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PROPOSALS FOR PUBLISHING TAE WORKS OF MRS. CHARLOTTE Lennox," AND PREFACE TO BARETTI's “ Easy Lessons"—CORRESPONDENCE WITH Boswell, AND WRITES LATIN INSCRIPTION FOR HIS Picture of Mary Queen of Scots-Questions the AUTHENTICITY OF Ossian's Poems, and Replies TO AN ANGRY LETTER FROM MACPHERSON-Johnson's PeRSONAL COURAGE-DEFEATS Foote's INTENDED MIMICRY—“JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN ISLANDS" PUBLISHED, AND SCOTTISH JEALOUSY AROUSED—The OSSIAN CONTROVERSY.
THE first effort of his pen in 1975 was, “Proposals for publishing
the Works of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox,” in three volurnes quarto. In his diary, January 2, I find this entry—“Wrote Charlotte's Proposals." But, indeed, the internal evidence would have been quite sufficient. Her claim to the favour of the public was thus enforced :
“Most of the pieces, as they appeared singly, have been read with approbation, perhaps above their merits, but of no great advantage to the writer. She hopes, therefore, that she shall not be considered as too indulgent to vanity, or too studious of interest, if from that labour which has hitherto been chiefly gainful to others, she endeavours to obtain at last some profit to herself and her children. She cannot decently enforce her claim by the praise of her own performances; nor can she suppose, that, by the most artful and laboured address, an additional notice could be procured to a publication, of which HER MAJESTY has condescended to be the PATRONESS."
He this year also wrote the preface to Baretti's “Easy Lessons in Italian and English.”
“TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “DEAR SIR,
January 14, 1775. “You never did ask for a book by the post till now, and I did not think on it. You see now it is done. I sent one to the King, and I hear he likes it
“I shall send a parcel into Scotland for presents, and intend to give to many of my friends. In your catalogue you left out Lord Auchinleck.
“Let me know, as fast as you read it, how you like it; and let me know if any mistake is committed, or anything important left out. I wish you could have seen the sheets. My compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and to Veronica, and to all my friends.
“I am, Sir,
“MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
" Edinburgh, Jan. 19, 1775. "Be pleased to accept of my best thanks for your "Journey to the Hebrides,' which came to me by last night's post. I did really ask the favour twice; but you have been even with me by granting it so speedily. Bis dat qui cito dat. Though ill of a bad cold, you kept me up the greatest part of last night; for I did not stop till I had read every word of your book. I looked back to our first talking of a visit to the Hebrides, which was many years ago, when sitting by ourselves in the Mitre tavern in London, I think about witching time o'night : and then exulted in contemplating our scheme fulfilled, and a monumentum perenne of it erected by your superior abilities. I shall only say, that
book has afforded me a high gratification. I shall afterwards give you my thoughts on particular passages. In the mean time, I hasten to tell you of your having mistaken two names, which you will correct in London, as I shall do here, that the gentlemen who deserve the valuable compliments which you have paid them, may enjoy their honours. In page 106, for Gordon read Murchison ; and in page 357, for Maclean read Macleod.
“But I am now to apply to you for immediate aid in my profession, which you have never refused to grant when I requested it. I inclose you a petition for Dr. Memis, a physician at Aberdeen, in which Sir John Dalrymple has exerted his talents, and which I am to answer as counsel for the managers of the Royal Infirmary in that city. Mr. Jopp, the Provost, who delivered to you your freedom, is one of my clients, and as a citizen of Aberdeen, you will support him.
“The fact is shortly this. In a translation of the charter of the Infirmary from Latin into English, made under the authority of the managers, the same phrase in the original is in one place rendered Physician, but when applied to Dr. Memis is rendered Doctor of Medicine. Dr. Memis complained of this before the translation was printed, but was not indulged in having it altered; and he has brought an action for damages, on account of a supposed injury, as if the designation given to him was an inferior one, tending to make it be supposed he is not a Physician, and consequently to hurt his practice. My father has dismissed the action as groundless, and now he has appealed to the whole court."l
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Jan. 1, 1775. “I long to hear how you like the book; it is, I think, much liked here. But Macpherson is very furious; can you give me any more intelligence about him, or his Fingal ? Do what you can, and do it quickly. Is Lord Hailes on
* Pray let me know what I owed you when I left you, that I may send it
“I am going to write about the Americans. If you have picked up any hints among your lawyers, who are great masters of the law of nations, or if your own mind suggest anything, let me know. But mum, it is a secret.
“I will send your parcel of books as soon as I can; but I cannot do as I wish. However, you find everything mentioned in the book which you recommended.
“ Langton is here; we are all that ever we were. He is a worthy fellow, without malice, though not without resentment. “Poor Beauclerk is so ill, that his life is thought to be in danger.
Lady Di nurses him with very great assiduity.
· Reynolds has taken too much to strong liquor, 2 and seems to delight in his new character.
• This is all the news that I have; but as you love verses, I will send you a few which I made upon Inchkenneth ;8 but remember the condition, you shall not show them, except to Lord Hailes, whom I love better than any man whom I know so little. If he asks you to transcribe them for him, you may do it, but I think he must promise not to let them be copied again, nor to show them as mine.
“I have at last sent back Lord Hailes's sheets. I never think about returning them, because I alter nothing. You will see that I might as well have kept them. However I am ashamed of my delay; and if I have the honour of receiving any more, promise punctually to return them by the next post. Make my compliments to dear Mrs. Boswell, and to Miss Veronica.
“I am, dear Sir,
1 In the Court of Session of Scotland an action is first tried by one of the judges, who is called the Lord Ordinary: and if either party is dissatisfied, he may appeal to the whole Court, consisting of fifteen, the Lord President and fourteen other judges, who have both in and out of court the title of Lords from the name of their estates; as, Lord Auchinleck, Lord Monboddo, &c.—Boswell.
2 It should be recollected, that this fanciful description of his friend was given by Johnson alter he himself had become a water-drinker.-BOSWELL.
3 See thein in“ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 3rd edit. p. 337.-BOSWELL. 4 He now sent me a Latin inscription for my historical picture Mary Queen of Scots, and
MB. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
“ Edinburgh, Jan. 27, 1775.
“You rate our lawyers here too high, when you call them great masters of the law of nations.
"As for myself, I am ashamed to say I have read little and thought little on the subject of America. I will be much obliged to you, if you direct me where I shall find the best information of what is to be said on both sides. It is a subject vast in its present extent and future consequences. The imperfect hints which now float in my mind, tend rather to the formation of an opinion that our government has been precipitant and severe in the resolutions taken against the Bostonians. Well do you know that I have no kindness for that race. But nations or bodies of men, should, as well as individuals, have a fair trial, and not be condemned on character alone. Have we not express contracts with our colonies, which afford a more certain foundation of judgment, than general political speculations on the mutual rights of States and their provinces or colonies ? Pray let me know immediately what to read, and I shall diligently endeavour to gather for you anything that I can find. Is Burke's speech on American taxation published by himself? Is it authentic ? I remember to have heard you say, that you had never considered East-Indian affairs ; though, surely, they are of much importance to Great Britain. Under the recollection of this, I shelter myself from the reproach of ignorance about the Americans. If you write upon the subject, I shall certainly understand it. But, since you seem to expect that I should know something of it, without your instruction, and that my own mind should suggest something, I trust you will put me in the way.
“What does Becket mean by the Originals of Fingal and other Poems of Ossian, which he advertises to have lain in his shop?
afterwards favoured me with an English translation. Mr. Alderman Boydell, that eminent Patron of the Arts, has subjoined them to the engraving from my picture.
“ Maria Scotorum Regina,
Libello, per quem
Sets her hand,
“TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “Dear Sir,
Jan, 28, 1775. “You sent me a case to consider, in which I have no facts but what are against us, nor any principles on which to reason. It is vain to write thus without materials. The fact seems to be agsinst you; at least, I cannot know nor say anything to the contrary. I am glad that you like the book so well. I hear no more of Macpherson. I shall long to know what Lord Hailes says of it. Lend it him privately. I shall send the parcel as soon as I can. Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell.
“I am, Sir, &c.,
MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, Feb. 2, 1775.
“As to Macpherson, I am anxious to have from yourself a full and pointed account of what has passed between you and him. It is confidently told here, that before your book came out, he sent to you, to let you know that he understood you meant to deny the authenticity of Ossian's poems; that the originals were in his possession ; that you might have inspection of them, and might take the evidence of people skilled in the Erse language ; and that he hoped, after this fair offer, you would not be so uncandid as to assert that he had refused reasonable proof. That you paid no regard to his message, but published your strong attack upon him; and then he wrote a letter to you, in such terms as he thought suited to one who had not acted as a man of veracity. You may believe it gives me pain to hear your conduct represented as unfavourable, while I can only deny what is said, on the ground that your character refutes it, without having any information to oppose. Let me, I beg it of you, be furnished with a sufficient answer to any calumny upon this occasion.
'Lord Hailes writes to me (for we correspond more than we talk together), * As to Fingal, I see a controversy arising, and purpose to keep out of its way. There is no doubt that I might mention some circumstances, but I do not choose to commit them to paper.'? What his opinion is, I do not know. He says, 'I am singularly obliged to Dr. Johnson for his accurate and useful criticisms. Had he given some strictures on the general plan of the work, it would have added much to its favours.' He is charmed with your verses on Inchkenneth, says they are very elegant, but bids me tell you he doubts whether
* Legitimas faciunt pectora pura preces,' be according to the rubric. But that is your concern, for you know he is a Presbyterian."
1. His Lordship, notwithstanding his resolution, did commit his sentiments to paper, and in one of his notes affixed to his Collection of Old Scottish Poetry, he says, that " to doubt the authenticity of those poems, is a refinement in Scepticism indeed.". J. BOSWELL, Jun.