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A SERIES OF HIS EPISTOLARY CORRESPONDENCE
AND CONVERSATIONS WITH MANY EMINENT PERSONS;
Α Ν D
VARIOUS ORIGINAL PIECES OF HIS COMPOSITION,
NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED.
THE WHOLE EXHIBITING A VIEW OF LITERATURE AND LITERARY MEN
DURING WHICH HE FLOURISHED.
N 1776, Johnson wrote, so far as I can discover, nothing for the publick: 1776. but that his mind was still ardent, and fraught with generous wishes to
Ætat. 67. attain to still higher degrees of literary excellence, is proved by his private notes of this year, which I shall insert in their proper place.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, Eja. " DEAR SIR,
“ I HAVE at last fent you all Lord Hailes's papers. While I was in
“ Among the papers, I found a letter to you, which I think you had not
« 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,
“ Your affectionate humble servant, Jan, 10, 1776.
At this time was in agitation a matter of great consequence 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 occasion 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 necessary to give a state of the question, which I shall do as briefly as I can.
In the year 1504, the barony or manour of Auchinleck, (pronounced Afleck,) in Ayrshire, which belonged to a family of the same name with the lands, having fallen to the Crown by forfeiture, James the Fourth, King of Scotland, granted it to Thomas Boswell, a branch of an ancient family in the county of Fife, stiling him in the charter, “ dilecto familiari noftro;” and assigning, as the cause of the grant,“ pro bono et fideli servitio nobis præftito." Thomas Bofwell was Nain 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 Boswell, my father's great grand uncle, who had no fons, but four daughters, who were all respectably married, the eldest to Lord Cathcart.
David Boswell, being resolute in the military feudal principle of continuing the male succession, passed by his daughters, and settled the estate on his nephew by his next brother, who approved of the deed, and renounced any pretensions which he might possibly have, in preference to his son. But the estate having been burthened with large portions to the daughters, and other debts, it was necessary for the nephew to sell a considerable part of it, and what remained was still much encumbered.
The frugality of the nephew preserved, and, in some degree, relieved the estate. His son, my grandfather, an eminent lawyer, not only re-purchased a great part of what had been sold, but acquired other lands; and my father,
who was one of the Judges of Scotland, and had added considerably to the 1776. estate, now signified his inclination to take the privilege allowed by our law', Ætat. 67. to secure it to his family in perpetuity by an entail, which, on account of marriage articles, could not be done without my consent.
In the plan of entailing the estate, 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 succession. My father had declared a predilection for heirs general, that is, males and females indiscriminately. He was willing, however, that all males descending from his grandfather should be preferred to females; but would not extend that privilege to males deriving their descent from a higher source. 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 considerable weight”. And in the particular case of our family, I apprehended that we were under an implied obligation, in honour and good faith, to transmit the estate by the same tenure which we held it, which was as heirs male, excluding nearer females. I therefore, as I thought conscientiously, objected to my father's scheme.
• Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, 1685, Cap. 22. ? As first, the opinion of some distinguished naturalists, that our species is transmitted 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 seems to be confirmed by that text of scripture, “ He was yet in the loins of his FATHER when Melchisedeck met him ;” (Heb. vi. 10.) and consequently, that a man's grandson by a daughter, instead of being his fureft descendant, as is vulgarly said, has, in reality, no connection whatever with his blood.--And secondly, independent of this theory, (which, if true, should completely exclude heirs general,) that if the preference of a male to a female, without regard to primogeniture, (as a son, though much younger, nay, even a grandson by a fon, to a daughter,) be once admitted, as it universally is, it must be equally reasonable and proper in the most remote degree of descent from an original proprietor of an estate, as in the nearest; because, -however distant from the representative at the time,-that remote heir male, opon the failure of those nearer to the original proprietor than he is, becomes in fact the nearest male to bim, and is, therefore, preferable as his representative, to a female descendant.-A little extension of mind will enable us easily to perceive that a son's son, in continuation to whatever length of time, is preferable to a fon's daughter, in the succession to an ancient inheritance ; in which regard should 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 demonstration of the reasonableness of the legal succession, upon the principle of there being the greatest probability that the nearest heir of the person who laft dies proprietor of an estate, is of the blood of the first purchaser. But supposing a pedigree to be carefully authenticated through all its branches, instead of mere probability there will be a certainty, that the nearest heir male, at whatever period, has the same right of blood with the first heir male, namely, the original purchafer's eldest son. B 2