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that I have no kindness for that race. But nations, 1775. or bodies of men, should, as well as individuals, Ætat, 06. have a fair trial, and not be condemned on character alone. Have we not express contracts with our colonies, which afford a more certain foundation of judgement, than general political speculations on the mutual rights of States and their provinces or colonies ? Pray let me know immediately what to read, and I shall diligently endeavour to gather for you any thing that I can find. Is Burke's speech on American taxation published by himself? Is it authentick? I remember to have heard you say, that you had never considered East-Indian affairs: though, surely, they are of much importance to Great-Britain. Under the recollection of this, I shelter myself from the reproach of ignorance about the Americans. If you write upon the subject, I shall certainly underderstand it. But, since you seem to expect that I should know something of it, without your instruction, and that my own mind should suggest something, I trust you will put me in the way.

“ What does Becket mean by the Originals of Fingal and other poems of Ossian, which he advertises to have lain in his shop?



“ You sent me a case to consider, in which I have no facts but what are against us, nor any princi. ples on which to reason. It is vain to try to write thus without materials. The fact seems to be against you; at least I cannot know nor say any thing to the

1775. contrary. I am glad that you like the book so well. Ætat. 66

I hear no more of Macpherson. I shall long to know
what Lord Hailes says of it. Lend it him privately.
I shall send the parcel as soon as I can.
compliments to Mrs. Boswell. I am, Sir, &c.
“ Jan. 28, 1775.


Make my


• Edinburgh, Feb. 2, 1775.

* As to Macpherson, I am anxious to have from yourself a full and pointed account of what has passed between you and him. It is confidently told here, that before your book came out he sent to you, to let you know that he understood you meant to deny the authenticity of Ossian's poems; that the originals were in his possession ; that you might have inspection of thein, and might take the evidence of people skilled in the Erse language; and that he hoped, after this fair offer, you would not be so uncandid as to assert that he had refused reasonable proof. That you paid no regard to his message, but published your strong attack upon him ; and then he wrote a letter to you, in such terms as he thought suited to one who had not acted as a man of veracity. You may

believe it gives me pain to hear your conduct represented as unfavourable, while I can only deny what is said, on the ground that your character refutes it, without having any information to oppose. Let me, I beg it of you, be furnished with a sufficient answer to any calumny upon this occasion. .

« Lord Hailes writes to me, (for we correspond more than we talk together,) 'As to Fingal, I see a controversy arising, and purpose to keep out of its


way. There is no doubt that I might mention some 1775. circumstances; but I do not chuse to commit them

Ætat. 66. to paper.

What his opinion, is, I do not know. He says, “I am singularly obliged to Dr. Johnson for his accurate and useful criticisms. Had he given some strictures on the general plan of the work, it would have added much to his favours.' He is charmed with your verses on Inchkenneth, says they are very elegant, but bids me tell you he doubts whether

Legitimas faciunt pectora pura preces, be according to the rubrick : but that is your concern; for, you know, he is a Presbyterian.”




" Feb. 7, 1775: “ One of the Scotch physicians is now prosecuting a corporation that in some publick instrument have stiled him Doctor of Medicine instead of Physician. Boswell desires, being advocate for the corporation, to know whether Doctor of Medicine is not a legitimate title, and whether it


be considered as a disadvantageous distinction. I am to write tonight; be pleased to tell me. I am, Sir, your most, &c.


* [His Lordship, notwithstanding his resolution, did commit his sentiments to paper, and in one of his notes affixed to his Collection of Old Scottish Poetry, he says, that “ to doubt the authenticity of those poems is a refinement in Scepticism indeed.”

I. B.] * The learned and worthy Dr. Lawrence, whom Dr. Johnson respected and loved as his physician and friend.




I AM surprised that, knowing as you do the disposition of

your countrymen to tell lies in favour of each other, you can be at all affected by any reports that circulate among them. Macpherson never in his life offered me a sight of any original or of any evidence of any kind; but thought only of intimidating me by noise and threats, till my last answer,-that I would not be deterred from detecting what I thought a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian--put an end to our correspondence.

“The state of the question is this. He, and Dr. Blair, whom I consider as deceived, say, that he copied the poem from old manuscripts ? His copies, if he had them, and I believe him to have none, are nothing. Where are the manuscripts? They can be shown if they exist, but they were never shown. De non existentibus et non apparentibus, says our law, eadem est ratio. No man has a claim to credit upon his own word, when better evidence, if he ḥad it, may be easily produced. But, so far as we can find, the Erse language was never written till very lately for the purposes of religion. A nation that cannot write, or a language that was never written, has ng manuscripts.

“ But whatever he has he never offered to show, If old manuscripts should now be mentioned, I should, unless there were more evidence than can be easily had, suppose them another proof of Scotch conspiracy in national falsehood.

9 My friend has, in this letter, relied upon my testimony, with a confidence, of which the ground has escaped my recollection,

* Do not censure the expression ; you know it to 1775. be true,

Ætat. 66, “Dr. Memis's question is so narrow as to allow no speculation; and I have no facts before me but those which his advocate has produced against you.

"I consulted this morning the President of the London College of Physicians, who says, that with us, Doctor of Physick (we do not say Doctor of Medicine) is the highest title that a practiser of physick can have; that Doctor implies not only Physician, but teacher of physick ; that every Doctor is legally a Physician ; but no man, not a Doctor, can practise physick but by licence particularly granted. The Doctorate is a licence of itself. It seems to us a very slender cause of prosecution.

“ I am now engaged, but in a little time I hope to do all you would have. My compliments to Madam and Veronica. I am, Sir,

“ Your most humble servant, February 7, 1775.


What words were used by Mr. Macpherson in his letter to the venerable Sage, I have never heard ; but they are generally said to have been of a nature very different from the language of literary contest. Dr. Johnson's answer appeared in the news-papers

of the day, and has since been frequently re-published; but not with perfect accuracy. I give it as dictated to me by himself, written down in his presence, and authenticated by a note in his own hand writing, This, I think, is a true copy."

"I have deposited it in the British Museum.


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