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Dr. Johnson's letter was as follows:
TO THE LAIRD OF RASAY. “DEAR SIR,—Mr. Boswell has this day shown me a letter, in which you complain of a passage in the Journey to the Hebrides.' My meaning is mistaken. I did not intend to
you had personally made any cession of the rights of your house, or any acknowledgment of the superiority of Macleod of Dunvegan. I only designed to express what I thought generally admitted that the house of Rasay allowed the superiority of the liouse of Dunvegan. Even this I now find to be erroneous, and will therefore omit or retract it in the next edition.
“Though what I said had been true, if it had been disagreeable to you I should have wished it unsaid; for it is not my business to adjust precedence. As it is mistaken, I find myself disposed to correct, both by my respect for you, and my reverence for truth.
“As I know not when the book will be reprinted, I have desired Mr. Boswell to anticipate the correction in the Edinburgh papers. This is all that can be done.
"I hope I may now venture to desire that my compliments may be made, and my gratitude expressed, to Lady Rasay, Mr. Malcolm Macleod, Mr. Donald Macqueen, and all the gentlemen and all the ladies whom I saw in the island of Rasay; a place which I remember with too much pleasure and too much kindness, not to be sorry that my ignorance or hasty persuasion should, for a single moment, have violated its tranquillity.
“I beg you all to forgive an undesigned and involuntary injury, and to consider me as, sir, your most obliged, and most humble servant, “ London, May 6, 1775."
“ Sam. JOHNSON.* It would be improper for me to boast of my own labours ; but I cannot refrain from publishing such praise as I received from such a man as Sir William Forbes, of Pitsligo, after the perusal of the original manuscript of my Journal.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“Edinburgh, March 7, 1777. “MY DEAR SIR,--I ought to have thanked you sooner for your very obliging letter, and for the singular confidence you are pleased to place in me, when you trust me with such a curious and valuable deposit as the papers you have sent mest Be assured I have a due sense of this favour, and shall faithfully and carefully return them to you. You may rely that I shall neither copy any part, nor permit the papers to be seen.
“ They contain a curious picture of society, and form a journal on the most instructive plan that can possibly be thought of; for I am not sure that an ordinary
* Rasay was highly gratified, and afterwards visited and din ed with Dr. Johnson, at his house in London.-Boswell. (He died December 16, 1786,aged sixty-nine.-Ed.]
+ In justice both to Sir William Forbes and myself, it is proper to mention, that the papers which were submitted to his perusal contained only an account of our Tour from the time that Dr. Johnson and I set out from Edinburgh, and consequently did not contain the eulogium on Sir William Forbes, which he never saw till this book appeared in print; nor did he even know, when he wrote the above letter, that this Journal was to be published.-BOSWELL.
observer would become so well acquainted either with Dr. Johnson or with the manners of the Hebrides, by a personal intercourse, as by a perusal of your journal. I am very truly, dear sir, your most obedient and affectionate humble servant,
“ WILLIAM FORBES.”
When I consider how many of the persons mentioned in this Tour are now gone to “ that undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns," I feel an impression at once awful and tender.Requiescant in pace!
It may be objected by some persons, as it has been by one of my friends, that he who has the power of thus exhibiting an exact transcript of conversations is not a desirable member of society. I repeat the answer which I made to that friend : “Few, very few, need be afraid that their sayings will be recorded. Can it be imagined that I would take the trouble to gather what grows on every hedge, because I have collected such fruits as the “Nonpareil” and the “ Bon Chretien ?”
On the other hand, how useful is such a faculty, if well exercised ! To it we owe all those interesting apophthegms and memorabilia of the ancients, which Plutarch, Xenophon, and Valerius Maximus have transmitted to us. To it we owe all those instructive and entertaining collections which the French have made under the title of Ana, affixed to some celebrated name. To it we owe the “ Table-Talk" of Selden, the Conversation between Ben Jonson and Drummond of Hawthornden, Spence's Anecdotes of Pope, and other valuable remains in our own language. How delighted should we have been, if thus introduced into the company of Shakspeare and of Dryden, of whom we know scarcely anything but their admirable writings! What pleasure would it have given us to have known their petty habits, their characteristic manners, their modes of composition, and their genuine opinion of preceding writers and of their contemporaries! All these are now irrecoverably lost. Considering how many of the strongest and most brilliant effusions of exalted intellect must have perished, how much is it to be regretted that all men of distinguished wisdom and wit have not been attended by friends, of taste enough to relish, and abilities enough to register their conversation :
Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
* * Before great Agamemnon reigned
Reigned kings as great as he and brave, Whose huge ambition's now contained
In the small compass of a grave;
They whose inferior exertions are recorded, as serving to explain or illustrate the sayings of such men, may be proud of being thus associated, and of their names being transmitted to posterity, by being appended to an illustrious character.
Before I conclude, I think it proper to say, that I have suppressed*
In endless night they sleep unwept, unknown,
Having found on a revisiou of the first edition of this work, that, notwithstanding my best care, a few observations had escaped me which arose from the instant impression, the publication of which might perhaps be considered as passing the bounds of a strict decorum, I immediately ordered that they should be omitted in the subsequent editions. I was pleased to find that they did not amount in the whole to a page. If any of the same kind are yet left, it is owing to inadvertence alone, no man being more unwilling to give pain to others than I am. A contemptible scribbler, of whom I have learned no more than that, after having disgraced and deserted the clerical charucter, he picks up in London a scanty livelihood by scurrilous lampoons under a feigned name, has impudently and falsely asserted that the passages omitted were defamatory, and that the omission was not vol tary but compulsory. The last insinuation I took the trouble publicly to disprove ; yet, like one of Pope's dunces, he persevered in “the lie o'erthrown." As to the charge of defamation, there is an obvious and certain mode of refuting it. Any person who thinks it worth while to compare one edition with the other, will find that the passages omitted were not in the least degree of that nature, but exactly such as I have represented them in the former part of this note, the hasty effusion of momentary feelings, which the delicacy of politeness should have suppressed.-Boswell.
[The scribbler with the feigned name was Dr. Wolcot, the well-known “ Peter Pindar," who, though bred to medicine, took orders and was a short time in the Church. Peter, it must be confessed, did no honour to the clerical character-his "lampoons" were better than his sermons or his life. In his satirical “ Epistle to Boswell,” Wolcot asserted, both in the text and notes, that Lord Macdonald sent a severe remon. strance to Boswell, threatening him with personal chastisement for the manner in which he had spoken of him in the Journal, in consequence of which certain passages were omitted. What remains, however, is depreciatory enough. The bitterness with which Boswell mentions Wolcot's witty and laughable satire shows that he had not profited by Johnson's maxim that it is advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. We give part of Peter's postscript, which must have been galling to Boswell from its happy ridicule of his style and mental capacity :
“It will be adding greatly to the anecdotical treasury, as well as making Mr. Boswell happy, to communicate part of a dialogue that took place between Dr. Johnson and the author of this congratulatory epistle, a few months before the doctor paid the great debt of nature. The doctor was very cheerful that day: had on a black coat and waistcoat, a black plush pair of breeches, and black worsted stockings, a handsome grey wig, a shirt, a muslin neckcloth, a black pair of buttons in his shirt-sleeves, a pair of shoes ornamented with the very identical little buckles that accompanied the philosopher to the Hebrides; his nails were very neatly pared, and his beard fresh shaved with a razor fabricated by the ingenious Mr. Savigny.
"P. P.: Pray, doctor, what is your opinion of Mr. Boswell's literary powers ?
“JOHNSON: Sir, my opinion is, that whenever Bozzy expires, he will create no vacuum in the region of literature. He seems strongly affected by the cacoethes scre. bendi, wishes to be thought a rara avis—and in truth so he is—your knowledge in ornithology, sir, will easily discover to what species of bird I allude. (Here the doctor shook bis head and laughed.)
“P. P.: What think you, sir, of his account of Corsica-of his character of Paoli?
every thing which I thought could really hurt any one now living. Vanity and self-conceit indeed may sometimes suffer. With regard to what is related, I consider it my duty to "extenuate nothing, nor set down aught in malice;" and with those lighter strokes of Dr. Johnson's satire, proceeding from a warmth and quickness of imagination, not from any malevolence of heart, and which, on account of their excellence, could not be omitted, I trust that they who are the subject of them have good sense and good temper enough not to be displeased.
I have only to add, that I shall ever reflect with great pleasure on a tour, which has been the means of preserving so much of the enlightened and instructive conversation of one whose virtues will, I hope, ever be an object of imitation, and whose powers of mind were so extraordinary, that ages may revolve before such a man shall again appear.
“JOHNSON: Sir, he hath made a mountain of a wart; but Paoli hath virtues. The account is a farrago of disgusting egotism and pompous inanity!
“P. P.: I have heard it whispered, doctor, that, should you die before him, Mr. B. means to write your life.
“Johnson: Sir, he cannot mean me so irreparable an injury. Which of us shall die first is only known to the Great Disposer of events; but were I sure that James Boswell would write my life, I do not know whether I would not anticipate tae measure by taking his. (Hero he made three or four strides across the room, and returned to his chair with violent emotion.)"—ED.7
In justice to the ingenious DR. BLACKLOCK, I publish the following letter from him, relative to a passage
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. "DEAR SIR, -Having lately had the pleasure of reading your account of the journey which you took with Dr. Samue Johnson to the Western Isles, I take the liberty of transmitting my ideas of the conversation which happened between the doctor and myself concerning lexicography and poetry, which, as it is a little different from the delineation exhibited in the former edition of your Journal, cannot, I hope, be unacceptable; particularly since I have been informed that a second edition of that work is now in contemplation, if not in execution; and I am still more strongly tempted to encourage that hope from considering that, if every one concerned in the conversations related were to send you what they can recollect of these colloquial entertainments, many curious and interesting particulars might be recovered, which the most assiduons attention could not observe, nor the most tenacious memory retain. A little reflection, sir, will convince you, that there is not an axiom in Euclid more intuitive nor more evident than the doctor's assertion that poetry was of much easier execution than lexicography. Any mind, therefore, endowed with common-sense, must have been extremely absent from itself, if it discovered the least astonishmeti: from hearing that a poem might be written with much more facility than the same quantity of a dictionary.
“ The real cause of my surprise was what appeared to me much more paradoxical, that he could write a sheet of dictionary with as much pleasure as a sheet of poetry. He acknowledged, indeed, that the latter was much easier than the former. For in the one case, books and a desk were requisite; in the other you might compose when lying in bed, or walking in the fields, &c. He did not, however, descend to explain, nor to this moment can I comprehend, how the labours of a mere philologist, in the most refined sense of that term, could give equal pleasure with the exercise of a mind replete with elevated conceptions and pathetic ideas, while taste, fancy, and intellect were deeply enamoured of nature, and in full exertion. You may likewise, perhaps, remember, that when I complained of the ground which scepticism in religion and morals was continually gaining, it did not appear to be on my own account, as my private opinions upon these important subjects had long been inflexibly determined. What I then deplored, and still deplore, was the unhappy influence which that gloomy hesitation had, not only upon particular characters, but even upon life in general; as being equally the bane of action in our present state, and of such consolations as we might derive from the hopes of a future.
“I have the pleasure of remaining, with sincere esteem and respect, dear gir, your most obedient humble servant,
“THOMAS BLACKLOCK.” “Edinburgh, Nov. 12, 1785.”