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1774 - 1775.
Mr. Thrale's Political Position.-Johnson's " Patriot." Death of young Col.
Mr. Perkins. Hoole's Tragedy. Charlotte Lennox. Baretti's “ Easy Lessons." Case of Dr. Memis. Lord Hailes's “ Annals.”
Mary Queen of Scots. — American Politics. Ossian, Letter to Macpherson. Per. sonal Courage.
Foote. - Publishes “ Journey to the Western Islands." Mr. Knox. Mr. Tytler,
- Mr. Windham, - Irish and Scotch Impudence compared. Ossian Controversy. - Visit to Oxford.
Parliament having been dissolved, and his friend Mr. Thrale, who was a steady supporter of govern ment, having again to encounter the storm of a contested election, he wrote a short political pamphlet, entitled “ The Patriot,”* addressed to the electors of Great Britain ; a title which, to factious men who consider a patriot only as an opposer of the measures of government, will appear strangely misapplied. It was, however, written with energetic vivacity; and, except those passages in which it endeavours to vindicate the glaring outrage of the House of Commons in the case of the Middlesex election, and to justify the attempt to reduce our fellow-subjects in America to unconditional submission, it contained an admirable display of the properties of a real patriot, in the original and genuine sense ; -a sincere, steady, rational, and unbiassed friend to the interests and prosperity of his king and country. It must be acknowledged, however, that both in this and his two former pamphlets, there was, amidst many powerful arguments, not only a considerable portion of sophistry, but a contemptuous ridicule of his opponents, which was very provoking.
LETTER 193. TO MR. PERKINS. (1)
“ October 25. 1774. “SIR, – You may do me a very great favour. Mrs. Williams, a gentlewoman whom you may have seen at Mr. Thrale's, is a petitioner for Mr. Hetherington's charity ; petitions are this day issued at Christ's hospital.
“ I am a bad manager of business in a crowd ; and if I should send a mean man, he may be put away without his errand. I must, therefore, entreat that
you will go, and ask for a petition for Anna Williams, whose paper of inquiries was delivered with answers at the counting-house of the hospital on Thursday the 20th. My servant will attend you thither, and bring the petition home when you have it.
(1) Mr. Perkins was for a number of years the worthy superintendent of Mr. Thrale's great brewery, and after his death became one of the proprietors of it; and now resides in Mr. Thrale's house in Southwark, which was the scene of so many literary meetings, and in which he continues the liberal hospitality for which it was eminent. Dr. Johnson esteemed him much. He hung up in the counting-house a fine proof of the admirable mezzotinto of Dr. Johnson, by Doughty; and when Mrs. Thrale asked him somewhat flippantly, “Why do you put him up in the counting-house?” He answered, “ Because, Madam, I wish to have one wise man there." “Sir,” said Johnson, “ I thank you. It is a very handsome compliment. and I believe you speak sincerely.”
“ The petition which they are to give us, is a form which they deliver to every petitioner, and which the petitioner is afterwards to fill up, and return to them again. This we must have, or cannot proceed according to their directions. You need, I believe, only ask for a petition ; if they inquire for whom you ask, you can tell them.
“ I beg pardon for giving you this trouble ; but it is a matter of great importance. I am, Sir, your most
« SAM. Johnson."
LETTER 194. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ London, Oct. 27. 1774. “ DEAR SIR, - There has appeared lately in the papers an account of the boat overset between Mull and Ulva, in which many passengers were lost, and among them Maclean of Col. We, you know, were once drowned ('); I hope, therefore, that the story is either wantonly or erroneously told. Pray satisfy me by the next post. “ I have printed 240 pages.
I am able to do nothing much worth doing to dear Lord Hailes's book. I will, however, send back the sheets; and hope, by degrees, to answer all your reasonable expectations.
“ Mr. Thrale has happily surmounted a very violent and acrimonious opposition ; but all joys have their abatement: Mrs. Thrale has fallen from her horse, and hurt herself very much. The rest of our friends, I believe, are well. My compliments to Mrs. Boswell. I am, Sir, your most affectionate servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.” This letter, which shows his tender concern for an amiable young gentleman to whom he had been very
(1) In the newspapers.
much obliged in the Hebrides, I have inserted according to its date, though before receiving it I had informed him of the melancholy event that the young Laird of Col was unfortunately drowned.
LETTER 195. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
« Nov. 26. 1774. “ DEAR SIR,- Last night I corrected the last page of our 'Journey to the Hebrides.' The printer has detained it all this time, for I had, before I went into Wales, written all except two sheets. "The Patriot' was called for by my political friends on Friday, was written on Saturday, and I have heard little of it. So vague are conjectures at a distance. () As soon as I can, I will take care that copies be sent to you, for I would wish that they might be given before they are bought: but I am afraid that Mr. Strahan will send to you and to the booksellers at the same time. Trade is as diligent as courtesy. I have mentioned all that you recommended. Pray make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell and the younglings. The club has, I think, not yet met. Tell me, and tell me honestly, what you think and what others say of our travels. Shall we touch the continent? (?)—I am, dear Sir, your most humble servant,
« SAM. JOHNSON." In his manuscript diary of this year, there is the following entry :
Nov. 27. Advent Sunday. I considered that this day, being the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, was
(1) Alluding to a passage in a letter of mine, where, speaking of his “Journey to the Hebrides,” I say, “ But has not «The Patriot' been an interruption, by the time taken to write it, and the time luxuriously spent in listening to its applauses ?”
(2) We had projected a voyage together up the Baltic, and talked of visiting some of the more northern regions.
a proper time for a new course of life. I began to read the Greek Testament regularly at one hundred and sixty verses every Sunday. This day I began the Acts.
-"In this week I read Virgil's Pastorals. I learned to repeat the Pollio and Gallus. I read carelessly the first Georgic."
Such evidences of his unceasing ardour, both for “ divine and human lore," when advanced into his sixty-fifth year, and notwithstanding his many disturbances from disease, must make us at once honour his spirit, and lament that it should be so grievously clogged by its material tegument. It is remarkable that he was very fond of the precision which calculation produces. Thus we find in one of his manuscript diaries, “ 12 pages in 4to. Gr. Test. and 30 pages in Beza's folio, comprise the whole in 40 days."
LETTER 196. TO JOHN HOOLE, ESQ. (1)
“ December 19. 1774. “ DEAR SIR,- I have returned your play (2), which you will find underscored with red, where there was a word which I did not like. The red will be washed off with a little water. The plot is so well framed, the intricacy so artful, and the disentanglement so easy, the suspense so affecting, and the passionate parts so properly interposed, that I have no doubt of its success. — I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
« SAM. Johnson."
(1) John Hoole, who from this time forward will be found much in Johnson's society, was the son of a watchmaker, born in Dec. 1727. He was a clerk in the India House, but devoted his leisure to literature. He published translations of Tasso's Jerusalem and Ariosto's Orlando. He died in 1803. — C.
(2) Cleonice. – B. — [It was produced at Covent Garden, in March, 1775, but without success; in consequence of which Hoole returned to the publisher a part of the money he had received for the copyright. ]