Sunday, April 10, 2016

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 117

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Remedial Basic English Writing Skills, Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Bawd from Battersea’s Bequest, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (layout, pencils, inks and cgi by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for penmarqiqroniq™ productions.

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  'I have an old amanuensis in great distress. I have given what I think I can give, and begged till I cannot tell where to beg again. I put into his hands this morning four guineas. If you could collect three guineas more, it would clear him from his present difficulty.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'May 21, 1775.'



'I make no doubt but you are now safely lodged in your own habitation, and have told all your adventures to Mrs. Boswell and Miss Veronica. Pray teach Veronica to love me. Bid her not mind mamma. 

'Mrs. Thrale has taken cold, and been very much disordered, but I hope is grown well. Mr. Langton went yesterday to Lincolnshire, and has invited Nicolaida to follow him. Beauclerk talks of going to Bath. I am to set out on Monday; so there is nothing but dispersion.

'Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, though she does not love me. You see what perverse things ladies are, and how little fit to be trusted with feudal estates. When she mends and loves me, there may be more hope of her daughters.

'I will not send compliments to my friends by name, because I would be loath to leave any out in the enumeration. Tell them, as you see them, how well I speak of Scotch politeness, and Scotch hospitality, and Scotch beauty, and of every thing Scotch, but Scotch oat-cakes, and Scotch prejudices.

'I am, my dearest Sir, with great affection,
'Your most obliged, and
'Most humble servant,

'May 27, 1775.'

After my return to Scotland, I wrote three letters to him, from which I extract the following:—

'There has been a numerous flight of Hebrideans in Edinburgh this summer, whom I have been happy to entertain at my house. Mr. Donald Macqueen and Lord Monboddo supped with me one evening. They joined in controverting your proposition, that the Gaelick of the Highlands and Isles of Scotland was not written till of late.' 

'My mind has been somewhat dark this summer. I have need of your warming and vivifying rays; and I hope I shall have them frequently. I am going to pass some time with my father at Auchinleck.'



'I am returned from the annual ramble into the middle counties. Having seen nothing I had not seen before, I have nothing to relate. Time has left that part of the island few antiquities; and commerce has left the people no singularities. I was glad to go abroad, and, perhaps, glad to come home; which is, in other words, I was, I am afraid, weary of being at home, and weary of being abroad. Is not this the state of life? But, if we confess this weariness, let us not lament it, for all the wise and all the good say, that we may cure it.

'For the black fumes which rise in your mind, I can prescribe nothing but that you disperse them by honest business or innocent pleasure, and by reading, sometimes easy and sometimes serious. Change of place is useful; and I hope that your residence at Auchinleck will have many good effects.

'That Lord Monboddo and Mr. Macqueen should controvert a position contrary to the imaginary interest of literary or national prejudice, might be easily imagined; but of a standing fact there ought to be no controversy: If there are men with tails, catch an homo caudatus; if there was writing of old in the Highlands or Hebrides, in the Erse language, produce the manuscripts. Where men write, they will write to one another, and some of their letters, in families studious of their ancestry, will be kept. In Wales there are many manuscripts.

'Mrs. Thrale was so entertained with your Journal, that she almost read herself blind. She has a great regard for you.

'Of Mrs. Boswell, though she knows in her heart that she does not love me, I am always glad to hear any good, and hope that she and the little dear ladies will have neither sickness nor any other affliction. But she knows that she does not care what becomes of me, and for that she may be sure that I think her very much to blame.

'Never, my dear Sir, do you take it into your head to think that I do not love you; you may settle yourself in full confidence both of my love and my esteem; I love you as a kind man, I value you as a worthy man, and hope in time to reverence you as a man of exemplary piety. I hold you, as Hamlet has it, 'in my heart of hearts,' and therefore, it is little to say, that I am, Sir,

'Your affectionate humble servant,


'London, Aug. 27, 1775.'



'I now write to you, lest in some of your freaks and humours you should fancy yourself neglected. Such fancies I must entreat you never to admit, at least never to indulge: for my regard for you is so radicated and fixed, that it is become part of my mind, and cannot be effaced but by some cause uncommonly violent; therefore, whether I write or not, set your thoughts at rest. I now write to tell you that I shall not very soon write again, for I am to set out to-morrow on another journey.

Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, if she is in good humour with me.

'I am, Sir, &c.


'September 14, 1775.'

What he mentions in such light terms as, 'I am to set out to-morrow on another journey,' I soon afterwards discovered was no less than a tour to France with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. This was the only time in his life that he went upon the Continent.

(classix comix™ is underwritten in part through the generous support of the Bob’s Bowery Bar Benevolent Foundation for the Arts: “I should be woefully remiss if I failed to mention Bob’s Bowery Bar’s Monday Night Blue Plate Special: ‘Bob’s Mom’s Wiener’s & Kraut’: a great steaming plate of Mom’s homemade pork wieners simmered in house-cured sauerkraut, served with your choice of Uneeda biscuits or ‘Bob’s own’ hardtack –

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part 118

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