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I consulted him on two questions of a very different nature : one, Whether the unconstitutional influence exercised by the peers of Scotland in the election of the representatives of the commons, by means of fictitious qualifications, ought not to be resisted ; the other, What in propriety and humanity should be done with old horses unable to labour. I gave him some account of my life at Auchinleck; and expressed my satisfaction that the gentlemen of the county had, at two public meetings, elected me their præses or chairman.
“London, Dec. 24, 1788. “DEAR SIR,_Like all other men who have great friends, you begin to feel the pangs of neglected merit; and all the comfort that I can give you is, by telling you that you have probably more pangs to feel, and more neglect to suffer. You have, indeed, begun to complain too soon; and I hope I am the only confidant of your discontent. Your friends have not yet had leisure to gratify personal kindness; they have hitherto been busy in strengthening their ministerial interest. If a vacancy happens in Scotland, give them early intelligence: and as you can serve government as powerfully as any of your probable competitors, you may make in some sort a warrantable claim.
“ Of the exaltations and depressions of your mind you delight to talk, and I hate to hear. Drive all such fancies from you.
“On the day when I received your letter, I think, the foregoing page was written; to which one disease or another has hindered me from making any additions. I am now a little better. But sickness and solitude press on me very heavily. I could bear sickness better if I were relieved from solitude.
“The present dreadful confusion of the public ought to make you wrap yourself up in your hereditary possessions, which, though less than you may wish, are more than you can want; and in an hour of religious retirement return thanks to God, who has exempted you from any strong temptation to faction, treachery, plunder or disloyalty.
“ As your neighbours distinguish you by such honours as they can bestow, content yourself with your station, without neglecting your profession. Your estate and the courts will find you full employment, and your mind well occupied will be quiet.
“ The usurpation of the nobility, for they apparently usurp all the influence they gain by fraud and misrepresentation, I think it certainly lawful, perhaps your duty, to resist. What is not their own, they have only by robbery.
“Your question about the horses gives me more perplexity. I know not well what advice to give you. I can only recommend a rule which you do not want: give as little pain as you can. I sappose that we have a right to
their service while their strength lasts ; what we can do with them afterwards, I cannot so easily determine. But let us consider. Nobody denies that man has a right first to milk the cow, and to shear the sheep, and then to kill them for his table. May he not, by parity of reason, first work a horse, and then kill him the easiest way, that he may have the means of another horse, or food for cows and sheep? Man is influenced in both cases by different motives of self-interest. He that rejects the one must reject the other. I am, &c.
“ Sam. JOHNSON. “A happy and pious Christmas; and many happy years to you, your lady, and children."
The late ingenious Mr. Mickle, some time before his death, wrote me a letter concerning Dr. Johnson, in which he mentions,
“I was upwards of twelve years acquainted with bim, was frequently iu his company, always talked with ease to him, and can truly say, that I never received from him one rough word.”
In this letter he relates his having, while engaged in translating the Luciad, had a dispute of considerable length with Johnson, who, as usual, declaimed upon the misery and corruption of a sea-life, and used this expression : "It had been happy for the world, Sir, if your hero, Gama, Prince Henry of Portugal, and Columbus, had never been born, or that their schemes had never gone farther than their own imaginations."
“This sentiment,” says Mr. Mickle," which is to be found in his ' Introduction to the World Displayed,' I, in my Dissertation prefixed to the Lusiad, have controverted; and though authors are said to be bad judges of their own works, I am not ashamed to own to a friend, that that dissertation is my favourite above all that I ever attempted in prose. Next year, when the Luciad was published, I waited on Dr. Johnson, who addressed me with one of his good humoured smiles :—'Well, you have remembered our dispute about Prince Henry, and have cited me too. You have done your part very well indeed: you have made the best of your argument; but I am not convinced yet.'
“Before publishing the Lusiad, I sent Mr. Hoole a proof of that part of the introduction in which I make mention of Dr. Johnson, yourself, and other well-wishers of the work, begging it might be shown to Dr. Johnson. This was accordingly done; and in place of the simple mention of him which I had made, he dictated to Mr. Hoole the sentence as it now stands.
“ Dr. Johnson told me in 1772, that, about twenty years before that time, he himself had a design to translate the Lusiad, of the merit of which he spoke highly, but had been prevented by a number of other engagements."
Mr. Mickle reminds me in this letter of a conversation at dinner one day at Mr. Hoole's with Dr. Johnson, when Mr. Nicol, the king's bookseller, and I, attempted to controvert the maxim,
Better that ten guilty should escape, than one innocent person suffer," and were answered by Dr. Johnson with great power of reasoning and eloquence. I am very sorry that I have no record of that day : but I well recollect my illustrious friend's having ably shown, that unless civil institutions ensure protection to the innocent, all the confidence which mankind should have in them would be lost.
I shall here mention what, in strict chronological arrangement, should have appeared in my account of last year ; but
may more properly be introduced here, the controversy having not been closed till this. The Reverend Mr. Shaw, a native of one of the Hebrides, having entertained doubts of the authenticity of the poems ascribed to Ossian, divested himself of national bigotry; and having travelled in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and also in Ireland, in order to furnish himself with materials for a Gaelic Dictionary, which he afterwards compiled, was so fully satisfied that Dr. Johnson was in the right upon the question, that he candidly published a pamphlet, stating his conviction, and the proofs and reasons on which it was founded. A person at Edinburgh, of the name of Clark, answered this pamphlet with much zeal, and much abuse of its author. Johnson took Mr. Shaw under his protection, and gave him his assistance in writing a reply, which has been admired by the best judges, and by many been considered as conclusive. A few paragraphs, which sufficiently mark their great author, shall be selected :
“My assertions are, for the most part, purely negative : I deny the existence of Fingal, because in a long and curious peregrination through the Gaelic regions I have never been able to find it. What I could not see myself, I suspect to be equally invisible to others; and I suspect with the more reason, as among all those who have seen it no man can show it.
“Mr. Clark compares the obstinacy of those who disbelieve the genuineness of Ossian to a blind man who should dispute the reality of colours, and deny that the British troops are clothed in red. The blind man's doubt would be rational, if he did not know by experience that others have a power which he himself wants : but what perspicacity has Mr. Clark which Nature has withheld from me or the rest of mankind ?
“The true state of the parallel must be this:-Suppose a man, with eyes like his neighbours, was told by a boasting corporal, that the troops, indeed, wore red clothes for their ordinary dress, but that every soldier had likewise a suit of black velvet, which he puts on when the king reviews them. This he thinks. strange, and desires to see the fine clothes, but finds nobody in forty thousand men that can produce either coat or waistcoat. One, indeed, has left them in his chest at Port Mahon; another has always heard that he ought to have velvet clothes somewhere; and a third has heard somebody say that soldiers ought to wear velvet. Can the inquirer be blamed if he goes away believing that a soldier's red coat is all that he has ?
“But the most obdurate incredulity may be shamed or silenced by facts. To overpower contradictions, let the soldier show his velvet coat, and the Fin. galist the original of Ossian.
“The difference between us and the blind man is this : the blind man is unconvinced, because he cannot see: and we because, though we can see, we find nothing that can be shown."
Notwithstanding the complication of disorders under which Johnson now laboured, he did not resign himself to despondency and discontent, but with wisdom and spirit endeavoured to console and amuse his mind with as many innocent enjoyments as he could pro
Sir John Hawkins has mentioned the cordiality with which he insisted that such of the members of the old club in Ivy Lane as survived should meet again and dine together, which they did twice at a tavern, and once at his house : and in order to ensure himself society in the evening for three days in the week, he instituted a club at the Essex Head, in Essex Street, then kept by Samuel Greaves, an old servant of Mr. Thrale's.
“Dec. 4, 1783. “DEAR SIR, - It is inconvenient to me to come out; I should else have waited on you with an account of a little evening club which we are establishing in Essex Street, in the Strand, and of which you are desired to be one. It will be held at the Essex Head, now kept by an old servant of Thrale's. The company is numerous, and, as you will see by the list, miscellaneous. The terms are lax, and the expenses light. Mr. Barry was adopted by Dr. Brocklesby, who joined with me in forming the plan. We meet thrice a week, and he who misses forfeits twopence. If you are willing to become a member, draw a line under your name. Return the list. We meet for the first timo on Monday at eight. I am, &c.
It did not suit Sir Joshua to be one of this club. But when I mention only Mr. Daines Barrington, Dr. Brocklesby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. John Nichols, Mr. Cooke, Mr. Joddrell, Mr. Paradise, Dr. Horseley, Mr. Windham,' I shall sufficiently obviate the misrepresentation of it by Sir John Hawkins, as if it had been a low alebouse association,' by which Johnson was degraded. Johnson himself, like his namesake Old Ben, composed the rules of his club."
A biographical notice of Mr. Cooke, who died April 3, 1824, will be found in the Gentleman's Magazine for that month ; and some account of Mr. Joddrell is given in Nichols's Lit. Anec. vol. viii.-C.
2 I was in Scotland when this club was founded, and during all the winter. Johnson, however, declared I should be a member, and invented a word upon the occasion: “
“Boswell," said he, “is a very clubable man.” When I came to town I was proposed by Mr. Barrington, and chosen. I believe there are few societies where there is better conversation or more decorum. Several of us resolved to continue it after our great founder was removed by death. Other members were added; and now, about eight years since that loss, we go on happily.
3 Miss Hawkins candidly says, “ Boswell was well justified in his resentment of my father's designation of this as a sixpenny club at an alehouse. I am sorry my father permitted himself to be so pettish on the subject. Honestly speaking, I dare say he did not like being passed over."-Mem. vol. ii. p. 104.-0
4 " RULES.
In mirth, which after no repenting draws.--MILTON. “The club shall consist of four and twenty.
“The meetings shall be on the Monday, Thursday, and Saturday of every week; but in the week before Easter there shall be no meeting.
“Every member is at liberty to introduce a friend once week, but not oftener.
" Two members shall oblige themselves to attend in their turn every night from eight to ten, or procure two to attend in their room.
“Every member present at the club shall spend at least sixpence; and every member who stays away shall forfeit threepence.
“The master of the house shall keep an account of the absent members ; and deliver to the president of the night a list of the forfeits incurred.
“When any member returns after absence, he shall immediately lay down his forfeits ; which if he omits to do, the president shall require.
There shall be no general reckoning, but every man shall adjust his own expenses. “The night of indispensable attendance will come to every member once a month. Whoever shall for three months together omit to attend himself, or by substitution, nor shall make any apology in the fourth month, shall be considered as having abdicated the club.
“When a vacancy is to be filled, the name of the candidate, and of the member recommending him, shall stand in the club-room three nights. On the fourth he may be chosen by ballot; six members at least being present, and two-thirds of the ballot being in his favour : or the majority, should the numbers not be divisible by three.
“The master of the house shall give notice, six days before, to each of those members whose turn of necessary attendance is come.
“ The notice may be in these words : "Sir, On the of will be your turu of presiding at the Essex Head. Your company is therefore earnestly requested.'