Page images


Professor Maclaurin's epitaph. [August 17.

'Ubi luctus regnant et pavor.' He introduced the word prorsus into the line 'Mortalibus prorsus non absit solatium,' and after 'Hujus enim scripta evolve,' he added 'Mentemque tantarum rerum capacem corpori caduco superstitem crede;' which is quite applicable to Dr. Johnson himself'.

Mr. Murray, advocate, who married a niece of Lord Mansfield's, and is now one of the judges of Scotland, by the title of Lord Henderland, sat with us a part of the evening; but did not venture to say any thing, that I remember, though he is certainly possessed of talents which would have enabled him to have shewn himself to advantage, if too great anxiety had not prevented him.

At supper we had Dr. Alexander Webster, who, though not learned, had such a knowledge of mankind, such a fund of information and entertainment, so clear a head and such accommodating manners, that Dr. Johnson found him a very agreeable companion.

When Dr. Johnson and I were left by ourselves, I read to him my notes of the Opinions of our Judges upon the questions of Literary Property'. He did not like them; and said, 'they make me think of your Judges not with that respect which I should wish to do.' To the argument of one of them, that there can be no property in blasphemy or nonsense, he answered,' then your rotten sheep are mine!

'Mr. Maclaurin's epitaph, as engraved on a marble tombstone, in the Grey-Friars church-yard, Edinburgh :

Infra situs est


Mathes. olim in Acad. Edin. Prof. Electus ipso Newtono suadente.
H. L. P. F.

Non ut nomini paterno consulat,
Nam tali auxilio nil eget;
Sed ut in hoc infelici campo,
Ubi luctus regnant et pavor,

Mortalibus prorsus non absit solatium;
Hujus enim scripta evolve,

Mentemque tantarum rerum capacem
Corpori caduco superstitem crede.

See ante, i. 506, and post, p. 81.



August 18.] Boswell's description of himself.


By that rule, when a man's house falls into decay, he must lose it.' I mentioned an argument of mine, that literary performances are not taxed. As Churchill says,

'No statesman yet has thought it worth his pains

To tax our labours, or excise our brains';'

and therefore they are not property. Yet, (said he,) we hang a man for stealing a horse, and horses are not taxed.' Mr. Pitt has since put an end to that argument'.


On this day we set out from Edinburgh. We should gladly have had Mr. Scott to go with us; but he was obliged to return to England.—I have given a sketch of Dr. Johnson: my readers may wish to know a little of his fellow traveller'. Think then, of a gentleman of ancient blood,

'What is't to us, if taxes rise or fall,

Thanks to our fortune we pay none at all.

No statesman e'er will find it worth his pains,
To tax our labours and excise our brains.
Burthens like these vile earthly buildings bear,
No tribute's laid on Castles in the Air.'

Churchill's Poems, Night, ed. 1766, i. 89. Pitt, in 1784, laid a tax of ten shillings a year on every horse 'kept for the saddle, or to be put in carriages used solely for pleasure.' Parl. Hist. xxiv. 1028.

In 1763 he published the following description of himself in his Correspondence with Erskine, ed. 1879, p. 36. The author of the Ode to Tragedy is a most excellent man; he is of an ancient family in the west of Scotland, upon which he values himself not a little. At his nativity there appeared omens of his future greatness. His parts are bright; and his education has been good. He has travelled in postchaises miles without number. He is fond of seeing much of the world. He eats of every good dish, especially apple-pie. He drinks old hock. He has a very fine temper. He is somewhat of an humorist, and a little tinctured with pride. He has a good manly countenance, and he owns himself to be amorous. He has infinite vivacity, yet is observed at times to have a melancholy cast. He is rather fat than lean, rather short than tall, rather young than old.' He is oddly enough described in Arighi's Histoire de Pascal Paoli, i. 231, 'En tra



Johnson's encomium of Boswell. [August 18.

the pride of which was his predominant passion. He was then in his thirty-third year, and had been about four years happily married. His inclination was to be a soldier'; but his father, a respectable' Judge, had pressed him into the profession of the law. He had travelled a good deal, and seen many varieties of human life. He had thought more than any body supposed, and had a pretty good stock of general learning and knowledge'. He had all Dr. Johnson's principles, with some degree of relaxation. He had rather too little, than too much prudence; and, his imagination being lively, he often said things of which the effect was very different from the intention'. He resembled sometimes 'The best good man, with the worst natur'd muse'.'

He cannot deny himself the vanity of finishing with the encomium of Dr. Johnson, whose friendly partiality to the companion of his Tour represents him as one 'whose acuteness would help my enquiry, and whose gaiety of conversation, and civility of manners, are sufficient to counteract the inconveniences of travel, in countries less hospitable than we have passed'.'

versant la Mediterranée sur de frêles navires pour venir s'asseoir au foyer de la nationalité Corse, des hommes graves tels que Boswel et Volney obéissaient sans doute à un sentiment bien plus élevé qu'au besoin vulgaire d'une puérile curiosité.'

See ante, i. 462. ' Boswell, in the last of his Hypochondriacks, says :-' I perceive that my essays are not so lively as I expected they would be, but they are more learned. And I beg I may not be charged with excessive arrogance when I venture to say that they contain a considerable portion of original thinking.' London Mag. 1783, p. 124.

For respectable, see ante, iii. 273, note 2.

Burns, in The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer, says :'But could I like Montgomeries fight,

Or gab like Boswell.'

Boswell and Burns were born within a few miles of each other, Boswell being the elder by eighteen years.

[ocr errors]

For pointed satire I would Buckhurst choose,

The best good man, with the worst-natured muse.'

Rochester's Imitations of Horace, Sat. i. 10. 'Johnson's Works, ix. 1. See ante, ii. 318, where he wrote to Bos

Dr. Johnson

August 18.] Johnson's Diary of his own Life.


Dr. Johnson thought it unnecessary to put himself to the additional expence of bringing with him Francis Barber, his faithful black servant; so we were attended only by my man, Joseph Ritter, a Bohemian; a fine stately fellow above six feet high, who had been over a great part of Europe, and spoke many languages. He was the best servant I ever saw. Let not my readers disdain his introduction! For Dr. Johnson gave him this character: 'Sir, he is a civil man, and a wise man'.'

From an erroneous apprehension of violence, Dr. Johnson had provided a pair of pistols, some gunpowder, and a quantity of bullets: but upon being assured we should run no risk of meeting any robbers, he left his arms and ammunition in an open drawer, of which he gave my wife the charge. He also left in that drawer one volume of a pretty full and curious Diary of his Life, of which I have a few fragments; but the book has been destroyed. I wish female curiosity had been strong enough to have had it all transcribed; which might easily have been done; and I should think the theft, being pro bono publico, might have been forgiven. But I may be wrong. My wife told me she never

well: I have endeavoured to do you some justice in the first paragraph [of the Journey].' The day before he started for Scotland he wrote to Dr. Taylor:- Mr. Boswell, an active lively fellow, is to conduct me round the country.' Notes and Queries, 6th S. v. 422. 'His inquisitiveness,' he said, 'is seconded by great activity.' Works, ix. 8. On Oct. 7 he wrote from Skye:- Boswell will praise my resolution and perseverance; and I shall in return celebrate his good humour and perpetual cheerfulness. . . . It is very convenient to travel with him, for there is no house where he is not received with kindness and respect.' Piozzi Letters, i. 198. He told Mrs. Knowles that Boswell was the best travelling companion in the world.' Ante, iii. 334. Mr. Croker says (Croker's Boswell, p. 280):-- I asked Lord Stowell in what estimation he found Boswell amongst his countrymen. Generally liked as a good-natured jolly fellow," replied his lordship. But was he respected?" "Well, I think he had about the proportion of respect that you might guess would be shown to a jolly fellow." His lordship thought there was more regard than respect.' Hebrides, p. 40. 1 See ante, ii. 119, 472.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



The Frith of Forth.

[August 18.

once looked into it'.-She did not seem quite easy when we left her but away we went!

Mr. Nairne, advocate, was to go with us as far as St. Andrews. It gives me pleasure that, by mentioning his name, I connect his title to the just and handsome compliment paid him by Dr. Johnson, in his book: 'A gentleman who could stay with us only long enough to make us know how much we lost by his leaving us'.' When we came to Leith, I talked with perhaps too boasting an air, how pretty the Frith of Forth looked; as indeed, after the prospect from Constantinople, of which I have been told, and that from Naples, which I have scen, I believe the view of that Frith and its environs, from the Castle-hill of Edinburgh, is the finest prospect in Europe. Ay, (said Dr. Johnson,) that is the state of the world. Water is the same every where.

[ocr errors]

"Una est injusti cærula forma maris".""

[ocr errors]

I told him the port here was the mouth of the river or water of Leith. Not Lethe,' said Mr. Nairne. Why, Sir, (said Dr. Johnson,) when a Scotchman sets out from this port for England, he forgets his native country.' NAIRNE.

There were two quarto volumes of this Diary; perhaps one of them Johnson took with him. Boswell had 'accidentally seen them and had read a great deal in them,' as he owned to Johnson (ante, under Dec. 9, 1784), and moreover had, it should seem, copied from them (ante, i. 292). The 'few fragments' he had received from Francis Barber (ante, i. 32).

In the original 'how much we lost at separation.' Johnson's Works, ix. 1. Mr. William Nairne was afterwards a Judge of the Court of Sessions by the title of Lord Dunsinnan. Sir Walter Scott wrote of him :- 'He was a man of scrupulous integrity. When sheriff depute of Perthshire, he found upon reflection, that he had decided a poor man's case erroneously; and as the only remedy, supplied the litigant privately with money to carry the suit to the supreme court, where his judgment was reversed.' Croker's Boswell, p. 280. Non illic urbes, non tu mirabere silvas: Una est injusti cærula forma maris.

Ovid. Amor. L. II. El. xi.

Nor groves nor towns the ruthless ocean shows;
Unvaried still its azure surface flows.

BOSWELL. 'I hope,

« PreviousContinue »