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Whatever may have passed elsewhere concerning it, the House of Lords is wise and independent :
Intaminatis fulgit honoribus;
I have read, conversed, and thought much upon the subject, and would recommeud to all who are capable of conviction an excellent tract by my learned and ingenious friend John Ranby, Esq., entitled, "Doubts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade." To Mr. Ranby's "Doubts," I will apply Lord Chancellor Hardwicke's expression in praise of a Scotch law book, called "Dirleton's Doubts." "His Doubts," said his Lordship, "are better than most people's Certainties.”
When I said now to Johnson, that I was afraid I kept him too late up, "No, Sir," said he, "I don't care though I sit all night with you." This was an animated speech from a man in his sixtyninth year.
Had I been as attentive not to displease him as I ought to have been, I know not but this vigil might have been fulfilled; but I unluckily entered upon the controversy concerning the right of Great Britain to tax America, and attempted to argue in favour of our fellowsubjects on the other side of the Atlantic. I insisted that America might be very well governed, and made to yield sufficient revenue by the means of influence, as exemplified in Ireland, while the people might be pleased with the imagination of their participating of the British constitution, by having a body of representatives, without whose consent money could not be exacted from them. Johnson could not bear my thus opposing his avowed opinion, which he had exerted himself with an extreme degree of heat to enforce; and the violent agitation into which he was thrown, while answering, or rather reprimanding me, alarmed me so, that I heartily repented of my having unthinkingly introduced the subject. I myself, however, grew warm, and the change was great, from the calm state of philosophical discussion in which we had a little before been pleasingly employed.
I talked of the corruption of the British Parliament, in which I alleged that any question, however unreasonable or unjust, might be carried by a venal majority; and I spoke with high admiration of the Roman Senate, as if composed of men sincerely desirous to resolve what they should think best for their country. My friend would allow no such character to the Roman Senate; and he maintained that the British Parliament was not corrupt, and that there was no occasion to corrupt its members; asserting, that there was hardly ever any question of great
1 Horat. Carm. 1. iii. Od. ii. 18
importance before Parliament, any question in which a man might not very well vote either upon one side or the other. He said, there had been none in his time except that respecting America.
We were fatigued by the contest, which was produced by my want of caution; and he was not then in the humour to slide into easy and cheerful talk. It therefore so happened, that we were, after an hour or two, very willing to separate and go to bed.
On Wednesday, September 24, I went into Dr. Johnson's room before he got up, and finding that the storm of the preceding night was quite laid, I sat down upon his bed-side, and he talked with as much readiness and good humour as ever. He recommended to me to plant a considerable part of a large moorish farm which I had purchased, and he made several calculations of the expense and profit; for he delighted in exercising his mind on the science of numbers. He pressed upon me the importance of planting at the first in a very sufficient manner, quoting the saying "In bello non licet bis errare:" and adding, "This is equally true in planting."
I spoke with gratitude of Dr. Taylor's hospitality; and as evidence that it was not on account of his good table alone that Johnson visited him often. I mentioned a little anecdote which had escaped my friend's recollection, and at hearing which repeated, he smiled. One evening, when I was sitting with him, Frank delivered this message: "Sir, Dr. Taylor sends his compliments to you, and begs you will dine with him to-morrow. He has got a hare." "My compliments," said Johnson, "and I'll dine with him-hare or rabbit."
After breakfast I departed, and pursued my journey northwards. I took my post-chaise from the Green Man, a very good inn at Ashbourne, the mistress of which, a mighty civil gentlewoman, courtesying very low, presented me with an engraving of the sign of her house; to which she had subjoined, in her own handwriting, an address in such singular simplicity of style, that I have preserved it pasted upon one of the boards of my original Journal at this time, and shall here insert it for the amusement of my readers :
"M. Killingley's duty waits upon Mr. Boswell, is exceedingly obliged to him for this favour; whenever he comes this way, hopes for the continuance of the same. Would Mr. Boswell name the house to his extensive acquaintance, it would be a singular favour conferr'd on one who has it not in her power to make any other return but her most grateful thanks, and sincerest prayers for his happiness in time, and in a blessed eternity.
From this meeting at Ashbourne I derived a considerable accession to my Johnsonian store. I communicated my original Journal to Sir William Forbes, in whom I have always placed deserved confidence ;
and what he wrote to me concerning it is so much to my credit as the biographer of Johnson, that my readers will, I hope, grant me their indulgence for here inserting it: "It is not once or twice going over it," says Sir William, "that will satisfy me; for I find in it a high degree of instruction as well as entertainment; and I derive more benefit from Dr. Johnson's admirable discussions than I should be able to draw from his personal conversation; for, I suppose there is not a man in the world to whom he discloses his sentiments so freely as to yourself."
I cannot omit a curious circumstance which occurred at Edensor inn, close to Chatsworth, to survey the magnificence of which I had gone a considerable way out of my road to Scotland. The inn was then kept by a very jolly landlord, whose name, I think, was Malton. He happened to mention that "the celebrated Dr. Johnson had been in his house." I inquired who this Dr. Johnson was, that I might hear my host's notion of him. Sir," said he, "Johnson, the great writer; Oddity, as they call him. He's the greatest writer in England; he writes for the ministry; he has a correspondence abroad, and lets them know what's going on."
My friend, who had a thorough dependence upon the authenticity of my relation, without any embellishment, as falsehood or fiction is too gently called, laughed a good deal at this representation of himself.
66 MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
"MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, Sept. 29, 1777.
"By the first post I inform you of my safe arrival at my own house, and that I had the comfort of finding my wife and children all in good health.
"When I look back upon our late interview, it appears to me to have answered expectation better than almost any scheme of happiness that I ever put in execution. My journal is stored with wisdom and wit; and my memory is filled with the recollection of lively and affectionate feelings, which now, I think, yield me more satisfaction than at the time when they were first excited. I have experienced this upon other occasions. I shall be obliged to you if you will explain it to me; for it seems wonderful that pleasure should be more vivid at a distance than when near. I wish you may find yourself in a humour to do me this favour; but I flatter myself with no strong hope of it; for I have observed that, unless upon very serious occasions, your letters to me are not answers to those which I write."
[I then expressed much uneasiness that I had mentioned to him the name of the gentleman who had told me the story so much to his disadvantage, the truth of which he had completely refuted; for that my having done so might be interpreted as a breach of confidence, and offend
one whose society I valued-therefore earnestly requesting that no notice might be taken of it to anybody, till I should be in London, and have an opportunity to talk it over with the gentleman.]
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
London, Nov. 29, 1777.
"You will wonder, or you have wondered, why no letter has come from me. What you wrote at your return, had in it such a strain of cowardly caution as gave me no pleasure. I could not well do what you wished: I had no need to vex you with a refusal. I have seen Mr. Beauclerk, and as to him have set all right, without any inconvenience, so far as I know, to you. Mrs. Thrale had forgot the story. You may now be at ease.
"And at ease I certainly wish you for the kindness that you showed in coming so long a journey to see me. It was pity to keep you so long in pain; but, upon reviewing the matter, I do not see what I could have done better than I did.
"I hope you found at your return my dear enemy and all her little people quite well, and had no reason to repent of your journey. I think on it with great gratitude.
"I was not well when you left me at the Doctor's, and I grew worse; yet I stayed on, and at Lichfield was very ill. Travelling, however, did not make me worse; and when I came to London, I complied with a summons to go to Brighthelmstone, where I saw Beauclerk, and stayed three days.
"Our CLUB has recommenced last Friday, but I was not there. Langton. has another wench.1 Mrs. Thrale is in hopes of a young brewer. They got by their trade last year a very large sum, and their expenses are proportionate.
"Mrs. Williams's health is very bad. And I have had for some time a very difficult and laborious respiration; but I am better by purges, abstinence, and other methods. I am yet, however, much behind hand in my health and rest.
"Dr. Blair's sermons are now universally commended; but let him think that I had the honour of first finding and first praising his excellences. I did not stay to add my voice to that of the public.
'My dear Friend, let me thank you once more for your visit; you did me great honour, and I hope met with nothing that displeased you. I stayed long at Ashbourne, not much pleased, yet awkward at departing. I then went to Lichfield, where I found my friend at Stowhill very dangerously diseased. Such is life. Let us try to pass it well, whatever it be, for there is surely something beyond it.
Well, now, I hope all is well. Write as soon as you can to, dear Sir,
"Your affectionate servant,
A dangliter born to him.-BOSWELL.
"TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
"MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, Nov. 29, 1777.
"This day's post has at length relieved me from much uneasiness, by bringing me a letter from you. I was, indeed, doubly uneasy-on my own account and yours. I was very anxious to be secured against any bad consequences from my imprudence in mentioning the gentleman's name who had told me a story to your disadvantage; and as I could hardly suppose it possible that you would delay so long to make me easy, unless you were ill, I was not a little apprehensive about you. You must not be offended, when I venture to tell you that you appear to me to have been too rigid upon this occasion. The cowardly caution which gave you no pleasure,' was suggested to me by a friend here, to whom I mentioned the strange story and the detection of its falsity, as an instance how one may be deceived by what is apparently very good authority. But, as I am still persuaded that as I might have obtained the truth, without mentioning the gentleman's name, it was wrong in me to do it, I cannot see that you are just in blaming my caution; but if you were ever so just in your disapprobation, might you not have dealt more tenderly with me?
"I went to Auchinleck about the middle of October, and passed some time with my father very comfortably.
"I am engaged in a criminal prosecution against a country schoolmaster, for indecent behaviour to his female scholars. There is no statute against such abominable conduct; but it is punishable at common law. I shall be obliged .to you for your assistance in this extraordinary trial.
"I ever am, my dear Sir,
"Your faithful humble servant,
About this time I wrote to Johnson giving him an account of the decision of the Negro cause, by the Court of Session, which by those who hold even the mildest and best regulated slavery in abomination (of which number I do not hesitate to declare that I am none), should be remembered with high respect, and to the credit of Scotland; for it went upon a much broader ground than the case of Somerset, which was decided in England; being truly the general question, whether a perpetual obligation of service to one master in any mode should be sanctified by the law of a free country. A negro, then called Joseph Knight, a native of Africa, who having been brought to Jamaica in the usual course of the slave-trade, and purchased by a Scotch gentleman in that island, had attended his master to Scotland; where it was officiously suggested to him that he would be found entitled to his liberty without any limitation. He accordingly brought his action, in the
1 See State Trials, vol. xi. p. 339, and Mr. Hargrave's argument.-BoswELL.