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Latin, though his Excellency did not understand it, owing, perhaps, to Johuson's English pronunciation : yet, upon another occasion, he was observed to speak French to a Frenchman of high rank, who spoke English ; and being asked the reason, with some expression of surprise, he answered, “Because I think my French is as good as his English.” Though Johnson understood French perfectly, he could not speak it readily, as I have observed at his first interview with General Paoli, in 1769; yet he wrote it, I imagine, pretty well, as appears from some of his letters in Mrs. Piozzi's collection, of which I shall transcribe one:
A Madame La Comtesse de
July 16, 1775, « Oui, Madame, le moment est arrivé, et il faut que je parte. Mais. pourquoi faut il partir ? Est ce que je m'ennuye? Je m'ennuyerai ailleurs. Est ce que je cherche ou quelque plaisir, ou quelque soulagement ? Je ne cherche rien, je n'espere rien. Aller voir ce que jai vii, etre un peu rejoué, un peu degouté, me resouvenir que la vie se passe en vain, me plaindre de moi, m'endurcir aux dehors; voici le tout de ce qu'on compte pour les delices de l'année. Que Dieu vous dunne, Madame, tous les agremens de la vie, avec un esprit qui peut en jouir sans s'y livrer trop."
Here let me not forget a curious anecdote, as related to me by Mr. Beauclerk, which I shall endeavour to exbibit as well as I can in that gentleman's lively manner; and in justice to him it is proper to add, that Dr. Jobnson told me I might rely both to the correctness of his memory, and the fidelity of his narrative. " When Madame de Bouf. flers was first in England (said Beauclerk), she was desirous to see Johnson. I accordingly went with her to his chambers in the Temple, · where she was entertained with his conversation for some time. When our visit was over, she and I left him, and were got into Inner Temple lane, when all at once I heard a noise like thunder. This was occasioved by Johnson, who, it seems, upon a little recollection, had taken it into his head that be ought to have done the honours of his literary residence to a foreign lady of quality, and eager to show himself a man of gallantry, was hurrying down the stair-case in violent agitation. He overtook us before we reached the Temple-gate, and brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers, seized ber hand, and conducted her to her coach. His dress was a rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round, and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.”
He spoke Latin with wonderful fluency and elegance. When Pere Boscovich was in Englaud, Johnson dived in company with biin at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, and at Dr. Douglas's, now Bishop of Salisbury. Upon both occasions that celebrated foreigner expressed his astonishment at Johnson's Latin conversation. When at Paris, Johnson thus No, 6,
characterised Voltaire to Frerop the Journalist, “Vir est acerrimi ingenii et paucarum literarum.”
66 TO DR. SAMUEL JONSON. " MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, Dec, 5, 1775. MR. Alexander Maclcan, the young Laird of Col, being to set out to-morrow for London, I give him this letter to introduce him to your acquaintance. The kindoess which you and I experienced from his brother, whose unfortunate death we sincerely lament, will make us always desirous to show attention to any branch of the family. Indeed, you have so much of the true Highland cordiality, that I am sure you would have thought me to blame if I had neglected to recommend to you this Hebridean prince, in whose island we were hospitably entertained. I ever am with respectful attachment, my dear Sir,
“ Your most obliged
“ JAMEs Boswell.”
Mr. Maclean returned with the most agreeable accounts of the polite attention with which he was received by Dr. Jobpson.
lu the course of this year Dr. Burvey informs me that, “he very free quently inet Dr. Johnson at Mr. Thrale's, at Streatham, where they had many long conversations, often sitting up as long as the fire and candles lasted, and much longer than the patience of the servants subsisted."
A few of Johnson's sayings, which that gentleman recollects, shall here be inserted.
“ I never take a nap after dinner but when I have had a bad night, and then the nap takes me."
“ The writer of au epitaph should not be considered as saying nothing but what is strictly true. Allowance must be made for some degree of exaggerated praise. In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath."
“ There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there; so that whut the boys get at one end they lose at the other."
“ More is learned in public than in private schools, from emulation; there is the collision of mind with mind, or the radiation of many minds pointing to one centre. Though few boys make their own exercises, yet if a good exercise is given up, out of a great pumber of boys, it is made by somebody."
“ I hate by-roads in education. Education is as well known, and has long been as well known, as ever it can be. Endeavouring to make children prematurely wise is useless labour. Suppose they have more kuowledge at five or six years old than other children, what use cun be made of it? It will be lost before it is wanted, and the waste of so much time and labour of the teacher can never be repaid. Too much
is expected from precocity, and too little performed. Miss an instance of early cultivation, but in what did it terminate? In marrying a little Presbyterian parson, who keeps an infant boarding-school, so that all her employment now is,
"To suckle fools and chronicle small-beer.' She tells the children, “This is a cat, and that is a dog, with four legs and a tail; see there! you are much better than a cat or a dog, for you can speak. If I had bestowed such an education on a daughter, and had discovered that she thought of marrying such a fellow, I would have sent her to the Congress."
“ After having talked slightingly of music, he was observed to listen very attentively while Miss Thrale played on the harpsichord, and with eagerness he called to her, “Why don't you dash away like Burney?" Dr. Burney upon this said to him, I believe, Sir, we shall make a musician of you at last,' Johnson with candid complacency replied, “Sir, I shall be glad to have a new sense given to me.”
He had come down one morning to the breakfast-room, and been a considerable time by himself before any body appeared. When on a subsequent day he was twitted by Mrs. Thrale for being very late, which he generally was, he defended himself by alluding to the extraordinary morning, when he had been too early, “ Madam, I do not like to come down to racuity."
Dr. Burney having remarked that Mr. Garrick was beginning to look old, he said " Why, Sir, you are not to wonder at that; no man's face has had more wear and tear.”
Not having heard from him for a longer time than I supposed he would be silent, I wrote to him December 18, not in good spirits, “ Sometimes I have been afraid that the cold, which has gone over Europe this year like a sort of pestilence, has seized you severely : sometimes my imagination, which is upon occasious prolific of evil, hath figured that you may have somehow taken offence at some part of my conduct.”
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
MY DEAR SIR,
Never dream of any offence. How should you offend me? I consider your friendship as a possession, which I intend to hold till you take it from me, and to lament if ever by my fault I should lose it. However, when such suspicions find their way into your mind, always give them vent: I shall make haste to disperse them; but hinder their first ingress if you can. Consider such thoughts as morbid.
“ Such illness as may excuse my omission to Lord Hailes, I cannot honestly plead. I have been hindered, I know not how, by a succession of petty obstructions. I hope to mend immediately, and to send next post to his Lordship. Mr. Thrale would have written to you if I had omitted; he sends his compliments, and wishes to see you.
“ You and your lady will now bave no more wrangling about feudal inheritance. How does the young Laird of Auchinleck? I supposé Miss Veronica is grown a reader and discourser,
“ I have just pow got a cough, but it has pever yet hindered me from sleeping; I have had quieter nights than are common with me.
I cannot but rejoice that Joseph has had the wit to find the way back. He is a fine fellow, and one of the best travellers in the world.
Young Col brought me your letter. He is a very pleasing youth. I took him two days ago to the Mitre, and we dined together. I was as civil as I had the means of being.
“ I have had a letter from Rasay, acknowledging, with great appearance of satisfaction, the insertion in the Edinburgh paper. I am very glad that it was done.
“ My compliments to Mrs. Boswell, who does not love nie; and of all the rest, I need only send them to those that do; and I ain afraid it will give you very little trouble to distribute them. I am, my dear, dear Sir,
• Your affectionate huml;le servant, 66 December 23, 1775.
In 1776, Johnson wrote, so far as I can discover, nothing for the pube lic: but that his mind was still ardent, and fraught with generous wishes to attain to still higher degrees of literary excellence, is proved by his private notes of this year, which I shall insert in their proper place.
TO JAMES BOSWELL. ESQ.
I have at last sent you all Lord Hailes's papers. While I was in France I looked very often into Henault; but Lord Hailes, in my opinion, leaves him far and far behind. Why I did not dispatch so short a perusal sooner, when I look back, I ain utterly unable to discover : but human moments are stolen away by a thousand petty impediments which leave no trace behind them. I have been afflicted through the whole Christmas, with the general disorder, of which the worst effect was a cough, which is now much mitigated, though the country, on which I look from a window at Streatham, is now covered with a deep snow. Mr:. Williams is very ill: every body else is as usual. Among the papers, I found a letter to you which I think you
had not opened ; and a paper for • The Chronicle,' which I suppose it not necessary now to insert. I return them both.
I have, within these few days, had the honour of receiving Lord Hailes's firat volume, for which I returo niy most respectful thanks.
I wish you, my dearest friend, and your haughty lady, (for I know she does not love me, and the young ladies, and the young laird, all happiness. Teach the young gentleman, in spite of his mamma, to think and speak well of, Sir,
Your affectionate humble servant, Jan, 10, 1776.
At this time was in agitation a matter of great consequence to me and my family, which I should not obtrude upon the world, were it not that the part which Dr. Johnson's friendship for me made him take in it, was the occasion of an exertion of bis abilities, which it would be injustice to conceal. That what he wrote upon the subject may be understood, it is vecessary to give a state of the question, which I shall do as briefly as I can.
In the year 1504, the barony or manor of Auchinleck, (pronounced Affleck,) in Ayrshire, which belonged to a family of the same the lands, having fallen to the Crown by forfeiture, James the Fourth, King of Scotland, granted it to Thomas Boswell, a branch of an ancient family in the county of Fife, stiling him in the Charter, “dilecto familiari nostro ;" and assigning, as the cause of the grant, “pro bono et fideli servitio nobis prestito." Thomas Boswell was slain in battle, fighting along with his Sovereign, at the fatal field of Flodden, in 1513,
From this very honourable founder of our family, the estate was transmitted, in a direct series of heirs male, to David Boswell, my father's great-grand-uncle, who had no sons, but four daughters, who were all respectably married, the eldest to Lord Cathcart.
David Boswell, being resolute in the military feudal principle of continuing the male succession, passed by his daughters, and settled the estate on his nephew by his next brother, who approved of the deed, and renounced any pretensions which he might possibly have, in preference to his son. But the estate having been burthened with large portions to the daughters, and other debts, it was necessary for the nephew to sell a considerable part of it, and what remained was still much encumbered.
The frugality of the nephew preserved, and, in some degree, relieved the estate. His son, my grandfather, an eminent lawyer, not only repurchased a great part of what had been sold, but acquired other lands; and my father, who was one of the Judges of Scotland, and had added considerably to the estate, now signified his inclination to take the privilege allowed by our law, to secure it to his family in perpetuity by an entail, which on account of bis marriage articles, could not be done without my conseil.
In the plan of entailing the estate, I heartily concurred with him, though I was the first to be restrained by it; but we unbappily differed as to the series of heirs which should be established, or, in the language of our law, called to the succession. My father had declared a predilection for heirs general, that is, males and females iudiscriminately. He was