Sunday, January 3, 2016

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 104

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of the Brewing Arts; Assistant Curling Team Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Missing Cask of Porter, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (layout, pencils inks, and colors by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for penmarqatron productions™, ltd .

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On the 5th of March I wrote to him, requesting his counsel whether I should this spring come to London. I stated to him on the one hand some pecuniary embarrassments, which, together with my wife's situation at that time, made me hesitate; and, on the other, the pleasure and improvement which my annual visit to the metropolis always afforded me; and particularly mentioned a peculiar satisfaction which I experienced in celebrating the festival of Easter in St. Paul's cathedral; that to my fancy it appeared like going up to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover; and that the strong devotion which I felt on that occasion diffused its influence on my mind through the rest of the year.

'To JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. [Not dated, but written about the 15th of March.]

'DEAR SIR, 'I am ashamed to think that since I received your letter I have passed so many days without answering it.

'I think there is no great difficulty in resolving your doubts. The reasons for which you are inclined to visit London, are, I think, not of sufficient strength to answer the objections. That you should delight to come once a year to the fountain of intelligence and pleasure, is very natural; but both information and pleasure must be regulated by propriety. Pleasure, which cannot be obtained but by unseasonable or unsuitable expence, must always end in pain; and pleasure, which must be enjoyed at the expence of another's pain, can never be such as a worthy mind can fully delight in.

'What improvement you might gain by coming to London, you may easily supply, or easily compensate, by enjoining yourself some particular study at home, or opening some new avenue to information. Edinburgh is not yet exhausted; and I am sure you will find no pleasure here which can deserve either that you should anticipate any part of your future fortune, or that you should condemn yourself and your lady to penurious frugality for the rest of the year.

'I need not tell you what regard you owe to Mrs. Boswell's entreaties; or how much you ought to study the happiness of her who studies yours with so much diligence, and of whose kindness you enjoy such good effects. Life cannot subsist in society but by reciprocal concessions. She permitted you to ramble last year, you must permit her now to keep you at home.

'Your last reason is so serious, that I am unwilling to oppose it. Yet you must remember, that your image of worshipping once a year in a certain place, in imitation of the Jews, is but a comparison; and simile non est idem; if the annual resort to Jerusalem was a duty to the Jews, it was a duty because it was commanded; and you have no such command, therefore no such duty.

It may be dangerous to receive too readily, and indulge too fondly, opinions, from which, perhaps, no pious mind is wholly disengaged, of local sanctity and local devotion. You know what strange effects they have produced over a great part of the Christian world. I am now writing, and you, when you read this, are reading under the Eye of Omnipresence.

'To what degree fancy is to be admitted into religious offices, it would require much deliberation to determine. I am far from intending totally to exclude it. Fancy is a faculty bestowed by our Creator, and it is reasonable that all His gifts should be used to His glory, that all our faculties should co-operate in His worship; but they are to co-operate according to the will of Him that gave them, according to the order which His wisdom has established.

As ceremonies prudential or convenient are less obligatory than positive ordinances, as bodily worship is only the token to others or ourselves of mental adoration, so Fancy is always to act in subordination to Reason. We may take Fancy for a companion, but must follow Reason as our guide. We may allow Fancy to suggest certain ideas in certain places; but Reason must always be heard, when she tells us, that those ideas and those places have no natural or necessary relation. When we enter a church we habitually recall to mind the duty of adoration, but we must not omit adoration for want of a temple; because we know, and ought to remember, that the Universal Lord is every where present; and that, therefore, to come to Jona, or to Jerusalem, though it may be useful, cannot be necessary.

'Thus I have answered your letter, and have not answered it negligently. I love you too well to be careless when you are serious.

'I think I shall be very diligent next week about our travels, which I have too long neglected.

'I am, dear Sir,

'Your most, &c.,


'Compliments to Madam and Miss.'

To The Same.


'The lady who delivers this has a lawsuit, in which she desires to make use of your skill and eloquence, and she seems to think that she shall have something more of both for a recommendation from me; which, though I know how little you want any external incitement to your duty, I could not refuse her, because I know that at least it will not hurt her, to tell you that I wish her well.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,



'Streatham, June 21, 1774.


'Yesterday I put the first sheets of the Journey to the Hebrides to the press. I have endeavoured to do you some justice in the first paragraph. It will be one volume in octavo, not thick. 

'It will be proper to make some presents in Scotland. You shall tell me to whom I shall give; and I have stipulated twenty-five for you to give in your own name. Some will take the present better from me, others better from you. In this, you who are to live in the place ought to direct. Consider it. Whatever you can get for my purpose send me; and make my compliments to your lady and both the young ones.

'I am, Sir, your, &c.,  'SAM. JOHNSON.'



'I wish you could have looked over my book before the printer, but it could not easily be. I suspect some mistakes; but as I deal, perhaps, more in notions than in facts, the matter is not great, and the second edition will be mended, if any such there be. The press will go on slowly for a time, because I am going into Wales to-morrow.

'Of poor dear Dr. Goldsmith there is little to be told, more than the papers have made publick. He died of a fever, made, I am afraid, more violent by uneasiness of mind. His debts began to be heavy, and all his resources were exhausted. Sir Joshua is of opinion that he owed not less than two thousand pounds. Was ever poet so trusted before?

‘While Mrs. Boswell is well, never doubt of a boy. Mrs. Thrale brought, I think, five girls running, but while I was with you she had a boy.

'I am, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate servant,


'July 4, 1774.'

'My compliments to all the three ladies.'



'You have reason to reproach me that I have left your last letter so long unanswered, but I had nothing particular to say. Chambers, you find, is gone far, and poor Goldsmith is gone much further. He died of a fever, exasperated, as I believe, by the fear of distress. He had raised money and squandered it, by every artifice of acquisition, and folly of expence. But let not his frailties be remembered; he was a very great man.

'I have just begun to print my Journey to the Hebrides, and am leaving the press to take another journey into Wales, whither Mr. Thrale is going, to take possession of, at least, five hundred a year, fallen to his lady. All at Streatham, that are alive, are well. 

'I have never recovered from the last dreadful illness, but flatter myself that I grow gradually better; much, however, yet remains to mend.

'Please to make my most respectful compliments to all the ladies, and remember me to young George and his sisters. I reckon George begins to shew a pair of heels.

'Do not be sullen now, but let me find a letter when I come back.

'I am, dear Sir,

'Your affectionate, humble servant,


'July 5, 1774.'


'Llewenny, in Denbighshire, Aug. 16, 1774. 


'Mr. Thrale's affairs have kept him here a great while, nor do I know exactly when we shall come hence. 

'Wales, so far as I have yet seen of it, is a very beautiful and rich country, all enclosed, and planted. Denbigh is not a mean town. Make my compliments to all my friends, and tell Frank I hope he remembers my advice. When his money is out, let him have more.

'I am, Sir,

'Your humble servant,




'Edinburgh, Sept. 16, 1774.

'Wales has probably detained you longer than I supposed. You will have become quite a mountaineer, by visiting Scotland one year and Wales another. You must next go to Switzerland. Cambria will complain, if you do not honour her also with some remarks. And I find concessere columnae, the booksellers expect another book. I am impatient to see your Tour to Scotland and the Hebrides. Might you not send me a copy by the post as soon as it is printed off?'




'Yesterday I returned from my Welch journey, I was sorry to leave my book suspended so long; but having an opportunity of seeing, with so much convenience, a new part of the island, I could not reject it. I have been in five of the six counties of North Wales; and have seen St. Asaph and Bangor, the two seats of their Bishops; have been upon Penmanmaur and Snowden, and passed over into Anglesea. But Wales is so little different from England, that it offers nothing to the speculation of the traveller.

'In the distribution of my books I purpose to follow your advice, adding such as shall occur to me. I am not pleased with your notes of remembrance added to your names, for I hope I shall not easily forget them.

'I wish you could have read the book before it was printed, but our distance does not easily permit it. 

'I purpose now to drive the book forward. Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and let me hear often from you. 

'I am, dear Sir, 

'Your affectionate humble servant,


'London, Octob. 1, 1774.'

This tour to Wales, which was made in company with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, though it no doubt contributed to his health and amusement, did not give an occasion to such a discursive exercise of his mind as our tour to the Hebrides. I do not find that he kept any journal or notes of what he saw there. All that I heard him say of it was, that 'instead of bleak and barren mountains, there were green and fertile ones; and that one of the castles in Wales would contain all the castles that he had seen in Scotland.'

(This project is made possible through the continuing support of of the Bob’s Bowery Bar™ Endowment for the Humanities: “Like many who toil in the fields of literature and entertainment I tend to keep hours somewhat at odds with what my bohemian pals call ‘the square world’, and so I often find myself ready for breakfast when the common folk are ready for bed – no wonder that I often partake of the ‘All-Day ‘n’ All-Night’ breakfast menu at Bob’s Bowery Bar! Modesty shall not forbid me from recommending the eponymous ‘Sternwall Special’:

‘Bob’s Mom’s’ home-dried free-range chipped beef à la Béarnaise on two hearty slabs of home-baked whole-grain toast, topped with two cage-free fried eggs and sprinkled with East River Catfish Roe – wash it all down with a hearty schooner or two of Bob’s justly renowned basement-brewed house bock and you’ll experience as close as mortal man or woman is vouchsafed to experience of the sublime!” – Horace P. Sternwall, your host of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents Horace P. Sternwall’s Tales of the Yukon, Tuesdays at 10pm (EST), exclusively on the Dumont Television Network.)

part 105

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