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TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “ DEAR SIR,
March 5, 1776. “I have not had your letter half-an-hour; as you lay so much weight upon my notions, I should think it not just to delay my answer.
“I am very sorry that your melancholy should return, and should be sorry likewise if it could have no relief but from my company. My counsel you may have when you are pleased to require it; but of my company you cannot in the next month have much, for Mr. Thrale will take me to Italy, he says, on the 1st of April.
“Let me warn you very earnestly against scruples. I am glad that you are reconciled to your settlement, and think it a great honour to have shaken Lord Hailes's opinion of entails. Do not, however, hope wholly to reason away your troubles; do not feed them with attention, and they will die imperceptibly away. Fix your thoughts upon your business, fill your intervals with company, and sunshine will again break in upon your mind. If you will come to me, you must come very quickly; and even then I know not but we may scour the country together, for I have a mind to see Oxford and Lichfield, before I set out on this long journey. To this I can only add that I am, dear Sir, “ Your most affectionate humble servant,
TO THE SAME. “ DEAR SIR,
March 12, 1776. “Very early in April we leave England, and in the beginning of the next week I shall leave London for a short time; of this I think it necessary to inform you, that you may not be disappointed in any of your enterprises. I had not fully resolved to go into the country before this day.
“Please to make my compliments to Lord Hailes; and mention very particularly to Mrs. Boswell my hope that she is reconciled to, Sir,
“ Your faithful servant,
Above thirty years ago, the heirs of Lord Chancellor Clarendon pre-sented the University of Oxford with the continuation of his History, and such other of his Lordship's manuscripts as had not been published, on condition that the profits arising from their publication should be applied to the establishment of a Manège in the University. The gift was accepted in full convocation. A person being now recommended to Dr. Johnson, as fit to superintend this proposed riding school, he exerted himself with that zeal for which he was remarkable upon every similar occasion. But, on inquiry into the matter, he found that the scheme was not likely to be soon carried into execution : the profits arising from the Clarendon press being, from some mismanagement, very scanty This having been explained to him by a respectable dignitary of the church, who had good means of knowing it, he wrote a letter upon the subject, which at once exhibits his extraordinary precision and acuteness, and his warm attachment to his ALMA MATER.
TO THE REVEREND DR. WETHERELL, MASTER OF UNIVERSITY-COLLEGE,
OXFORD. “DEAR SIR,
March 12, 1776. “Few things are more unpleasant than the transaction of business with men who are above knowin or caring what they have to do; such as the trustees for Lord Cornbury's institution will, perhaps, appear, when you have read Dr.
's letter. “The last part of the Doctor's letter is of great importance. The complaint? which he makes I have heard long ago, and did not know but it was redressed. It is unhappy that a practice so erroneous has not been altered ; for altered it must be, or our press will be useless with all its privileges. The booksellers, who, like all other men, have strong prejudices in their own favour, are enough inclined to think the practice of printing and selling books by any but themselves, an encroachment on the rights of their fraternity; and have need of stronger inducements to circulate academical publications than those of another; for, of that mutual co-operation by which the general trade is carried on, the University can bear no part. Of those whom he neither loves nor fears, and from whom he expects no reciprocation of good offices, why should any man promote the interest but for profit? I suppose, with all our scholastic ignorance of mankind, we are still too knowing to expect that the booksellers will erect themselves into patrons, and buy and sell under the influence of a disinterested zeal for the promotion of learning.
“To the booksellers, if we look for either honour or profit from our press, not only their common profit, but something more must be allowed; and if books, printed at Oxford, are expected to be rated at a high price, that price must be levied on the public, and paid by the ultimate purchaser, not by the intermediate agents. What price shall be set upon the book, is, to the booksellers, wholly indifferent, provided that they gain a proportionate profit by negociating the sale.
“Why books printed at Oxford should be particularly dear, I am, however, unable to find. We pay no rent; we inherit many of our instruments and materials; lodging and victuals are cheaper than at London; and, therefore, workmanship ought, at least, not to be dearer. Our expenses are naturally less than those of booksellers; and in most cases, communities are content with less profit than individuals.
" It is, perhaps, not considered through how many hands a book often passes, before it comes into those of the reader; or what part of the profit each hand must retain, as a motive for transmitting it to the next.
“We will call our primary agent in London, Mr. Cadell, who receives our books from us, gives them room in his warehouse, and issues them on demand; by him they are sold to Mr. Dilly, a wholesale bookseller, who sends them into the country; and the last bookseller is the country bookseller. Here are three profits to be paid between the printer and the reader, or in the style of commerce, between the manufacturer and the consumer; and if any of these profits is too penuriously distributed, the process of commerce is interrupted.
1 I suppose the complaint was, that the trustees of the Oxford press did not allow the London booksellers a sufficient profit upon vending their publications.-BOSWELL
“We are now come to the practical question, What is to be done? You will tell me, with reason, that I have said nothing, till I declare how much, according to my opinion, of the ultimate price ought to be distributed through the whole succession of sale.
“The deduction, I am afraid, will appear very great; but let it be considered before it is refused. We must allow, for profit, between thirty and thirty-five per cent., between six and seven shillings in the pound; that is for every book which costs the last buyer twenty shillings, we must charge Mr. Cadell with something less than fourteen. We must set the copies at fourteen shillings each, and superadd what is called the quarterly book, or for every hundred books so charged, we must deliver an hundred and four.
“The profits will then stand thus :
“Mr. Cadell, who runs no hazard, and gives no credit, will be paid for warehouse room and attendance by a shilling profit on each book, and his chance of the quarterly-book.
“Mr. Dilly, who buys the book for fifteen shillings, and who will expect the quarterly-book if he takes five-and-twenty, will send it to his country customer at sixteen and sixpence, by which, at the hazard of loss, and the certainty of long credit, he gains the regular profit of ten per cent. which is expected in the wholesale trade.
“The country bookseller, buying at sixteen and sixpence, and commonly trusting a considerable time, gains but three and sixpence; and if he trusts a year, not much more than two and sixpence; otherwise than as he may, perhaps, take as long credit as he gives.
“With less profit than this (and more you see he cannot have), the country bookseller cannot live; for his receipts are small, and his debts sometimes bad. “ Thus, dear Sir, I have been incited by Dr,
-'s letter to give you a detail of the circulation of books, which, perhaps, every man has not had opportunity of knowing; and which those who know it, do not, perhaps, always distinctly consider.
“I am, &c.,
1 I am happy, in giving this full and clear statement to the public, to vindicate, by the authority of the greatest author of his age, that respectable body of men, the Booksellers of London, from vulgar reflections, as if their profits were exorbitant, when, in truth, Dr. Johnson has here allowed them more than they usually demand.-BOSWELL.
[This letter of Johnson's was extensively quoted and criticised during the disputes among the London Booksellers, in 1852, caused by some members of the retail trade selling books at less than the published price, and consequently underselling their neighbours. Ed.]
BOSWELL AGAIN VISITS LONDON-BOLT COURT, LAW OF ENTAILS-ADAM SMITH'S “ WEALTH OF NATIONS"-LAWYERS AND LAW-SUITS-SCOTCH MILITIA Bill-" JohxSONIANA
_ EXCURSION TO OXFORD WITH BOSWELL-ADVICE TO HYPOCHONDRIACS-DR. WETHERELLDR. ADAMS—BISHOP HORNE-MR. THOMAS WARTOX-DODSLEY-GIBBON's “ DECLINE AND FALL”-BLENHEIM-JOHNSON EXPATIATES ON THE COMFORTS OBTAINABLE AT INNS -Dyer's “ FLEECE "-GRAINGER'S “Sugar CANE"-JOHNSON AND BOSWELL ARRIVE AT BIRMINGHAM-LEGITIMATION BY SUBSEQUENT MARRIAGE — QUAKERS -- MR. HECTOR MR. BOULTON, OF SOHO-JOHNSON AND BOSWELL VISIT LICHFIELD-DR. TAYLOR, OF ASHBOURNE.
HAVING arrived in London late on Friday, the 15th of March, I
hastened next morning to wait on Dr. Johnson, at his house ; but found he was removed from Johnson's-court, No. 7, to Bolt-court, No. 8, still keeping to his favourite Fleet-street. My reflection at the time
upon this change, as marked in my Journal, is as follows : " I felt a foolish regret that he had left a court which bore his name;? but it was not foolish to be affected with some tenderness of regard for a place in which I had seen him a great deal, from whence I had often issued a better and a happier man than I went in, and which had often appeared to my imagination while I trod its pavement, in the solemn darkness of the night, to be sacred to wisdom and piety.” Being informed that he was at Mr. Thrale's, in the Borough, I hastened thither, and found Mrs. Thrale and him at breakfast. was kindly welcomed. In a moment he was in a full glow of conversation, and I felt myself elevated as if brought into another state of being. Mrs. Thrale and I looked to each other while he talked, and our looks expressed our congenial admiration and affection for him. I shall ever recollect this scene with great pleasure. I exclaimed to her, “I am now, intellectually, Hermippus redivivus, I am quite restored by him, by transfusion of mind." “There are many,” she replied, “ who admire and respect Mr. Johnson ; but you and I love him.”
1 He said, when in Scotland, that he was Johnson of that Ilk.-BOSWELL.
He seemed very happy in the near prospect of going to Italy with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. But,” said he,“ before leaving England I am to take a jaunt to Oxford, Birmingham, my native city Lichfield, and my old friend, Dr. Taylor's, at Ashbourne, in Derbyshire. I shall go in a few days, and you, Boswell, shall go with me.” I was ready to accompany him, being willing even to leave London to have the pleasure of his conversation.
I mentioned with much regret the extravagance of the representative of a great family in Scotland, by which there was danger of its being ruined; and as Johnson respected it for its antiquity, he joined with me in thinking it would be happy if this person should die. Mrs. Thrale seemed shocked at this, as feudal barbarity ; and said, “I do not understand this preference of the estate to its owner; of the land to the man who walks upon that land.” JOHNSON : Nay, Madam, it is not a preference of the land to its owner ; it is the preference of a family to an individual. Here is an establishment in a country, which is of importance for ages, not only to the chief, but to his people; an establishment which extends upwards and downwards; that this should be destroyed by one idle fellow is a sad thing."
He said, Entails are good, because it is good to preserve in a country a series of men, to whom the people are accustomed to look up as to their leaders. But I am for leaving a quantity of land in commerce, to excite industry, and keep money in the country; for if no land were to be bought in the country, there would be no encouragement to acquire wealth, because a family could not be founded there; or if it were acquired, it must be carried away to another country where land may be bought. And although the land in every country will remain the same, and be as fertile where there is no money, as where there is, yet all that portion of the happiness of civil life, which is produced by money circulating in a country, would be lost.” BOSWELL: Then, Sir, would it be for the advantage of a country that all ite