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tice of the planters of America, a race of mortals whom, I suppose, no other man wishes to resemble.
“The Papists have, indeed, denied to the laity the use of the Bible; but this prohibition, in few places now very rigorously enforced, is defended by arguments, which have for their foundation the care of souls. To obscure, upon motives merely political, the light of revelation, is a practice reserved for the reformed; and, surely, the blackest midnight of popery is meridian sunshine to such a reformation. I am not very willing that any language should be totally extinguished. The similitude and derivation of languages afford the most indubitable proof of the traduction of nations, and the genealogy of mankind. They add often physical certainty to historical evidence; and often supply the only evidence of ancient migrations, and of the revolutions of ages which left no written monuments behind them.
Every man's opinions, at least his desires, are a little influenced by his favourite studies. My zeal for languages, may seem, perhaps, rather over-heated, even to those by whom I desire to be well esteemed. To those who have nothing in their thoughts but trade or policy, present power, or present money, I should not think it necessary to defend my opinions; but with men of letters I would not unwillingly compound, by wishing the continuance of every language, however narrow in its extent, or however incommodious for common purposes, till it is reposited in some version of a known book, that it may be always hereafter examined and compared with other languages, and then permitting its disuse. For this purpose the translation of the Bible is most to be desired. It is not certain that the same method will not preserve the Highland language, for the purposes of learning, and abolish it from daily use. When the Highlanders read the Bible, they will naturally wish to have its obscurities cleared, and to know the history, collateral or appendant. Knowledge always desires increase; it is like fire, which must first be kindled by some external agent, but which will afterward propagate itself. When they once desire to learn, they will naturally have recourse to the nearest language by which that desire can be gratified; and one will tell another that if he would attain knowledge, he must learn English.
“This speculation may, perhaps, be thought more subtle than the grossness of real life will easily admit. Let it, however, be remembered, that the efficacy of ignorance has long been tried, and has not produced the consequence expected. Let knowledge, therefore, take its turn; and let the patrons of privation stand awhile aside, and admit the operation of positive principles.
“You will be pleased, Sir, to assure the worthy man who is employed in the new translation, that he has my wishes for his success; and if here or at Oxford I can be of any use, that I shall think it more than honour to promote his undertaking. “I am sorry that I delayed so long to write. “I am, Sir, Your most humble servant,
“SAM. JOHNSON." Johnson's-court, Fleet-street,
Aug. 13, 1766.
b The Rev. Mr. John Campbell, minister of the parish of Kippen, near Stirling, who has lately favoured me with a long, intelligent, and very obliging letter upon this work, makes the following remark. “ Dr. Johnson has alluded to the worthy man employed in the translation of the New Testament. Might not this have afforded you an opportunity of paying a proper tribute of respect to the memory of the Rev. Mr. James Stuart, late minister of Killin, distinguished by his eminent piety, learning, and taste? The amiable simplicity of his life, his warm benevolence, his indefatigable and successful exertions for civilizing and improving the parish of which
The opponents of this pious scheme being made ashamed of their conduct, the benevolent undertaking was allowed to go on.
The following letters, though not written till the year after, being chiefly upon the same subject, are here inserted.
TO MR. WILLIAM DRUMMOND.
“That my letter should have had such effects as you mention, gives me great pleasure. I hope you do not flatter me by imputing to me more good than I have really done. Those whom my arguments have persuaded to change their opinion, shew such modesty and candour as deserve great praise.
“I hope the worthy translator goes diligently forward. He has a higher reward in prospect than any honours which this world can bestow. I wish I could be useful to him.
“ The publication of my letter, if it could be of use in a cause to which all other causes are nothing, I should not prohibit. But first, I would have you to consider whether the publication will really do any good; next, whether by printing and distributing a very small number, you may not attain all that you propose; and, what perhaps I should have said first, whether the letter, which I do not now perfectly remember, be fit to be printed.
“ If you can consult Dr. Robertson, to whom I am a little known, I shall be satisfied about the propriety of whatever he shall direct. If he thinks that it should be printed, I entreat him to revise it; there may, per
he was minister for upwards of fifty years, entitle him to the gratitude of his country, and the veneration of all good men. It certainly would be a pity, if such a character should be permitted to sink into oblivion.”
haps, be some negligent lines written, and whatever is amiss, he knows very well how to rectify.9
“ Be pleased to let me know, from time to time, how this excellent design goes forward.
“ Make my compliments to young Mr. Drummond, whom I hope you will live to see such as you desire him.
“I have not lately seen Mr. Elphinston, but believe him to be prosperous. I shall be glad to hear the same of you, for I am, Sir, “ Your affectionate humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON.” Johnson's-court, Fleet-street,
April 21, 1767.
TO THE SAME.
“I RETURNED this week from the country, after an absence of near six months, and found your letter with many others, which I should have answered sooner, if I had sooner seen them.
“Dr. Robertson's opinion was surely right. Men should not be told of the faults which they have mended. I am glad the old language is taught, and honour the translator as a man whom God has distinguished by the high office of propagating his word.
“I must take the liberty of engaging you in an office of charity. Mrs. Heely, the wife of Mr. Heely, who had lately some office in your theatre, is my near relation, and now in great distress. They wrote me word of their situation some time ago, to which I returned them an answer which raised hopes of more than it is proper for me to give them. Their representation of their affairs I have discovered to be such as cannot be trusted; and at this distance, though their
9 This paragraph shews Johnson's real estimation of the character and abilities of the celebrated Scottish Historian, however lightly, in a moment of caprice, he may have spoken of his works.
case requires haste, I know not how to act. She, or her daughters, may be heard of at Canongate Head. I must beg, sir, that you will inquire after them, and let me know what is to be done. I am willing to go to ten pounds, and will transmit you such a sum, if
upon examination you find it likely to be of use. If they are in immediate want, advance them what
proper. What I could do, I would do for the woman, having no great reason to pay much regard to Heely himself."
“I believe you may receive some intelligence from Mrs. Baker, of the theatre, whose letter I received at the same time with yours; and to whom, if her, you will make my excuse for the seeming neglect of answering her.
“Whatever you advance within ten pounds shall be immediately returned to you, or paid as you shall order. I trust wholly to your judgment.
“I am, Sir, &c. Sam. JOHNSON.” London, Johnson's-court, Fleet-street,
Oct. 24, 1767. Mr. Cuthbert Shaw,alike distinguished by his genius, misfortunes, and misconduct, published this year a poem, called “The Race, by Mercurius Spur, Esq.” in which he whimsically made the living poets of England contend for pre-eminence of fame by running:
“Prove by their heels the prowess of their head.” In this poem there was the following portrait of Johnson:
“ Here Johnson comes,-unblest with outward grace.
His rigid morals stamp'd upon his face. * This is the person concerning whom Sir John Hawkins has thrown out very unwarrantable reflections both against Dr. Johnson and Mr. Francis Barber.
See an account of him in the European Magazine, Jan. 1786.