apprehension of a general calamity; day and night his house was beset with affectionate enquiries; and, upon his recovery, Te deum was the universal chorus from the hearts of his countrymen.

Mr. Johnson was pleased with my daughter Veronica',

27

It is to his Life of Dr. Beattie that Scott alludes in the Introduction to the fourth Canto of Marmion:

'Scarce had lamented Forbes paid
The tribute to his Minstrel's shade;
The tale of friendship scarce was told,
Ere the narrator's heart was cold-
Far may we search before we find
A heart so manly and so kind.'

It is only of late years that Forbes has generally ceased to be a dis-
syllable.

The saint's name of Veronica was introduced into our family through my great grandmother Veronica, Countess of Kincardine, a Dutch lady of the noble house of Sommelsdyck, of which there is a full account in Bayle's Dictionary. The family had once a princely right in Surinam. The governour of that settlement was appointed by the States General, the town of Amsterdam, and Sommelsdyck. The States General have acquired Sommelsdyck's right; but the family has still great dignity and opulence, and by intermarriages is connected with many other noble families. When I was at the Hague. I was received with all the affection of kindred. The present Sommelsdyck has an important charge in the Republick, and is as worthy man as lives. He has honoured me with his correspondence for these twenty years. My great grandfather, the husband of Countess Veronica, was Alexander, Earl of Kincardine, that eminent Royalist whose character is given by Burnet in his History of his own Times. From him the blood of Bruce flows in my veins. Of such ancestry who would not be proud? And, as Nihil est, nisi hoc sciat alter, is peculiarly true of genealogy, who would not be glad to seize a fair opportunity to let it be known. BOSWELL. Boswell visited Holland in 1763. Ante, i. 547. Burnet says that 'the Earl was both the wisest and the worthiest man that belonged to his country, and fit for governing any affairs but his own; which he by a wrong turn, and by his

then

« PrejšnjaNaprej »