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Mr. Thomson, master of the grammar-school at Lanark. He was of a humane and benevolent disposition: not only sent valuable presents to his sisters, but a yearly allowance in money, and was always wishing to have it in his power to do them more good. Lord Lyttleton's observation, that he loathed much to write,' was very true. His letters to his sister, Mrs. Thomson, were not frequent, and in one of them he says, 'All my friends who know me know how backward I am to write letters, and never impute the negligence of my hand to the coldness of my heart.' I send you a copy of the last letter which she had from him; she never heard that he had any intention of going into holy orders. From this late interview with his sister I think much more favourably of him, as I hope you will. I am eager to see more of your Prefaces to the Poets: I solace myself with the few proof-sheets which I have.
"I send another parcel of Lord Hailes's 'Annals,' which you will please to return to me as soon as you conveniently can. He says, 'he wishes you would cut a little deeper;' but he may be proud that there is so little occasion to use the critical knife. I ever am, my dear Sir, your faithful and affectionate humble servant,
Mr. Langton has been pleased, at my request, to favour me with some particulars of Dr. Johnson's visit to Warley camp,' where this gentleman was at the time stationed as a Captain in the Lincolnshire militia. I shall give them in his own words, in a letter to me :
"It was in the summer of the year 1778 that he complied with my invitation to come down to the camp at Warley, and he stayed with me about a week. The scene appeared, notwithstanding a great degree of ill health that he seemed to labour under, to interest and amuse him, as agreeing with the disposition that I believe you know he constantly manifested towards inquiring into subjects of the military kind. He sat, with a patient degree of attention, to observe the proceedings of a regimental court-martial, that happened to be called in the time of his stay with us; and one night, as late as eleven o'clock, he accompanied the Major of the regiment in going what are styled the Rounds, where he might observe the forms of visiting the guards, for seeing that they and their sentries are ready in their duty on their several posts. He took occasion to converse at times on military topics, one in particular that I see the mention of, in your 'Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,' which lies open before me, as to gunpowder; which he spoke of to the same effect, in part, that you relate.
"On one occasion, when the regiment were going through their exercise, he went quite close to the men at one of the extremities of it, and watched all their practice attentively; and when he came away his remark was, 'The men indeed do load their muskets and fire with wonderful celerity.' He was likewise particular in inquiring to know what was the weight of the musket balls in use, and within what distance they might be expected to take effect when fired off.
Warley is a small township, near Halifax. in Yorkshire.
"In walking among the tents, and observing the difference between those of the officers and private men, he said, that the superiority of accommodation of the better conditions of life, to that of the inferior ones, was never exhibited to him in so distinct a view. The civilities paid to him in the camp were from the gentlemen of the Lincolnshire regiment, one of the officers of which accommodated him with a tent in which he slept; and from General Hall who very courteously invited him to dine with him, where he appeared to be very well pleased with this entertainment, and the civilities he received on the part of the General;1 the attention likewise of the General's aid-de-camp, Captain Smith, seemed to be very welcome to him, as appeared by their engaging in a great deal of discourse together. The gentlemen of the East York regiment likewise, on being informed of his coming, solicited his company at dinner; but by that time he had fixed his departure, so that he could not comply with the invitation."
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
London, July 3, 1778.
"I have received two letters from you, of which the second complains of the neglect shown to the first. You must not tie your friends to such punctual correspondence. You have all possible assurances of my affection and esteem; and there ought to be no need of reiterated professions. When it may happen that I can give you either counsel or comfort, I hope it will never happen to me that I should neglect you; but you must not think me criminal or cold, if I say nothing when I have nothing to say.
"You are now happy enough. Mrs. Boswell is recovered; and I congratulate you upon the probability of her long life. If general approbation will add anything to your enjoyment, I can tell you that I have heard you mentioned as a man whom everybody likes. I think life has little more to give.
[Langton] has gone to his regiment. He has laid down his coach, and talks of making more contractions of his expense; how he will succeed I know not. It is difficult to reform a household gradually; it may be better done by a system totally new. I am afraid he has always something to hide. When we pressed him to go to he objected the necessity of attending his navigation; yet he could talk of going to Aberdeen, a place not much nearer his navigation. I believe he cannot bear the thought of living at [Langton] in a state of diminution; and of appearing among the gentlemen of the neighbourhood shorn of his beams. This is natural, but it is cowardly. What
I told him of the increasing expense of a growing family seems to have struck him. He certainly had gone on with very confused views, and we have, I think, shown him that he is wrong; though, with the common deficience of advisers, we have not shown him how to do right.
"I wish you would a little correct or restrain your imagination, and imagine that happiness, such as life admits, may be had at other places as well as
1 When I one day at Court expressed to General Hall my sense of the honour he had done my friend, he politely answered, "Sir, I did myself honour."-BOSWELL.
London. Without asserting Stoicism, it may be said, that it is our business to exempt ourselves as much as we can from the power of external things. There is but one solid basis of happiness, and that is, the reasonable hope of a happy futurity. This may be had everywhere.
"I do not blame your preference of London to other places, for it is really to be preferred, if the choice is free; but few have the choice of their place, or their manner of life; and mere pleasure ought not to be the prime motive of action.
"Mrs. Thrale, poor thing, has a daughter. Mr. Thrale dislikes the times, like the rest of us. Mrs. Williams is sick; Mrs. Desmoulins is poor. I have miserable nights. Nobody is well but Mr. Levett.
"I am, dear Sir, your most, &c.,
In the course of this year there was a difference between him and his friend Mr. Strahan, the particulars of which it is unnecessary to relate. Their reconciliation was communicated to me in a letter from Mr. Strahan in the following words :
"The notes I showed you that passed between him and me were dated in March last. The matter lay dormant till July 27, when he wrote to me as follows:X
TO WILLIAM STRAHAN, ESQ.
It would be very foolish for us to continue strangers any longer. You can never by persistency make wrong right. If I resented too acrimoniously, I resented only to yourself. Nobody ever saw or heard what I wrote. You saw that my anger was over; for in a day or two I came to your house. I have given you a longer time, and I hope you have made so good use of it as to be no longer on evil terms with, Sir, your, &c.,
"On this I called upon him, and he has since dined with me."
After this time the same friendship as formerly continued between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Strahan. My friend mentioned to me a little circumstance of his attention, which, though we may smile at it, must be allowed to have its foundation in a nice and true knowledge of human life. "When I write to Scotland," said he, "I employ Strahan to frank my letters, that he may have the consequence of appearing a Parliament man among his countrymen."
I suspect that this is a misprint, and that Johnson wrote "without affecting Stoicism;" but the original letter being burned in a mass of papers in Scotland, I have not been able to ascertain whether my conjecture is well founded or not. The expression in the text, however, may be justified.-MALONE.
October 31, 1778.
"When I recollect how long ago I was received with so much kindness at Warley Common, I am ashamed that I have not made some inquiries after my friends.
"Pray how many sheep-stealers did you convict? and how did you When are punish them? you to be cantoned in better habitations? The air grows cold, and the ground damp. Longer stay in the camp cannot be without much danger to the health of the the men, if even officers can escape.
"You see that Dr. Percy is now Dean of Carlisle; about five hundred a year, with a · power of presenting himself to some good living. He is provided for.
"The session of the CLUB is to commence with that of the Parliament. Mr. Banks2 desires to be admitted; he will be a very honourable accession.
SIR JOSEPHI BANKS.
"Did the king please you?
The Coxheath men, I think, have some reason to complain: Reynolds says your camp is better than theirs.
"I hope you find yourself able to encounter this weather. Take care of own health; and, as you can, of your men. Be pleased to make my compliinents to all the gentlemen whose notice I have had, and whose kindness I have experienced.
"I am, dear Sir,
"Your most humble servant,
I wrote to him on the 18th of August, the 18th of September, and the 6th of November; informing him of my having another son born, whom I had called James; that I had passed some time at Auchinleck;
1 Dr. Johnson here addresses his worthy friend, Bennet Langton, Esq., by his title as Captain of the Lincolnshire militia, in which he has since been most deservedly raised to the rank of Major.-BOSWELL.
Afterwards Sir Joseph Banks, the distinguished President of the Royal Society.
that the Countess of Loudoun, now in her ninety-ninth year, was as fresh as when he saw her, and remembered him with respect; and that his mother by adoption, the Countess of Eglintoune, had said to me, "Tell Mr. Johnson I love him exceedingly; that I had again suffered much from bad spirits; and that, as it was very long since I heard from him, I was not a little uneasy."
The continuance of his regard for his friend Dr. Burney appears from the following letters :
"TO THE REVEREND DR. WHEELER, OXFORD.
"DEAR SIR, London, November 2, 1778. "Dr. Burney, who brings this paper, is engaged in a History of Music; and having been told by Dr. Markham of some MSS. relating to his subject, which are in the library of your College, is desirous to examine them. He is my friend, and therefore I take the liberty of entreating your favour and assistance in his inquiry; and can assure you, with great confidence, that if you knew him he would not want any intervenient solicitation to obtain the kindness of one who loves learning and virtue as you love them.
"I have been flattering myself all the summer with the hope of paying my annual visit to my friends, but something has obstructed me; I still hope not to be long without seeing you. I should be glad of a little literary talk, and glad to show you, by the frequency of my visits, how eagerly I love it, when you talk it.
"I am, dear Sir, your most humble servant,
"TO THE REVEREND DR. EDWARDS, OXFORD.
London, November 2, 1778. *The bearer, Dr. Burney, has had some account of a Welsh manuscript in the Bodleian library, from which he hopes to gain some materials for hig History of Music; but being ignorant of the language, is at a loss where tc find assistance. I make no doubt but you, Sir, can help him through his difficulties, and therefore take the liberty of recommending him to your favour, as I am sure you will find him a man worthy of every civility that can be shown, and every benefit that can be conferred.
"But we must not let Welsh drive us from Greek. What comes of Xenophon? If you do not like the trouble of publishing the book, do not let your commentaries be lost. Contrive that they may be published somewhere. "I am, Sir, your humble servant,
These letters procured Dr. Burney great kindness and friendly offices from both of these gentlemen, not only on that occasion but in future visits to the university. The same year Dr. Johnson not only wrote to Dr. Joseph Warton in favour of Dr. Burney's younger son, who was to