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LETTER 305. TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.
“ London, Nov. 20. 1777. « Dear Love, You ordered me to write you word when I came home. I have been for some days at Brighthelmstone, and came back on Tuesday night.
“ You know that when I left you I was not well; I have taken physic very diligently, and am perceptibly better ; so much better that I hope by care and perse. verance to recover, and see you again from time to time. “ Mr. Nollekens, the statuary,
direction to send you a cast of my head. I will pay the carriage when we meet. Let me know how you like it; and what the ladies of your rout say to it. have heard different opinions. I cannot think where you can put it.
“ I found every body here well. Miss [Thrale] has a mind to be wor
vomanly, and her womanhood does not sit well upon her. Please to make my compliments to all the ladies and all the gentlemen to whom I owe them, that is, to a great part of the town. I am, dear Madam, your most humble servant,
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ London, Nov. 29. 1777. - DEAR SIR, You will wonder, or you have wondered, why no letter has come from me. What you wrote at your return had in it such a strain of cowardly caution as gave me no pleasure. I could not well do what you wished; I had no need to vex you with a refusal. I have seen [Mr. Beauclerk], and as to him have set all right, without any inconvenience, so far as I know, to you. Mrs. Thrale had forgot the story. You may now be at ease.
“ And at ease I certainly wish you, for the kindness that
you showed in coming so long a journey to see me. It was pity to keep you so long in pain, but, upon reviewing the matter, I do not see what I could have done better than I did. I hope you found at your return my dear enemy and all her little people quite well and had no reason to repent of your journey. I think on it with great gratitude.
"I was not well when you left me at the doctor's, and I grew worse; yet I staid on, and at Lichfield was very ill. Travelling, however, did not make me worse ; and when I came to London, I complied with a summons to go to Brighthelmstone, where I saw Beauclerk, and staid three days.
“ Our club has recommenced last Friday, but I was not there. Langton has another wench. (1) Mrs. Thrale is in hopes of a young brewer. They got by their trade last year a very large sum, and their expenses are proportionate. Mrs. Williams's health is very bad. And I have had for some time a very difficult and laborious respiration ; but I am better by purges, abstinence, and other methods. I am yet, however, much behind-hand in my health and rest.
“ Dr. Blair's sermons are now universally commended; but let him think that I had the honour of first finding and first praising his excellencies. I did not stay to add my voice to that of the public.
My dear friend, let me thank you once more for your visit: you did me great honour, and I hope met with nothing that displeased you. I staid long at Ashbourne, not much pleased, yet awkward at departing. I then went to Lichfield, where I found my friend at Stowhill [Mrs. Aston] very dangerously diseased. Such is life. Let us try to pass it well, whatever it be, for there is surely something beyond it.
(1) A daughter born to him.
« Well, now, I hope all is well; write as soon as you can to, dear Sir, &c.
“ Sam. JOHNSON."
LETTER 307. FROM MR. BOSWELL.
« Edinburgh, Nov. 29. 1777. “ MY DEAR SIR, This day's post has at length relieved me from much uneasiness, by bringing me a letter from you. I was, indeed, doubly uneasy ; on my own account and yours. I was very anxious to be secured against any bad consequences from my imprudence in mentioning the gentleman's name who had told me a story to your disadvantage ; and as I could hardly suppose it possible that you would delay so long to make me easy, unless you were ill, I was not a little apprehensive about you. You must not be offended when I venture to tell you that you appear to me to have been too rigid upon this occasion. The cowardly caution which gave you no pleasure,' was suggested to me by a friend here, to whom I mentioned the strange story, and the detection of its falsity, as an instance how one may be deceived by what is apparently very good authority. But, as I am still persuaded, that as I might have obtained the truth without mentioning the gentleman's name, it was wrong in me to do it, I cannot see that you are just in blaming my caution. But if you were ever so just in your disapprobation, might you not have dealt more tenderly with me?
“ I went to Auchinleck about the middle of October, and passed some time with my father very comfortably.
“ I am engaged in a criminal prosecution against a country schoolmaster, for indecent behaviour to his female scholars. There is no statute against such abominable conduct; but it is punishable at common law. I shall be obliged to you for your assistance in this extraor. dinary trial. I ever am, &c. JAMES BOSWELL." About this time I wrote to Johnson, giving him an account of the decision of the Negro cause, by the court of session, which by those who hold even the mildest and best regulated slavery in abomination (of which number I do not hesitate to declare that I am none) should be remembered with high respect, and to the credit of Scotland; for it went upon a much broader ground than the case of Somerset, which was decided in England (1); being truly the general question, whether a perpetual obligation of service to one master in any mode should be sanctified by the law of a free country. A negro, then called Joseph Knight, a native of Africa, having been brought to Jamaica in the usual course of the slave trade, and purchased by a Scotch gentleman in that island, had attended his master to Scotland, where it was officiously suggested to him that he would be found entitled to his liberty without any limitation. He accordingly brought his action, in the course of which the advocates on both sides did themselves great honour. Mr. Maclaurin has had the praise of Johnson, for his argument (2) in favour of the negro, and Mr. Macconochie (3)
(1) See State Trials, vol. xi. p. 339, and Mr. Hargrave's ar gument. (2) The motto to it was happily chosen :
Quamvis ille niger, quamvis tu candidus esses.' I cannot avoid mentioning a circumstance no less strange than true, that a brother advocate in considerable practice [Mr. Wright), but of whom it certainly cannot be said, Ingenuas didicit fideliter artes, asked Mr. Maclaurin, with a face of dippant assurance, “ Are these words your own ?”
(3) Afterwards a lord of session, by the title of Lord Meadow. banks, and father of the present Lord Meadowbank. — C.
distinguished himself on the same side, by his ingenuity and extraordinary research. Mr. Cullen, on the part of the master, discovered good information and sound reasoning; in which he was well supported by Mr. James Ferguson, remarkable for a manly understanding, and a knowledge both of hooks and of the world. But I cannot too highly praise the speech which Mr. Henry Dundas (1) generously contributed to the cause of the sooty stranger. Mr. Dundas's Scottish accent, which has been so often in vain obtruded as an objection to his powerful abilities in parliament, was no disadvantage to him in his own country. And I do declare, that upon this memorable question he impressed me,
and I believe all his audience, with such feelings as were produced by some of the most eminent orations of antiquity. This testimony I liberally give to the excellence of an old friend, with whom it has been my lot to differ very widely upon many political topics: yet I persuade myself without malice. A great majority of the lords of session decided for the negro. But four of their number, the Lord President [Dundas], Lord Elliock [Veitch], Lord Monboddo [Burnett], and Lord Covington [Lockhart], resolutely maintained the lawfulness of a status, which has been acknowledged in all ages and countries, and that when freedom flourished, as in old Greece and Rome.
(1) (Afterwards Viscount Melville.]