« ZurückWeiter »
must now suffer the shame of confessing that the necessity of an answer did not come into my mind.
“This omission, madam, you may easily excuse, as the consciousness of your own character must secure you
from suspecting that the favour of your notice can ever miss a suitable return, but from ignorance or thoughtlessness, and to be ignorant of your eminence is not easy, but to him who lives out of the reach of the publick voice.—1 am, madam, your most obedient and most humble servant, “Sam. Johnson.”]
He was now seriously engaged in writing an account of our travels in the Hebrides, in consequence of which I had the pleasure of a more frequent correspondence with him. “ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ 29th Jan. 1774. “DEAR SIR,—My operations have been hindered by a cough; at least I flatter myself, that if my cough had not come, I should have been further advanced. But I have had no intelligence from Dr. Webster, nor from the excise-office, nor from you. No account of the little borough'. Nothing of the Erse language. I have yet heard nothing of my box.
“ You must make haste and gather me all you can, and do it quickly, or I will and shall do without it.
“Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and tell her that I do not love her the less for wishing me away. I gave her trouble enough, and shall be glad, in recompense, to give her any pleasure.
“I would send some porter into the Hebrides, if I knew which way it could be got to my kind friends there. Inquire, and let me know.
“ Make my compliments to all the doctors of Edinburgh, and to all
friends, from one end of Scotland to the other. “ Write to me, and send me what intelligence you can; and if any thing is too bulky for the post, let me have it by the carrier. I do not like trusting winds and waves - I am, dear sir, your most, &c.
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”
" TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ London, 7th Feb. 1774. “DEAR SIR,--In a day or two after I had written the last discontented letter, I received
which was very
· The ancient burgh of Prestick, in Ayrshire. --BOSWELL.
you can that
But still I must entreat you to hasten Dr. Webster, and continue to pick up what
be useful. “Mr. Oglethorpe was with me this morning ; you know his errand. He was not unwelcome.
“ Tell Mrs. Boswell that my good intentions towards her still continue. I should be glad to do any thing that would either benefit or please her.
“Chambers is not yet gone, but so hurried, or so negligent, or so proud, that I rarely see him. I have indeed, for some weeks past, been very ill of a cold and cough, and have been at Mrs Thrale's, that I might be taken care of. I am much better : novæ redeunt in prælia vires ; but I am yet tender, and easily disordered. How happy it was that neither of us were ill in the Hebrides.
“The question of literary property' is this day before the lords. Murphy drew up the appellants' case, that is, the plea against the perpetual right. I have not seen it, nor heard the decision. I would not have the right perpetual. “I will write to you as any thing occurs, and do you
send me something about my Scottish friends. I have very great kindness for them. Let me know likewise how fees come in, and when we are to see you.—I am, sir, yours affectionately,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
[The question was not decided till the 22d Feb.; the following summary of this matter is extracted from the “ Annual Register” for 1774, pp. 95–6 :
“ This day came on, in the house of lords, the final determination on the cause of literary property, which rested principally on these three points :
“I. Whether the author of a book, or literary composition, has a common law right to the sole and exclusive publication of such book or literary composition ?
“II. Whether an action for a violation of common law right will lie against those persons who publish the book or literary composition of an authour without his consent ?
“III. How far the statute of the 8th Queen Anne affects the supposition of a common law right?
“ The judges having previously delivered their opinions on these points, Lord Camden rose and spoke very learnedly for near two hours against the literary claimants, and in defence of the statute of Queen Anne, which he said took away any right at common law for an author's exclusively multiplying copies, if any such right existed.
The Lord Chancellor spoke for three quarters of an hour to the same effect. The young Lord Lyttelton next rose, and made a short but florid harangue in favour of literary property. The Bishop of Carlisle and Lord Howard of Effingham spoke against it; and the question being put by the Lord Chancellor, whether it was their lordships' pleasure that the decree should be reversed, it was agreed without a division, with costs.
“By the above decision of the important question respecting copyright in books, near 200,0001. worth of what was honestly purchased at public sales, and which was yesterday thought property, is now reduced to nothing. The booksellers of London and Westminster, many of whom sold estates and houses to purchase copyright, are in a manner ruined ; and those who, after many years' industry, thought they had acquired a competency to provide for their families, now find themselves without a shilling to devise to their successor.
He at this time wrote the following letters to Mr. Steevens, his able associate in editing Shakspeare:
“ TO GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ. HAMPSTEAD.
“7th February, 1774. Sir,-If I am asked when I have seen Mr. Steevens, you know what answer I must give ; if I am asked when I shall see him, I wish you could tell me what to say.
“If you have · Lesley's History of Scotland,' or any other book about Scotland, except Boetius and Buchanan, it will be a kindness if you send them to, sir, your
“TO GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ.
“6 21st Feb. 1774. “SIR,-We are thinking to augment our club, and I am desirous of nominating you, if you care to stand the ballot, and can attend on Friday nights at least twice in five weeks: less than this is too little, and rather more will be expected. Be pleased to let me know before Friday. I am, sir, your most, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
“ TO GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ.
“ 5th March, 1774. "Sir,-Last night you became a member of the club; if you call on me on Friday, I will introduce you. A gentleman, proposed after you, was rejected.
“I thank you for Neander', but wish he were not so fine. I will take care of him. I am, sir, your humble servant,
“ Sam. Johnson.”
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
5th March, 1774. “ DEAR SIR,—Dr. Webster's informations were much less exact, and much less determinate than I expected: they are,
“ The English booksellers have now no other security in future, for any literary purchase they may make, but the statute of the 8th of Queen Anne, which secures to the author's assigns an exclusive property for fourteen years, to revert again to the author, and vest in him for fourteen years more."-Ed.]
See the Catalogue of Mr. Steevens's Library, No. 265 :—"Neandri (Mich.) Opus aureum, Gr. et Lat. 2 tom. 4to. corio turcico, foliis deauratis. Lipsiæ, 1577.” This was doubtless the book which appears to have been lent by Mr. Steevens to Dr. Johnson.--MALONE.
indeed, much less positive than, if he can trust his own book! which he laid before me, he is able to give. But I believe it will always be found, that he who calls much for information will advance his work but slowly.
“I am, however, obliged to you, dear sir, for your endeavours to help me, and hope, that between us something will some time be done, if not on this on some occasion.
“Chambers is either married, or almost married, to Miss Wilton, a girl of sixteen, exquisitely beautiful, whom he has, with his lawyer's tongue, persuaded to take her chance with him in the East.
“ We have added to the club, Charles Fox, Sir Charles Bunbury, Dr. Fordyce, and Mr. Steevens 4. « Return my
thanks to Dr. Webster. Tell Dr. Robertson I have not much to reply to his censure of my negligence : and tell Dr. Blair, that since he has written hither 5 what I said to him, we must now consider ourselves as even, forgive one another, and begin again. I care not how soon, for he is a very pleasing man. Pay my compliments to all my friends, and remind Lord Elibank of his promise to give me all his works.
“I hope Mrs. Boswell and little Miss are well.—When shall I see them again ? She is a sweet lady, only she was so glad to see me go, that I have almost a mind to come again, that she may again have the same pleasure.
“ Inquire if it be practicable to send a small present of a cask of porter to Dunvegan, Rasay, and Col. I would not wish to be thought forgetful of civilities. I am, sir, your humble servant,
65 SAM. JOHNSON.”
On the 5th of March I wrote to him, requesting his counsel whether I should this spring come to London. I stated to him on the one hand some pecuniary embarrassments, which, together with my wife's situation at that time, made me hesitate; and on the other, the pleasure and improvement which my annual visit to the metropolis always afforded me; and particularly mentioned a peculiar satisfaction which I experienced in celebrating the festival of Easter in St. Paul's cathedral ; that, to my fancy, it appeared like going up to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover; and that the strong devotion which I felt on that occasion diffused its influence on my mind through the rest of the year.
1 A manuscript account drawn by Dr. Webster of all the parishes in Scotland, ascertaining their length, breadth, number of inhabitants, and distinguishing Protestants and Roman Catholicks. This book had been transmitted to go. vernment, and Dr. Johnson saw a copy of it in Dr. Webster's possession.BOSWELL.
? [Daughter of Mr. Wilton, the sculptor. After Sir Robert Chambers's death she returned to England, and is now (1830) living at Putney. Miss Chambers, her daughter, married, as the Editor is informed, Colonel Macdonald, the son of Flora. See ante, vol. ii. p 417.-ED.]
3 [Mr. Fox was brought in by Mr. Burke, and this meeting at the Club was the only link of acquaintance between Mr. Fox and Johnson.- MACKINTOSH.]
4 [It is odd that he does not mention Mr. Gibbon, whose admission seems, by Mr. Hatchett's list, to have been contemporary with Steevens’s. Ev.]
5 [This applies to one of Johnson's rude speeches, the mere repetition of which by Dr. Blair, Johnson, with more ingenuity than justice, chose to consider as equivalent to the original offence; but it turned out that Blair had not told the story.-ED.]
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ Not dated, but written about the 15th of March. “ DEAR SIR, I am ashamed to think that since I received your letter I have passed so many days without answering it.
“ I think there is no great difficulty in resolving your doubts. The reasons for which you are inclined to visit London are, I think, not of sufficient strength to answer the objections. That you should delight to come once a year to the fountain of intelligence and pleasure is very natural; but both information and pleasure must be regulated by propriety. Pleasure, which cannot be obtained but by unseasonable or unsuitable expense, must always end in pain; and pleasure, which must be enjoyed at the expense of another's pain, can never be such as a worthy mind can fully delight in.
“ What improvement you might gain by coming to London, you may easily supply or easily compensate, by enjoining yourself some particular study at home, or opening some new avenue to information. Edinburgh is not yet exhausted ; and I am sure you will find no pleasure here which can deserve either that you should anticipate any part of your future fortune, or that you should condemn yourself and your lady to penurious frugality for the rest of the
year. “I need not tell you what regard you owe to Mrs. Boswell's entreaties ; or how much you ought to study the happiness of her who studies yours with so much diligence, and of whose kindness you enjoy such good effects. Life cannot subsist in society but by reciprocal concessions. She permitted you to