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1976. he is accused has frequent opportunities and strong
temptations. It has already spread far, with much Ætat. 67.
depravation of private morals, and much injury to
When I read this to Mr. Burke, he was highly pleased, and exclaimed, “ Well; he does his work in a workman-like manner."9
Mr. Thomson wished to bring the cause by appeal Before the House of Lords, but was dissuaded by the advice of the noble person who lately presided so ably in that Most Honourable House, and who was then Attorney-General. As my readers will no doubt be glad also to read the opinion of this emi- 1776. nent man upon the same subject, I shall here in
9 As a proof of Dr. Johnson's extraordinary powers of composition, it appears from the original manuscript of this excellent dissertation, of which he dictated the first eight paragraphs on the 10th of May, and the remainder on the 13th, that there are in the whole only seven corrections, or rather variations, and those not considerable. Such were at once the vigorous and accurate emanations of his mind.
Etat. 67. sert it.
Case. “ There is herewith laid before you, « 1. Petition for the Reverend Mr. James
Thomson, minister of Dumfermline.
2. Answers thereto.
Session upon both.
ing the reasons upon which their decree is
grounded. “ These papers you
papers you will please to peruse, and give your opinion,
" Whether there is a probability of the above
decree of the Court of Session's being re-
" I don't think the appeal adviseable ; not only because the value of the judgment is in no degree adequate to the expence; but because there are many chances, that upon the general complexion of the case, the impression will be taken to the disadvantage of the appellant. “ It is impossible to approve the style of that ser
But the complaint was not less ungracious from that man, who had behaved so ill by his original libel, and, at the time, when he received the reproach he complains of. In the last article, all the plaintiffs are equally concerned. It struck me also with some wonder, that the Judges should think se
1776, much fervour apposite to the occasion of reproving
the defendant for a little excess. Ætat. 67. “ Upon the matter, however, I agree
with them in condemning the behaviour of the minister; and in thinking it a subject fit for ecclesiastical censure; and even for an action, if any individual could qualify? a wrong, and a damage arising from it. But this I doubt. The circumstance of publishing the reproach in a pulpit, though extremely indecent, and culpable in another view, does not constitute a different sort of wrong, or any other rule of law, than would have obtained, if the same words had been pronounced elsewhere. I don't know, whether there be any difference in the law of Scotland, in the definition of slander, before the Commissaries, or the Court of Session. The common law of England does not give way to actions for every reproachful word. An action cannot be brought for general damages, upon any words which import less than an offence cognisable by law; consequently no action could have been brought here for the words in question. Both laws admit
the truth to be a justification in action for words; and the law of England does the same in actions for libels. The judgement, therefore, seems to me to have been wrong, in that the Court repelled, that defence.
“ E. THURLOW:
I am now to record a very curious incident in Dr. Johnson's Life, which fell under my own observa
• It is curious to observe that Lord Thurlow has here, perhaps, in compliment to North Britain, made use of a term of the Scotch Law, which to an English reader may require explanation. To qualify a wrong, is to point out and establish it.
tion; of which pars magna fui, and which I am per- 1776. suaded will, with the liberal-minded, be much to his
Ætat. 67. credit.
My desire of being acquainted with celebrated men of every description, had made me, much about the same time, obtain an introduction to Dr. Samuel Johnson and to John Wilkes, Esq. Two men more different could perhaps not be selected out of all mankind. They had even attacked one another with some asperity in their writings; yet I lived in habits of friendship with both. I could fully relish the excellence of each ; for I have ever delighted in that intellectual chymistry, which can separate good qualities from evil in the same person.
Sir John Pringle, “ mine own friend and my Father's friend," between whom and Dr. Johnson I in vain wished to establish an acquaintance, as I respected and lived in intimacy with both of them, observed to me once, very ingeniously, “ It is not in friendship as in mathematicks, where two things, each equal to a third, are equal between themselves. You agree with Johnson as a middle quality, and you agree with me as a middle quality ; but Johnson and I should not agree.” Sir John was not sufficiently flexible ; so I desisted : knowing, indeed, that the repulsion was equally strong on the part of Johnson; who, I know not from what cause, unless his being a Scotchman, had formed a very erroneous opinion of Sir John. But I conceived an irresistible wish, if possible, to bring Dr. Johnson and Mr. Wilkes together. How to manage it, was a nice and difficult matter.
My worthy booksellers and friends, Messieurs Dilly in the Poultry, at whose hospitable and well
1776. covered table I have seen a greater number of literary Ætat. 67. men, than at any other, except that of Sir Joshua
Reynolds, had invited me to meet Mr. Wilkes and some more gentlemen, on Wednesday, May 15.
Pray, (said I,) let us have Dr. Johnson.”—“ What with Mr. Wilkes ? not for the world, (said Mr. Edward Dilly :) Dr. Johnson would never forgive me.”—“Come, (said I,) if you'll let me negociate you,
I will be answerable that all shall go well.” Dilly. “ Nay, if you will take it upon you, I am sure I shall be very happy to see them both here."
Notwithstanding the high veneration which I entertained for Dr. Johnson, I was sensible that he was sometimes a little actuated by the spirit of contradiction, and by means of that I hoped I should gain my point. I was persuaded that if I had come upon him with a direct proposal, “Sir, will you dine in company with Jack Wilkes ?” he would have flown into a passion, and would probably have answered, “ Dine with Jack Wilkes, Sir! I'd as soon dine with Jack Ketch."? I therefore, while we were sitting quietly by ourselves at his house in an evening, took occa sion to open my plan thus :-“ Mr. Dilly, Sir, sends his respectful compliments to you, and would be
would do him the honour to dine with him on Wednesday next along with me, as I must soon go to Scotland.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, I am obliged to Mr. Dilly. I will wait upon him-" Boswell. « Provided, Sir, I suppose, that the company which he is to have, is agreeable to you.” JOHNSON. “ What do you mean, Sir? What do
you for? Do you think I am so ignorant of the world,
2 This has been circulated as if actually said by Johnson; when the truth is, it was only supposed by me.