« AnteriorContinuar »
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
AN ACCOUNT OF HIS STUDIES
AND NUMEROUS WORKS,
IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER;
A SERIES OF HIS EPISTOLARY CORRESPONDENCE
VARIOUS ORIGINAL PIECES OF HIS COMPOSITION,
NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED.
THE WHOLE EXHIBITING A VIEW OF LITERATURE AND LITERARY MEN
N 1776, Johnson wrote, fo far as I can discover, nothing for the publick:
but that his mind was still ardent, and fraught with generous wishes to Etat. 67. attain to still higher degrees of literary excellence, is proved by his private notes of this year, which I fhall infert in their proper place.
To JAMES BOSWELL, Efq.
"I HAVE at last sent you all Lord Hailes's papers. While I was in France, I looked very often into Henault; but Lord Hailes, in my opinion, leaves him far, and far, behind. Why I did not dispatch fo fhort a perufal fooner, when I look back, I am utterly unable to discover: but human moments are ftolen away by a thoufand petty impediments which leave no trace behind them. I have been afflicted, through the whole Christmas, with the general disorder, of which the worst effect was a cough, which is now much mitigated, though the country, on which I look from a window at Streatham, is now covered with a deep fnow. Mrs. Williams is very ill: every body else is as ufual.
Among the papers, I found a letter to you, which I think you had not opened; and a paper for The Chronicle,' which I fuppofe it not neceffary now to infert. I return them both.
<< I have,
"I have, within these few days, had the honour of receiving Lord Hailes's first volume, for which I return my most respectful thanks.
" I wish you, my dearest friend, and your haughty lady, (for I know she does not love me,) and the young ladies, and the young Laird, all happiness. Teach the young gentleman, in spite of his mamma, to think and speak well of, Sir,
"Jan. 10, 1776.
"Your affectionate humble fervant,
At this time was in agitation a matter of great confequence to me and my family, which I should not obtrude upon the world, were it not that the part which Dr. Johnson's friendship for me made him take in it was the occafion of an exertion of his abilities, which it would be injustice to conceal. That what he wrote upon the subject may be understood, it is neceffary to give a ftate of the queftion, which I fhall do as briefly as I can.
In the year 1504, the barony or manour of Auchinleck, (pronounced Affleck,) in Ayrshire, which belonged to a family of the fame name with the lands, having fallen to the Crown by forfeiture, James the Fourth, King of Scotland, granted it to Thomas Bofwell, a branch of an ancient family in the county of Fife, ftiling him in the charter, "dilecto familiari noftro;" and affigning, as the cause of the grant, << pro bono et fideli fervitio nobis præftito." Thomas Boswell was flain in battle, fighting along with his Sovereign, at the fatal field of Floddon, in 1513.
From this very honourable founder of our family, the estate was transmitted, in a direct series of heirs male, to David Bofwell, my father's great grand uncle, who had no fons, but four daughters, who were all refpectably married, the eldest to Lord Cathcart.
David Bofwell, being resolute in the military feudal principle of continuing the male fucceffion, passed by his daughters, and fettled the eftate on his nephew by his next brother, who approved of the deed, and renounced any pretenfions which he might poffibly have, in preference to his fon. But the estate having been burthened with large portions to the daughters, and other debts, it was neceffary for the nephew to fell a confiderable part of it, and what remained was ftill much encumbered.
The frugality of the nephew preserved, and, in fome degree, relieved the estate. His fon, my grandfather, an eminent lawyer, not only re-purchased
a great part of what had been fold, but acquired other lands; and my father,
who was one of the Judges of Scotland, and had added confiderably to the 1776. eftate, now fignified his inclination to take the privilege allowed by our law', Etat. 67. to fecure it to his family in perpetuity by an entail, which, on account of marriage articles, could not be done without my confent.
In the plan of entailing the eftate, I heartily concurred with him, though I was the first to be restrained by it; but we unhappily differed as to the series of heirs which should be established, or in the language of our law, called to the fucceffion. My father had declared a predilection for heirs general, that is, males and females indifcriminately. He was willing, however, that all males defcending from his grandfather fhould be preferred to females; but would not extend that privilege to males deriving their descent from a higher fource. I, on the other hand, had a zealous partiality for heirs male, however remote, which I maintained, by arguments which appeared to me to have confiderable weight. And in the particular cafe of our family, I apprehended that we were under an implied obligation, in honour and good faith, to transmit the estate by the fame tenure which we held it, which was as heirs male, excluding nearer females. I therefore, as I thought confcientiously, objected to my father's scheme.
Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, 1685, Cap. 22.
As first, the opinion of fome diftinguished naturalifts, that our fpecies is tranfmitted through males only, the female being all along no more than a nidus, or nurse, as Mother Earth is to plants of every fort; which notion feems to be confirmed by that text of scripture, "He was yet in the loins of his FATHER when Melchifedeck met him :" (Heb. vi. 10.) and confequently, that a man's grandfon by a daughter, instead of being his fureft descendant, as is vulgarly faid, has, in reality, no connection whatever with his blood.-And fecondly, independent of this theory, (which, if true, fhould completely exclude heirs general,) that if the preference of a male to a female, without regard to primogeniture, (as a fon, though much younger, nay, even a grandfon by a fon, to a daughter,) be once admitted, as it univerfally is, it must be equally reasonable and proper in the most remote degree of defcent from an original proprietor of an eftate, as in the neareft; because, however diftant from the reprefentative at the time,-that remote heir male, upon the failure of thofe nearer to the original proprietor than he is, becomes in fact the nearest male to him, and is, therefore, preferable as his reprefentative, to a female defcendant.-A little extenfion of mind will enable us eafily to perceive that a fon's fon, in continuation to whatever length of time, is preferable to a fon's daughter, in the fucceffion to an ancient inheritance; in which regard fhould be had to the representation of the original proprietor, and not to that of one of his descendants.
I am aware of Blackstone's admirable demonftration of the reasonableness of the legal fucceffion, upon the principle of there being the greatest probability that the nearest heir of the perfon who laft dies proprietor of an eftate, is of the blood of the first purchaser. But fuppofing a pedigree to be carefully authenticated through all its branches, inftead of mere probability there will be a certainty, that the nearest heir male, at whatever period, has the fame right of blood with the first heir male, namely, the original purchafer's eldeft fon.