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Life Of Johnson, Vol. 3 by Boswell, Edited by Birkbeck Hill

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'I have been kept away from you, I know not well how, and of these
vexatious hindrances I know not when there will be an end. I therefore
send you the poor dear Doctor's epitaph. Read it first yourself; and if
you then think it right, shew it to the Club. I am, you know, willing to
be corrected. If you think any thing much amiss, keep it to yourself,
till we come together. I have sent two copies, but prefer the card. The
dates must be settled by Dr. Percy.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'May 16, 1776.'



'Miss Reynolds has a mind to send the Epitaph to Dr. Beattie; I am very
willing, but having no copy, cannot immediately recollect it. She tells
me you have lost it. Try to recollect and put down as much as you
retain; you perhaps may have kept what I have dropped. The lines for
which I am at a loss are something of _rerum civilium sive
naturalium_.'[238] It was a sorry trick to lose it; help me if you can. I
am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'June 22, 1776.

'The gout grows better but slowly[239].'

It was, I think, after I had left London this year, that this Epitaph
gave occasion to a _Remonstrance_ to the MONARCH OF LITERATURE, for an
account of which I am indebted to Sir William Forbes, of Pitsligo.

That my readers may have the subject more fully and clearly before them,
I shall first insert the Epitaph.

_Poetae, Physici, Historici,
Qui nullum fere scribendi genus
Non tetigit,
Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit.[240]
Sive risus essent movendi,
Sive lacrymae,
Affectuum potens at lenis dominator:
Ingenio sublimis, vividus, versatilis,
Oratione grandis, nitidus, venustus:
Hoc monumento memoriam coluit
Sodalium amor,
Amicorum fides,
Lectorum veneratio.
Natus in Hibernia Forniae Longfordiensis,
In loco cui nomen Pallas,
Eblanae literis institutus;
Obiit Londini,

Sir William Forbes writes to me thus:--

'I enclose the _Round Robin_. This _jeu d'esprit_ took its rise one day
at dinner at our friend Sir Joshua Reynolds's.[242] All the company
present, except myself, were friends and acquaintance of Dr.
Goldsmith[243]. The Epitaph, written for him by Dr. Johnson, became the
subject of conversation, and various emendations were suggested, which
it was agreed should be submitted to the Doctor's consideration. But the
question was, who should have the courage to propose them to him? At
last it was hinted, that there could be no way so good as that of a
_Round Robin_, as the sailors call it, which they make use of when they
enter into a conspiracy, so as not to let it be known who puts his name
first or last to the paper. This proposition was instantly assented to;
and Dr. Barnard, Dean of Derry, now Bishop of Killaloe[244], drew up an
address to Dr. Johnson on the occasion, replete with wit and humour, but
which it was feared the Doctor might think treated the subject with too
much levity. Mr. Burke then proposed the address as it stands in the
paper in writing, to which I had the honour to officiate as clerk.

'Sir Joshua agreed to carry it to Dr. Johnson, who received it with much
good humour[245], and desired Sir Joshua to tell the gentlemen, that he
would alter the Epitaph in any manner they pleased, as to the sense of
it; but _he would never consent to disgrace the walls of Westminster
Abbey_ with an English inscription.

'I consider this _Round Robin_ as a species of literary curiosity worth
preserving, as it marks, in a certain degree, Dr. Johnson's character.'

My readers are presented with a faithful transcript of a paper, which I
doubt not of their being desirous to see.

Sir William Forbes's observation is very just. The anecdote now related
proves, in the strongest manner, the reverence and awe with which
Johnson was regarded, by some of the most eminent men of his time, in
various departments, and even by such of them as lived most with him;
while it also confirms what I have again and again inculcated, that he
was by no means of that ferocious and irascible character which has been
ignorantly imagined.

This hasty composition is also to be remarked as one of a thousand
instances which evince the extraordinary promptitude of Mr. Burke; who
while he is equal to the greatest things, can adorn the least; can, with
equal facility, embrace the vast and complicated speculations of
politicks, or the ingenious topicks of literary investigation.[246]



'You must not think me uncivil in omitting to answer the letter with
which you favoured me some time ago. I imagined it to have been written
without Mr. Boswell's knowledge, and therefore supposed the answer to
require, what I could not find, a private conveyance.

'The difference with Lord Auchinleck is now over; and since young
Alexander[247] has appeared, I hope no more difficulties will arise among
you; for I sincerely wish you all happy. Do not teach the young ones to
dislike me, as you dislike me yourself; but let me at least have
Veronica's kindness, because she is my acquaintance.

'You will now have Mr. Boswell home; it is well that you have him; he
has led a wild life. I have taken him to Lichfield, and he has followed
Mr. Thrale to Bath. Pray take care of him, and tame him. The only thing
in which I have the honour to agree with you is, in loving him; and
while we are so much of a mind in a matter of so much importance, our
other quarrels will, I hope, produce no great bitterness. I am, Madam,

'Your most humble servant,


'May 16, 1776.'


'Edinburgh, June 25, 1776.

'You have formerly complained that my letters were too long. There is no
danger of that complaint being made at present; for I find it difficult
for me to write to you at all. [Here an account of having been afflicted
with a return of melancholy or bad spirits.]

'The boxes of books[248] which you sent to me are arrived; but I have not
yet examined the contents.

* * * * *

'I send you Mr. Maclaurin's paper for the negro, who claims his freedom
in the Court of Session.[249]'


'Dear Sir,

'These black fits, of which you complain, perhaps hurt your memory as
well as your imagination. When did I complain that your letters were too
long[250]? Your last letter, after a very long delay, brought very bad
news. [Here a series of reflections upon melancholy, and--what I could
not help thinking strangely unreasonable in him who had suffered so much
from it himself,--a good deal of severity and reproof, as if it were
owing to my own fault, or that I was, perhaps, affecting it from a
desire of distinction.]

'Read Cheyne's _English Malady_;[251] but do not let him teach you a
foolish notion that melancholy is a proof of acuteness.

'To hear that you have not opened your boxes of books is very offensive.
The examination and arrangement of so many volumes might have afforded
you an amusement very seasonable at present, and useful for the whole of
life. I am, I confess, very angry that you manage yourself so ill.[252]

'I do not now say any more, than that I am, with great kindness, and
sincerity, dear Sir,

'Your humble servant,
'July 2, 1776.'

'It was last year[253] determined by Lord Mansfield, in the Court of
King's Bench, that a negro cannot be taken out of the kingdom without
his own consent.'



'I make haste to write again, lest my last letter should give you too
much pain. If you are really oppressed with overpowering and involuntary
melancholy, you are to be pitied rather than reproached.

* * * * *

'Now, my dear Bozzy, let us have done with quarrels and with censure.
Let me know whether I have not sent you a pretty library. There are,
perhaps, many books among them which you never need read through; but
there are none which it is not proper for you to know, and sometimes to
consult. Of these books, of which the use is only occasional, it is
often sufficient to know the contents, that, when any question arises,
you may know where to look for information.

'Since I wrote, I have looked over Mr. Maclaurin's plea, and think it
excellent. How is the suit carried on? If by subscription, I commission
you to contribute, in my name, what is proper. Let nothing be wanting in
such a case. Dr. Drummond[254], I see, is superseded. His father would
have grieved; but he lived to obtain the pleasure of his son's election,
and died before that pleasure was abated.

'Langton's lady has brought him a girl, and both are well; I dined with
him the other day.

'It vexes me to tell you, that on the evening of the 29th of May I was
seized by the gout, and am not quite well. The pain has not been
violent, but the weakness and tenderness were very troublesome, and what
is said to be very uncommon, it has not alleviated my other disorders.
Make use of youth and health while you have them; make my compliments to
Mrs. Boswell. I am, my dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate


'July 6[255], 1776.'


'Edinburgh, July 18, 1776.


'Your letter of the second of this month was rather a harsh medicine;
but I was delighted with that spontaneous tenderness, which, a few days
afterwards, sent forth such balsam as your next brought me. I found
myself for some time so ill that all I could do was to preserve a decent
appearance, while all within was weakness and distress. Like a reduced
garrison that has some spirit left, I hung out flags, and planted all
the force I could muster, upon the walls. I am now much better, and I
sincerely thank you for your kind attention and friendly counsel.

* * * * *

'Count Manucci[256] came here last week from travelling in Ireland. I have
shewn him what civilities I could on his own account, on yours, and on
that of Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. He has had a fall from his horse, and been
much hurt. I regret this unlucky accident, for he seems to be a very
amiable man.'

As the evidence of what I have mentioned at the beginning of this year,
I select from his private register the following passage:

'July 25, 1776. O GOD, who hast ordained that whatever is to be desired
should be sought by labour, and who, by thy blessing, bringest honest
labour to good effect, look with mercy upon my studies and endeavours.
Grant me, O LORD, to design only what is lawful and right; and afford me
calmness of mind, and steadiness of purpose, that I may so do thy will
in this short life, as to obtain happiness in the world to come, for the
sake of JESUS CHRIST our Lord. Amen.[257]

It appears from a note subjoined, that this was composed when he
'purposed to apply vigorously to study, particularly of the Greek and
Italian tongues.'

Such a purpose, so expressed, at the age of sixty-seven, is admirable
and encouraging; and it must impress all the thinking part of my readers
with a consolatory confidence in habitual devotion, when they see a man
of such enlarged intellectual powers as Johnson, thus in the genuine
earnestness of secrecy, imploring the aid of that Supreme Being, 'from
whom cometh down every good and every perfect gift[258].'



'A young man, whose name is Paterson, offers himself this evening to the
Academy. He is the son of a man[259] for whom I have long had a kindness,
and who is now abroad in distress. I shall be glad that you will be
pleased to shew him any little countenance, or pay him any small
distinction. How much it is in your power to favour or to forward a
young man I do not know; nor do I know how much this candidate deserves
favour by his personal merit, or what hopes his proficiency may now give
of future eminence. I recommend him as the son of my friend. Your
character and station enable you to give a young man great encouragement
by very easy means. You have heard of a man who asked no other favour of
Sir Robert Walpole, than that he would bow to him at his levee.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'Aug. 3, 1776.'


'Edinburgh, August 30, 1776.

[After giving him an account of my having examined the chests of books
which he had sent to me, and which contained what may be truely called a
numerous and miscellaneous _Stall Library_, thrown together at

'Lord Hailes was against the decree in the case of my client, the
minister;[260] not that he justified the minister, but because the
parishioner both provoked and retorted. I sent his Lordship your able
argument upon the case for his perusal. His observation upon it in a
letter to me was, "Dr. Johnson's _Suasorium_ is pleasantly[261] and
artfully composed. I suspect, however, that he has not convinced
himself; for, I believe that he is better read in ecclesiastical
history, than to imagine that a Bishop or a Presbyter has a right to
begin censure or discipline _e cathedra[262]_."

* * * * *

'For the honour of Count Manucci, as well as to observe that exactness
of truth which you have taught me, I must correct what I said in a
former letter. He did not fall from his horse, which might have been an
imputation on his skill as an officer of cavalry; his horse fell with

'I have, since I saw you, read every word of Granger's _Biographical
History_. It has entertained me exceedingly, and I do not think him the
_Whig_ that you supposed.[263] Horace Walpole's being his patron[264] is,
indeed, no good sign of his political principles. But he denied to Lord
Mountstuart that he was a Whig, and said he had been accused by both
parties of partiality. It seems he was like Pope,

"While Tories call me Whig, and Whigs a Tory[265]."

'I wish you would look more into his book; and as Lord Mountstuart
wishes much to find a proper person to continue the work upon Granger's
plan, and has desired I would mention it to you; if such a man occurs,
please to let me know. His Lordship will give him generous



'Having spent about six weeks at this place, we have at length resolved
upon returning. I expect to see you all in Fleet-street on the 30th of
this month.

'I did not go into the sea till last Friday[266], but think to go most of
this week, though I know not that it does me any good. My nights are
very restless and tiresome, but I am otherwise well.

'I have written word of my coming to Mrs. Williams. Remember me kindly
to Francis and Betsy. I am, Sir,

'Your humble servant,

'SAM. JOHNSON[267].'

'Brighthelmstone[268], Oct. 21, 1776'

I again wrote to Dr. Johnson on the 21st of October, informing him, that
my father had, in the most liberal manner, paid a large debt for me[269],
and that I had now the happiness of being upon very good terms with him;
to which he returned the following answer.



'I had great pleasure in hearing that you are at last on good terms with
your father[270]. Cultivate his kindness by all honest and manly means.
Life is but short; no time can be afforded but for the indulgence of
real sorrow, or contests upon questions seriously momentous. Let us not
throw away any of our days upon useless resentment, or contend who shall
hold out longest in stubborn malignity. It is best not to be angry; and
best, in the next place, to be quickly reconciled. May you and your
father pass the remainder of your time in reciprocal benevolence!

* * * * *

'Do you ever hear from Mr. Langton? I visit him sometimes, but he does
not talk. I do not like his scheme of life[271]; but as I am not permitted
to understand it, I cannot set any thing right that is wrong. His
children are sweet babies.

'I hope my irreconcileable enemy, Mrs. Boswell, is well. Desire her not
to transmit her malevolence to the young people. Let me have Alexander,
and Veronica, and Euphemia, for my friends.

'Mrs. Williams, whom you may reckon as one of your well-wishers, is in a
feeble and languishing state, with little hope of growing better. She
went for some part of the autumn into the country, but is little
benefited; and Dr. Lawrence confesses that his art is at an end. Death
is, however, at a distance; and what more than that can we say of
ourselves? I am sorry for her pain, and more sorry for her decay. Mr.
Levett is sound, wind and limb.

'I was some weeks this autumn at Brighthelmstone. The place was very
dull, and I was not well; the expedition to the Hebrides was the most
pleasant journey that I ever made[272]. Such an effort annually would give
the world a little diversification.

'Every year, however, we cannot wander, and must therefore endeavour to
spend our time at home as well as we can. I believe it is best to throw
life into a method, that every hour may bring its employment, and every
employment have its hour. Xenophon observes, in his _Treatise of
Oeconomy_[273], that if every thing be kept in a certain place, when any
thing is worn out or consumed, the vacuity which it leaves will shew
what is wanting; so if every part of time has its duty, the hour will
call into remembrance its proper engagement.

'I have not practised all this prudence myself, but I have suffered much
for want of it; and I would have you, by timely recollection and steady
resolution, escape from those evils which have lain heavy upon me[274]. I
am, my dearest Boswell,

'Your most humble servant,


'Bolt-court, Nov. 16, 1776.'

On the 16th of November I informed him that Mr. Strahan had sent me
_twelve_ copies of the _Journey to the Western Islands_, handsomely
bound, instead of the _twenty_ copies which were stipulated[275]; but
which, I supposed, were to be only in sheets; requested to know how they
should be distributed: and mentioned that I had another son born to me,
who was named David, and was a sickly infant.



'I have been for some time ill of a cold, which, perhaps, I made an
excuse to myself for not writing, when in reality I knew not what to

'The books you must at last distribute as you think best, in my name, or
your own, as you are inclined, or as you judge most proper. Every body
cannot be obliged; but I wish that nobody may be offended. Do the best
you can.

'I congratulate you on the increase of your family, and hope that little
David is by this time well, and his mamma perfectly recovered. I am much
pleased to hear of the re-establishment of kindness between you and your
father. Cultivate his paternal tenderness as much as you can. To live at
variance at all is uncomfortable; and variance with a father is still
more uncomfortable. Besides that, in the whole dispute you have the
wrong side; at least you gave the first provocations, and some of them
very offensive[276]. Let it now be all over. As you have no reason to
think that your new mother has shewn you any foul play, treat her with
respect, and with some degree of confidence; this will secure your
father. When once a discordant family has felt the pleasure of peace,
they will not willingly lose it. If Mrs. Boswell would but be friends
with me, we might now shut the temple of Janus.

'What came of Dr. Memis's cause[277]? Is the question about the negro
determined[278]? Has Sir Allan any reasonable hopes[279]? What is become of
poor Macquarry[280]? Let me know the event of all these litigations. I
wish particularly well to the negro and Sir Allan.

'Mrs. Williams has been much out of order; and though she is something
better, is likely, in her physician's opinion, to endure her malady for
life, though she may, perhaps, die of some other. Mrs. Thrale is big,
and fancies that she carries a boy; if it were very reasonable to wish
much about it, I should wish her not to be disappointed. The desire of
male heirs is not appendant only to feudal tenures. A son is almost
necessary to the continuance of Thrale's fortune; for what can misses do
with a brewhouse? Lands are fitter for daughters than trades[281].

'Baretti went away from Thrale's in some whimsical fit of disgust, or
ill-nature, without taking any leave[282]. It is well if he finds in any
other place as good an habitation, and as many conveniencies. He has got
five-and-twenty guineas by translating Sir Joshua's _Discourses_ into
Italian, and Mr. Thrale gave him an hundred in the spring[283]; so that he
is yet in no difficulties.

'Colman has bought Foote's patent, and is to allow Foote for life
sixteen hundred pounds a year, as Reynolds told me, and to allow him to
play so often on such terms that he may gain four hundred pounds
more[284]. What Colman can get by this bargain, but trouble and hazard, I
do not see. I am, dear Sir,

'Your humble servant,


'Dec. 21, 1776.'

The Reverend Dr. Hugh Blair, who had long been admired as a preacher at
Edinburgh, thought now of diffusing his excellent sermons more
extensively, and encreasing his reputation, by publishing a collection
of them. He transmitted the manuscript to Mr. Strahan, the printer, who
after keeping it for some time, wrote a letter to him, discouraging the
publication[285]. Such at first was the unpropitious state of one of the
most successful theological books that has ever appeared. Mr. Strahan,
however, had sent one of the sermons to Dr. Johnson for his opinion; and
after his unfavourable letter to Dr. Blair had been sent off, he
received from Johnson on Christmas-eve, a note in which was the
following paragraph:

'I have read over Dr. Blair's first sermon with more than approbation;
to say it is good, is to say too little[286].'

I believe Mr. Strahan had very soon after this time a conversation with
Dr. Johnson concerning them; and then he very candidly wrote again to
Dr. Blair, enclosing Johnson's note, and agreeing to purchase the
volume, for which he and Mr. Cadell gave one hundred pounds. The sale
was so rapid and extensive, and the approbation of the publick so high,
that to their honour be it recorded, the proprietors made Dr. Blair a
present first of one sum, and afterwards of another, of fifty pounds,
thus voluntarily doubling the stipulated price; and when he prepared
another volume, they gave him at once three hundred pounds, being in all
five hundred pounds, by an agreement to which I am a subscribing
witness; and now for a third octavo volume he has received no less than
six hundred pounds.

1777: AETAT. 68.--In 1777, it appears from his _Prayers and Meditations_,
that Johnson suffered much from a state of mind 'unsettled and
perplexed[287],' and from that constitutional gloom, which, together with
his extreme humility and anxiety with regard to his religious state,
made him contemplate himself through too dark and unfavourable a medium.
It may be said of him, that he 'saw GOD in clouds[288].' Certain we may be
of his injustice to himself in the following lamentable paragraph, which
it is painful to think came from the contrite heart of this great man,
to whose labours the world is so much indebted:

'When I survey my past life, I discover nothing but a barren waste of
time, with some disorders of body, and disturbances of the mind, very
near to madness,[289] which I hope He that made me will suffer to
extenuate many faults, and excuse many deficiencies[290].'

But we find his devotions in this year eminently fervent; and we are
comforted by observing intervals of quiet, composure, and gladness.

On Easter-day we find the following emphatick prayer:

'Almighty and most merciful Father, who seest all our miseries, and
knowest all our necessities, look down upon me, and pity me. Defend me
from the violent incursion [incursions] of evil thoughts, and enable me
to form and keep such resolutions as may conduce to the discharge of the
duties which thy providence shall appoint me; and so help me, by thy
Holy Spirit, that my heart may surely there be fixed, where true joys
are to be found, and that I may serve thee with pure affection and a
cheerful mind. Have mercy upon me, O GOD, have mercy upon me; years and
infirmities oppress me, terrour and anxiety beset me. Have mercy upon
me, my Creator and my Judge. [In all dangers protect me.] In all
perplexities relieve and free me; and so help me by thy Holy Spirit,
that I may now so commemorate the death of thy Son our Saviour JESUS
CHRIST, as that when this short and painful life shall have an end, I
may, for his sake, be received to everlasting happiness. Amen[291].'

While he was at church, the agreeable impressions upon his mind are thus

'I was for some time distressed, but at last obtained, I hope from the
GOD of Peace, more quiet than I have enjoyed for a long time. I had made
no resolution, but as my heart grew lighter, my hopes revived, and my
courage increased; and I wrote with my pencil in my Common Prayer Book,

"Vita ordinanda.
Biblia legenda.
Theologiae opera danda.
Serviendum et laetandum[292]."'

Mr. Steevens whose generosity is well known, joined Dr. Johnson in kind
assistance to a female relation of Dr. Goldsmith, and desired that on
her return to Ireland she would procure authentick particulars of the
life of her celebrated relation[293]. Concerning her there is the
following letter:--



'You will be glad to hear that from Mrs. Goldsmith, whom we lamented as
drowned, I have received a letter full of gratitude to us all, with
promise to make the enquiries which we recommended to her.

'I would have had the honour of conveying this intelligence to Miss
Caulfield, but that her letter is not at hand, and I know not the
direction. You will tell the good news.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most, &c.


'February 25, 1777.'


'Edinburgh, Feb. 14, 1777.

'My Dear Sir,

'My state of epistolary accounts with you at present is extraordinary.
The balance, as to number, is on your side. I am indebted to you for two
letters; one dated the 16th of November, upon which very day I wrote to
you, so that our letters were exactly exchanged, and one dated the 21st
of December last.

'My heart was warmed with gratitude by the truely kind contents of both
of them; and it is amazing and vexing that I have allowed so much time
to elapse without writing to you. But delay is inherent in me, by nature
or by bad habit. I waited till I should have an opportunity of paying
you my compliments on a new year. I have procrastinated till the year is
no longer new.

* * * * *

'Dr. Memis's cause was determined against him, with L40 costs. The Lord
President, and two other of the Judges, dissented from the majority,
upon this ground;--that although there may have been no intention to
injure him by calling him _Doctor of Medicine_, instead of _Physician_,
yet, as he remonstrated against the designation before the charter was
printed off, and represented that it was disagreeable, and even hurtful
to him, it was ill-natured to refuse to alter it, and let him have the
designation to which he was certainly entitled. My own opinion is, that
our court has judged wrong. The defendants were _in mala fide_, to
persist in naming him in a way that he disliked. You remember poor
Goldsmith, when he grew important, and wished to appear _Doctor Major_
[294], could not bear your calling him _Goldy_[295]. Would it not have
been wrong to have named him so in your _Preface to Shakspeare_, or in
any serious permanent writing of any sort? The difficulty is, whether an
action should be allowed on such petty wrongs. _De minimis non curat

'The Negro cause is not yet decided. A memorial is preparing on the side
of slavery. I shall send you a copy as soon as it is printed. Maclaurin
is made happy by your approbation of his memorial for the black.

'Macquarry was here in the winter, and we passed an evening together.
The sale of his estate cannot be prevented.

'Sir Allan Maclean's suit against the Duke of Argyle, for recovering the
ancient inheritance of his family, is now fairly before all our judges.
I spoke for him yesterday, and Maclaurin to-day; Crosbie spoke to-day
against him. Three more counsel are to be heard, and next week the cause
will be determined. I send you the _Informations_, or _Cases_, on each
side, which I hope you will read. You said to me when we were under Sir
Allan's hospitable roof, "I will help him with my pen." You said it with
a generous glow; and though his Grace of Argyle did afterwards mount you
upon an excellent horse, upon which "you looked like a Bishop[296]," you
must not swerve from your purpose at Inchkenneth. I wish you may
understand the points at issue, amidst our Scotch law principles and

[Here followed a full state of the case, in which I endeavoured to make
it as clear as I could to an Englishman, who had no knowledge of the
formularies and technical language of the law of Scotland.]

'I shall inform you how the cause is decided here. But as it may be
brought under the review of our Judges, and is certainly to be carried
by appeal to the House of Lords, the assistance of such a mind as yours
will be of consequence. Your paper on _Vicious Intromission_[297] is a
noble proof of what you can do even in Scotch law.

* * * * *

'I have not yet distributed all your books. Lord Hailes and Lord
Monboddo have each received one, and return you thanks. Monboddo dined
with me lately, and having drank tea, we were a good while by ourselves,
and as I knew that he had read the _Journey_ superficially, as he did
not talk of it as I wished, I brought it to him, and read aloud several
passages; and then he talked so, that I told him he was to have a copy
_from the authour_. He begged _that_ might be marked on it.

* * * * *

'I ever am, my dear Sir,

'Your most faithful,

'And affectionate humble servant,



'Prestonfield, Feb. 17, 1777.


'I had yesterday the honour of receiving your book of your _Journey to
the Western Islands of Scotland_, which you was so good as to send me,
by the hands of our mutual friend[298], Mr. Boswell, of Auchinleck; for
which I return you my most hearty thanks; and after carefully reading it
over again, shall deposit in my little collection of choice books, next
our worthy friend's _Journey to Corsica_. As there are many things to
admire in both performances, I have often wished that no Travels or
Journeys should be published but those undertaken by persons of
integrity and capacity to judge well, and describe faithfully, and in
good language, the situation, condition, and manners of the countries
past through. Indeed our country of Scotland, in spite of the union of
the crowns, is still in most places so devoid of clothing, or cover from
hedges and plantations, that it was well you gave your readers a sound
_Monitoire_ with respect to that circumstance. The truths you have told,
and the purity of the language in which they are expressed, as your
_Journey_ is universally read, may, and already appear to have a very
good effect. For a man of my acquaintance, who has the largest nursery
for trees and hedges in this country, tells me, that of late the demand
upon him for these articles is doubled, and sometimes tripled. I have,
therefore, listed Dr. Samuel Johnson in some of my memorandums of the
principal planters and favourers of the enclosures, under a name which I
took the liberty to invent from the Greek, _Papadendrion_[299]. Lord
Auchinleck and some few more are of the list. I am told that one
gentleman in the shire of Aberdeen, _viz_. Sir Archibald Grant, has
planted above fifty millions of trees on a piece of very wild ground at
Monimusk: I must enquire if he has fenced them well, before he enters my
list; for, that is the soul of enclosing. I began myself to plant a
little, our ground being too valuable for much, and that is now fifty
years ago; and the trees, now in my seventy-fourth year, I look up to
with reverence, and shew them to my eldest son now in his fifteenth
year, and they are full the height of my country-house here, where I had
the pleasure of receiving you, and hope again to have that satisfaction
with our mutual friend, Mr. Boswell. I shall always continue, with the
truest esteem, dear Doctor,

'Your much obliged,

'And obedient humble servant,




'It is so long since I heard any thing from you[301], that I am not easy
about it; write something to me next post. When you sent your last
letter, every thing seemed to be mending; I hope nothing has lately
grown worse. I suppose young Alexander continues to thrive, and Veronica
is now very pretty company. I do not suppose the lady is yet reconciled
to me, yet let her know that I love her very well, and value her very

'Dr. Blair is printing some sermons. If they are all like the first,
which I have read, they are _sermones aurei, ac auro magis aurei_. It is
excellently written both as to doctrine and language. Mr. Watson's
book[302] seems to be much esteemed.

* * * * *

'Poor Beauclerk still continues very ill[303]. Langton lives on as he used
to do[304]. His children are very pretty, and, I think, his lady loses her
Scotch. Paoli I never see.

'I have been so distressed by difficulty of breathing, that I lost, as
was computed, six-and-thirty ounces of blood in a few days[305]. I am
better, but not well.

'I wish you would be vigilant and get me Graham's _Telemachus_[306] that
was printed at Glasgow, a very little book; and _Johnstoni Poemata_[307],
another little book, printed at Middleburgh.

'Mrs. Williams sends her compliments, and promises that when you come
hither, she will accommodate you as well as ever she can in the old
room[308]. She wishes to know whether you sent her book[309] to Sir
Alexander Gordon[310].

'My dear Boswell, do not neglect to write to me; for your kindness is
one of the pleasures of my life, which I should be sorry to lose.

'I am, Sir,

'Your humble servant,


'February 18, 1777.'


'Edinburgh, Feb. 24, 1777.


'Your letter dated the 18th instant, I had the pleasure to receive last
post. Although my late long neglect, or rather delay, was truely
culpable, I am tempted not to regret it, since it has produced me so
valuable a proof of your regard. I did, indeed, during that inexcusable
silence, sometimes divert the reproaches of my own mind, by fancying
that I should hear again from you, inquiring with some anxiety about me,
because, for aught you knew, I might have been ill.

'You are pleased to shew me, that my kindness is of some consequence to
you. My heart is elated at the thought. Be assured, my dear Sir, that my
affection and reverence for you are exalted and steady. I do not believe
that a more perfect attachment ever existed in the history of mankind.
And it is a noble attachment; for the attractions are Genius, Learning,
and Piety.

'Your difficulty of breathing alarms me, and brings into my imagination
an event, which although in the natural course of things, I must expect
at some period, I cannot view with composure.

* * * * *

'My wife is much honoured by what you say of her. She begs you may
accept of her best compliments. She is to send you some marmalade of
oranges of her own making.

* * * * *

'I ever am, my dear Sir,

'Your most obliged

'And faithful humble servant,




'I have been much pleased with your late letter, and am glad that my old
enemy Mrs. Boswell, begins to feel some remorse. As to Miss Veronica's
Scotch, I think it cannot be helped. An English maid you might easily
have; but she would still imitate the greater number, as they would be
likewise those whom she must most respect. Her dialect will not be
gross. Her Mamma has not much Scotch, and you have yourself very little.
I hope she knows my name, and does not call me _Johnston_[311].

'The immediate cause of my writing is this:--One Shaw[312], who seems a
modest and a decent man, has written an _Erse Grammar_, which a very
learned Highlander, Macbean[313], has, at my request, examined and

'The book is very little, but Mr. Shaw has been persuaded by his friends
to set it at half a guinea, though I advised only a crown, and thought
myself liberal. You, whom the authour considers as a great encourager of
ingenious men, will receive a parcel of his proposals and receipts. I
have undertaken to give you notice of them, and to solicit your
countenance. You must ask no poor man, because the price is really too
high. Yet such a work deserves patronage.

'It is proposed to augment our club from twenty to thirty, of which I am
glad; for as we have several in it whom I do not much like to consort
with[314], I am for reducing it to a mere miscellaneous collection of
conspicuous men, without any determinate character.

* * * * *

'I am, dear Sir,

'Most affectionately your's,


'March 11, 1777.'

'My respects to Madam, to Veronica, to Alexander, to Euphemia, to


'Edinburgh, April 4, 1777.

[After informing him of the death of my little son David, and that I
could not come to London this spring:--]

'I think it hard that I should be a whole year without seeing you. May I
presume to petition for a meeting with you in the autumn? You have, I
believe, seen all the cathedrals in England, except that of Carlisle. If
you are to be with Dr. Taylor, at Ashbourne, it would not be a great
journey to come thither. We may pass a few most agreeable days there by
ourselves, and I will accompany you a good part of the way to the
southward again. Pray think of this.

'You forget that Mr. Shaw's _Erse Grammar_ was put into your hands by
myself last year. Lord Eglintoune put it into mine. I am glad that Mr.
Macbean approves of it. I have received Mr. Shaw's Proposals for its
publication, which I can perceive are written _by the hand of a_ MASTER.

* * * * *

'Pray get for me all the editions of _Walton's Lives_: I have a notion
that the republication of them with Notes will fall upon me, between Dr.
Home and Lord Hailes[315].'

Mr. Shaw's Proposals[dagger] for _An Analysis of the Scotch Celtick
Language_, were thus illuminated by the pen of Johnson:

'Though the Erse dialect of the Celtick language has, from the earliest
times, been spoken in Britain, and still subsists in the northern parts
and adjacent islands, yet, by the negligence of a people rather warlike
than lettered, it has hitherto been left to the caprice and judgement of
every speaker, and has floated in the living voice, without the
steadiness of analogy, or direction of rules. An Erse Grammar is an
addition to the stores of literature; and its authour hopes for the
indulgence always shewn to those that attempt to do what was never done
before. If his work shall be found defective, it is at least all his
own: he is not like other grammarians, a compiler or transcriber; what
he delivers, he has learned by attentive observation among his
countrymen, who perhaps will be themselves surprized to see that speech
reduced to principles, which they have used only by imitation.

'The use of this book will, however, not be confined to the mountains
and islands; it will afford a pleasing and important subject of
speculation, to those whose studies lead them to trace the affinity of
languages, and the migrations of the ancient races, of mankind.'


'Glasgow, April 24, 1777.

'Our worthy friend Thrale's death having appeared in the newspapers, and
been afterwards contradicted, I have been placed in a state of very
uneasy uncertainty, from which I hoped to be relieved by you: but my
hopes have as yet been vain. How could you omit to write to me on such
an occasion? I shall wait with anxiety.

'I am going to Auchinleck to stay a fortnight with my father. It is
better not to be there very long at one time. But frequent renewals of
attention are agreeable to him.

'Pray tell me about this edition of "_The English Poets_, with a
Preface, biographical and critical, to each Authour, by Samuel Johnson,
LL.D." which I see advertised. I am delighted with the prospect of it.
Indeed I am happy to feel that I am capable of being so much delighted
with literature.[316] But is not the charm of this publication chiefly
owing to the _magnum nomen_ in the front of it?

'What do you say of Lord Chesterfield's _Memoirs and last Letters_?[317]

'My wife has made marmalade of oranges for you. I left her and my
daughters and Alexander all well yesterday. I have taught Veronica to
speak of you thus;--Dr. John_son_, not Jon_ston_.

'I remain, my dear Sir,
'Your most affectionate,
'And obliged humble servant,


'The story of Mr. Thrale's death, as he had neither been sick nor in any
other danger, made so little impression upon me, that I never thought
about obviating its effects on any body else. It is supposed to have
been produced by the English custom of making April fools, that is, of
sending one another on some foolish errand on the first of April.

'Tell Mrs. Boswell that I shall taste her marmalade cautiously at first.
_Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes_.[318] Beware, says the Italian proverb, of
a reconciled enemy. But when I find it does me no harm, I shall then
receive it and be thankful for it, as a pledge of firm, and, I hope, of
unalterable kindness. She is, after all, a dear, dear lady.

'Please to return Dr. Blair thanks for his sermons. The Scotch write
English wonderfully well.

'Your frequent visits to Auchinleck, and your short stay there, are very
laudable and very judicious. Your present concord with your father gives
me great pleasure; it was all that you seemed to want.

'My health is very bad, and my nights are very unquiet.[319] What can I do
to mend them? I have for this summer nothing better in prospect than a
journey into Staffordshire and Derbyshire, perhaps with Oxford and
Birmingham in my way.

'Make my compliments to Miss Veronica; I must leave it to _her_
philosophy to comfort you for the loss of little David. You must
remember, that to keep three out of four is more than your share. Mrs.
Thrale has but four out of eleven.[320]

'I am engaged to write little Lives, and little Prefaces, to a little
edition of _The English Poets_. I think I have persuaded the
book-sellers to insert something of Thomson; and if you could give me
some information about him, for the life which we have is very scanty, I
should be glad. I am, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate humble servant,
'May 3, 1777.'

To those who delight in tracing the progress of works of literature, it
will be an entertainment to compare the limited design with the ample
execution of that admirable performance, _The Lives of the English
Poets_, which is the richest, most beautiful and indeed most perfect
production of Johnson's pen. His notion of it at this time appears in
the preceding letter. He has a memorandum in this year, '29 May[321],
Easter Eve, I treated with booksellers on a bargain, but the time was
not long[322].' The bargain was concerning that undertaking; but his
tender conscience seems alarmed lest it should have intruded too much on
his devout preparation for the solemnity of the ensuing day. But,
indeed, very little time was necessary for Johnson's concluding a treaty
with the booksellers; as he had, I believe, less attention to profit
from his labours than any man to whom literature has been a
profession.[323] I shall here insert from a letter to me from my late
worthy friend Mr. Edward Dilly, though of a later date, an account of
this plan so happily conceived; since it was the occasion of procuring
for us an elegant collection of the best biography and criticism of
which our language can boast.

'Southill, Sept. 26, 1777.


'You will find by this letter, that I am still in the same calm retreat,
from the noise and bustle of London, as when I wrote to you last. I am
happy to find you had such an agreeable meeting with your old friend Dr.
Johnson; I have no doubt your stock is much increased by the interview;
few men, nay I may say, scarcely any man, has got that fund of knowledge
and entertainment as Dr. Johnson in conversation. When he opens freely,
every one is attentive to what he says, and cannot fail of improvement
as well as pleasure.

'The edition of _The Poets_, now printing, will do honour to the English
press; and a concise account of the life of each authour, by Dr.
Johnson, will be a very valuable addition, and stamp the reputation of
this edition superiour to any thing that is gone before. The first cause
that gave rise to this undertaking, I believe, was owing to the little
trifling edition of _The Poets_, printing by the Martins, at Edinburgh,
and to be sold by Bell, in London. Upon examining the volumes which were
printed, the type was found so extremely small, that many persons could
not read them; not only this inconvenience attended it, but the
inaccuracy of the press was very conspicuous. These reasons, as well as
the idea of an invasion of what we call our Literary Property[324],
induced the London Booksellers to print an elegant and accurate edition
of all the English Poets of reputation, from Chaucer to the present

'Accordingly a select number of the most respectable booksellers met on
the occasion; and, on consulting together, agreed, that all the
proprietors of copy-right in the various Poets should be summoned
together; and when their opinions were given, to proceed immediately on
the business. Accordingly a meeting was held, consisting of about forty
of the most respectable booksellers of London, when it was agreed that
an elegant and uniform edition of _The English Poets_ should be
immediately printed, with a concise account of the life of each authour,
by Dr. Samuel Johnson; and that three persons should be deputed to wait
upon Dr. Johnson, to solicit him to undertake the Lives, _viz_., T.
Davies, Strahan, and Cadell. The Doctor very politely undertook it, and
seemed exceedingly pleased with the proposal. As to the terms, it was
left entirely to the Doctor to name his own: he mentioned two hundred
guineas[325]: it was immediately agreed to; and a farther compliment, I
believe, will be made him.[326] A committee was likewise appointed to
engage the best engravers, _viz_., Bartolozzi, Sherwin, Hall, etc.
Likewise another committee for giving directions about the paper,
printing, etc., so that the whole will be conducted with spirit, and in
the best manner, with respect to authourship, editorship, engravings,
etc., etc. My brother will give you a list of the Poets we mean to give,
many of which are within the time of the Act of Queen Anne[327], which
Martin and Bell cannot give, as they have no property in them; the
proprietors are almost all the booksellers in London, of consequence. I
am, dear Sir,

'Ever your's,

I shall afterwards have occasion to consider the extensive and varied
range which Johnson took, when he was once led upon ground which he trod
with a peculiar delight, having long been intimately acquainted with all
the circumstances of it that could interest and please.



'Having had the pleasure of conversing with Dr. Campbell about your
character and your literary undertaking, I am resolved to gratify myself
by renewing a correspondence which began and ended a great while ago,
and ended, I am afraid, by my fault; a fault which, if you have not
forgotten it, you must now forgive.

'If I have ever disappointed you, give me leave to tell you, that you
have likewise disappointed me. I expected great discoveries in Irish
antiquity, and large publications in the Irish language; but the world
still remains at it was, doubtful and ignorant. What the Irish language
is in itself, and to what languages it has affinity, are very
interesting questions, which every man wishes to see resolved that has
any philological or historical curiosity. Dr. Leland begins his history
too late: the ages which deserve an exact enquiry are those times
(for[329] such there were) when Ireland was the school of the west, the
quiet habitation of sanctity and literature. If you could give a
history, though imperfect, of the Irish nation, from its conversion to
Christianity to the invasion from England, you would amplify knowledge
with new views and new objects. Set about it therefore, if you can: do
what you can easily do without anxious exactness. Lay the foundation,
and leave the superstructure to posterity. I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,
'May 19, 1777.'

Early in this year came out, in two volumes quarto, the posthumous works
of the learned Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester; being _A
Commentary, with Notes, on the four Evangelists and the Acts of the
Apostles_, with other theological pieces. Johnson had now an opportunity
of making a grateful return to that excellent prelate, who, we have
seen[330], was the only person who gave him any assistance in the
compilation of his _Dictionary_. The Bishop had left some account of his
life and character, written by himself. To this Johnson made some
valuable additions[331][dagger], and also furnished to the editor, the
Reverend Mr. Derby, a Dedication[dagger], which I shall here insert,
both because it will appear at this time with peculiar propriety; and
because it will tend to propagate and increase that 'fervour of
_Loyalty_[332],' which in me, who boast of the name of TORY, is not only a
principle, but a passion.



'I presume to lay before your Majesty the last labours of a learned
Bishop, who died in the toils and duties of his calling[333]. He is now
beyond the reach of all earthly honours and rewards; and only the hope
of inciting others to imitate him, makes it now fit to be remembered,
that he enjoyed in his life the favour of your Majesty.

'The tumultuary life of Princes seldom permits them to survey the wide
extent of national interest, without losing sight of private merit; to
exhibit qualities which may be imitated by the highest and the humblest
of mankind; and to be at once amiable and great.

'Such characters, if now and then they appear in history, are
contemplated with admiration. May it be the ambition of all your
subjects to make haste with their tribute of reverence: and as posterity
may learn from your Majesty how Kings should live, may they learn,
likewise, from your people, how they should be honoured. I am,

'May it please your Majesty,
With the most profound respect,
Your Majesty's
Most dutiful and devoted
Subject and Servant.'

In the summer he wrote a Prologue[*] which was spoken before _A Word to
the Wise_, a comedy by Mr. Hugh Kelly[334], which had been brought upon
the stage in 1770; but he being a writer for ministry, in one of the
news-papers, it fell a sacrifice to popular fury, and in the playhouse
phrase, was _damned_. By the generosity of Mr. Harris, the proprietor of
Covent Garden theatre, it was now exhibited for one night, for the
benefit of the authour's widow and children. To conciliate the favour of
the audience was the intention of Johnson's Prologue, which, as it is
not long, I shall here insert, as a proof that his poetical talents were
in no degree impaired.

'This night presents a play, which publick rage,
Or right or wrong, once hooted from the stage:
From zeal or malice, now no more we dread,
For English vengeance _wars not with the dead_.
A generous foe regards with pitying eye
The man whom Fate has laid where all must lie.
To wit, reviving from its authour's dust,
Be kind, ye judges, or at least be just:
Let no renewed hostilities invade
Th' oblivious grave's inviolable shade.
Let one great payment every claim appease,
And him who cannot hurt, allow to please;
To please by scenes, unconscious of offence,
By harmless merriment, or useful sense.
Where aught of bright or fair the piece displays,
Approve it only;--'tis too late to praise.
If want of skill or want of care appear,
Forbear to hiss;--the poet cannot hear.
By all, like him, must praise and blame be found,
At last, a fleeting gleam, or empty sound;
Yet then shall calm reflection bless the night,
When liberal pity dignified delight;
When pleasure fir'd her torch at virtue's flame,
And mirth was bounty with an humbler name.'[335]

A circumstance which could not fail to be very pleasing to Johnson
occurred this year. The Tragedy of _Sir Thomas Overbury_, written by his
early companion in London, Richard Savage[336] was brought out with
alterations at Drury-lane theatre[337]. The Prologue to it was written by
Mr. Richard Brinsley Sheridan; in which, after describing very
pathetically the wretchedness of

'Ill-fated Savage, at whose birth was giv'n
No parent but the Muse, no friend but Heav'n:'

he introduced an elegant compliment to Johnson on his _Dictionary_, that
wonderful performance which cannot be too often or too highly praised;
of which Mr. Harris, in his _Philological Inquiries_[338], justly and
liberally observes: 'Such is its merit, that our language does not
possess a more copious, learned, and valuable work.' The concluding,
lines of this Prologue were these:--

'So pleads the tale that gives to future times
The son's misfortunes and the parent's crimes;
There shall his fame (if own'd to-night) survive,

Mr. Sheridan here at once did honour to his taste and to his liberality
of sentiment, by shewing that he was not prejudiced from the unlucky
difference which had taken place between his worthy father and Dr.
Johnson. I have already mentioned, that Johnson was very desirous of
reconciliation with old Mr. Sheridan.[340] It will, therefore, not seem at
all surprizing that he was zealous in acknowledging the brilliant merit
of his son. While it had as yet been displayed only in the drama,
Johnson proposed him as a member of THE LITERARY CLUB, observing, that
'He who has written the two best comedies of his age, is surely a
considerable man[341].' And he had, accordingly, the honour to be elected;
for an honour it undoubtedly must be allowed to be, when it is
considered of whom that society consists, and that a single black ball
excludes a candidate.


'July 9, 1777.[342]


'For the health of my wife and children I have taken the little
country-house at which you visited my uncle, Dr. Boswell[343], who, having
lost his wife, is gone to live with his son. We took possession of our
villa about a week ago; we have a garden of three quarters of an acre,
well stocked with fruit-trees and flowers, and gooseberries and
currants, and peas and beans, and cabbages, &c. &c., and my children are
quite happy. I now write to you in a little study, from the window of
which I see around me a verdant grove, and beyond it the lofty mountain
called Arthur's Seat.

'Your last letter, in which you desire me to send you some additional
information concerning Thomson, reached me very fortunately just as I
was going to Lanark, to put my wife's two nephews, the young Campbells,
to school there, under the care of Mr. Thomson, the master of it, whose
wife is sister to the authour of _The Seasons_. She is an old woman; but
her memory is very good; and she will with pleasure give me for you
every particular that you wish to know, and she can tell. Pray then take
the trouble to send me such questions as may lead to biographical
materials. You say that the _Life_ which we have of Thomson is scanty.
Since I received your letter I have read his _Life_, published under the
name of Cibber, but as you told me, really written by a Mr. Shiels[344];
that written by Dr. Murdoch; one prefixed to an edition of the Seasons,
published at Edinburgh, which is compounded of both, with the addition
of an anecdote of Quin's relieving Thomson from prison[345]; the
abridgement of Murdoch's account of him, in the _Biographia Britannica_,
and another abridgement of it in the _Biographical Dictionary_, enriched
with Dr. Joseph Warton's critical panegyrick on the _Seasons_ in his
_Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope_: from all these it appears to
me that we have a pretty full account of this poet. However, you will, I
doubt not, shew me many blanks, and I shall do what can be done to have
them filled up. As Thomson never returned to Scotland, (which _you_ will
think very wise,) his sister can speak from her own knowledge only as to
the early part of his life. She has some letters from him, which may
probably give light as to his more advanced progress, if she will let us
see them, which I suppose she will[346]. I believe George Lewis Scott[347]
and Dr. Armstrong[348] are now his only surviving companions, while he
lived in and about London; and they, I dare say, can tell more of him
than is yet known. My own notion is, that Thomson was a much coarser man
than his friends are willing to acknowledge[349]. His _Seasons_ are indeed
full of elegant and pious sentiments: but a rank soil, nay a dunghill,
will produce beautiful flowers[350].

'Your edition of _The English Poets_[351] will be very valuable, on
account of the _Prefaces_ and _Lives_. But I have seen a specimen of an
edition of _The Poets_ at the Apollo press, at Edinburgh, which, for
excellence in printing and engraving, highly deserves a liberal

'Most sincerely do I regret the bad health and bad rest with which you
have been afflicted; and I hope you are better. I cannot believe that
the Prologue which you generously gave to Mr. Kelly's widow and children
the other day, is the effusion of one in sickness and in disquietude:
but external circumstances are never sure indications of the state of
man. I send you a letter which I wrote to you two years ago at
Wilton[352]; and did not send it at the time, for fear of being reproved
as indulging too much tenderness; and one written to you at the tomb of
Melancthon[353], which I kept back, lest I should appear at once too
superstitious and too enthusiastick. I now imagine that perhaps they may
please you.

'You do not take the least notice of my proposal for our meeting at
Carlisle[354]. Though I have meritoriously refrained from visiting London
this year, I ask you if it would not be wrong that I should be two years
without having the benefit of your conversation, when, if you come down
as far as Derbyshire, we may meet at the expence of a few days'
journeying, and not many pounds. I wish you to see Carlisle, which made
me mention that place. But if you have not a desire to complete your
tour of the English cathedrals, I will take a larger share of the road
between this place and Ashbourne. So tell me _where_ you will fix for
our passing a few days by ourselves. Now don't cry "foolish fellow," or
"idle dog." Chain your humour, and let your kindness play.

'You will rejoice to hear that Miss Macleod, of Rasay[355], is married to
Colonel Mure Campbell, an excellent man, with a pretty good estate of
his own, and the prospect of having the Earl of Loudoun's fortune and
honours. Is not this a noble lot for our fair Hebridean? How happy am I
that she is to be in Ayrshire. We shall have the Laird of Rasay, and old
Malcolm, and I know not how many gallant Macleods, and bagpipes, &c. &c.
at Auchinleck. Perhaps you may meet them all there.

'Without doubt you have read what is called _The Life_ of David Hume[356],
written by himself, with the letter from Dr. Adam Smith subjoined to it.
Is not this an age of daring effrontery? My friend Mr. Anderson,
Professor of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow, at whose house you and I
supped[357], and to whose care Mr. Windham[358], of Norfolk, was entrusted
at that University, paid me a visit lately; and after we had talked with
indignation and contempt of the poisonous productions with which this
age is infested, he said there was now an excellent opportunity for Dr.
Johnson to step forth. I agreed with him that you might knock Hume's and
Smith's heads together, and make vain and ostentatious infidelity
exceedingly ridiculous. Would it not be worth your while to crush such
noxious weeds in the moral garden?

'You have said nothing to me of Dr. Dodd[359]. I know not how you think on
that subject; though the newspapers give us a saying of your's in favour
of mercy to him. But I own I am very desirous that the royal prerogative
of remission of punishment should be employed to exhibit an illustrious
instance of the regard which GOD's VICEGERENT will ever shew to piety
and virtue. If for ten righteous men the ALMIGHTY would have spared
Sodom, shall not a thousand acts of goodness done by Dr. Dodd
counterbalance one crime? Such an instance would do more to encourage
goodness, than his execution would do to deter from vice. I am not
afraid of any bad consequence to society; for who will persevere for a
long course of years in a distinguished discharge of religious duties,
with a view to commit a forgery with impunity?

'Pray make my best compliments acceptable to Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, by
assuring them of my hearty joy that the _Master_[360], as you call him, is
alive. I hope I shall often taste his Champagne--_soberly_.

'I have not heard from Langton for a long time. I suppose he is as

"Studious the busy moments to deceive[361]."

* * * * *

'I remain, my dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate, and faithful humble servant,


On the 23rd of June, I again wrote to Dr. Johnson, enclosing a
ship-master's receipt for a jar of orange-marmalade, and a large packet
of Lord Hailes's _Annals of Scotland_.



'I have just received your packet from Mr. Thrale's, but have not
day-light enough to look much into it. I am glad that I have credit
enough with Lord Hailes to be trusted with more copy[362]. I hope to take
more care of it than of the last. I return Mrs. Boswell my affectionate
thanks for her present, which I value as a token of reconciliation.

'Poor Dodd was put to death yesterday, in opposition to the
recommendation of the jury[363]--the petition of the city of
London[364]--and a subsequent petition signed by three-and-twenty thousand
hands. Surely the voice of the publick, when it calls so loudly, and
calls only for mercy, ought to be heard[365].

'The saying that was given me in the papers I never spoke; but I wrote
many of his petitions, and some of his letters. He applied to me very
often. He was, I am afraid, long flattered with hopes of life; but I had
no part in the dreadful delusion; for, as soon as the King had signed
his sentence[366], I obtained from Mr. Chamier[367] an account of the
disposition of the court towards him, with a declaration that there _was
no hope even of a respite_. This letter immediately was laid before
Dodd; but he believed those whom he wished to be right, as it is
thought, till within three days of his end. He died with pious composure
and resolution. I have just seen the Ordinary that attended him. His
address to his fellow-convicts offended the Methodists[368]; but he had a
Moravian with him much of his time[369]. His moral character is very bad:
I hope all is not true that is charged upon him. Of his behaviour in
prison an account will be published.

'I give you joy of your country-house, and your pretty garden; and hope
some time to see you in your felicity. I was much pleased with your two
letters that had been kept so long in store[370]; and rejoice at Miss
Rasay's advancement, and wish Sir Allan success.

'I hope to meet you somewhere towards the north, but am loath to come
quite to Carlisle. Can we not meet at Manchester? But we will settle it
in some other letters.

'Mr. Seward[371], a great favourite at Streatham, has been, I think,
enkindled by our travels with a curiosity to see the Highlands. I have
given him letters to you and Beattie. He desires that a lodging may be
taken for him at Edinburgh, against his arrival. He is just setting out.

'Langton has been exercising the militia[372]. Mrs. Williams is, I fear,
declining. Dr. Lawrence says he can do no more. She is gone to summer in
the country, with as many conveniences about her as she can expect; but
I have no great hope. We must all die: may we all be prepared!

'I suppose Miss Boswell reads her book, and young Alexander takes to his
learning. Let me hear about them; for every thing that belongs to you,
belongs in a more remote degree, and not, I hope, very remote, to, dear

'Yours affectionately,


'June, 28, 1777.'



'This gentleman is a great favourite at Streatham, and therefore you
will easily believe that he has very valuable qualities. Our narrative
has kindled him with a desire of visiting the Highlands, after having
already seen a great part of Europe. You must receive him as a friend,
and when you have directed him to the curiosities of Edinburgh, give him
instructions and recommendations for the rest of his journey. I am, dear

'Your most humble servant,


'June 24, 1777.'

Johnson's benevolence to the unfortunate was, I am confident, as steady
and active as that of any of those who have been most eminently
distinguished for that virtue. Innumerable proofs of it I have no doubt
will be for ever concealed from mortal eyes. We may, however, form some
judgement of it, from the many and very various instances which have
been discovered. One, which happened in the course of this summer, is
remarkable from the name and connection of the person who was the object
of it. The circumstance to which I allude is ascertained by two letters,
one to Mr. Langton, and another to the Reverend Dr. Vyse, rector of
Lambeth, son of the respectable clergyman at Lichfield, who was
contemporary with Johnson, and in whose father's family Johnson had the
happiness of being kindly received in his early years.



'I have lately been much disordered by a difficulty of breathing, but am
now better. I hope your house is well.

'You know we have been talking lately of St. Cross, at Winchester; I
have an old acquaintance whose distress makes him very desirous of an
hospital, and I am afraid I have not strength enough to get him into the
Chartreux. He is a painter, who never rose higher than to get his
immediate living, and from that, at eighty-three, he is disabled by a
slight stroke of the palsy, such as does not make him at all helpless on
common occasions, though his hand is not steady enough for his art.

'My request is, that you will try to obtain a promise of the next
vacancy, from the Bishop of Chester. It is not a great thing to ask, and
I hope we shall obtain it. Dr. Warton has promised to favour him with
his notice, and I hope he may end his days in peace. I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'June 29, 1777.'



'I doubt not but you will readily forgive me for taking the liberty of
requesting your assistance in recommending an old friend to his Grace
the Archbishop, as Governour of the Charter-house.

'His name is De Groot; he was born at Gloucester; I have known him many
years. He has all the common claims to charity, being old, poor, and
infirm, in a great degree. He has likewise another claim, to which no
scholar can refuse attention; he is by several descents the nephew of
Hugo Grotius; of him, from whom perhaps every man of learning has learnt
something. Let it not be said that in any lettered country a nephew of
Grotius asked a charity and was refused.[373]

'I am, reverend Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'July 9, 1777.'


'Lambeth, June 9, 1787.


'I have searched in vain for the letter which I spoke of, and which I
wished, at your desire, to communicate to you. It was from Dr. Johnson,
to return me thanks for my application to Archbishop Cornwallis in
favour of poor De Groot. He rejoices at the success it met with, and is
lavish in the praise he bestows upon his favourite, Hugo Grotius. I am
really sorry that I cannot find this letter, as it is worthy of the
writer. That which I send you enclosed[374] is at your service. It is very
short, and will not perhaps be thought of any consequence, unless you
should judge proper to consider it as a proof of the very humane part
which Dr. Johnson took in behalf of a distressed and deserving person. I
am, Sir,

'Your most obedient humble servant,

'W. VYSE.'



'To the collection of _English Poets_, I have recommended the volume of
Dr. Watts to be added; his name has long been held by me in
veneration[376], and I would not willingly be reduced to tell of him only
that he was born and died. Yet of his life I know very little, and
therefore must pass him in a manner very unworthy of his character,
unless some of his friends will favour me with the necessary
information; many of them must be known to you; and by your influence,
perhaps I may obtain some instruction. My plan does not exact much; but
I wish to distinguish Watts, a man who never wrote but for a good
purpose. Be pleased to do for me what you can.

'I am, Sir, your humble servant,


'Bolt-Court, Fleet-street,
July 7, 1777.'


'Edinburgh, July 15, 1777.


'The fate of poor Dr. Dodd made a dismal impression upon my mind.

* * * * *

'I had sagacity enough to divine that you wrote his speech to the
Recorder, before sentence was pronounced. I am glad you have written so
much for him; and I hope to be favoured with an exact list of the
several pieces when we meet.

'I received Mr. Seward as the friend of Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, and as a
gentleman recommended by Dr. Johnson to my attention. I have introduced
him to Lord Kames, Lord Monboddo, and Mr. Nairne. He is gone to the
Highlands with Dr. Gregory; when he returns I shall do more for him.

'Sir Allan Maclean has[377] carried that branch of his cause, of which we
had good hopes: the President and one other Judge only were against him.
I wish the House of Lords may do as well as the Court of Session has
done. But Sir Allan has not the lands of _Brolos_ quite cleared by this
judgement, till a long account is made up of debts and interests on the
one side, and rents on the other. I am, however, not much afraid of the

'Macquarry's estates[378], Staffa and all, were sold yesterday, and bought
by a Campbell. I fear he will have little or nothing left out of the
purchase money.

'I send you the case against the negro[379], by Mr. Cullen, son to Dr.
Cullen, in opposition to Maclaurin's for liberty, of which you have
approved. Pray read this, and tell me what you think as a _Politician_,
as well as a _Poet_, upon the subject.

'Be so kind as to let me know how your time is to be distributed next
autumn. I will meet you at Manchester, or where you please; but I wish
you would complete your tour of the cathedrals, and come to Carlisle,
and I will accompany you a part of the way homewards.

'I am ever,

'Most faithfully yours,




'Your notion of the necessity of an yearly interview is very pleasing to
both my vanity and tenderness. I shall, perhaps, come to Carlisle
another year; but my money has not held out so well as it used to do. I
shall go to Ashbourne, and I purpose to make Dr. Taylor invite you. If
you live awhile with me at his house, we shall have much time to
ourselves, and our stay will be no expence to us or him. I shall leave
London the 28th; and after some stay at Oxford and Lichfield, shall
probably come to Ashbourne about the end of your Session, but of all
this you shall have notice. Be satisfied we will meet somewhere.

'What passed between me and poor Dr. Dodd you shall know more fully when
we meet.

'Of lawsuits there is no end; poor Sir Allan must have another trial,
for which, however, his antagonist cannot be much blamed, having two
Judges on his side. I am more afraid of the debts than of the House of
Lords. It is scarcely to be imagined to what debts will swell, that are
daily increasing by small additions, and how carelessly in a state of
desperation debts are contracted. Poor Macquarry was far from thinking
that when he sold his islands he should receive nothing. For what were
they sold? And what was their yearly value? The admission of money into
the Highlands will soon put an end to the feudal modes of life, by
making those men landlords who were not chiefs. I do not know that the
people will suffer by the change; but there was in the patriarchal
authority something venerable and pleasing. Every eye must look with
pain on a _Campbell_ turning the _Macquarries_ at will out of their
_sedes avitae_, their hereditary island.

'Sir Alexander Dick is the only Scotsman liberal enough not to be angry
that I could not find trees, where trees were not. I was much delighted
by his kind letter.

'I remember Rasay with too much pleasure not to partake of the happiness
of any part of that amiable family. Our ramble in the islands hangs upon
my imagination, I can hardly help imagining that we shall go again.
Pennant seems to have seen a great deal which we did not see: when we
travel again let us look better about us.

'You have done right in taking your uncle's house. Some change in the
form of life, gives from time to time a new epocha[380] of existence. In a
new place there is something new to be done, and a different system of
thoughts rises in the mind. I wish I could gather currants in your
garden. Now fit up a little study, and have your books ready at hand; do
not spare a little money, to make your habitation pleasing to yourself.

'I have dined lately with poor dear ----[381]. I do not think he goes on
well. His table is rather coarse, and he has his children too much about
him[382]. But he is a very good man.

'Mrs. Williams is in the country to try if she can improve her health;
she is very ill. Matters have come so about that she is in the country
with very good accommodation; but age and sickness, and pride, have made
her so peevish that I was forced to bribe the maid to stay with her, by
a secret stipulation of half a crown a week over her wages.

'Our CLUB ended its session about six weeks ago[383]. We now only meet to
dine once a fortnight. Mr. Dunning[384], the great lawyer, is one of our
members. The Thrales are well.

'I long to know how the Negro's cause will be decided. What is the
opinion of Lord Auchinleck, or Lord Hailes, or Lord Monboddo?

'I am, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate, &c.


'July 22, 1777.'



'Though I am well enough pleased with the taste of sweetmeats, very
little of the pleasure which I received at the arrival of your jar of
marmalade arose from eating it[385]. I received it as a token of
friendship, as a proof of reconciliation, things much sweeter than
sweetmeats, and upon this consideration I return you, dear Madam, my
sincerest thanks. By having your kindness I think I have a double
security for the continuance of Mr. Boswell's, which it is not to be
expected that any man can long keep, when the influence of a lady so
highly and so justly valued operates against him. Mr. Boswell will tell
you that I was always faithful to your interest, and always endeavoured
to exalt you in his estimation. You must now do the same for me. We must
all help one another, and you must now consider me, as, dear Madam,

'Your most obliged,

'And most humble servant,


'July 22, 1777.'


'Edinburgh, July 28, 1777.

'My Dear Sir,

'This is the day on which you were to leave London and I have been
amusing myself in the intervals of my law-drudgery, with figuring you in
the Oxford post-coach. I doubt, however, if you have had so merry a
journey as you and I had in that vehicle last year, when you made so
much sport with Gwyn[386], the architect. Incidents upon a journey are
recollected with peculiar pleasure; they are preserved in brisk spirits,
and come up again in our minds, tinctured with that gaiety, or at least
that animation with which we first perceived them.'

* * * * *

[I added, that something had occurred, which I was afraid might prevent
me from meeting him[387]; and that my wife had been affected with
complaints which threatened a consumption, but was now better.]



'Do not disturb yourself about our interviews; I hope we shall have
many; nor think it any thing hard or unusual, that your design of
meeting me is interrupted. We have both endured greater evils, and have
greater evils to expect.

'Mrs. Boswell's illness makes a more serious distress. Does the blood
rise from her lungs or from her stomach? From little vessels broken in
the stomach there is no danger. Blood from the lungs is, I believe,
always frothy, as mixed with wind. Your physicians know very well what
is to be done. The loss of such a lady would, indeed, be very
afflictive, and I hope she is in no danger. Take care to keep her mind
as easy as is possible.

'I have left Langton in London. He has been down with the militia, and
is again quiet at home, talking to his little people, as, I suppose, you
do sometimes. Make my compliments to Miss Veronica[388]. The rest are too
young for ceremony.

'I cannot but hope that you have taken your country-house at a very
seasonable time, and that it may conduce to restore, or establish Mrs.
Boswell's health, as well as provide room and exercise for the young
ones. That you and your lady may both be happy, and long enjoy your
happiness, is the sincere and earnest wish of, dear Sir,

'Your most, &c.


'Oxford, Aug. 4, 1777.'


[Informing him that my wife had continued to grow better, so that my
alarming apprehensions were relieved: and that I hoped to disengage
myself from the other embarrassment which had occurred, and therefore
requesting to know particularly when he intended to be at Ashbourne.]



'I am this day come to Ashbourne, and have only to tell you, that Dr.
Taylor says you shall be welcome to him, and you know how welcome you
will be to me. Make haste to let me know when you may be expected.

'Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and tell her, I hope we shall be
at variance no more. I am, dear Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'August 30, 1777.'



'On Saturday I wrote a very short letter, immediately upon my arrival
hither, to shew you that I am not less desirous of the interview than
yourself. Life admits not of delays; when pleasure can be had, it is fit
to catch it. Every hour takes away part of the things that please us,
and perhaps part of our disposition to be pleased. When I came to
Lichfield, I found my old friend Harry Jackson dead[389]. It was a loss,
and a loss not to be repaired, as he was one of the companions of my
childhood. I hope we may long continue to gain friends, but the friends
which merit or usefulness can procure us, are not able to supply the
place of old acquaintance, with whom the days of youth may be retraced,
and those images revived which gave the earliest delight. If you and I
live to be much older, we shall take great delight in talking over the
Hebridean Journey.

'In the mean time it may not be amiss to contrive some other little
adventure, but what it can be I know not; leave it, as Sidney says,

"To virtue, fortune, wine, and woman's breast[390];"

for I believe Mrs. Boswell must have some part in the consultation.

'One thing you will like. The Doctor, so far as I can judge, is likely
to leave us enough to ourselves. He was out to-day before _I_ came down,
and, I fancy, will stay out till dinner. I have brought the papers about
poor Dodd, to show you, but you will soon have dispatched them.

'Before I came away I sent poor Mrs. Williams into the country, very ill
of a pituitous defluxion, which wastes her gradually away, and which her
physician declares himself unable to stop. I supplied her as far as
could be desired, with all conveniences to make her excursion and abode
pleasant and useful. But I am afraid she can only linger a short time in
a morbid state of weakness and pain.

'The Thrales, little and great, are all well, and purpose to go to
Brighthelmstone at Michaelmas. They will invite me to go with them, and
perhaps I may go, but I hardly think I shall like to stay the whole
time; but of futurity we know but little.

'Mrs. Porter is well; but Mrs. Aston, one of the ladies at Stowhill, has
been struck with a palsy, from which she is not likely ever to recover.
How soon may such a stroke fall upon us!

'Write to me, and let us know when we may expect you.

'I am, dear Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'Ashbourne, Sept. 1, 1777.'


'Edinburgh, Sept. 9, 1777.

[After informing him that I was to set out next day, in order to meet
him at Ashbourne.]

'I have a present for you from Lord Hailes; the fifth book of
_Lactantius_, which he has published with Latin notes. He is also to
give you a few anecdotes for your _Life of Thomson_, who I find was
private tutor to the present Earl of Hadington, Lord Hailes's cousin, a
circumstance not mentioned by Dr. Murdoch. I have keen expectations of
delight from your edition of _The English Poets_.

'I am sorry for poor Mrs. Williams's situation. You will, however, have
the comfort of reflecting on your kindness to her. Mr. Jackson's death,
and Mrs. Aston's palsy, are gloomy circumstances. Yet surely we should
be habituated to the uncertainty of life and health. When my mind is
unclouded by melancholy, I consider the temporary distresses of this
state of being, as "light afflictions[391]," by stretching my mental view
into that glorious after-existence, when they will appear to be as
nothing. But present pleasures and present pains must be felt. I lately
read _Rasselas_ over again with great satisfaction[392].

'Since you are desirous to hear about Macquarry's sale I shall inform
you particularly. The gentleman who purchased Ulva is Mr. Campbell, of
Auchnaba: our friend Macquarry was proprietor of two-thirds of it, of
which the rent was L156 5s 1-1/2d. This parcel was set up at L4,069 5s.
1d., but it sold for no less than L5,540. The other third of Ulva, with
the island of Staffa, belonged to Macquarry of Ormaig. Its rent,
including that of Staffa, L83 12s. 2-1/2d. set up at L2178 16s.
4d.--sold for no less than L3,540. The Laird of Col wished to purchase
Ulva, but he thought the price too high. There may, indeed, be great
improvements made there, both in fishing and agriculture; but the
interest of the purchase-money exceeds the rent so very much, that I
doubt if the bargain will be profitable. There is an island called
Little Colonsay, of L10 yearly rent, which I am informed has belonged to
the Macquarrys of Ulva for many ages, but which was lately claimed by
the Presbyterian Synod of Argyll, in consequence of a grant made to them
by Queen Anne. It is believed that their claim will be dismissed, and
that Little Colonsay will also be sold for the advantage of Macquarry's
creditors. What think you of purchasing this island, and endowing a
school or college there, the master to be a clergyman of the Church of
England? How venerable would such an institution make the name of DR.
SAMUEL JOHNSON in the Hebrides! I have, like yourself, a wonderful
pleasure in recollecting our travels in those islands. The pleasure is,
I think, greater than it reasonably should be, considering that we had
not much either of beauty or elegance to charm our imaginations, or of
rude novelty to astonish. Let us, by all means, have another expedition.
I shrink a little from our scheme of going up the Baltick[393]. I am sorry
you have already been in Wales; for I wish to see it. Shall we go to
Ireland, of which I have seen but little? We shall try to strike out a
plan when we are at Ashbourne. I am ever,

'Your most faithful humble servant,




'I write to be left at Carlisle, as you direct me; but you cannot have
it. Your letter, dated Sept. 6, was not at this place till this day,
Thursday, Sept. 11; and I hope you will be here before this is at
Carlisle[394]. However, what you have not going, you may have returning;
and as I believe I shall not love you less after our interview, it will
then be as true as it is now, that I set a very high value upon your
friendship, and count your kindness as one of the chief felicities of my
life. Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of
kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any man at
all times something to say.

'That distrust which intrudes so often on your mind is a mode of
melancholy, which, if it be the business of a wise man to be happy, it
is foolish to indulge; and if it be a duty to preserve our faculties
entire for their proper use, it is criminal. Suspicion is very often an
useless pain. From that, and all other pains, I wish you free and safe;
for I am, dear Sir,

'Most affectionately yours,


'Ashbourne, Sept. 11, 1777.'

On Sunday evening Sept. 14, I arrived at Ashbourne, and drove directly
up to Dr. Taylor's door. Dr. Johnson and he appeared before I had got
out of the post-chaise, and welcomed me cordially[395].

I told them that I had travelled all the preceding night, and gone to
bed at Leek in Staffordshire; and that when I rose to go to church in
the afternoon, I was informed there had been an earthquake[396], of which,
it seems, the shock had been felt in some degree at Ashbourne. JOHNSON.
'Sir, it will be much exaggerated in popular talk: for, in the first
place, the common people do not accurately adapt their thoughts to the
objects; nor, secondly, do they accurately adapt their words to their
thoughts: they do not mean to lie; but, taking no pains to be exact,
they give you very false accounts. A great part of their language is
proverbial. If anything rocks at all, they say _it rocks like a cradle_;
and in this way they go on.'

The subject of grief for the loss of relations and friends being
introduced, I observed that it was strange to consider how soon it in
general wears away. Dr. Taylor mentioned a gentleman of the
neighbourhood as the only instance he had ever known of a person who had
endeavoured to _retain_ grief. He told Dr. Taylor, that after his Lady's
death, which affected him deeply, he _resolved_ that the grief, which he
cherished with a kind of sacred fondness, should be lasting; but that he
found he could not keep it long. JOHNSON. 'All grief for what cannot in
the course of nature be helped, soon wears away; in some sooner, indeed,
in some later; but it never continues very long, unless where there is
madness, such as will make a man have pride so fixed in his mind, as to
imagine himself a King; or any other passion in an unreasonable way: for
all unnecessary grief is unwise, and therefore will not be long retained
by a sound mind[397]. If, indeed, the cause of our grief is occasioned by
our own misconduct, if grief is mingled with remorse of conscience, it
should be lasting.' BOSWELL. 'But, Sir, we do not approve of a man who
very soon forgets the loss of a wife or a friend.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, we
disapprove of him, not because he soon forgets his grief, for the sooner
it is forgotten the better, but because we suppose, that if he forgets
his wife or his friend soon, he has not had much affection for them[398].'

I was somewhat disappointed in finding that the edition of _The English
Poets_, for which he was to write Prefaces and Lives, was not an
undertaking directed by him: but that he was to furnish a Preface and
Life to any poet the booksellers pleased. I asked him if he would do
this to any dunce's works, if they should ask him. JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir;
and _say_ he was a dunce.' My friend seemed now not much to relish
talking of this edition.

On Monday, September 15, Dr. Johnson observed, that every body commended
such parts of his _Journey to the Western Islands_, as were in their own
way. 'For instance, (said he,) Mr. Jackson (the all-knowing)[399] told me
there was more good sense upon trade in it, than he should hear in the
House of Commons in a year, except from Burke. Jones commended the part
which treats of language; Burke that which describes the inhabitants of
mountainous countries[400].'

After breakfast, Johnson carried me to see the garden belonging to the
school of Ashbourne, which is very prettily formed upon a bank, rising
gradually behind the house. The Reverend Mr. Langley[401], the
head-master, accompanied us.

While we sat basking in the sun upon a seat here, I introduced a common
subject of complaint, the very small salaries which many curates have,

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