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PRINTED FOR G. WALKER, J. AKERMAN, E. EDWARDS, J. HARWOOD,
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL. D.
AFTER I had been some time in Scotland, I mentioned to him in a letter, that "On my first return to my native country, after some years of absence, I was told of a vast number of my acquaintance who were all gone to the land of forgetfulness, and I found myself like a man stalking over a field of battle, who every moment perceives some one lying dead." I complained of irresolution, and mentioned my having made a vow as a security for good conduct. I wrote to him again without being able to move his indolence: nor did I hear from him till he had received a copy of my inaugural Exercise or Thesis in Civil Law, which I published at my admission as an advocate, as is the custom in Scotland. He then wrote to me as follows:
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
<6 DEAR SIR,
"THE reception of your Thesis put me in mind of my debt to you. Why did you
* * * •† I will
The passage omitted alluded to a private transaction.
punish you for it, by telling you that your Latin wants correction.* In the beginning, Spei alteræ, not to urge that it should be primæ, is not grammatical: alteræ should be alteri. In the next line you seem to use genus absolutely, for what we call family, that is, for illustrious extraction, I doubt without authority. Homines nullius originis, for Nullis orti majoribus, or, Nullo loco nati, is, as I am afraid, barbarous. Ruddiman is dead.
"I have now vexed you enough, and will try to please you. Your resolution to obey your
*This censure of my Latin relates to the Dedication, which was as follows:
VIRO NOBILISSIMO, ORNATISSIMO, :
ATAVIS EDITO REGIBUS
EXCELSE FAMILLE DE Bute speI ALTERÆ;
QUUM HOMINES NULLIUS ORIGINIS
GENUS EQUARE OPIBUS AGGREDIUNTUR,
NATALIUM SPLENDOREM VIRTUTIBUS AUGENTI; }
IN OPTIMATIUM VERO MAGNE BRITANNIÆ SENATU,
VIM INSITAM VARIA DOCTRINA PROMOVENTE,
NEC TAMEN SE VENDITANTE,
PRISCA FIDE, ANIMO LIBERRIMO,
IN ITALIE VISITANDE ITINERE,
DEVINCTISSIMÆ AMICITIE ET OBSERVANTE
D. D. C. Q.
father I sincerely approve; but do not accustom yourself to enchain your volatility by vows; they will sometime leave a thorn in your mind, which you will, perhaps, never be able to extract or eject. Take this warning; it is of great importance.
"The study of the law is what you very justly term it, copious and generous;* and in adding your name to its professors, you have done exactly what I always wished, when I wished you best. I hope that you will continue to pursue it vigorously and constantly. You gain, at least, what is no small advantage, security from those troublesome and wearisome discontents, which are always obtruding themselves upon a mind vacant, unemployed, and undetermined. You ought to think it no small inducement to diligence and perseverance, that they will please your father. We all live upon the hope of pleasing somebody; and the pleasure of pleasing ought to be greatest, and at last always will be greatest, when our endeavours are exerted in consequence of our duty.
"Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent: deliberation, which those who begin it by prudence, and continue it with subtilty, must, after long expense of thought, conclude by chance. To prefer one future mode of life
This alludes to the first sentence of the Proæmium of my Thesis. "JURISPRUDENTIÆ studio nullum uberius, nullum generosius: in legibus enim agitandis populorum mores, variasque fortunæ vices ex quibus leges oriuntur, contemplari simul solemus."