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Title: James Boswell - Famous Scots Series
Author: Leask, W. Keith (William Keith), 1857-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "James Boswell - Famous Scots Series" ***

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_The following Volumes are now ready:_--

THOMAS CARLYLE. By Hector C. Macpherson.
ALLAN RAMSAY. By Oliphant Smeaton.
HUGH MILLER. By W. Keith Leask.
JOHN KNOX. By A. Taylor Innes.
ROBERT BURNS. By Gabriel Setoun.
RICHARD CAMERON. By Professor Herkless.
SIR JAMES Y. SIMPSON. By Eve Blantyre Simpson.
THOMAS CHALMERS. By Professor W. Garden Blaikie.
JAMES BOSWELL. By W. Keith Leask.







       *       *       *       *       *

The designs and ornaments of this volume are by Mr Joseph Brown, and the
printing from the press of Messrs Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh.

       *       *       *       *       *


M.A. Pembroke (Johnson's) College, Oxford;


       *       *       *       *       *


The literature of the Johnsonian period has assumed, in spite of the
lexicographer's own dislike of that adjective, prodigious dimensions.
After the critical labours of Malone, Murphy, Croker, J. B. Nichols,
Macaulay, Carlyle, Rogers, Fitzgerald, Dr Hill and others, it may appear
hazardous to venture upon such a well-ploughed field where the pitfalls
are so numerous and the materials so scattered. I cannot, however,
refrain from the expression of the belief that in this biography of
Boswell will be found something that is new to professed students of the
period, and much to the class of general readers that may lead them to
reconsider the verdict at which they may have arrived from the brilliant
but totally misleading essay by Lord Macaulay. At least, the writer
cherishes the hope that it will materially add to the correct
understanding and the enjoyment of Boswell's great work, _the Life of

My best thanks are due to J. Pearson & Co., 5 Pall Mall Place, London,
for the use of unpublished letters by Boswell and of his boyish
common-place book. And if "our Boswell" could indulge an honest pride in
availing himself of a dedication to Sir Joshua Reynolds, as to a person
of the first eminence in his department, so may I entertain the same
feeling in inscribing this sketch to Dr Hill who, amid the pressure of
other Johnson labours, has yet found time to revise the proof sheets of
my book.

W. K. L.

_ABERDEEN, December 1896._




EARLY DAYS--MEETS JOHNSON--1740-63                                     9


THE CONTINENT--CORSICA--1763-66                                       35


EDINBURGH BAR--STRATFORD JUBILEE--1766-69                             54


LOVE AFFAIRS--LITERARY CLUB--1766-73                                  76


TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES--1773                                            88


EDINBURGH LIFE--DEATH OF JOHNSON--1773-84                            113


THE ENGLISH BAR--DEATH--1784-95                                      122


IN LITERATURE                                                        143




    'Behind yon hills, where Lugar flows.'--BURNS.

'Every Scotchman,' says Sir Walter Scott, 'has a pedigree. It is a
national prerogative, as inalienable as his pride and his poverty. My
birth was neither distinguished nor sordid.' What, however, was but a
foible with Scott was a passion in James Boswell, who has on numerous
occasions obtruded his genealogical tree in such a manner as to render
necessary some acquaintance with his family and lineage. The family of
Boswell, or Bosville, dates from the Normans who came with William the
Conqueror to Hastings. Entering Scotland in the days of the sore saint,
David I., they had spread over Berwickshire and established themselves,
at least in one branch, at Balmuto in Fife. A descendant of the family,
Thomas Boswell, occupies in the genealogy of the biographer the position
of prominence which Wat of Harden holds in the line of the novelist. He
obtained a grant of the lands in Ayrshire belonging to the ancient house
of Affleck of that ilk, when they had passed by forfeiture into the
hands of the king. Pitcairn, in his _Collection of Criminal Trials_ is
inclined to regard this ancestor as the chief minstrel in the royal
train of James IV.; but, as he fell at Flodden, this may be taken as
being at least not proven, nor would the position of this first literary
man in the family have been quite pleasing to the pride of race so often
shewn by his descendant. A Yorkshire branch of the family, with the
spelling of their name as Bosville, was settled at Gunthwait in the West
Riding, and its head was hailed as 'his chief' by Bozzy, whose
gregarious instincts led him to trace and claim relationship in a way
even more than is national. By marriage and other ties the family in
Scotland was connected with the most ancient and distinguished houses in
the land.

The great grandfather of the biographer was the Earl of Kincardine who
is mentioned by Gilbert Burnet in his _History of His Own Time_. He had
married a Dutch lady, of the noble house of Sommelsdyck who had once
held princely rank in Surinam. With that branch also of the name did
Boswell, in later years, establish a relationship at the time of his
continental tour, when at the Hague he found the head holding 'an
important charge in the Republick, and is as worthy a man as lives, and
has honoured me with his correspondence these twenty years.' From the
Earl Boswell boasted 'the blood of Bruce in my veins,' a descent which
he seizes every opportunity of making known to his readers, and to which
we find him alluding in a letter of 10th May, 1786, now before us, to
Mickle, the translator of the _Lusiad_, with a promise to 'tell you what
I know about our common ancestor, Robert the Bruce.' When Johnson, in
the autumn of 1773, visited the ancestral seat of his friend, Boswell,
'in the glow of what, I am sensible, will in a commercial age be
considered as a genealogical enthusiasm,' did not forget to remind his
illustrious Mentor of his relationship to the Royal Personage, George
the Third, 'whose pension had given Johnson comfort and independence.'
It would have required a much greater antiquarian than Johnson, who
could scarcely tell the name of his own grandfather, to have traced the
well-nigh twenty generations of connecting links between Bruce and the
third of the Guelph dynasty on the throne.

From Veronica Sommelsdyck, the wife of this royal ancestor (whose title
is now merged in the earldom of Elgin), was 'introduced into our family
the saint's name,' born by Boswell's own eldest daughter, and other
consequences of a much graver nature were destined to ensue. 'For this
marriage,' says Ramsay of Ochtertyre, 'their posterity paid dear,' for
to it was due, increased no doubt as it was through the inter-marriages
in close degrees between various scions of the house, the insanity which
is now recognised by all students of his writings in Boswell himself,
and which made its appearance in the clearest way in the case of his
second daughter. His grandfather James adopted the profession of law in
which he obtained some distinction, and left three children--Alexander,
the father of the subject of this sketch, John, who followed the
practice of medicine, and a daughter Veronica, married to Montgomerie of
Lainshaw, whose daughter became the wife of her cousin Bozzy.

Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck, married his cousin Euphemia Erskine.
In the writings of the son the father makes a considerable figure, while
his mother, 'of the family of Buchan, a woman of almost unexampled piety
and goodness,' as he styles her, is but a dim name in the background, as
with John Stuart Mill who has written a copious autobiography, and left
it to the logical instincts of his readers to infer that he had a
mother. The profession of law was adopted by the father, who, after a
residence abroad at Leyden where he graduated, passed as advocate at the
Scottish bar in 1729, from which, after a distinguished career, he was
appointed to the sheriffdom of Wigton, and ultimately raised to the
bench in 1754, with the title of Lord Auchinleck. He possessed, says his
son, 'all the dignified courtesy of an old baron,' of the school of
Cosmo Bradwardine as we may say, and not only was he an excellent
scholar, but, from the intimacy he had cultivated with the Gronovii and
other _literati_ of Leyden, he was a collector of classical manuscripts
and a collator of the texts and editions of Anacreon. His library was
rich in curious editions of the classics, and was in some respects not
excelled by any private collection in Great Britain, and the reputation
of the Auchinleck library was greatly increased by the black-letter
tastes and publications of his grandson. A strong Whig and active
Presbyterian, he was much esteemed in public and in private life. The
son had on his northern tour the pleasure to note, both at Aberdeen and
at Inverness, the high regard in which the old judge was held, and to
find his name and connection a very serviceable means of introduction to
the travellers in their 'transit over the Caledonian hemisphere.' Like
the father of Scott, who kept the whole bead-roll of cousins and
relations and loved a funeral, Lord Auchinleck bequeathed to his eldest
son at least one characteristic, the attention to relatives in the
remotest degree of kin. On the bench, like the judges in _Redgauntlet_,
Hume, Kames, and others, he affected the racy Doric; and his 'Scots
strength of sarcasm, which is peculiar to a North Briton,' was on many
an occasion lamented by his son who felt it, and acknowledged by Johnson
on at least one famous occasion. In the _Boswelliana_ are preserved many
of old Auchinleck's stories which Lord Monboddo says he could tell well
with wit and gravity--stories of the circuit and bar type of Braxfield
and Eskgrove, such as Scott used to tell to the wits round the fire of
the Parliament House. In his younger days he had been a beau, and his
affectation of red heels to his shoes and of red stockings, when brought
under the notice of his son by a friend, so affected Bozzy that he could
hardly sit on his chair for laughing. A great gardener and planter like
others of the race of old Scottish judges he had extended, in the
classic style of architecture then in fashion, the family mansion, and
had, as Johnson found, 'advanced the value of his lands with great
tenderness to his tenants.' Past the older residence flowed the river
Lugar, here of considerable depth, and then bordered with rocks and
shaded with wood--the old castle whose 'sullen dignity' was the nurse of
Boswell's devotion to the feudal principles and 'the grand scheme of
subordination,' of which he lets us hear so much when he touches on 'the
romantick groves of my ancestors.'

James Boswell, the immortal biographer of Johnson, was born in Edinburgh
on October 29, 1740. The earliest fact which is known about him is one
which he himself would have described as 'a whimsical or
characteristical' anecdote, and which he had told to Johnson:--'Boswell
in the year 1745 was a fine boy, wore a white cockade, and prayed for
King James, till one of his uncles, General Cochrane, gave him a
shilling on condition that he would pray for King George, which he
accordingly did. So you see that Whigs of all ages are made the same
way.' It may have been these early signs of perversity that led his
father to be strict in dealing with him, for we cannot doubt that
Boswell in the _London Magazine_ for 1781, is giving us a picture of
domestic life when he writes as follows:--'I knew a father who was a
violent Whig, and used to upbraid his son with being deficient in "noble
sentiments of liberty," while at the same time he made this son live
under his roof in such bondage, that he was not only afraid to stir from
home without leave, but durst scarcely open his mouth in his father's
presence.' For some time he was privately educated under the tuition of
the Rev. John Dun, who was presented in 1752 to the living of Auchinleck
by the judge, and finally at the High School and the University of
Edinburgh. There he met with two friends with whom, to the close of his
life, he was destined to have varied and close relations. One was Henry
Dundas, first Lord Melville, and by "Harry the Ninth" Bozzy, in his
ceaseless attempts to secure place and promotion, constantly attempted
to steer, while that Pharos of Scotland, as Lord Cockburn calls him, was
as constantly inclined to be diffident of the abilities, or at least the
vagaries, of his suitor.

The other friend was William Johnson Temple, son of a Northumberland
gentleman of good family, and grandfather of the present Archbishop of
Canterbury. Temple was a little older than Boswell, who for upwards of
thirty-seven years maintained an uninterrupted correspondence with him.
As he is the Atticus of Boswell, we insert here a detailed account of
him in order to avoid isolated references and allusions in the course of
the narrative. On leaving Edinburgh he entered Trinity Hall, Cambridge;
after taking the usual degrees, he was presented by Lord Lisburne to the
living of Mamhead in Devon, which was followed by that of St Gluvias in
Cornwall. Strangely enough for one who was an intimate friend of
Boswell, he was no admirer of Johnson (whose name, by a curious
coincidence, was a part of his own), and a strong Whig and
water-drinker, 'a bill which,' says Bozzy humorously, 'was ever one
which meets with a determined resistance and opposition in my lower
house.' As the friend of Gray and of Mason, he must have been possessed
of some share of ability, yet over his moral character the admirers and
critics of Boswell are divided. To some he appears as the true and
faithful Atticus to the Cicero of his friend, the Mentor and honest
adviser in all times of danger and trial. To others he seems but to have
possessed, in a minor degree, all the failings of Boswell himself, and
it would appear the most natural inference to believe that, had Temple
been endowed with greater force of mental or moral character, the
results would have been seen in many ways upon the actions of his
friend. In his wife he was unfortunate, and, at one time at least, he
attempted to secure a colonial chaplaincy in order to effect a
separation. He was the writer of an _Essay on the Clergy; their Studies
and Recreations_, 1774; _Historical and Political Memoirs_, 1777; _Abuse
of Unrestrained Power_, 1778; all of which have completely passed from
the memory of man. But he lives with a fair claim to fame, as the
correspondent of Boswell, who calls him 'best of friends' to 'a weak
distemper'd soul that swells in sudden gusts, and sinks again in calms.'
A chance memorandum by Temple, on the death of Gray, displaying
considerable felicity of phrase and insight, was sent by Boswell to the
_London Magazine_ of March 1772, from which it was copied by Mason in
his _Life of Gray_, and in an adapted form it was used by Johnson
himself in his sketch of the poet's work, in his _Lives of the Poets_.
The discovery of the _Letters to Temple_ is one of the happiest
accidents in literature, and without them the true life of Boswell could
not be written. To neither Macaulay nor Carlyle were they known for use
in their famous reviews. On the death of Temple in 1796, one year after
the decease of his friend, his papers passed into the possession of his
son-in-law, who retired to France, where he died. Some fifty years ago,
a gentleman making purchases in a shop at Boulogne, observed that the
wrapper was a scrap of a letter, which formed part of a bundle bought
shortly before from a travelling hawker. On investigation, the letters
were found to be the correspondence of Boswell with Temple, and all
doubts as to their genuineness were conclusively set at rest by their
bearing the London and Devon post marks, and the franks of well known
names. But the internal evidence alone, as we shall see, would be
sufficient to establish their authenticity. Published in 1857 by
Bentley, under the careful editorship of Mr Francis, they constitute,
along with the no less happy discovery in 1854, behind an old press in
Sydney, of Campbell's _Diary of a Visit to England_--though Professor
Jowett was inclined to doubt the authenticity of the latter--the most
valuable accession of evidence to the Johnsonian circle of interest, and
they shed on Boswell and his method a light which otherwise would leave
much in darkness, or, at least, but ensure a general acceptance of the
harsher features in the criticism by Macaulay. From the remark by
Boswell to Temple--'remember and put my letters into a book neatly; see
which of us does it first,' it has been inferred that he meditated, in
some sort of altered appearance, their republication. That Temple
entertained the same idea on his part we know from his own words, and
from the title under which Boswell suggested their issue--_Remarks on
Various Authors, in a Series of Letters to James Boswell, Esq._ But that
Boswell himself ever did intend the publication of his own must be
pronounced, by all that know what lies behind their printed form, a
moral impossibility.

The first preserved letter is dated from Edinburgh, July 29, 1758. It
reveals at once the historic Boswell, such as he remained to the close,
the cheerful self-confidence, the gregarious instincts, the pleasing air
of moralizing, and the easy flow of style. 'Some days ago I was
introduced to your friend Mr Hume; he is a most discreet affable man as
ever I met with, and has really a great deal of learning, a choice
collection of books ... we talk a good deal of genius, fine learning,
improving our style, etc., but I am afraid solid learning is much worn
out. Mr Hume is, I think, a very proper person for a young man to
cultivate an acquaintance with.' Then he digresses to 'my passion for
Miss W----t,' of whom, he assures his friend, he is 'excessively fond,
so don't be surprised if your grave, sedate, philosophic friend who used
to carry it so high, and talk with such a composed indifference of the
beauteous sex, should all at once commence Don Quixote for his adorable
Dulcinea.' We catch sight of him, at eighteen, going on the northern
circuit with his father and Lord Hailes. There, by the advice of an
Edinburgh acquaintance, Love, an old actor at Drury Lane, but then a
teacher of elocution in the town, he began 'an exact journal,' and on
that journey it was that Hailes made Boswell aware of the fact that was
to henceforward colour the entire tide of his life, the existence of Dr
Johnson as a great writer in London, 'which grew up in my fancy into a
kind of mysterious veneration, by figuring to myself a state of solemn
elevated abstraction, in which I supposed him to live in the immense
metropolis of London.' Such were the links, the advice of this obscure
player to keep a journal, and the report given to the youth by the
judge in their postchaise. As early as December 1758 we hear of his
having 'published now and then the production of a leisure hour in the
magazines,' and of his life in Edinburgh he writes, 'from nine to ten I
attend the law class; from ten to eleven study at home, and from one to
two attend a class on Roman Antiquities; the afternoon and evening I
always spend in study. I never walk except on Saturdays.' A full
allowance, surely, all this for one who regrets his sad impotence in
study, and writes the letters to Lord Hailes which we shall quote later.

Even at this period he betrays the fatal defect which remains with him
through life, the indulgence in 'the luxury of noble sentiments,' and
the easy and irritating Micawber-like genteel roll with which he turns
off a moral platitude or finely vague sentiment, in the belief that good
principles constitute good character. 'As our minds improve in
knowledge,' he writes, 'may the sacred flame still increase until at
last we reach the glorious world above when we shall never be separated,
but enjoy an everlasting society of bliss.... I hope by Divine
assistance, you shall still preserve your amiable character amidst all
the deceitful blandishments of vice and folly.' While still at Edinburgh
he produced _The Coquettes, or the Gallant in the Closet_, by Lady
Houston, but it was ruined on the third night, and found to be merely a
translation of one of the feeblest plays of Thomas Corneille. This play
was long believed to be by Boswell, but his part was merely the
providing the translator with a prologue, nor was the fact revealed till
long after by the lady herself.

In November 1759 he entered the class of moral philosophy under Adam
Smith at Glasgow. Perhaps his father had thought that in the more sedate
capital of the West, and in close propinquity to Auchinleck, there
would be less scope for the long career of eccentricities upon which he
was now to enter. If such, however, had been the intention, it was
destined to a rude awakening. All his life Bozzy affected the company of
players, among whom he professed to find 'an animation and a relish of
existence,' and at this period he tells us he was flattered by being
held forth as a patron of literature. In the course of his assiduous
visits to the local theatre he met with an old stage-struck army officer
from Ireland, Francis Gentleman, who had sold his commission to risk his
chances on the boards. By this worthy an edition of Southern's
_Oroonoko_ was dedicated to Boswell, and in the epistle are found some
of his qualities:--

    'But when with honest pleasure she can find
    Sense, taste, religion, and good nature join'd,
    There gladly will she raise her feeble Voice
    Nor fear to tell that Boswell is her Choice.'

Thus early had the youthful patron of the drama blossomed into
notoriety, and having also commenced attendance at the Roman Catholic
Chapel he had now resolved to become a priest, though curiously enough
he began this career by eloping, as we are assured by Ramsay of
Ochtertyre, with a Roman Catholic actress. His father followed the pair
to London, and there, it would seem, prevailed on the erratic neophyte
to abandon his fair partner, whose existence would certainly have been a
fatal barrier to the proposed priesthood. At least, like his friend
Gibbon of later days, if he sighed as a lover, he obeyed as a son, and a
compromise by which he was to enter on the profession of arms was
effected. His father called on Archibald, Duke of Argyll, an old
campaigner with Marlborough. 'My Lord,' said the Duke, 'I like your son;
this boy must not be shot at for three shillings and sixpence a day.'
This scene reads like a pre-arranged affair calculated to flatter the
erratic Bozzy out of his warlike schemes, for which it is clear he was
never fitted. Indeed, the true aim was really, as he confesses to
Temple, a wish to be 'about court, enjoying the happiness of the _beau
monde_ and the company of men of genius.' Temple had come forward with
an offer of a thousand pounds to obtain a commission for him in the
Guards, and Boswell assures us repeatedly, 'I had from earliest years a
love for the military life.' Yet we can with equal difficulty figure
'our Bozzy' as priest or soldier. Like Hogg who hankered after the post
of militia ensign with 'nerves not,' as Lockhart says, 'heroically
strung,' Boswell in his own _Letter to the People of Scotland_ confesses
himself 'not blest with high heroic blood, but rather I think troubled
with a natural timidity of personal danger, which it costs me some
philosophy to overcome.' Nor was his devotion to charmer or chapel
likely to weather the dissipated life he led in London. In later life he
may have had thoughts of his own feelings when he proposed to publish,
from the manuscript in his possession, the life of Sir Robert Sibbald.
That antiquary had been pressed by the Duke of Perth to come over to the
Papists, and for some time embraced the ancient religion, until the
rigid fasting led him to reconsider the controversy and he returned to
Protestantism. Bozzy thought the remark of his friend, that as ladies
love to see themselves in a glass, so a man likes to see and review
himself in his journal, 'a very pretty allusion,' and we may be sure, in
spite of his reticence, that his own case was present at the time to his
mind. His distressed father enlisted the interest of Lord Hailes, who
requested Dr Jortin, Prebendary of St Paul's, to take in hand the
flighty youth, and to persuade him to renounce the errors of the Church
of Rome for those of the Church of England, for it was plain that
Boswell had broken loose from his old moorings, and some middle course
might, it was hoped, prove to be possible. 'Your young gentleman,'
writes Jortin to Hailes, 'called at my house. I was gone out for the
day; he then left your letter and a note with it for me, promising to be
with me on Saturday morning. But from that time to this I have heard
nothing of him. He began, I suppose, to suspect some design upon him,
and his new friends may have represented me to him as a heretic and an
infidel, whom he ought to avoid as he would the plague.' More likely the
Catholic fit had passed away. But what a light does this phase, erratic
even among his countless vagaries, shed on his relation to Johnson!
Never, we may rest assured, did he tell the sage of this hidden passage
in his life; yet how often do we find him putting leading questions to
his friend and Mentor on all points of Catholic doctrine and casuistry,
purgatory, and the invocation of the saints, confession, and the mass!
There can be no doubt that this wrench left a deep impress on the
confused religious views of Boswell, and this is the clue which explains
the opening conversation with Johnson at the beginning of their
intimacy. 'I acknowledged,' he writes, 'that though educated strictly in
the principles of religion, I had for some time been misled into a
certain degree of infidelity; but I was now come to a better way of
thinking, and was fully satisfied of the truth of the Christian
revelation, though I was not clear as to every point considered to be
orthodox.' Never in any way does he refer to this episode of his life,
but the _Life of Johnson_ is, as we shall have occasion to show, the
life in many ways also of its author, who says of himself that, 'from a
certain peculiarly frank, open, and ostentatious disposition which he
avows, his history, like that of the old Seigneur Michael de Montaigne,
is to be traced in his writings.'

Left to himself and the guidance of the writer Derrick, 'my first tutor
in the ways of London, who shewed me the town in all its variety of
departments, both literary and sportive,' he was now busily spelling
through the pages of the Gull's Hornbook. From this course of idle
dissipation he was saved by the interposition of an Ayrshire neighbour
of the family, the Earl of Eglintoun, though were we to credit the
account of the waif himself the Earl 'insisted that young Boswell should
have an apartment in his house.' Certain it is that by his lordship he
was taken to Newmarket and introduced to the members of the Jockey Club.
He would appear to have fancied himself a regularly elected member, for
here his eccentricity broke forth into a yet more violent form. Calling
for pen and paper, while the sporting fraternity gathered round, he
produced the _Cub at Newmarket_, which he printed and dedicated to the
Duke of York in a characteristically Boswellian strain. In doggerel
which defies rhyme or reason he tells how his patron

    'By chance a curious cub has got
    On Scotia's mountains newly caught;'

and then--the first of his many portraits drawn by himself, and
prophetic of the lover of hospitable boards and good cheer as we know
him in his works--he describes the writer as

             'Not of the iron race
    Which sometimes Caledonia grace;
    Though he to combat should advance,
    Plumpness shone in his countenance;
    And belly prominent declared
    That he for beef and pudding cared;
    He had a large and ponderous head,
    That seemed to be composed of lead;
    From which hung down such stiff, lank hair,
    As might the crows in autumn scare.'

At this time it is likely took place the escapade with which he must
have convulsed the gravity of the Edinburgh _literati_ invited to meet
Johnson on their return from the Hebrides. 'I told, when Dr Hugh Blair
was sitting with me in the pit of Drury Lane, in a wild freak of
youthful extravagance I entertained the audience _prodigiously_ by
imitating the lowing of a cow. I was so successful in this boyish frolic
that the universal cry of the galleries was "_encore the cow_." In the
pride of my heart I attempted imitations of other animals, but with very
inferior effect.' Blair's advice was, says Scott, 'Stick to the coo,
man,' in his peculiar burr, but we can imagine how this unforeseen
reminiscence must have confused the divine. After an ineffectual effort
to enter himself at the Inner Temple, the 'cub' had to return in April
1761 to Edinburgh.

Old Edinburgh was nothing if not convivial. Writing to Temple and
confessing that his London life had 'not been entirely as it ought to
be,' he appeals to him for pity in his present surroundings. Imagine 'a
young fellow,' he cries, 'whose happiness was always centred in London,
hauled away to the town of Edinburgh, obliged to conform to every
Scottish custom, or be laughed at--"Will ye hae some jeel? Oh fie, oh
fie!"--his flighty imagination quite cramped, and be obliged to study
_Corpus Juris Civilis_ and live in his father's strict family; is there
any wonder, sir, that the unlucky dog should be somewhat fretful? Yoke a
Newmarket courser to a dung cart, and I'll lay my life on't he'll either
caper or kick most confoundedly, or be as stupid and restive as an old
battered post-horse.' Among the many clubs of the time Boswell
instituted a jovial society called the _Soaping Club_ which met weekly
in a tavern. The motto of the members was 'Every man soap his own
beard,' a rather recondite witticism which their founder declares
equivalent to the reigning phrase of 'Every man in his humour.' It may
be suggested here that in this company of feeble Bacchanalians Boswell
had copied the Rabelaisian _fay ce que vous voudras_ of the Franciscans
of Medmenham Abbey with Sandwich, Wilkes, and others. At any rate, as
their self-constituted laureate, he produced the following extraordinary
song, which can be paralleled for inanity only by the stave he sang
before Pitt in the Guildhall of London, as a means of attracting the
notice of the Premier with a view to Parliament. The song is
characteristically Boswellian.

    'Boswell of Soapers the King
      On Tuesdays at Tom's does appear,
    And when he does talk or does sing,
      To him ne'er a one can come near.
    For he talks with such ease and such grace,
      That all charm'd to attention we sit,
    And he sings with so comic a face
      That our sides are just ready to split.

    Boswell is modest enough,
      Himself not quite Phoebus he thinks,
    He never does flourish with snuff,
      And hock is the liquor he drinks.
    And he owns that Ned Colquet the priest
      May to something of honour pretend,
    And he swears that he is not in jest,
      When he calls this same Colquet his friend.

    Boswell is pleasant and gay,
      For frolic by nature design'd;
    He heedlessly rattles away
      When the company is to his mind.
    "This maxim," he says, "you may see,
      We never can have corn without chaff;"
    So not a bent sixpence cares he,
      Whether _with_ him or _at_ him you laugh.

    Boswell does women adore,
      And never once means to deceive,
    He's in love with at least half a score;
      If they're serious he smiles in his sleeve.
    He has all the bright fancy of youth,
      With the judgment of forty and five;
    In short, to declare the plain truth,
      There is no better fellow alive.'

This, it must be confessed, is sad stuff even for a laureate of twenty,
and is jesting with difficulty. Every man, says Johnson, has at one time
or other of his life an ambition to set up for a wag, but that a man who
had completed the _Life of Johnson_ should in after years complacently
refer to this character of himself and 'traits in it which time has not
yet altered, that egotism and self-applause which he is still
displaying, yet it would seem with a conscious smile,' is scarcely
credible were it not out-distanced by graver weaknesses.

For about this date he published _An Elegy upon the Death of an Amiable
Young Lady_, flanked by three puffing epistles from himself and his
friends, Erskine and Dempster. In the same year appeared his _Ode to
Tragedy_--by a Gentleman of Scotland, with a dedication to--James
Boswell, Esq.!--'for your particular kindness to me, and chiefly for the
profound respect with which you have always treated me.' We hear of his
'old hock' humour, a favourite phrase with him for his Bacchanalian
tastes, and we find the author limning himself as possessing

    'A soul by nature formed to feel
    Grief sharper than the tyrant's steel,
    And bosom big with swelling thought
    From ancient lore's remembrance brought.'

In 1760 had appeared a _Collection of Original Poems_, published by
Donaldson in Edinburgh on the model of Dodsley's _Miscellanies_. It
comprised poems by Blacklock, Beattie, and others, and a second volume
was issued by Erskine as editor in 1762. To it Boswell contributed
nearly thirty pieces along with Home, the author of _Douglas_,
Macpherson of _Ossian_ fame or notoriety, John Maclaurin and others. The
merits of the volume are beneath notice, and Boswell's contributions of
Odes, Epigrams, Letters, Epistles, are of the traditional character; but
_An Epistle from a London Buck to his Friend_ must have been read by his
father with regret, and by his mother of 'almost unexampled piety and
goodness' with shame. There is only one poem that calls for attention,
the _Evening Walk in the Abbey Church of Holyrood House_, the original,
perhaps, of Fergusson's lament on the state of neglect of the then
deserted mansion of royalty, where

            'the thistle springs
    In domicile of ancient Kings,
    Without a patriot to regret
    Our palace and our ancient state.'

A third volume was announced for publication 'about eighteen months
hence,' but the public had enough of this coagulated jargon as Carlyle
would have styled it, and critics and readers are spared the task of its

Yet all this time he was in the enjoyment of the best company that
Edinburgh could afford; he was admitted a member of the Select Society,
and his circle embraced such men as Lord Somerville, Lord Hailes, Dr
Blair, Kames, Robertson, Hume, Home, Jupiter Carlyle and others. 'Lord
Auchinleck,' he quaintly adds, 'took the trouble himself to give him a
regular course of instruction in law, a circumstance of singular
benefit, and of which Mr Boswell has ever expressed a strong and
grateful sense.' But his sense was not such as to restrain him from a
mock-heroic correspondence with Andrew Erskine, brother of the Earl of
Kellie. Erskine must have been possessed of some parts, for he was the
correspondent of Burns and was intimate with George Thomson the
composer, yet we can fancy the consternation of the old judge when this
farrago of the new humour was published in London in 1763. Writing from
his father's house, he thus begins:--'Dear Erskine, no ceremony I
beseech you! Give me your hand. How is my honest Captain Andrew? How
goes it with the elegant Lady A----? the lovely, sighing Lady J----? and
how, oh how, does that glorious luminary Lady B---- do? you see I retain
my usual volatility. The Boswells, you know, came over from Normandy
with William the Conqueror; and some of us possess the spirit of our
ancestors, the French. I do, for one. A pleasant spirit it is. _Vive la
bagatelle_ is the maxim. A light heart may bid defiance to fortune.'
Again the old man would find 'Allow me a few more words. I live here in
a remote corner of an old ruinous house, where my ancestors have been
very jovial. What a solemn idea rushes on my mind! They are all gone: I
must follow. Well, and what then? Let me shift about to another subject.
The best I can think of is a sound sleep; so good-night.' In fact, like
Sir Fretful Plagiary in the _Critic_, Bozzy was so covetous of
popularity that he would rather be abused than be not mentioned at all.
Little augury, too, of success at the bar could his father find in the
following portrait of his son: 'the author of the _Ode to Tragedy_ is a
most excellent man; he is of an ancient family in the west of Scotland,
upon which he values himself not a little. At his nativity there
appeared omens of his future greatness; his parts are bright, and his
education has been good; he has travelled in post-chaises miles without
number; he is fond of seeing much of the world; he eats of every good
dish, especially apple pie; he drinks old hock; he has a very fine
temper; he is somewhat of a humourist, and a little tinctured with
pride; he has a good, manly countenance, and he owns himself to be
amorous; he has infinite vivacity; yet is at times observed to have a
melancholy cast.'

Nothing but the most obtuse vanity could ever have induced Bozzy to
publish all this. 'Curiosity,' he declares in the preface, 'is the most
prevalent of all our passions, and the curiosity for reading letters is
the most prevalent of all kinds of curiosity. Had any man in the three
kingdoms found the following letters directed, sealed, and addressed,
with post-marks--provided he could have done so honestly--he would have
read every one of them.' There is the true Boswell in this
characteristic confession, the Boswell that read in the private diaries
of Johnson, and, with an eye to biographical materials, had admitted an
impulse to carry them off, and never see him more. 'Why, sir,' said the
doctor, 'I do not think you could have helped it.'

After this it was no wonder that his father was induced to allow his
return to London, 'Where a man may soap his own beard, and enjoy
whatever is to be had in this transitory state of things, and every
agreeable whim may be indulged without censure.' The Duke of Queensbery,
the patron of Gay, was one of those to whom he was recommended now that
he inclined to 'persist in his fondness for the Guards, or rather, in
truth, for the metropolis,' but he suspected some arrangement between
his father and the Duke by which the commission was delayed. For some
months he spent a random life as the occupier of Temple's chambers in
the vicinity of Johnson. Little could be expected of the friend of
Churchill and Wilkes, yet Boswell now was at the turning point of his

'This is to me,' he writes in his great work, 'a memorable year; for in
it I had the happiness to obtain the acquaintance of that extraordinary
man whose memoirs I am now writing; an acquaintance which I shall ever
esteem as one of the most fortunate circumstances of my life.' We have
seen how Lord Hailes, had on the 1758 circuit, mentioned to him the name
of Johnson; how in Glasgow Gentleman had given him a representation of
'dictionary Johnson;' how Derrick in 1760, during his first visit to
London, had promised to introduce this youth of twenty to the great
dictator of literature; and Sheridan, the father of the dramatist, when
in Edinburgh in 1761, giving public lectures on elocution, had made a
similar promise. But on his return to London at the end of 1762, Boswell
had found that Sheridan had quarrelled with Johnson, and Derrick had
retired to Bath as master of the ceremonies in succession to Beau Nash.
Luckily Derrick had before introduced his friend to Davies, the
bookseller in Covent Garden, who as 'one of the best imitators of
Johnson's voice and manner' only increased the ardour of Boswell for the
meeting. Now the hour was come and the man. Yet surely never could there
have been a more apparently unpropitious time chosen. Number 45 of the
_North Briton_ denouncing Bute and his Scotch favourites had appeared on
April 23rd. The minister had bowed to the storm and resigned, while the
writer of the libel had been arrested under a general warrant and
discharged on the 30th of the month under appeal, either to be hanged,
thought Adam Smith, or to get Bute impeached in six months. Alexander
Cruden, of _Concordance_ fame, was rambling over London in his lucid
interval like an inverted Old Mortality, busy with a sponge obliterating
every hated '45' scrawled over the walls and every conceivable spot in
the city against his country. Yet at such an hour it was that the famous
meeting of Johnson and his biographer took place.

'At last, on Monday the 16th of May, when I was sitting in Mr Davies'
back-parlour, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs Davies, Johnson
unexpectedly came into the shop; and Mr Davies having perceived him
through the glass door in the room in which we were sitting, advancing
towards us,--he announced his awful approach to me, somewhat in the
manner of an actor in the part of Horatio, when he addresses Hamlet on
the appearance of his father's ghost, "Look, my lord, it comes." I found
that I had a very perfect idea of Johnson's figure, from the portrait of
him painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.... Mr Davies mentioned my name, and
respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and recollecting
his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to
Davies, "Don't tell where I come from."--"From Scotland," cried Davies
roguishly. "Mr Johnson," said I, "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I
cannot help it." ... "That, sir, I find is what a very great many of
your countrymen cannot help." This stroke stunned me a good deal; and
when we had sat down, I felt myself not a little embarrassed, and
apprehensive of what might come next.... Eager to take any opening to
get into conversation with him, I ventured to say, "Oh, sir, I cannot
think Mr Garrick would grudge such a trifle to you." "Sir," said he,
with a stern look, "I have known David Garrick longer than you have
done, and I know no right you have to talk to me on the subject."
Perhaps I deserved this check,' etc., etc.

Next day Boswell called on Davies, who assured him that the doctor would
not take it amiss if he were to visit him; and so, a week later, 'after
being entertained by the witty sallies of Messieurs Thornton, Wilkes,
Churchill and Lloyd,' from whom he would hear plenty of vigorous abuse
of his country, and whose names we may take it as certain were not
mentioned to his new friend, Boswell boldly repaired to Johnson. Nothing
is more striking than the contrast between the hitherto reckless Bozzy
and the easy assurance and composure with which he faces Johnson, sits
up with the sage, sups at the Mitre, leads the conversation, and
apparently holds his own in the discussions. Doubtless, the 'facility of
manners' which Adam Smith has said was a feature of the man, was here of
service to him, and no less so would have been the flattering way in
which he managed to inform Johnson of his reputation over the Border.
Boswell was not slow to write to Lord Hailes, knowing full well how the
report of such an acquaintance and friendship would be welcome at
Auchinleck as the signs of an approaching reformation. Goldsmith, whom
he met shortly after, he entertained at the Mitre with a party of
friends, among whom was the Rev. Dr John Ogilvie, the author of some
portentous and completely forgotten epics, but who is not yet quite lost
to sight as the writer of the sixty-second paraphrase of Scripture, 'Lo!
in the last of days behold.' A subsequent 'evening by ourselves' he
describes to Lord Hailes in the wariest manner, so as to secure his
father's consent to a plan of travel. The old judge had wished his son
to follow the profession of law which had now in their family become
quite hereditary, and had coupled this with a scheme of study at
Utrecht, after the plan he had himself followed at Leyden. A compromise
had, in fact, been arranged by which this was to be pursued, and the
career of arms dropped. Nothing can be more adroit than the way in which
the young hopeful about to embark on the grand tour manages in his
despatch to his lordship, with an eye to the Home Office, to suggest the
furtherance of his own ideas under the supposed guise of Johnson's
approval. 'He advises me to combat idleness as a distemper, to read five
hours every day, but to let inclination direct me what to read. He is a
great enemy to a stated plan of study. He advises me when abroad to go
to places where there is most to be seen and learned. He is not very
fond of the notion of spending a whole winter in a Dutch town. He thinks
I may do much more by private study than by attending lectures. He would
have me to perambulate (a word in his own style) Spain, also to visit
the northern kingdoms, where more that is new is to be seen than in
France or Italy, but he is not against me seeing these warmer regions.'

Here, in fact, is the germ of the tour to the Baltic they had hoped when
at Dunvegan one day to carry out, for which Johnson, when in his
sixty-eighth year was still ready, and which Boswell thought would have
made them acquainted with the King of Sweden, and the Empress of Russia.
On a later day of the month he asked his friend to the Mitre to meet his
uncle Dr John, 'an elegant scholar and a physician bred in the School of
Boerhaave,' and George Dempster, M.P. for the Forfar Burghs. As the
latter was infected with the sceptical views of Hume, there would seem
to have been a scene, for in the _Life_ Johnson is made to say, 'I have
not met with any man for a long time who has given me such general
displeasure,' but Boswell, ever with an eye for copy, writes to Temple,
'it was a very fertile evening, and my journal is stored with its
fruits.' Then to Lord Hailes he writes: '_Entre nous_ of
Dempster,--Johnson had seen a pupil of Hume and Rousseau totally
unsettled as to principles. I had infinite satisfaction in hearing solid
truth confuting vain subtilty. I thank God that I have got acquainted
with Mr Johnson. He has done me infinite service. He has assisted me to
obtain peace of mind; he has assisted me to become a rational Christian;
I hope I shall ever remain so.' Pleasantly all this would sound at home.
There would be less now heard of his father's threat in May to
disinherit him, and of the son's appeal to Lord Hailes to intercede with
him--'to have patience with me for a year or two, and I may be what he
pleases.' On July 15th he has had a long letter from his father, full of
affection and good counsel. 'Honest man,' he writes to Temple, 'he is
now happy. He insists on having my solemn promise. The only question is,
how much I am to promise.' Then on the 25th he has his letters of credit
and his introductions to people in Holland. 'They have been sent open
for me to seal, so I have been amused to see the different modes of
treating that favourite subject _myself_.' He is to be allowed £240 a
year, but he is determined not to be straitened, nor to encourage the
least narrowness, but to draw on his father when necessary. Wilkes had
gone to France, but had let him have some franks 'to astonish a few
North Britons.' Parting for a time with Temple, whose family was now in
straitened circumstances, he assures him that their friendship should be
'an exalted comfort' to him in his distress, and concludes
characteristically enough with advice to Temple's younger brother in the
army for his establishment in 'solid notions of religion and morality.'

Before he bids his native land good-night, there is a final letter to
Hailes with his father, Jortin, and the actress all well in his mind's
eye. 'My scepticism,' he says, 'was not owing to thinking wrong, but to
not thinking at all. It is a matter of great moment to keep a sense of
religion constantly impressed upon our minds. If that divine guest does
not occupy part of the space, vain intruders will,'--the fine old roll
of Micawber to the close. Johnson on the 5th August started with him for
Harwich in the stage coach, half in hopes of visiting Holland in the
summer, and accompanying Bozzy in a tour through the Netherlands. 'I
must see thee out of England,' said the old man kindly. On the beach
they parted, and 'as the vessel put out to sea, I kept my eyes upon him
for a considerable time, while he remained rolling his majestic frame in
his usual manner; and at last I perceived him walk back into the town
and he disappeared.' Boswell's attendance upon his new friend had not
escaped the notice of the doctor's circle. 'Who,' asked one, 'is this
Scotch cur at Johnson's heels?' 'Not a cur, but a bur,' was Goldsmith's
reply, 'and he has the faculty of sticking.' With what effect the world
was to know.



    'That's from Paoli of Corsica.'--GOLDSMITH, '_The Good Natured

'Utrecht,' writes Boswell, 'seeming at first very dull to me after the
animated scenes of London, my spirits were grievously affected.' But the
depression was not destined to last, and soon we hear of his having
wearied of the proposed two years' course of study. The custom of legal
training in some of the universities of the Continent was about this
time coming to a close, though for long it had remained usual, at least
with the landed classes of Scotland, to secure such an extended field of
study for the bar by an attendance at some of the more developed schools
of jurisprudence in Holland. Cunningham, the celebrated critic of
Bentley, had given prelections in Leyden, and no reader of the _Heart of
Midlothian_ will forget the laments of the inimitable Bartoline
Saddletree over his not being sent to Leyden or Utrecht to study the
Institutes and the Pandects. Since the days of Gilbert Jack at Leyden,
the connection between Holland and the Scottish universities had been
close, and the garrets of Amsterdam had been crowded before the
Revolution by refugees from both Scotland and England who maintained,
upon their return, the ties they had contracted in their exile. Even
Fielding had been sent to Leyden for law, and just before the visit of
Boswell, to which his father had consented rather as a compromise than
from any practical benefit that might ensue, the law of Scotland,
largely based on Roman and feudal precedents, had received fresh
extensions of conveyancing and other branches of jurisprudence, through
the mass of forfeited estates brought into the market after the
suppression of the Jacobite Rebellions. What country, then, could so
rapidly afford such a course of legal study as the Protestant and
commercial Holland? The reputation of Boerhaave had drawn medical
students from all quarters, and Boswell's uncle John, and the celebrated
Monro _primus_ of the Edinburgh Medical School had been among the
number. Goldsmith in 1755 met Irish medical students there, and some
twenty years before the time we have reached Carlyle of Inveresk had
found in Leyden 'an established lodging-house' where his countrymen,
Gregory and Dickson, were domiciled, and numerous others, among whom he
expressly mentions Charles Townshend, Askew the Greek scholar, Johnston
of Westerhall, Doddeswell, afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer, and
John Wilkes then entering, at eighteen, on the career of profligacy that
was to render him notorious. Carlyle describes their meetings at each
other's rooms twice or thrice a week, when they drank coffee, supped on
Dutch red herrings, eggs and salad, and never sat beyond the decent hour
of twelve. For such a style of living Boswell's annual allowance of £240
was certainly handsome in a place where the fuel, chiefly peat, was the
only expensive item.

But such a quiet style of life was not congenial to the lively tastes of
our traveller. He soon tired of the civil law lectures of Professor
Trotz, and longed for fresh woods and pastures new. He sighed to be
upon his travels again. Of his life abroad some isolated notes may be
gathered from the _Boswelliana_, and, as has been mentioned, he sought
out his relatives at the Hague 'of the first fashion,' the Sommelsdycks,
and with his facility of manners, and his father's credentials to the
_literati_ and scholars of the place, his circle of acquaintance was
large and influential. We hear of an intimacy with the Rev. William
Brown, minister of the Scottish congregation at Utrecht, the father of
Principal Laurence Brown of Marischal College, Aberdeen; and with Sir
Joseph Yorke, whom he met later in Ireland, then the Ambassador at the
Hague, he would appear to have been acquainted. But Sir Joseph does not
seem to have welcomed the easy manners of his young friend, and the dull
life of the burgomasters was little suited to Boswell who ridicules
their portly figures and their clothes which they wore as if they had
been 'luggage.'

The two years' course of study was abruptly reduced to one. At its close
we trace him at Berlin in July 1764, and in close relations with the
British Envoy at the Prussian Court. Fortunately for Boswell this was
both a countryman and a friend of his father's, Sir Andrew Mitchell, the
late M.P. for the Banff Burghs. By the Ambassador he was introduced to
the best society in the capital, and from Berlin he wrote to his father
representing the urgent necessity of extending his travels, and, till
the letter in reply should arrive, he proceeded into Hanover and
Brunswick. On his return to Berlin towards the end of August he found a
letter waiting him from Lord Auchinleck, who was naturally chagrined at
the breakdown of his scheme of compromise. A visit to Paris he was
prepared to allow, but the return of the wanderer to Utrecht was
peremptorily commanded. The family of the Envoy was now at Spa, but
next day Boswell wrote him a letter urging him to intercede with his
father for the proposed extension. The letter is a very long one, and
its abridgement even is impossible here, but few more Boswellian
productions can be found. He has, he tells Sir Andrew, a melancholy
disposition, and to escape from the gloom of dark speculation he has
made excursions into the fields of folly, and in this tone of the
Preacher in _Ecclesiastes_ he rambles on. The words of St Paul, 'I must
see Rome,' he finds are borne in upon him, and such a journey would
afford him the talk for a lifetime, the more so that he was no libertine
and disclaimed all intentions of travelling as _Milord Anglois_, but
simply as the scholar and the man of elegant curiosity. Did not Sir
Andrew as the loved and respected friend of his father think that the
son had a claim to protest before he considered any act regarding
himself as passed, and would not the Envoy remonstrate or persuade the
father as to the justice of his wish? No reply was sent to this, but the
judge, thinking that discretion was the wiser part in circumstances
where it was useless to dictate without the means to enforce compliance,
yielded reluctant consent to the scheme of an Italian tour. Gravely then
does Bozzy rebuke Sir Andrew and for this occasion he forgives him, 'for
I just say the same to young people when I advise. Believe me,' he
somewhat irrelevantly adds, 'I have a soul.'

Fortune followed him wherever he turned. George, tenth Earl Marischal,
and brother of Frederick the Great's general, Marshal Keith, had joined
the Earl of Mar in the rising of 1715, and had made an ineffectual
descent in 1719 on Glenshiel with the Spaniards. But in the '45 he had
taken no part, and he revealed to the British Government the existence
of the Bourbon Family Compact. In return, his attainder had been
removed by George II., and on his brief visit to Scotland he had lived
with Boswell's father in Ayrshire, perhaps as a friend of the
Commissioners for the forfeited estates, when the occasion had been
seized by Macpherson for an ode, 'attempted after the manner of Pindar,'
in the fustian style of the translator of Ossian. With him or by his
credentials Boswell went the round of the German courts, passing by
Mannheim and Geneva, reaching the latter towards the end of December.
The reader is struck with the airy assurance and self-possession which
the laureate of the Soapers and the Newmarket Cub manifests on the grand
tour, conducting himself at three and twenty with complete success at
the courts of German princes, conversing with plenipotentiaries and
dignitaries of all sorts in French and Italian, for German had not yet
risen into sufficient historical or diplomatic importance to add to the
linguistic burdens of mankind. Lord Marischal as the governor of
Neufchatel had acted as the protector of Rousseau, and so was able to
furnish his companion with a letter of introduction, hinting at his
enthusiastic nature and describing him to the philosopher as a visionary
hypochondriac. Voltaire he interviewed at Ferney, and he managed to
please the great man by repeating--a characteristic trait of Bozzy, who
believed such tale-bearing to be vastly conducive to the practice of
benevolence--Johnson's criticism upon Frederick the Great's writings,
'such as you may suppose Voltaire's foot-boy to do, who has been his
amanuensis.' He broached the subject of the philosophy of the
unconscious, and was eager to know how ideas forgotten at the time were
yet later on recollected. The other replied by a quotation from
Thomson's _Winter_ with the writer's question, as to the winds,

    'In what far distant region of the sky
    Hushed in silence sleep ye when 'tis calm?'

The attempt to draw out Voltaire upon the tour to the Hebrides, which
Boswell and Johnson had been vaguely talking over, produced only the
rather sarcastic query if he wished him to accompany them, with a look
'as if I had talked of going to the North Pole.' Of his visit to the
wild philosopher, as he styles Rousseau, we have no notice, beyond the
general remark that they had agreed to differ alike in politics and
religion, but that there were points _où nos âmes sont unies_. The
feudal dogmas of Boswell and his rigid adherence to his pet idea of 'the
grand scheme of subordination' were of course not likely to be pleasing
to the sceptical _aqua fortis_ of the sombre Genevese, with his belief
in the fraternity of mankind and the greatness of the untutored Indian.

Boswell crossed the Alps, and either then or upon his homeward journey
visited Bologna, Venice, and Mantua. He passed through Rome and, unknown
to either, may have met Gibbon in the Eternal City into whose mind, some
weeks before, 'as I sat musing among the ruins of the Capitol while the
bare-footed friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter,' had
started the idea of writing the _Decline and Fall_. In the city he met
Andrew Lumsden, the Secretary of Prince Charles Edward, but we are not
informed if the young Jacobite of five, who had prayed for the exiled
family now sought any opportunity of making himself known to the object
of his devotion. Naples brought him into the more congenial society of
Wilkes with whom, he says, he 'enjoyed many classical scenes with
peculiar relish.' When Churchill had died at Boulogne in the arms of
Wilkes, the latter had retired to Naples to inscribe his sorrow 'in the
close style of the ancients' upon an urn of alabaster which had been the
gift of Winckelmann, and in that city now he was, as the literary
executor, preparing annotations on the works of Churchill. Boswell
managed with his curious want of tact in such matters, fitting the man
who could suggest cards to a dying friend with an uneasy conscience, to
hint that the poet had 'bounced into the regions below,' and to render
the _Il Bruto Inglese_, by which the papers of the land referred to
Wilkes and liberty, by a version significant of the notorious ugliness
of his gay acquaintance. Naples, as with Milton, was the limit of his
tour, and from it he returned to Rome. He reached that city in April
1765, and dispatched a letter to Rousseau, then 'living in romantick
retirement' in Switzerland, requesting his promised introduction to the
Corsican general, 'which if he refused, I should certainly go without
it, and probably be hanged as a spy.' The wild philosopher was as good
as his word, and the letter met the traveller at Florence. 'The charms
of sweet Siena detained me no longer than they should have done, I
required the hardy air of Corsica to brace me, after the delights of
Tuscany,' an enigmatical turn of expression upon which light is thrown
later, when we discuss the love affairs of Boswell, by a reference to a
dark-eyed 'signora' on whom the tender traveller had glanced. At Leghorn
he was within one day's sail of Corsica.

Pascal Paoli was the Garibaldi of his day. When his father in 1738 had
been driven from the island by the French, he had retired with him to
Naples where he entered a military college and followed the profession
of arms. The way was paved for his return by the disturbances in the
island in 1755, and so successful was he in his guerilla warfare as
general against the Genoese, the owners of Corsica, that they were
speedily driven to sue for peace. It was in a sort of lull in the storm
of hostilities that our traveller made his unexpected appearance, and
the adroit way in which he managed to lay his plans of action and to
carry them out with such complete success calls for our admiration. In
his _Tour_ he simply says that 'having resolved to pass some years
abroad (this is excellent, after his letter to Sir Andrew) for my
instruction and entertainment, I conceived a design of visiting the
Island of Corsica. I wished for something more than just the common
course of what is called the tour of Europe, and Corsica occurred to me
as a place where nobody else had been.' It may have been suggested to
him by Rousseau, who had been engaged in some vague scheme of
philandering philanthropy by which the wild philosopher was to play the
Solon and the Lycurgus of the distressed islanders, and establish a
fresh code of laws upon the basis of his new fraternity, but with which
'this steady patriot of the world alone,' as Canning styles him, 'the
friend of every country but his own,' managed to mix in a much more
practical way some not very honourable, if characteristic, intrigues for
the surrender of the island to France.

Bozzy, at all events, was determined to make a bold bid for fame.
Nothing like this had occurred, as an opening, during all his tour. The
dangers of the plan were fully known to him, and the possibility was
laid before his eyes of capture at the hands of the Barbary corsairs and
a term of imprisonment at Algiers. Our adventurer waited on the
commodore in command of the British squadron in the bay of Leghorn, and
he was provided with a passport, the value of which against the
threatened dangers does not sufficiently appear. Before he left Leghorn,
his proposed visit had come to be regarded in a very serious light by
Italian politicians. They saw in him an envoy from the British intrusted
with powers to negotiate a treaty with Corsica, and all disclaimers of
any such intention were politely treated as an evasion. Bozzy was in
consequence viewed as 'a very close young man,' a trait that at no time
of his life was ever applicable to James Boswell, on whom, indeed, the
advice given by Sir Henry Wotton to Milton would have been thrown away.
Putting out to sea in a Tuscan vessel bound for Capo Corso for wine, he
had two days to spend on board in consequence of a dead calm. 'At
sunset,' he says, 'all the people in the ship sang _Ave Maria_ with
great devotion and some melody.' One recalls the similar circumstances
under which Cardinal Newman found himself becalmed on the orange-boat in
the Straits of Bonifacio. For some hours he had put himself in spirits
by taking a hand at the oar, and at seven in the evening of the second
day they landed in the harbour of Centuri. He delivered his credentials,
and on Sunday heard a Corsican sermon, where the preacher told of
Catharine of Siena who wished to be laid in the mouth of the awful pit,
that she might stop it up, and so prevent the falling in of more souls.
'I confess, my brethren,' cried the friar, 'I have not such zeal, but I
do what I can, I warn you how to avoid it.'

At Corte, the capital of the island, he waited boldly upon the Supreme
Council. He was gravely received, as befitted a supposed British envoy,
and lodged in the apartment of Paoli in a Franciscan convent. Next day,
the old petitioner for a commission in the Guards found the first and
last military experience of his life. Three French deserters waited on
him in the belief that he came to recruit soldiers for Scotland, and
'begged to have the honour of going along with me.' Nor was the idea so
absurd as he seems to have viewed it, for from the _Scots Magazine_ of a
somewhat later date we learn that British Volunteers and Highlanders
disbanded after the wars had been enlisted in the service of Paoli. But
it is not improbable that the deserters had heard of Boswell's
nationality from the woman of Penrith whom he found in the island,
married to a French soldier in the army of the Pretender, whose fortunes
she had followed when they had passed through Carlisle on the retreat
from Derby. Another feature of Boswell, one whose consideration and
explanation we shall attempt later on, now for the first time meets us,
his inveterate love for interviewing criminals, and accordingly, 'as I
wished to see all things in Corsica,' he had a meeting with the hangman
who seemed sensible of his situation. The inhabitants crowded round him
at a village as he advanced, and questioned the traveller, as Coleridge
at Valetta found himself similarly interrogated, as to his professing
himself a Christian when he did not believe in the Pope--_e perche_, and
why? The old candidate for the priesthood managed to deftly evade this
query by an assurance that in Britain the people were too far off and in
a theological climate of their own. He was in the highest humour, and in
this unusual flow of spirits he harangued the men of Bastelica with
great fluency, getting, however, at Sollacaro somewhat nervous as the
interview with the Corsican leader drew nigh. Paoli lived in constant
dread of assassination, and the sudden arrival of this mysterious
stranger was strongly calculated to arouse suspicions. For ten minutes,
in silence, he looked at Boswell, who broke in with the remark that he
was a gentleman from Scotland upon his travels and had lately visited
Rome from which, having seen the ruins of one brave people, he was now
come to view the rise of another. The general was not quite set at ease
by this sententiously balanced sentence, and years after he told Miss
Burney about his impressions at the time of the mysterious stranger. It
shews the ruling passion strong in life, and that Boswell, as 'the
chiel' amang them takin' notes,' forgot the rules of ordinary courtesy
and prudence in the gratification of his darling method. 'He came to my
country sudden,' said Paoli in his broken English, 'and he fetched me
some letters of recommending him. And I supposed, in my _mente_ he was
in the privacy one espy; for I look away from him to my other companies,
and when I look back to him I behold it in his hands his tablet, and one
pencil. O, he was at the work, I give it you my honour, of writing down
all what I say to some persons whatsoever in the room. I was angry
enough, pretty much so. But soon I found out I was myself the monster he
came to observe. O, he is a very good man Mr Boswell at the bottom, so
witty, cheerful, so talkable. But at the first, Oh I was indeed _fache_
of the sufficient.' This first glimpse of Bozzy at work is delightful.
He was in fact "making himself," all unknown the while, as Shortreed
said of Scott over the Liddesdale raids.

He dined with the general and suite. In spite of, perhaps by very reason
of, his protestations of having no diplomatic mission, the highest
attention was shewn him as an accredited envoy from St James'. In the
morning chocolate was served up to him on a silver salver with the
national arms; he rode out on the general's horse, with guards marching
before him. Paoli knew sufficient English to maintain the dialogue,
having picked up some slight knowledge of the tongue from Irish refugee
officers in the Neapolitan service. His library was turned over by his
inquisitive guest, who found among the books some odd volumes of _The
Spectator_ and _The Tatler_, Pope's _Essay on Man_, _Gulliver's
Travels_, and Barclay's _Apology for the Quakers_. His good humour, as
it had won on the general, endeared the supposed _ambasciadore Inglese_
to the peasants, and he had a Corsican dress made for him. Of that
dress--'in which I walked about with an air of true satisfaction'--every
one who has heard of James Boswell has read, and it is inseparable
somehow from our conceptions of the man and writer.

We select from this Corsican Tour--the least known to the general reader
of Boswell's three great works--what seems to us the gem of the
book:--'One day they must needs hear me play upon my German flute. To
have told my honest natural visitants, 'Really, gentlemen, I play very
ill,' and put on such airs as we do in our genteel companies, would have
been highly ridiculous. I therefore immediately complied with their
request. I gave them one or two Italian airs, and then some of our
beautiful old Scots tunes, _Gilderoy_, _The Lass o' Patie's Mill_, _Corn
Riggs are Bonny_.' The pathetick simplicity and pastoral gaiety of the
Scots musick will always please those who have the genuine feelings of
nature. The Corsicans were charmed with the specimens I gave them,
though I may now say that they were very indifferently performed. My
good friends insisted also to have an English song from me. I
endeavoured to please them in this, too. I sung them 'Hearts of Oak are
our Ships, Hearts of Oak are our Men.' I translated it into Italian for
them, and never did I see men so delighted as the Corsicans were.
'_Cuore di querco_,' cried they, '_bravo Inglese!_' It was quite a
joyous riot. I fancied myself to be a recruiting sea officer. I fancied
all my chorus of Corsicans aboard the British fleet.'

How admirable is the style of all this, equal quite to Goldsmith's best
and lightest touch! Exquisite, too, is that picture of Bozzy, as the
rollicking British stage-tar of tradition, in his rendering of Garrick's
song, the gems from the Opera and the national melodies. Allan Ramsay's
song in Corsica is to be equalled only by Goldsmith on _his_ tour when
he played, but not for amusement, _Barbara Allan_ and _Johnny
Armstrong's Good Night_ before the doors of Italian convents and Flemish

But the highstrung Bozzy had to experience a revulsion of low feelings
to which he was ever prone. He is soon in a sort of Byronic fit, and he
continues in a strain with which we should have not credited the 'gay
classic friend of Jack Wilkes' and of that Sienese _signora_, unless he
had turned evidence against himself. He declared his feelings to Paoli,
as he had done to Johnson, whose curt advice had been not to confuse or
resolve the common consequences of irregularity into an unalterable
decree of destiny. To the general he now attributed his feeling of the
vanity of life, the exhaustion in the very heat of youth of all the
sweets of being, and the incapacity for taking part in active life to
his 'metaphysical researches,' his reasoning beyond his depth on such
subjects as it is not given to man to know. These hesitances the other
wisely pushed aside with the soldierly advice to strengthen his mind by
the perusal of Livy and Plutarch. In return Bozzy gave an imitation of
'my revered friend Mr Samuel Johnson,' little dreaming that all three
would one day be intimate in London, and the general's house in Portman
Square be always at the traveller's disposal. From the palace, as he
styles it, of Paoli, Nov. 1765 he wrote to Johnson, as he had done
before, 'from a kind of superstition agreeable to him as to myself,'
from what he calls _loca solennia_--places of solemn interest. 'I dare
to call this a spirited tour. I dare to challenge your approbation;'
and, reading it twenty years later in the original which the old man
had preserved, he found it full of 'generous enthusiasm.' No account of
the continental travels of Boswell would be complete without the
reproduction of his letter to the doctor from Wittenberg. It is one of
the most important for the more subtle shades of psychology in the
writer's character.

     '_Sunday, Sept. 30, 1764._

     MY EVER DEAR AND MUCH RESPECTED SIR,--You know my solemn
     enthusiasm of mind. You love me for it, and I respect myself
     for it, because in so far I resemble Mr Johnson. You will be
     agreeably surprized when you learn the reason of my writing
     this letter. I am at Wittenberg in Saxony. I am in the old
     church where the Reformation was first preached, and where some
     of the Reformers lie interred. I cannot resist the serious
     pleasure of writing to Mr Johnson from the tomb of Melancthon.
     My paper rests upon the gravestone of that great and good man
     who was undoubtedly the best of all the Reformers.... At this
     tomb, then, my ever dear and respected friend! I vow to thee an
     eternal attachment. It shall be my study to do what I can to
     render your life happy: and if you die before me, I shall
     endeavour to do honour to your memory and, elevated by the
     remembrance of you, persist in noble piety. May God, the father
     of all beings, ever bless you! and may you continue to love
     your most affectionate friend, and devoted servant,--JAMES BOSWELL.'

So early had Boswell made his resolve to be the biographer of Johnson.
On the very day of his introduction to him, he had taken notes of all
that had passed in Davies' back-parlour. He was none of the men that do
things by halves, and blunder into a kind of success, as some of his
depreciators have thought.

Six weeks he had been in Corsica. The first day of December saw him land
at Genoa on his return, Lyons was reached on the third day of the new
year, Paris one week later. Here Rousseau who had preceded him to London
had provided him with a curious commission, the bringing over into
England of his mistress Therese Levasseur. The easy-going Hume thus
announces the fact to his friend the Countess de Boufflers.
'Mademoiselle sets out with a friend of mine, a young gentleman, very
good humoured, very agreeable, and very mad. He has such a rage for
literature that I dread some event fatal to my friend's honour. For
remember the story of Terentia who was first married to Cicero, then to
Sallust, and at last in her old age married a young nobleman, who
imagined that she must possess some secret which would convey to him
eloquence and genius.' A letter he found waiting from Johnson, together
with one announcing the death of his mother. No more was heard about a
second year at Utrecht. He crossed to London, and was again with his old
friend, who had moved from the Temple to a good house in Johnson's
Court, in Fleet Street. Goldsmith was no longer the obscure writer whom
he had left behind, but the author of the _Vicar of Wakefield_ and the
_Traveller_. The club had been founded. He was encouraged by the sage to
publish his account of his travels in Corsica--'you cannot go to the
bottom, but all that you tell us will be new.'

He dined at the Mitre as of old, and presented Temple to Johnson. No
word about his companion across the Channel, naturally enough, reached
the old man's ears, but he mentioned Rousseau; though he recognised he
was now in a new moral atmosphere where every attempt was resented to
'unhinge or weaken good principles.' On a modified defence of the
philosopher, whose works he professed had afforded him edification, he
did venture, but thinking it enough to defend one at a time Boswell said
nothing 'of my gay friend Wilkes.' In the Paris _salons_ of that winter
Wilkes, Sterne, Foote, Hume, and Rousseau, had been the received lions.
Hume had taken up the wild philosopher whose melodramatic Armenian dress
had been the attraction at the houses of the leaders of society, the
ladies who (says Horace Walpole who was there this year) 'violated all
the duties of life and gave very pretty suppers.' It was the day of
Anglomania on the Continent, when the name of Chatham was a name to
conjure with, and Hume was expounding deism to the great ladies,--'when
the footmen were in the room,' adds the shocked Horace,--lionizing Hume
'who is the only thing they believe in implicitly; which they must do,
for I defy them to understand any language that he speaks,' in allusion
to the broad Scottish accent of the philosopher.

The fantastic attire of Rousseau may have suggested to Bozzy the
Corsican dress in his valise, or he may have construed into a command,
willingly enough, the hint Paoli had dropped to let them know at home
how affairs were going. He waited on Chatham with it, and was received
pompously but graciously, says the Earl of Buchan who was present, for a
touch of melodrama was not uncongenial to the great minister, the
'Pericles of Great Britain,' as the general had styled him. Bozzy
thanked him 'for the very genteel manner in which you are pleased to
treat me.' In return, Chatham eulogized Paoli as one of Plutarch's men,
as Cardinal de Retz had said of Montrose.

He saw Auchinleck in somewhat altered circumstances from those in which,
four years before, he had left his father's house, riding through
Glasgow 'in a cocked hat, a brown wig, brown coat made in the court
fashion, red vest, corduroy small clothes, and long military-looking
boots, with his servant riding a most aristocratic distance behind.' He
had left it likely to vex the soul of his father, the laureate of
doggerel, threatening to be the disgrace of the family; he returned as
the acquaintance, in varying degrees of intimacy, of Johnson, Wilkes,
Churchill, Goldsmith, the Earl Marischal, Voltaire, Rousseau, Paoli,
Chatham, and plenipotentiaries of all kinds. A wonderful list for the
raw youth they had known at home; yet nowhere in all his intercourse
does he show the least want of self-possession or easy bearing. The
'facility of manners' and his good humour had carried him all through
his curious experiences with German courts and Italian peasants. A
'spirited tour,' truly, if perhaps the moral results had been greater.
The nobility and gentry of this country were welcomed abroad with but
too great avidity. Italy, the garden of Europe, Bozzy declared to be the
Covent Garden, and isolated passages in his book shew that he could not
claim, like Milton, to have borne himself truly 'in all these places
where so many things are considered lawful.' Fox, we know, did not
escape the contagion of the grand tour, and Boswell had been 'caught

Nor will the reader find much fault in what the adverse critics have
unduly emphasized--his interviewing or forcing himself upon men. A man,
as Johnson said to him when seeking an interlocutor on this point,
always makes himself greater as he increases his knowledge. When he was
at Dunvegan on his northern tour, and Colonel Macleod seemed to hint at
this, Bozzy offers as his defence of what 'has procured me much
happiness' the eagerness he ever felt to share the society of men
distinguished by their rank or talents. If a man, he adds, is praised
for seeking knowledge, though mountains and seas are in his way, he may
be pardoned in the pursuit of the same object under difficulties as
great though of a different kind. And the defence will not be refused
him for the use he has made of the means. Wisdom and literature alike
are justified of their children, and the masters in either are not so
numerous that we can afford to quarrel with them, or wrangle over their
respective merits. 'Sensation,' said Johnson, '_is_ sensation,' and the
pretty general feeling now is that in his department Boswell is a

From his first setting out, he had written down every night what he had
noted during the day, 'throwing together that I might afterwards make a
selection at leisure.' He was to try his 'prentice hand on his _Tour in
Corsica_ before shewing his strength in his two greater works. Mrs
Barbauld regarded him as no ordinary traveller, with

    'Working thoughts which swelled the breast
    Of generous Boswell, when with noble aim
    And views beyond the narrow beaten track
    By trivial fancy trod, he turned his course
    From polished Gallia's soft delicious vales.'

Such thoughts were perhaps really foreign to that traveller, yet Dr Hill
assures us that by every Corsican of education the name of Boswell is
known and honoured. One curious circumstance is given. At Pino, when
Boswell fancying himself 'in a publick house' or inn, had called for
things, the hostess had said _una cosa dopo un altra, signore_, 'one
thing after another, sir.' This has lingered as a memento of Bozzy in
Corsica, and has been found by Dr Hill to be preserved among the
traditions in the Tomasi family. Translations of the book in Italian,
Dutch, French, and German, spread abroad the name of the traveller who,
if like a prophet without honour in his own country, has not been
without it elsewhere.



    'A clerk, foredoomed his father's soul to cross,
    Who pens a stanza, when he should engross.'--POPE.

The return of the prodigal to Auchinleck would seem at first to have
been attended with some satisfaction to both father and son. The father
might now believe that he was entitled to consideration from the son, as
a reward for his long-continued indulgence to the traveller, who might
in his turn reflect on the advantages which he derived from such a
protracted tour. Accordingly, in his papers of the April of this year,
we find the following entry:--'My father said to me, "I am much pleased
with your conduct in every respect." After all my anxiety while abroad,
here is the most perfect approbation and calm of mind. I never felt such
_sollid_ (_sic_) happiness.' But the philosopher, who with Paoli had
compared his mind to a camera obscura, reappears unfortunately in the
next entry. 'But I find I am not so happy with this approbation and this
calm as I expected to be. But why do I say alas! when I really look upon
this life merely as a transient state?' To this curious expression of
Boswell we shall refer when we discuss at the close his religious and
philosophical views, but it is distressing to find such whimsicalities
colouring his sense of the old man's kindness when he writes but
shortly after, 'I must stay at Auchinleck, I have there just the kind of
complaining proper for me. All must complain, and I more than most of my

On the 26th July 1766 he passed advocate at the bar. On putting on his
gown he remarked to his brother-advocates, as he says, that his natural
propensities had led him to a military life, but now that he had been
pressed by his father into the service he did not doubt but that he
should shew as good results as those who had joined as volunteers. His
gay friend Wilkes had declared that he would be out-distanced in the
professional race by dull plodders and blockheads, but at the outset he
appears to have started with a fair amount of zest. He dedicated his
inaugural thesis to the son of the Earl of Bute, Lord Mountstuart, with
whom he had travelled in Italy, and on whom he flattered himself he had
made some impression, the first of Boswell's many ineffectual attempts
to secure place and promotion, for on a seat in Parliament he had four
years before set his heart. A copy of the thesis was sent to Johnson,
who by this time had rather cooled over the proposed publication by his
friend of a book on Corsica. 'You have no materials,' he said, 'which
others have not or may not have. You have warmed your imagination. I
wish there were some cure like the lover's leap for all heads of which
some single idea has obtained an unreasonable and irregular possession.
Mind your own affairs and leave the Corsicans to theirs.' Touching on
the faulty Latinity of the essay, 'Ruddiman,' added the old man, 'is
dead.' On entering his new career Bozzy began by vows for his good
conduct. These, a remnant of his old Catholic days, we shall find him
renewing again and again, ludicrously and pathetically enough, however,
as we draw to the close. Sometimes they appear with reference to
matters with which the knowledge of the unpublished parts of the letters
to Temple, now in the possession of an American collector, has to deal
without suggesting unduly to the more fastidious sense of the present
day the vagaries and weaknesses of their writer. Johnson protested
against this attempt to 'enchain his volatility' by vows. But Boswell
replies that they may be useful to one 'of a variable judgment and
irregular inclinations. For my part, without affecting to be a Socrates,
I am sure I have a more than ordinary struggle to maintain with the Evil
Principle, and all the methods I can devise are little enough to keep me
tolerably steady in the paths of rectitude.' Could the doctor have read
even the published correspondence he would have been at no loss for a
detailed commentary on this defence.

And coming events now cast their shadow before. That curious feature of
Boswell's character, the mixture of religious sentiments and the Sterne
vein of pietistic moralizing united with laxity in practice, appears
strangely enough in the letter to Temple, dated in the February of 1767,
and sent to his friend who had just been ordained to the living of
Mamhead in Devon. 'I view,' he writes, 'the profession of a clergyman in
an amiable and respectable light. Don't be moved by declamations against
ecclesiastical history, as if that could blacken the sacred order.' He
admits that ecclesiastical history is not the best field for the display
of the virtues in that profession, but we are to judge of the thousands
of worthy divines who have been a blessing to their parishes. He exhorts
his friend to labour cheerfully in the vineyard and to leave not a tare
in Mamhead. In Edinburgh it appears there were specimens; for after this
pious homily he confesses quietly his own _liaison_ with 'a dear
infidel' of a married woman. But the love affairs of Boswell, one of the
most curious and 'characteristical' (as he would himself have phrased
it) episodes in his life we shall discuss in a connected form in the
next chapter, in order to secure clearness of treatment and
concentration of detail.

We turn, then, to his career at the bar. There can be no shadow of a
doubt that with proper industry, backed as he was with very strong
social and family connections, he would have secured a lucrative
professional practice. In February of 1767 he is 'coming into great
employment; I have this winter made sixty-five guineas, which is a
considerable sum for a young man,' and the _Boswelliana_ shew him in
easy intercourse with the best society in the Scottish capital.
Belonging as he did to the hereditary _noblesse de la robe_, as Lockhart
calls it, he was not likely, with but moderate attention, to have stood
like Scott, 'an hour by the Tron, wi' deil ane to speir his price,'--Sir
Walter's fee book shews for the first year a return of £24, 3s., and
£57, 15s. for the second. As he had years before vowed to Lord Hailes
that he would transcribe Erskine's _Institutes_ several times over till
he had imprinted it on his memory, so now he was hopeful by binding up
the session papers of securing a treasure of law reasoning and a
collection of extraordinary facts. By March he had cleared eighty
guineas, and was 'Surprised at myself, I speak with so much ease and
boldness, and have already the language of the bar so much at command. I
am doing nobly. I can hardly ever answer the letters of my friends.' He
had quarrelled with Rousseau who had likewise broken with Hume, whose
appointment as secretary to Conway had perhaps cured him of his follies
over the wild philosopher. We find Boswell also designing squibs which
were in the London printshops, writing verses for them and ridiculing
'The Savage' of his former idolatry.

Paoli had sent him a long letter of sixteen pages. Chatham in his
retirement at Bath, mystifying the court and his colleagues, could yet
find time to send him a three-paged communication. In reply, the young
traveller assures him that the character of the great minister had
'filled many of my best hours with the noble admiration which a
disinterested soul can enjoy in the bower of philosophy.' He informs his
lordship that he is preparing for publication his Tour in Corsica, that
he has entered at the bar, and 'I begin to like it. I labour hard; and
feel myself coming forward, and I hope to be useful to my country. Could
your Lordship _find time to honour me now and then with a letter_? I
have been told how favourably your Lordship has spoken of me. To
correspond with a Paoli and a Chatham is enough to keep a young man ever
ardent in the pursuit of a virtuous fame.' In June he expected to be
busier than ever, during the week when his father sat as Judge of the
Outer House, 'for you must know that the absurdity of mankind makes
nineteen out of twenty employ the son of the judge before whom their
case is heard,' an admission which only increases our regret at the want
of professional industry on the part of the son. His addiction to the
society of players only increased the more as his practice at the bar
would have been thought to engross his attention. For the opening of the
Canongate Theatre, on 9th December 1767, he had been induced to write a
prologue to the play of _The Earl of Essex_ with which the newly
licensed house started its career. Part of the opening verses, as spoken
by Ross, 'a very good copy, very conciliatory' as the Earl of Mansfield
styled them, runs as follows:--

    'This night, lov'd _George's_ free enlightened age
    Bids _Royal favour_ shield the Scottish stage;
    His Royal favour every bosom cheers;
    The drama now with dignity appears!
    Hard is my fate if murmurings there be
    Because that favour is announced by me.
    Anxious, alarm'd, and aw'd by every frown,
    May I entreat the candour of the Town?
    You see me here by no unworthy art;
    My _all_ I venture where I've fix'd my heart.
    Fondly ambitious of an honest fame,
    My humble labours your indulgence claim.
    I wish to hold no _Right_ but by your choice,
    I'll trust my patent to the Publick Voice.'

The effect of this, aided by friends properly planted in different parts
of the theatre, Boswell assures us was instantaneous and effectual. But
the plaudits given would have been better in a strictly professional
court, and it led, we can see, to the association of Boswell with but
questionable society. 'The joyous crew of thunderers in the galleries,'
as Robert Fergusson describes them, the vulgar cits applying to their
parched lips 'thirst quenching porter,' and the notoriously irregular
lives of the players, all these were ties and associations ill
calculated to appease the just indignation of his father or to add to
forensic reputation in Edinburgh. The Scottish Themis, says Scott,
speaking from his own early experience of much higher literary pursuits,
is peculiarly jealous of any flirtation with the muses on the part of
those who have ranged themselves under her banners, and to them the
least lingering look behind is fatal. Little wonder, then, that the
paternal anger was again roused, when 'the look behind' on his part was
coupled with the bitter remembrances of the laureate of the Soapers, of
the Erskine Correspondence, and his own long indulgence destined at last
to bear such sorry fruits.

'How unaccountable it is,' he cries impatiently to Temple, 'that my
father and I should be so ill together! He is a man of sense and a man
of worth; but from some unhappy turn in his disposition he is much
dissatisfied with a son you know.... To give you an instance. I send you
a letter I had a few days ago. I have answered in my own style; I will
be myself! How galling it is to the friend of Paoli to be treated so!'
He confesses his father has 'that Scots strength of sarcasm which is
peculiar to a North Briton,' and that time was when it would have
depressed him. But now he is firm, and, 'as my revered friend Mr Samuel
Johnson used to say,' he feels the privileges of an independent human
being! To add to the confusion of Lord Auchinleck his son had flung
himself with all his enthusiasm into the famous Douglas Trial, the cause
that figures so much to the confusion, it is to be feared, of the
general reader. Of this some full account is necessary in order to
explain that extraordinary trial,--perhaps the most protracted and
famous that ever came before a court,--which, dragging its slow length
along through a longer course than the Peloponnesian War, fills the
shelves of legal libraries with eighteen portly volumes of papers and
reports. In the case Boswell really held no actual brief, though were we
to follow the impression he gives of his services we should infer he had
been leading counsel for the plaintiff, Douglas. 'With a labour of which
few are capable,' says Bozzy, many years after, 'he compressed the
substance of the immense volumes of proofs and arguments into an octavo
pamphlet,' to which its author believed 'we may ascribe a great share
of the popularity on Mr Douglas's side.' Then he adds in a
characteristic sentence, the meaning of which can be fully appreciated
only by those who have followed his contributions to magazines and the
press of the day, 'Mr Boswell took care to keep the newspapers and other
publications incessantly warm with various writings, both in prose and
in verse, all tending to touch the heart and rouse the parental and
sympathetic feelings.'

Lady Jane Douglas, sister to Archibald, Duke of Douglas, had been
privately married in 1746 to Colonel Steuart, afterwards Sir John
Steuart of Grandtully. She was then in the forty-ninth year of her age,
and the marriage was not divulged till May 1748 to her brother who had
not been reconciled and had in consequence suspended her allowance. At
Paris, in very humble lodgings, she gave birth to male twins in the
house of a Madame le Brun. The parents in 1749 returned to Scotland
where one of the children died; in 1761 the Duke of Douglas had himself
followed. Three claimants took the field, the Duke of Hamilton as heir
male of line, the Earl of Selkirk as heir of provision under former
deeds, and Archibald Steuart or Douglas. Lady Jane died in 1753, and Sir
John in 1764, both on their death-beds testifying to the legitimacy of
their surviving child. The Duke of Douglas, long prejudiced against this
son's claim by the machinations of the Hamiltons, had revoked the deed
in their favour for a settlement executed in behalf of his sister's son
Archibald. But stories had become rife of that son being the child of a
Nicholas Mignon and Marie Guerin from whom he had been purchased, and an
action to reduce service on a plea of _partus suppositio_ was instituted
by the tutors of the Duke of Hamilton who was then a minor. In France
negociations were conducted, investigations made, and witnesses examined
by Burnet of Monboddo, Gardenstone, Hailes, and Eskgrove, and at last in
July 1767 the Court of Session issued its decision. Lord Dundas, the
President, speaking first, and dwelling on the age of Lady Jane,
childless by a former marriage, the secrecy of the birth, and the
intrinsic valuelessness of death-bed depositions when set against
pecuniary interests and family pride, recorded his vote in favour of the
Hamiltons. Six days were subsequently taken up with the speeches of the
other judges, and Monboddo, speaking last, voted for Douglas. The
verdict was seven on each side, and by the President's vote the case in
Scotland was won by the pursuers. Kames, Monboddo, and Lord Auchinleck,
were in favour of the defender, Douglas.

The case was at once by him appealed to the House of Lords. Douglas was
favoured in Scotland, where for years the state of interest had been
such that people in company used to bargain, for the maintenance of
peace, that no mention of this disturbing plea should be introduced. So
high did the feeling run in Edinburgh that the Hamilton party had been
driven from their apartments in Holyrood Palace and their property
plundered. It was fortunate that this loophole of escape to another
court was opened, for before the Union such a cause would have led
almost to civil broil where the rival interests of the factions, through
the ramifications of marriage and other connections, extended so widely.
In earlier days the strife would have ended by an appeal to the sword on
the causeway. All the court influence of the Hamiltons had been bent,
and bent in vain, to secure the exclusion from the bench of Lord
Monboddo, counsel for Douglas, and a duel had been fought between their
agent Andrew Stuart and Thurlow the opposing advocate. The excitement
over the verdict of the Lords on Monday, February 27, 1769, was
unprecedented. In the _Autobiography of_ Jupiter Carlyle is fortunately
preserved the account of the scene, witnessed by the doctor himself, who
had been successful in gaining admission to the court, where from nine
in the morning till ten at night he remained, hemmed in by the crowd and
overcome with the oppressive heat. Mansfield spoke over one hour, and,
on his appearing to faint, the Chancellor rushed out for a bottle and
glasses, the current of fresh air being felt by the crowd as a relief.
Finally the verdict of the Scottish courts was reversed without a
division, and a verdict found in favour of Douglas. Hume was not
satisfied of the legitimacy of the pursuer, neither was Lord Shelburne,
and bribery on both sides had been extensively employed, over £100,000
having been calculated to have been spent in this protracted litigation.

It was on the evening of Thursday, shortly after eight, that the tidings
reached Edinburgh by express. The city was at once illuminated, and next
morning Dundas on his way to the Parliament House was threatened by a
mob such as the town had not seen since the Porteous Riot. Two troops of
dragoons were drafted at once on the same day into the capital. As
usually told, the story, which is vouched for by Ramsay of Ochtertyre,
is that the mob of the night before had been headed by the excited
Boswell, and that the windows of his father's house were smashed. Had
such been the case, it must have been by an oversight on the part of the
mob, or some petulant freak of the son, for on this occasion both
Boswell and his father had for once been unanimous in their belief in
the legitimacy of Douglas. But there is no need for doubting Ramsay's
assertion that Lord Auchinleck had, with tears in his eyes, to implore
President Dundas to commit his son to the Tolbooth! Not only had Bozzy
taken the field in the November of 1767 with his _Essence of the Douglas
Cause_, 'which I regretted that Dr Johnson never took the trouble to
study,' even though 'the question interested nations,' and the pamphlet
had produced, as its writer flattered himself, considerable effect in
deciding the case, but he had ventured on a breach of professional
etiquette in publishing _Dorando, a Spanish Tale_. This brochure was
ordered by the Court of Session to be suppressed as contempt of court,
after it had run through three editions. No copy of this forlorn hope of
the book hunter has ever been found, though doubtless it lurks in some
library where its want of the writer's name upon the title page may have
kept it from making its reappearance. Though it bore no name, yet
Boswell, when writing to Temple over it, speaks of 'My publisher
Wilkie,' and he seems to have been afraid that the copy sent by him
should fall into the hands of strangers. In the _Gentleman's Magazine_
for July 1767, however, it is reviewed, but the value of the shilling
booklet does not seem to have impressed the critic. 'The Spanish Tale,'
he says, 'supposes the contests to be finally determined in favour of
_Don Ferdinand_ against the family of Ardivoso--but the real question is
still in dispute, having been removed by appeal to the House of Lords.
The pamphlet is zealously but feebly written: the author in some places
affects the sublime, and in some the pathetic; but these are the least
tolerable parts of his performance.' Thus airily does the reviewer
dismiss Bozzy's determined effort to rouse, as he imagined, the parental
and sympathetical feelings, and it is clear at least that, however much
its recovery would add to the stock of harmless pleasure among
professed Boswellians and collectors, its loss cannot be said to have
'eclipsed the gaiety of nations.'

During the course of the trial the _Tour in Corsica_ had been preparing.
Early in 1768 it was issued from the celebrated press of Robert and
Andrew Foulis in Glasgow, and the publishers were the Dillys in the
Poultry, London, who were to act for him in all his literary
undertakings to the end of his life. It was a lull in the storm of the
Douglas crisis, and the old judge, eager enough to see his son
associated with anything rational, was not unpleased with its appearing
as a pledge of better things. 'Jamie,' he admitted, 'had taen a toot on
a new horn.' The account of Corsica which had been made up from various
sources of information ran to two hundred and thirty-nine pages; but the
real interest of the volume attaches to the _Journal_ which occupies a
hundred and twenty. The translations from Seneca were done by Thomas
Day, then very young, the author of _Sandford and Merton_, and the
creator of that constellation of excellence, Mr Barlow, whose connection
in any degree with Boswell is almost provocative of a smile. The
peculiar orthography of the writer is defended in the preface, for he
allows himself not only such divergencies as 'tremenduous,' 'authour,'
'ambassadour,' but also 'authentick' and 'panegyrick.' The dedication of
the first edition to Paoli was dated on his own birthday, and the book
ran to a third edition before the October of the same year. As purchased
by the Dillys for a hundred guineas it would appear to have been a
profitable speculation, and the wide circulation to which it attained we
shall see was not merely due to accident but to more solid qualities.
'Pray read,' says Horace Walpole to his friend Gray, 'the new account of
Corsica. The author is a strange being, and has a rage of knowing
everybody that ever was talked of. He forced himself upon me at Paris in
spite of my teeth and my doors.' 'Mr B.'s book,' replies Gray--with a
curious anticipation of the Carlylean canon of criticism--'has pleased
and moved me strangely; all I mean that relates to Paoli. The pamphlet
proves, what I have always maintained, that any fool may write a most
valuable book by chance, if he will only tell us what he heard and saw
_with veracity_. Of Mr B.'s book I have not the least suspicion, because
I am sure he could invent nothing of the kind. The title of this part of
his work is a dialogue between a Green Goose and a Hero.' But Gray was
fastidious, in this case blindly so. The merits of Goldsmith he could
when dying perceive, but the rollicking humour of Bozzy in this his
first book was sealed to the recluse critic who 'never spoke out,' a
thing that never could be safely asserted of the author of the _Tour in

That 'authour,' however, was now bent on extracting the sanction of
approval from his idol. He hastened to London, heralding his arrival, as
was his wont, by a deftly contributed paragraph to the papers. The
society journals of to-day have not improved on Boswell in their method
of obtaining first hand information; he was a most assiduous chronicler
of his own actions, and there can be no doubt that there is much Boswell
'copy' buried in the pages of the papers of the time. From the _Public
Advertizer_ of February 28th we learn 'James Boswell, Esq., is expected
in town,' and, on March 24th, 'yesterday James Boswell, Esq., arrived
from Scotland at his lodgings in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly.' He had
received no letter from Johnson since the one in which the Latinity of
his thesis had been criticised, and Boswell had heard that the
publication in his book of a letter from his friend had given offence to
its writer. Johnson was in Oxford at the time, and thither flew Bozzy to
obtain the approval of his labours and, with an eye to all future
contingencies, his sanction for the publication _in his biography_ of
all Johnson's letters to him. 'When I am dead, sir,' was the reply, 'you
may do as you will.'

'My book,' he writes eagerly to Temple, 'has amazing celebrity. Lord
Lyttelton, Mr Walpole, Mrs Macaulay, and Mr Garrick, have all written me
noble letters about it. There are two Dutch translations going forward.'
General Oglethorpe, an old veteran who had seen service under Prince
Eugene, and the friend of Pope whose verses upon him 'I had read from my
early years,' called upon him and solicited his acquaintance. He became
a sort of literary lion. 'I am really the great man now,' he cries; 'I
have David Hume in the forenoon, Mr Johnson in the afternoon of the same
day. I give admirable dinners and good claret, and the moment I go
abroad again, which will be in a day or two, I set up my chariot. This
is enjoying the fruit of my labours, and appearing like the friend of
Paoli.' Alas for that friend!--he confesses to his correspondent that he
has been 'wild.' The form of this outbreak may be sufficiently seen by
the general reader in the leading questions which at this time Boswell
is found putting to Johnson; for the _Life of Johnson_, as we shall
indicate in its proper place, is no less the life of the biographer,
whose mind was ever seeking to shelter itself under the guidance of a
stronger force, and to effect a moral anchorage or moorings behind the
lee of his great friend. When Bozzy indulges in 'the luxury of noble
sentiments,' he is often known to be courting an indemnity to his
conscience for lax practice. Longfellow makes Miles Standish in his
belligerent mood turn in the Cæsar to where the thumb-marks in the
margin proclaimed that the battle was hottest; Boswell often indicates
the decline and fall of the moralist by an apparently undue vein of
pietistic comments.

The next year was to witness the friend of Paoli in his most eccentric
display--the Shakesperian Festival inaugurated by Garrick at Stratford.
By this ludicrous gathering it is that Boswell is known to the mass of
readers who have never cared to know more of 'Corsica Boswell' than what
they can gather from the lively picture of Macaulay. There he is known
only as it were in the gross, to which indeed, as Johnson said of
Milton, the undramatic nature of the essayist's mind was rather prone,
careless as it was or incapable of the finer shades of character. Yet,
as we know, he was not the solitary masker or mummer in this
extraordinary carnival, which seems not creditable to the taste of its
promoters, and resembles rather the entry of a travelling circus into a
provincial town than a serious commemoration of a great man. However,
'thither Mr Boswell repaired with all the enthusiasm of a poetical
mind;' as he informs us, 'such an opportunity for the warbling of his
Muse was not neglected.' On Wednesday, Sept. 6th, about five in the
morning, says _The Scots Magazine_ for that month in its leading
article, the performers from Drury Lane paraded the streets of
Stratford, and serenaded the ladies with a ballad by Garrick, beginning

    'Ye Warwickshire lads and ye lasses
    See what at our Jubilee passes;
    Come revel away, rejoice and be glad,
    For the lad of all lads was a Warwickshire lad,
                  Warwickshire lad,
                  All be glad,
    For the lad of all lads was a Warwickshire lad.'

Guns were fired, the magistrates assembled, and there was a public
breakfast in the town-hall. In this number of the magazine there is a
letter extending to seven columns from James Boswell, Esq., on his
return to London, after being 'much agitated' by 'this jubilee of
genius.' He describes it as 'truly an antique idea, a Grecian thought;'
the oratorio at the great Stratford church, with the music by Dr Arne,
was, he admits, grand and admirable, but 'I could have wished that
prayers had been read, and a short sermon preached.' Then the
performance of the dedication ode by Garrick is described as 'noble and
affecting, like an exhibition in Athens or Rome.' Lord Grosvenor, at the
close, went up to Garrick, 'and told him that he had affected his whole
frame, showing him his nerves and veins still quivering with agitation.'
The masquerade our traveller, as the 'travelled thane,' affects to
regard complacently as an 'entertainment not suited to the genius of the
British nation, but to a warmer country, where the people have a great
flow of spirits, and a readiness at repartee.' Bozzy no doubt had seen
the carnival abroad, and his memories of sunnier skies would not find
congenial atmosphere in the unpropitious weather when the Avon rose with
the floods of rain, the lower grounds were laid under water, and a
guinea for a bed was regarded as an imposition, though 'no one,'
declares our hero, 'was understood to come there who had not plenty of
money'--their own or their father's, presumably. The break up seems to
have been effected in confusion, but the good-humoured mummer, taking
one consideration with another, compares it to eating an artichoke,
where 'we have some fine mouthfuls, but also swallow the leaves and the
hair, which are confoundedly difficult of digestion. After all, I am
highly satisfied with my artichoke.'

He brought 'the warbling of his muse' with him. It is no better or worse
than the staple. In the character of a Corsican, he sings--

    'From the rude banks of Golo's rapid flood,
    Alas! too deeply tinged with patriot blood;
    O'er which, dejected, injur'd Freedom bends,
    And sighs indignant o'er all Europe sends,
    Behold a Corsican! In better days
    Eager I sought my country's fame to raise.
    Now when I'm exiled from my native land
    I come to join this classic festal band;
    To soothe my soul on Avon's sacred stream,
    And from your joy to catch a cheering gleam.'

After an apostrophe to happy Britons, on whose propitious isle
propitious freedom ever deigns to smile, he closes with an appeal--

    'But let me plead for liberty distress'd,
    And warm for her each sympathetic breast;
    Amidst the splendid honours which you bear,
    To save a sister island be your care;
    With generous ardour make us also free,
    And give to Corsica a noble Jubilee.'

Colman and Foote, of course, as comedians were there, but Goldsmith and
Johnson shewed their sense by their absence. The only trace of Davy's
old master was found in a Coventry ribbon put out by 'a whimsical
haberdasher,' with the motto from Johnson's _Prologue_ at the opening of
Drury Lane in 1747--'Each change of many colour'd life he drew.'

Boswell had a free hand as a writer for the _London Magazine_, in which
he had a proprietary interest. To it he contributed the following
account, accompanied with a portrait--the source of much of Macaulay's
indictment. 'One of the most remarkable masks upon this occasion was
James Boswell, Esq., in the dress of an armed Corsican chief. He entered
the amphitheatre about twelve o'clock. He wore a short dark-coloured
coat of coarse cloth, scarlet waistcoat and breeches, and black
spatterdashes; his cap or bonnet was of black cloth; on the front of it
was embroidered in gold letters _viva la liberta_, and on one side of it
was a handsome blue feather and cockade, so that it had an elegant as
well as a warlike appearance. On the breast of his coat was sewed a
Moor's head, the crest of Corsica, surrounded with branches of laurel.
He had also a cartridge-pouch, into which was stuck a stiletto, and on
his left side a pistol was hung upon the belt of his cartridge-pouch. He
had a fusee slung across his shoulder, wore no powder in his hair, but
had it plaited at full length with a knot of blue ribbons at the end of
it. He had, by way of a staff, a very curious vine all of one piece,
emblematical of the sweet bard of Avon. He wore no mask, saying it was
not proper for a gallant Corsican. So soon as he came into the room he
drew universal attention. The novelty of the Corsican dress, its
becoming appearance, and the character of the brave nation concurred to
distinguish the armed Corsican chief. He was first accosted by Mrs
Garrick, with whom he had a good deal of conversation. There was an
admirable dialogue between Lord Grosvenor, in the character of a Turk,
and the Corsican on the different constitution of the countries so
opposite to each other,--Despotism and Liberty; and Captain Thomson, of
the navy, in the character of an honest tar, kept it up very well; he
expressed a strong inclination to stand by the brave islanders. Mr
Boswell danced both a minuet and a country dance with a very pretty
lady, Mrs Sheldon, wife to Captain Sheldon, of the 38th Regiment of
Foot, who was dressed in a genteel domino, and before she danced threw
off her mask.'

He adds a cool puff of his own verses, 'which, it is thought, are well
suited to the occasion, while at the same time they preserve the true
Corsican character.' About a month after this masquerade, Goldsmith
dined at Boswell's lodging with Garrick, Johnson, Davies, and others,
where 'Goldsmith,' says the biographer, 'strutted about, bragging of his
dress, and I believe was seriously vain of it, for his mind was
wonderfully prone to such impressions!' Bozzy could criticise, as on all
occasions, the bloom coloured coat of 'honest Goldsmith,' yet he was
eager for Garrick to fall in with the idea of the tradesmen of Stratford
to make the Jubilee an annual event in the interests of local trade, and
'I flatter myself with the prospect of attending you at several more

Though he had again commenced in London his attendance on Johnson and
note-taking, there was now a divided source of attraction. Things had
gone hard with Paoli since Boswell had been in the island. In spite of
his Irish brigades and his British volunteers, the overwhelming forces
which the French were able to put in the field, on the cession of the
island to them by the Genoese, brought to an end the stubborn resistance
of the inhabitants. In the August of 1768 Boswell had raised in Scotland
a subscription of £700 for ordnance furnished by the Carron Iron Work
Company, and in 1769 there had issued from the press a little duodecimo,
'_British Essays in favour of the Brave Corsicans_: collected and
published by James Boswell, Esq.' The papers are twenty in number, some
by himself, others by 'a gentleman whose name would do honour to any
cause (whom we think to have been Trecothick, the successor of Beckford,
as Lord Mayor of London), and the greatest part furnished by persons
unknown to me.' They deal with the dangers to trade from France and the
Bourbon Compact, and point at the value of Corsica as a station superior
to Gibraltar or Minorca. One paper signed 'P. J.' has the undoubted
Boswellian touch in dealing with the sailors thrown idle by the
cessation of the along-shore Mediterranean trade. 'None are less
avaricious than our honest tars, nor have they, in reality, any reason
to be discontented. Every common sailor has at least five and thirty
shillings a month, over and above which _he has his victuals and drink,
and that in great abundance_. There is no such thing as stinting aboard
a ship, unless when reduced to difficulties by stormy weather. The crew
have their three meals a day regularly, and if they should be hungry
between meals, _there is always a biscuit or a luncheon of something
cold to be had_.'

France had bought Corsica from Genoa in May 1768. Marboeuf, whom
Boswell had found in the island, had been superseded, and a descent of
the French under Count Vaux with 20,000 men ended the war. Paoli escaped
to a ruinous convent on the shore, and, after lying there in
concealment, he embarked on an English vessel bound for Leghorn. On
September 20th he reached London, and the _Public Advertizer_ of October
4th, through its faithful correspondent, informed its readers how 'On
Sunday last General Paoli, accompanied by James Boswell, Esq., took an
airing in Hyde Park in his coach.' On the evening of the 10th he was
presented by the traveller to Johnson, who was highly pleased with the
lofty port of the stranger and the easy 'elegance of manners, the brand
of the soldier, _l'homme d'épée_.'

An impression is abroad that Boswell's books were not taken seriously.
Nothing could be more remote from the truth. The Whigs were in favour
of his views, and Burke, together with Frederick the Great, believed our
interests would suffer by the increase of French power in the
Mediterranean. Shelburne, for Chatham had resigned before November 1768,
was the advocate of similar views, telling our ambassador at Versailles
to remonstrate with the French court, while Junius, in his letter to the
Duke of Grafton, told the country that Corsica would never have been
invaded by the French, but for the sight of a weak and distracted
ministry. When the hand of Napoleon was heavy on the Genoese, they
remembered that their cession of the island had made their master, by
his birth at Ajaccio on August 15, 1769, a Frenchman. But the nation at
the time of Boswell's books was weary of war, and their influence,
though great, was not visible in any actual political results.

Boswell had expected to draw the sage on the subject of matrimony,
having promised himself, as he says, a good deal of instructive
conversation on the conduct of the married state. But the oracles were
dumb. On his return to the north he was married, on the 25th November
1769, to his cousin. We find in the _Scots Magazine_ of that month the
following extracts under the list of marriages:--

    'At Lainshaw, in the shire of Air, JAMES BOSWELL, Esq., of
    Auchinleck, advocate, to MISS PEGGY MONTGOMERY, daughter of the
    late DAVID MONTGOMERY of Lainshaw, Esq.'

    'At Edinburgh, ALEXANDER BOSWELL, Esq., of Auchinleck, one of
    the Lords of Session and Justiciary, to Miss BETTY BOSWELL,
    second daughter of JOHN BOSWELL, Esq., of Balmuto, deceased.'

His father, now past sixty, had married again, and married a cousin for
the second time, like his son on the present occasion. That they were
married on the same day and at different places affords a clear
indication that the father and son were no longer on the best of terms.



    'How happy could I be with either,
    Were t'other dear charmer away.'--GAY.

'Love,' wrote Madame de Stael, 'is with man a thing apart, 'tis woman's
whole existence.' This is not true at least of Boswell, for his love
affairs fill as large a part in his life as in that of Benjamin
Constant. A most confused chapter withal, and one that luckily was not
known to Macaulay, whose colours would otherwise have been more
brilliant. We find Bozzy paying his addresses at one and the same time
to at least eight ladies, exclusive as this is of sundry minor
divinities of a fleeting and more temporary nature not calling here for
allusion. His first divinity was the grass-widow of Moffat, and here
Temple had been compelled to remonstrate in spite of all the lover's
philandering about her freedom from her husband, who had used her ill.
Were she unfaithful, he declares her worthy to be 'pierced with a
Corsican dagger,' but in March he has found it too much like a 'settled
plan of licentiousness,' discovering her to be an ill-bred rompish girl,
debasing his dignity, without refinement, though handsome and lively.
Then there is the quarrel and the reconciliation, she vowing she loved
him more than ever she had done her husband, but meeting with opposition
from his brother David and others, who furnished the love-sick heart of
her adorer with examples of her faithlessness such as made him recoil.
He vows now his frailties are at an end, and he resolves to turn out an
admirable member of society. He had broken with her as with the
gardener's daughter a year ago--an everlasting lesson to him.

By March 1767 the reigning favourite was Miss Bosville of Yorkshire. But
his lot being cast in Scotland would be an objection to the beauty; then
we hear of a young lady in the vicinity of whose claims Lord Auchinleck
approved, because their lands lay happily together for family extension.
She was just eighteen, pious, good-tempered and genteel, and for four
days she had been on a visit to 'the romantick groves' of his ancestors,
when suddenly the scene is changed for the Sienese _signora_ of whom we
heard upon his travels. 'My Italian angel,' he cries, 'is constant; I
had a letter from her but a few days ago, which made me cry.' He
conjures his friend Temple to come to him, and 'on that Arthur Seat
where our youthful fancies roved abroad shall we take counsel together.'
The local divinity we learn is Miss Blair of Adamtown; he has been
drinking her health, and aberrations from sobriety and virtue have
ensued, but he thought things would be brought to a climax were Temple
to visit her. A long letter of commission follows, the envoy is
instructed to appear as his old friend, praising him to Miss Blair for
his good qualities. Temple is adjured to dwell upon his odd, inconstant,
impetuous nature, how he is accustomed to women of intrigue, and he is
to ask of the fair one if she does not think there is insanity in the
Boswell family. She is to hear of his travels, his acquaintance with
foreign princes, Voltaire and Rousseau, his desire to have a house of
his own; and then he diverges into practicality when he desires his
friend to 'study the mother,' and take notes of all that passed, as it
might have the effect of fixing the fate of the lover. Temple, it may be
imagined, did not interpret his commission in such a literal spirit, and
inconstancy and insanity could hardly be recommendations in Miss Blair's
eyes. That such should be the case,--outside the confessions of Mr
Rochester in _Jane Eyre_,--would appear to the commissioner an obvious

A silence followed on Temple's departure from the divinity. Boswell
dreaded a certain nabob, 'a man of copper,' as his rival. Then he
believed the fair offended by his own Spanish stateliness and gravity;
and again a letter, 'written with all the warmth of Italian affection,'
restores the _signora_ to the first place, from which she is deposed by
a note from Miss Blair, explaining that his letter had been delayed a
week at the Ayr post-office. Then fresh ravings, clouded by the belief
that she is cunning and sees his weakness, for three people at Ayr have
assured him she is a jilt, and he is shocked at the risk he has run, a
warning for the future to him against 'indulging the least fondness for
a Scotch lass.' He has, he feels, a soul of a more Southern frame, and
some Englishwoman ought to be sensible of his merit, though the Dutch
translator of his _Tour_, Mademoiselle de Zuyl, has been writing to him.
Random talking is his dread, he must guard against it, and Miss Blair
revives. 'I must have her learn the harpsichord,' he cries, 'and French;
she shall be one of the finest women in the island.' Later on they have
had a long meeting, of which space only prevents the inimitable
reproduction,--'squeezing and kissing her fine hand, while she looked at
me with those beautiful black eyes.' He meets her at the house of Lord
Kames, he sees her at _Othello_--she was in tears at the affecting
scenes, and 'rather leaned' to him (he thought), and 'the jealous Moor
described my own soul.' But true love did never yet run smooth; he has
been 'as wild as ever. Trust me in time coming; I will give you my word
of honour.' Then--curious psychological trait--'to-morrow I shall be
happy with my devotions.'

By the beginning of 1768 he fears all is over. A rumour--a false one as
it proved--had reached him that the divinity was to be married to Sir
Alexander Gilmour, M.P. for Midlothian. He gets friendly with the nabob,
warms him with old claret, and bewails with him their hapless devotion.
They agree to propose in turn, and, being in turn rejected, he feels
sure that 'a Howard, or some other of the noblest in the kingdom' is to
be his fate. The Dutch translator again holds the field, to be soon
dismissed for her frivolity and her infidelity. Then Miss Dick of
Prestonfield reigns with solid qualifications--she lacks a fortune, but
is fine, young, healthy, and amiable. A visit to Holland, to finally
decide on the Mademoiselle's claims, was proposed, but his father,
warned in time, would not consent. Temple, too, was against this, and
'Temple thou reasonest well,' he cries, and thinks his abnegation will
be a solace to his worthy father on his circuit. Freed now from Miss
Blair and the Dutch divinity, he is devoted to _la belle Irlandaise_,
'just sixteen, with the sweetest countenance and a Dublin education.'
Never till now had he been so truly in love; every flower is united, and
she is a rose without a thorn. Her name 'Mary Anne' he has carved upon a
tree, and cutting off a lock of her hair she had promised Bozzy not to
marry a lord before March, or forget him. 'Sixteen,' he says; 'innocence
and gaiety make me quite a Sicilian swain.'

His book had dissipated his professional energies, and he had even taken
to gaming. Incidentally we learn that he had lost more than he could
pay, and that Mr Sheridan had advanced enough to clear him, on a promise
that he should not engage in play for three years. Mary Anne has added
to his complications by her forgetfulness, and the local candidate Miss
Blair reappears. Favoured as she was by his father, it would have been
easy to bring things to a climax, but on her mother's part there was
some not unnatural coldness over his indiscreet talk about his love of
the heiress. Bozzy was a convivial knight-errant in what was called
'Saving the ladies.' At clubs and gatherings any member would toast his
idol in a bumper, and then another champion would enter his peerless
Dulcinea in two bumpers, to be routed by the original toper taking off
four. The deepest drinker 'saved his lady,' as the phrase ran; though,
says George Thomson speaking of the old concerts in St Cecilia's Hall,
at the foot of Niddry's Wynd, which were maintained by noblemen and
gentlemen, the bold champion had often considerable difficulty in
_saving himself_ from the floor, in his efforts to regain his seat! Miss
Burnet of Monboddo, celebrated by Burns, and Miss Betty Home, he
describes as the reigning beauties of the time deeply involved in thus
causing the fall of man. Boswell was not behind, and he ascribes his
aberrations to the 'drinking habit which still prevails in Scotland,'
renewing good intentions, only to be broken in the same letter that
reveals the Moffat lady again, 'like a girl of eighteen, with the finest
black hair,' whom he loves so much that he is in a fever. '_This_,' he
adds truly enough, '_is unworthy of Paoli's friend_.'

The May of 1769 saw him in Ireland, where his relations in County Down
secured his entry into the best society. A dispatch to the _Public
Advertizer_, of July 7th, informed the public that 'James Boswell, Esq.,
dined with His Grace the Duke of Leinster at his seat at Carton. He went
by special invitation to meet the Lord Lieutenant; came next morning
with his Excellency to the Phoenix Park, where he was present at a
review of Sir Joseph Yorke's dragoons; he dined with the Lord Mayor, and
is now set out on his return to Scotland.' The _belle Irlandaise_ had
forgotten him, but it is to this occasion that we may refer some verses
that were published by his son Sir Alexander. Chambers thinks they refer
to his cousin, but the general belief tends in the direction of the
notorious Margaret Caroline Rudd, the associate in later years of the
brothers Perreau, who were executed for forgery. In the _Life of
Johnson_ we find Boswell, in 1776, expressing to his companion a desire
to be introduced to this person, so celebrated for her address and
insinuation, and later on he is shewn, on his own confession, to have
visited her, 'induced by the fame of her talents and irresistible power
of fascination,' and to have sent an account of this interview to his
wife, but to have offered its perusal first, 'as it appeared to me
highly entertaining,' to Temple, who was indignant over it. It would
appear, then, that Boswell did not reveal to Johnson his former
flirtation with this notorious woman, but we think that the obvious
marks of the brogue in the verses shew conclusively that either the
feeling was imitative and based on an earlier Irish song, or that the
verses were judged by Boswell's son, not too devoted, as we shall find,
to his father's memory, to be free from offence.

    'O Larghan Clanbrassil, how sweet is thy sound,
    To my tender remembrance as Love's sacred ground;
    For there Marg'ret Caroline first charm'd my sight,
    And fill'd my young heart with a flutt'ring delight.

    When I thought her my own, ah! too short seemed the _day_
    For a jaunt to Downpatrick, or a trip on the _sea_;
    To express what I felt, then all language was vain,
    'Twas in truth what the poets have studied to feign.

    But, too late, I found even she could _deceive_,
    And nothing was left but to sigh, weep, and _rave_;
    Distracted, I flew from my dear native shore,
    Resolved to see Larghan Clanbrassil no more.

    Yet still in some moments enchanted I find
    A ray of her fondness beams soft on my mind;
    While thus in bless'd fancy my angel I see,
    All the world is a Larghan Clanbrassil to me.'

On this journey with Boswell there was a Margaret--his own cousin, and
it is curious to find him in this mood of sentimental philandering, were
it no worse, when we have now to see Bozzy at the end of his love
affairs. When his great work was completed in 1791, its author
contributed to the _European Magazine_ for May and June a little sketch
of himself, in order to give a fillip to its circulation. There he
describes jauntily his Irish tour, and after what we know of his erratic
course, it is delightful to come across this sage chronicler of his dead
wife, circulating testimonials to her excellences, to which no doubt he
was oblivious in her lifetime. 'They had,' he writes, 'from their
earliest years lived in the most intimate and unreserved friendship.'
His love of the fair sex has been already mentioned (he had quoted the
song of 'the Soapers' in our first chapter), and she was the constant
yet prudent and delicate _confidante_ of all his '_egarements du coeur
et de l'esprit_.' This we may doubt, and the gracefully allusive French
quotation reminds us of Mr Pepys' use of that language when his wife
was in his mind. This jaunt was the occasion of Mr Boswell's resolving
at last to engage himself in that connection to which he had always
declared himself averse. In short, he determined to become a married
man. He requested her, with her excellent judgment and more sedate
manners, to do him the favour of accepting him with all his faults, and
though he assures his readers he had uniformly protested that a large
fortune had been with him a requisite in the fair, he was yet 'willing
to waive that in consideration of her peculiar merit!'

Hearts are caught in the rebound, and Bozzy had solaced his loss of the
_belle Irlandaise_ with the sympathy of his fellow-traveller. Having let
his fancies roam so far abroad as Siena and Holland, the lover had now
returned like the bird at evening to the nest from which it flew. She
had no fortune, and 'the penniless lass wi' the lang pedigree,' related
as she was to the Eglintoun branch and other high families, had not in
the eyes of his father the landed qualifications of Miss Blair, whose
property lay so convenient for the extension of the Boswell acres. This
may have been the cause of the paternal anger and the separate marriages
on the same day. The wives of literary men have ever been a fruitful
source of disquisition to the admirers of their heroes, and Terentia,
Gemma Donati, and Anne Hathaway, have divided the biographers of Cicero,
Dante, and Shakespeare. To us it seems that, like his father, she had
much to bear, hampered by their domestic difficulties through her
husband's constant dependence on that father for his income, and eyed
with undeserved suspicion by the judge and his second wife as a Mordecai
in the gate, penniless and yet supposed to be the cause of Boswell's
pecuniary embarrassments and indiscretions. The marriage was deferred
till after the Stratford Jubilee, and the newly married pair took up
their house in Chessel's Buildings in the Canongate. For a year and a
half after his marriage his correspondence with Johnson underwent an
entire cessation, and in the August of 1771 General Paoli made a tour in
Scotland, which, for a time, called forth the best organizing abilities
of his friend. From the _London Magazine_ of the day, in an account
contributed by our hero, we learn how Paoli had paid 'a visit to James
Boswell, Esq., who was the first gentleman of this country who visited
Corsica, and whose writings have made the brave islanders and their
general properly known over Europe.' Boswell waited on the exile and the
Polish Ambassador at Ramsay's Inn, at the foot of St Mary's Wynd,
visiting with them Linlithgow and Carron, 'where the general had a
prodigious pleasure in viewing the forge where were formed the cannon
and war-like stores' sent to Corsica by his Scottish admirers. At
Glasgow they were entertained by the professors, and saw 'the elegant
printing of the Scottish Stephani, the Messrs Foulis,' and no doubt
their guide managed to remind their excellencies of a certain _Tour in
Corsica_ emanating thence. Auchinleck was visited to 'the joy of my
worthy father and me at seeing the Corsican Hero in our romantick
groves,' as he tells Garrick, and on their return to Glasgow the freedom
of the city was conferred on Paoli by Lord Provost Dunlop.[A] At
Edinburgh 'the general slept under the roof of his ever grateful
friend.' The whole forms a favourable specimen of Boswell's organizing
capacities, and viewed in relation to the friendly intercourse he is
found maintaining with prominent and influential persons, our regret is
but increased that in the interests of his wife and children his
abilities were not exercised in a more strictly professional channel.

London he visited in the March of 1772 over an appeal to the Lords from
the Court of Session. Johnson was now in good health, and was eager 'to
see Beattie's College.' In the _Scots Magazine_ for February 1773 there
is mentioned a masked ball, attended by seventy persons of quality,
given in Edinburgh by Sir Alexander Macdonald and his wife, Miss
Bosville of Yorkshire, one of Boswell's loves. Croker says that the
masquerade for which he was rallied by Johnson was given by the Dowager
Countess of Fife, and that Bozzy went as a dumb conjurer; but from the
expression of the _Magazine_, 'an entertainment little known in this
part of the Kingdom,' coupled with the words employed by Johnson, there
can be no doubt that Croker is wrong, and that the host on this occasion
was the churlish chief, whose inhospitable ways they were to experience
in Skye. He was now near the great honour of his life, admission to that
Literary Club, of which, said Sir William Jones, 'I will only say that
there is no branch of human knowledge on which some of our members are
not capable of giving information.' Never was honour better deserved or
better repaid. Without his record the fame of that club would have
passed away, surviving at best in some sort of hazy companionship with
the Kit-Cat, Button's, Will's, and other clubs and assemblies. Never was
there a club of which each member was better qualified to take care of
his own fame with posterity. None of Johnson's associates would have
hesitated in declaring an extended date of renown for the _Rambler_; and
perhaps he himself would have staked the reputation assured, as Cowper
said, by the tears of bards and heroes in order to immortalize the dead,
on his _Rasselas_ or the _Dictionary_. Yet he and most members of that
club, apart from the record of Boswell, would be but names to the
literary antiquary, and be by the mass of readers entirely forgotten.

He had canvassed the members. Johnson wrote, on April 23rd, to
Goldsmith, who was in the chair that evening, to consider Boswell as
proposed by himself in his absence. On the night of the ballot, April
30th, Boswell dined at Beauclerk's, where, after the company had gone to
the club, he was left till the fate of his election should be announced.
After Johnson had taken the thing in hand there was not much danger, yet
poor Bozzy 'sat in a state of anxiety which even the charming
conversation of Lady Di Beauclerk could not entirely dissipate.' There
he received the tidings of his election, and he hastened to the place of
meeting. Burke he met that night for the first time, and on his
entrance, Johnson, 'with humorous formality, gave me a _charge_,
pointing out the conduct expected from me as a good member of the club.'
That charge we can believe Forster to be right in suspecting to be a
caution against publishing abroad the proceedings and the talk of the

In the autumn of the year, as they drew near to Monboddo, Johnson, we
should think with excessive rudeness, told him 'several of the members
wished to keep you out. Burke told me, he doubted if you were fit for
it: but, now you are in, none of them are sorry. Burke says, that you
have so much good humour naturally, it is scarce a virtue.' The faithful
Bozzy replied, 'They were afraid of you, sir, as it was you who proposed
me;' and the doctor was prone to admit that if the one blackball
necessary to exclude had been given, they knew they never would have got
in another member. Yet even from this rebuff he managed to deftly
extract a compliment. Beauclerk, the doctor said, had been very earnest
for the admission, and Beauclerk, replied Boswell, 'has a keenness of
mind which is very uncommon.' The witty Topham, along with Reynolds,
Garrick, and others, is immortalized in the pages of the man who was not
thought by the wits of Gerrard Street fit for their club.

    [A] By the Town Clerk Depute of Glasgow, R. Renwick,
    Esq., we are informed that no notice of this enrolment of
    General Paoli was entered at the time, pursuant to the custom of
    the Register over honorary burgesships.



    'Breaking the silence of the seas
    Among the farthest Hebrides.'--WORDSWORTH.

When Boswell was leaving London in May he called, for the last time,
upon Goldsmith, round whom the clouds of misfortune were fast settling,
and who was planning a _Dictionary of Arts and Sciences_ as a means of
extrication from his embarrassments. In such circumstances, it was not
unnatural for Goldsmith to revert to his own past travels, and to the
reflection that he was unlikely again to set out upon them, unless
sheltered like Johnson behind a pension. He assured Boswell that he
would never be able to lug the dead weight of the Rambler through the
Highlands. The enthusiastic pioneer, however, was loud in the praises of
his companion; Goldsmith thought him not equal to Burke, 'who winds into
a subject like a serpent.' The other, with more than wonted irrelevance,
maintained that Johnson was 'the Hercules who strangled serpents in his
cradle;' and with these characteristic utterances they parted, never
again to meet. Throughout his great work, Boswell shews ever a curious
depreciation of Goldsmith. Rivalry for the good graces of their common
friend Johnson, as Scott thought, and the fear of his older acquaintance
as the possible biographer made him suspicious of the merits of the
poet, who figures in the pages of Boswell as a foil for his gently
patronizing tone,--'honest Goldsmith.'

The tour to the Hebrides had been a project which had occurred to them
in the first days of their friendship. The _Description of the Western
Isles of Scotland_ (1703) by Martin, had been put into Johnson's hands
at a very early age by his father; and, though for long he had
disappointed the expectations of his friend, he had talked of it in the
spring of this year in such a way as to lead Boswell to write to
Beattie, Robertson, Lord Elibank, and the chiefs of the Macdonalds and
the Macleods, for invitations such as he could shew the doctor. Mrs
Thrale also and others were induced to forward the scheme, and at last
the Rambler set out on the 6th day of August. He was nine days upon the
road, including two at Newcastle, where he picked up his friend Scott
(Lord Stowell), and after passing Berwick, Dunbar and Prestonpans, the
coach late in the evening deposited Johnson at Boyd's inn, _The White
Horse_, in the Canongate,--the rendezvous of the old Hanoverian
faction,--which occupied the site of the present building from which
this volume, one hundred and twenty-three years later, is published. On
the Saturday evening of his arrival a note was dispatched by him to
Boswell, who flew to him, and 'exulted in the thought that I now had him
actually in Caledonia.'

Arm in arm they walked up the High Street to Boswell's house in James's
Court, to which he had removed from the Canongate. The first impression
of the Scottish capital was not pleasing, for at ten the beat of the
city drums was heard; and, amid cries of _gardy loo_, what Oldham
euphemistically calls 'the perils of the night,' were thrown over the
windows down on the pavement, in the absence of covered sewers. When
Captain Burt before this time had been in Edinburgh, a 'caddie' had
preceded him on a scouting expedition with cries of 'haud your han','
and among flank and rear discharges he had passed to his quarters. A
zealous Scotsman, as Boswell says, could have wished the doctor to be
less gifted with the sense of smell, however much the sense of the
breadth of the street and the height of the buildings impressed him. His
wife had tea waiting, and they sat till two in the morning. To shew
respect for the sage, Mrs Boswell had given up her own room, which her
husband 'cannot but gratefully mention, as one of a thousand obligations
which I owe her, since the great obligation of her being pleased to
accept of me as her husband.'

Next morning, on the Sunday, Mr Scott and Sir Wm. Forbes of Pitsligo
breakfasted with them, and the host's heart was delighted by the 'little
infantine noise' which his child Veronica made, with the appearance of
listening to the great man. The fond father with a cheerful
recklessness, not realized we fear, declared she should have for this
five hundred pounds of additional fortune.

The best society in the capital was invited to meet Johnson at breakfast
and dinner--Robertson, Hailes, Gregory, Blacklock, and others. James's
Court was rather a distinguished part of the city, and an improvement
upon the former quarters in Chessel's Buildings. The inhabitants, says
Robert Chambers, took themselves so seriously as to keep a clerk to
record their proceedings, together with a scavenger of their own, and
held among themselves their social meetings and balls. Hume had occupied
part of the house before Johnson's visit, though three years had passed
since he had moved to the new town into St David Street. Writing from
his old house to Adam Smith, he is glad to 'have come within sight of
you, and to have a view of Kirkcaldy from my windows;' the study of the
historian, to which he turned fondly from the Parisian _salons_, is
represented in _Guy Mannering_ as the library of Pleydell with its fine
view from the windows, 'which commanded that incomparable prospect of
the ground between Edinburgh and the sea, the Firth of Forth with its
islands, and the varied shore of Fife to the northward.' Bozzy may have
been reticent about the former tenant; he was 'not clear that it was
right in me to keep company with him,' though he thought the man greater
or better than his books. No word then was sent to him, nor to Adam
Smith across the Forth to Kirkcaldy. They visited the Parliament House,
where Harry Erskine was presented to Johnson, and, having made his bow,
slipped a shilling into Boswell's hand, 'for the sight of his bear.'
Holyrood and the University were inspected, and as they passed up the
College-Wynd, where Goldsmith in his medical student days in Edinburgh
had lived, Scott, as a child of two years, may have seen the party. On
the 18th they set out from the capital, with the Parthian shot from Lord
Auchinleck to a friend--'there's nae hope for Jamie, man; Jamie is gaen
clean gyte. What do you think, man? He's done wi' Paoli. He's off wi'
the land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican, and whose tail do you think he
has pinned himself to now, man? A dominie, an auld dominie; he keepit a
schule and ca'ad it an acaadamy!' No more bitter taunt could have been
levelled against Johnson, with his memories of Edial, near Lichfield;
readers who may remember the munificent manner in which the heritors of
their day had provided for Ruddiman, Michael Bruce, and others, will
see the contempt that the old judge had felt for the past of the
Rambler. Johnson had left behind him in a drawer a volume of his diary;
and, as this would have been excellent copy for his projected _Life_, we
feel the temptation to which Boswell was exposed. 'I wish,' he says
naïvely, 'that female curiosity had been strong enough to have had it
all transcribed; which might easily have been done; and I think the
theft, being _pro bono publico_, might have been forgiven. But I may be
wrong. My wife told me she never once had looked into it. She did not
seem quite easy when we left her; but away we went!'

The character-sketch of Johnson, given at the opening of the book is
full of fine shading and touches; but the traveller who now follows them
on the journey will hardly, in comparison with his own tourist attire,
recognise what in 1773 was thought fit and convenient costume.

    'He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted hair
    buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain
    shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this
    tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown
    cloth greatcoat, with pockets which might have almost held the
    two volumes of his folio _Dictionary_; and he carried in his
    hand a large English oak stick. Let me not be censured for
    mentioning such minute particulars. Everything relative to so
    great a man is worth observing. I remember Dr Adam Smith, in
    his rhetorical lectures at Glasgow, told us he was glad to know
    that Milton wore latchets in his shoes, instead of buckles.'

A companion vignette of himself is added by Boswell.

    'A gentleman of ancient blood, the pride of which was his
    predominant passion. He was then in his thirty-third year, and
    had been about four years happily married. His inclination was
    to be a soldier; but his father had pressed him into the
    profession of the law. He had travelled a good deal, and seen
    many varieties of human life. He had thought more than anyone
    had supposed, and had a pretty good stock of general learning
    and knowledge. He had rather too little, than too much
    prudence; and, his imagination being lively, he often said
    things of which the effect was very different from the
    intention. He resembled sometimes

    'The best good man, with the worst natur'd muse.'

The doctor who was thrifty over this tour had not thought it necessary
to bring his own black servant; but Boswell's man, Joseph Ritter, a
Bohemian, a fine stately fellow over six feet, who had been over much of
Europe, was invaluable to them in their journey. For this the valiant
Rambler had provided a pair of pistols, powder, and a quantity of
bullets, but the assurance of their needlessness had induced him to
leave them behind with the precious diary in the keeping of Mrs Boswell.

Such a tour was then a feat for a man of sixty-four, in a country which,
to the Englishman of his day, was as unknown as St Kilda is now to the
mass of Scotchmen. The London citizen who, says Lockhart, 'makes Loch
Lomond his wash-pot, and throws his shoe over Ben Nevis,' can with
difficulty imagine a journey in the Hebrides with rainy weather, in open
boats, or upon horseback over wild moorland and morasses, a journey that
even to Voltaire sounded like a tour to the North Pole. Smollett, in
_Humphrey Clinker_, says the people at the other end of the island knew
as little of Scotland as they did of Japan, nor was Charing Cross,
witness as it did the greatest height of 'the tide of human existence,'
then bright with the autumnal trips of circular tours and Macbrayne
steamers. The feeling for scenery, besides, was in its infancy, nor was
it scenery but men and manners that were sought by our two travellers,
to whom what would now be styled the Wordsworthian feeling had little
or no interest. Gibbon has none of it, and Johnston laughed at Shenstone
for not caring whether his woods and streams had anything good to eat in
them, 'as if one could fill one's belly with hearing soft murmurs or
looking at rough cascades.' Fleet Street to him was more delicious than
Tempe, and the bare scent of the pastoral draws an angry snort from the
critic. Boswell, in turn, confesses to no relish for nature; he admits
he has no pencil for visible objects, but only for varieties of mind and
_esprit_. The _Critical Review_ congratulated the public on a fortunate
event in the annals of literature for the following account in Johnson's
_Journey_--'I sat down on a bank, such as a writer of romance might have
delighted to feign. I had, indeed, no trees to whisper over my head but
a clear rivulet streamed at my feet. The day was calm, the air soft, and
all was rudeness, silence and solitude. Before me, and on either side,
were high hills, which, if hindering the eye from ranging, forced the
mind to find entertainment for itself.' This, little more than the
reflections of a Cockney on a hayrick, is as far as the eighteenth
century could go, nor need we wonder that the Rambler's moralizing at
Iona struck so much Sir Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal
Society, that he 'clasped his hands together, and remained for some time
in an attitude of silent admiration.' Burns himself, as Prof. Veitch has
rightly indicated, has little of the later feeling and regards barren
nature with the unfavourable eyes of the farmer and the practical
agriculturist, nor has the travelled Goldsmith more to shew. Writing
from Edinburgh, he laments that 'no grove or brook lend their music to
cheer the stranger,' while at Leyden, 'wherever I turned my eye, fine
houses, elegant gardens, statues, grottoes, presented themselves.' Even
Gray found that Mount Cenis carried the permission mountains have of
being frightful rather too far, and Wordsworth and Shelley would have
resented the Johnsonian description of a Highland Ben as 'a considerable
protuberance.' Indeed, Goldsmith's bare mention of that object, so dear
to Pope and his century,--'grottoes'--reminds us we are not yet in the
modern world. Yet the boldness of the sage, and the cheerfulness of
Boswell, carried them through it all. 'I should,' wrote the doctor to
Mrs Thrale, 'have been very sorry to have missed any of the
inconveniences, to have had more light or less rain, for their
co-operation crowded the scene and filled the mind.'

Crossing the Firth, after landing on Inchkeith, they arrived at St
Andrews which had long been an object of interest to Johnson. They
passed Leuchars, Dundee, and Aberbrothick. The ruins of ecclesiastical
magnificence would seem to have touched a hidden chord in Boswell's
past, for we find him on the road talking of the 'Roman Catholick
faith,' and leading his companion on transubstantiation; but this, being
'an awful subject, I did not then press Dr Johnson upon it.' Montrose
was reached, and at the inn the waiter was called 'rascal' by the
Rambler for putting sugar into the lemonade with his fingers, to the
delight of Bozzy who rallied him into quietness by the assurance that
the landlord was an Englishman. Monboddo was then passed, where 'the
magnetism of his conversation drew us out of our way,' though the prompt
action of Boswell as agent in advance really was the source of their
invitation. Burnet was one of the best scholars in Scotland, and
'Johnson and my lord spoke highly of Homer.' All his paradoxes about the
superiority of the ancients, the existence of men with tails, slavery
and other institutions were vented, but all went well. The decrease of
learning in England, which Johnson lamented, was met by Monboddo's
belief in its extinction in Scotland, but Bozzy, as the old High School
of Edinburgh boy, put in a word for that place of education and brought
him to confess that it did well.

The New Inn at Aberdeen was full. But the waiter knew Boswell by his
likeness to his father who put up here on circuit--the only portrait, we
believe, there is of Lord Auchinleck--and accommodation was provided.
They visited King's College, where Boswell 'stepped into the chapel and
looked at the tomb of its founder, Bishop Elphinstone, of whom I shall
have occasion to write in my history of James IV., the patron of my
family.' The freedom of the city was conferred on Johnson. Was this an
honour, or an excuse for a social glass among the civic Solons of an
unreformed corporation? The latter may be the case, when we reflect that
none of the four universities thought of giving him an honorary degree,
though Beattie at this time had received the doctorate in laws from
Oxford, and Gray some years before this had declined the offer from
Aberdeen. Nor can we forget the taunt of George Colman the younger about
Pangloss in his _Heir at Law_, and his own recollection how, when a lad
at King's College, he had been 'scarcely a week in Old Aberdeen when the
Lord Provost of the New Town invited me to drink wine with him, one
evening in the Town Hall;' and presented him on October 8th, 1781, with
the freedom of the city. No negative inference can be established from
the contemporary notices in the _Aberdeen Journal_ over the visit. Every
paragraph is contemptuous in its tone; and till October 4th no notice is
taken of the honour, when 'a correspondent says he is glad to find that
the city of Aberdeen has presented Dr Johnson with the freedom of that
place, for he has sold his freedom on this side of the Tweed for a
pension.' The definition of _oats_ in the Dictionary is brought up
against its author, and Bozzy is also attacked in a doggerel epigram on
his Corsican Tour and his system of spelling. But the doctor easily
maintained his conversational supremacy over his academic hosts, who
'started not a single mawkin for us to pursue.'

Ellon, Slains Castle, and Elgin were visited. They passed Gordon Castle
at Fochabers, drove over the heath where Macbeth met the witches,
'classic ground to an Englishman,' as the old editor of Shakespeare
felt, and reached Nairn, where now they heard for the first time the
Gælic tongue,--'one of the songs of Ossian,' quoth the justly
incredulous doctor,--and saw peat fires. At Fort George they were
welcomed by Sir Eyre Coote. The old military aspirations of Bozzy flared
up and were soothed: 'for a little while I fancied myself a military
man, and it pleased me.' As they left, the commander reminded them of
the hardships by the way, in return as Boswell interposed for the rough
things Johnson had said of Scotland. 'You must change your name, sir,'
said Sir Eyre. 'Ay, to Dr M'Gregor,' replied Bozzy. The notion of the
lexicographer's assuming the forbidden name of the bold outlaw, with
'his foot upon his native heath,' is rather comic, though later on we
find him striding about with a target and broad sword, and a bonnet
drawn over his wig! Though both professed profuse addiction to Jacobite
sentiments, it is curious no mention is made of Culloden. It may be that
Boswell, who some days later weeps over the battle, may have
diplomatically avoided it, or it may have been dark as their chaise
passed it, though it is not impossible that Boswell, who at St Andrews
had not known where to look for John Knox's grave, and has no mention of
Airsmoss where Cameron fell in his own parish of Auchinleck, was
ignorant of the site. From their inn at Inverness he wrote to Garrick
gleefully over his tour with Davy's old preceptor, and then begged
permission to leave Johnson for a time, 'that I might run about and pay
some visits to several good people,' finding much satisfaction in
hearing every one speak well of his father.

On Monday, August 30, they began their _equitation_; 'I would needs make
a word too.' They took horses now, a third carried his man Ritter, and a
fourth their portmanteaus. The scene by Loch Ness was new to the sage,
and he rises in his narrative a little to it and the 'limpid waters
beating their bank, and waving their surface by a gentle agitation.'
Through Glenshiel, Glenmorison, Auchnasheal, they passed on to the inn
at Glenelg. They made beds for themselves with fresh hay, and, like
Wolfe at Quebec, they had their 'choice of difficulties;' but the
philosophic Rambler maintained they might have been worse on the
hillside, and buttoning himself up in his greatcoat he lay down, while
Boswell had his sheets spread on the hay, and his clothes and greatcoat
laid over him by way of blankets.

Next day they got into a boat for Skye, reaching Armidale before one.
Here occurred one of the dramatic episodes of the book. Sir Alexander
Macdonald, husband of Boswell's Yorkshire cousin Miss Bosville, and the
host at the masquerade in February, was on his way to Edinburgh, and met
them at the house of a tenant, 'as we believe,' wrote Johnson to Mrs
Thrale, 'that he might with less reproach entertain us meanly. Boswell
was very angry, and reproached him with his improper parsimony. Boswell
has some thoughts of collecting the stories and making a novel of his
life.' In the first edition of his book something strong had clearly
been written, but it was wisely suppressed at the last moment when the
book was bound, for the new pages are but clumsily pasted on the guard
between leaves 166 and 169. The first edition had accordingly this
account, which was even toned down in the next.

'Instead of finding the head of the Macdonalds surrounded with his clan,
and a festive entertainment, we had a small company and cannot boast of
our cheer. The particulars are minuted in my journal, but I shall not
trouble the publick with them. I shall mention but one characteristick
circumstance. My shrewd and hearty friend, Sir Thomas Blackett, Lady
Macdonald's uncle, who had preceded us in a visit to this chief, upon
being asked by him if the punchbowl then upon the table was not a very
handsome one, replied, "Yes, if it were full." Sir Alexander, having
been an Eton scholar, Dr Johnson had formed an opinion of him which was
much diminished when he beheld him in the Isle of Sky, where we heard
heavy complaints of rents racked, and the people driven to emigration.
Dr Johnson said, "it grieves me to see the chief of a great clan appear
to such disadvantage. The gentleman has talents, nay, some learning; but
he is totally unfit for his situation. Sir, the Highland chiefs should
not be allowed to go further south than Aberdeen." I meditated an escape
from this the very next day, but Dr Johnson resolved that we should
weather it out till Monday.'

Next day being Sunday Bozzy's spirits were cheered by the climate and
the weather, but 'had I not had Dr Johnson to contemplate, I should have
been sunk into dejection, but his firmness supported me. I looked at
him as a man whose head is turning giddy at sea looks at a rock.'
Everywhere they met signs of the parting of the ways in the Highlands.
The old days of feudal power were merging in the industrial, the chiefs
were now landlords and exacting ones. Emigration was rife, and the pages
of the _Scots Magazine_ of the time dwell much on this. A month before,
four hundred men had left Strathglass and Glengarry; in June eight
hundred had sailed from Stornoway; Lochaber sent four hundred, 'the
finest set of fellows in the Highlands, carrying £6000 in ready cash
with them. The extravagant rents exacted by the landlords is the sole
cause given for this emigration which seems to be only in its infancy.'
The high price of provisions and the decrease of the linen trade in the
north of Ireland sent eight hundred this year from Stromness, when we
find the linen dealers thanking Boswell's old rival, as he supposed,
with Miss Blair, Sir Alexander Gilmour, M.P. for Midlothian, for his
efforts at providing better legislation.

Rasay is one of the happiest descriptions in the tour. 'This,' said
Johnson, 'is truly the patriarchal life; this is what we came to find.'
They heard from home and had letters. At Kingsburgh they were welcomed
by the lady of the house, 'the celebrated Miss Flora Macdonald, a little
woman of genteel appearance; and uncommonly mild and well-bred.' 'I was
in a cordial humour, and promoted a cheerful glass. Honest Mr M'Queen
observed that I was in high glee, "my governor being gone to bed." ...
The room where we lay was a celebrated one. Dr Johnson's bed was the
very bed in which the grandson of the unfortunate King James the Second
lay, on one of the nights after the failure of his rash attempt in
1745-6. To see Dr Samuel Johnson lying in that bed, in the Isle of Sky,
in the house of Miss Flora Macdonald, struck me with such a group of
ideas as it is not easy for words to describe, as they passed through
the mind. The room was decorated with a great variety of maps and
prints. Among others, was Hogarth's print of Wilkes grinning, with a cap
of liberty on a pole by him.' Certainly Bozzy had never thought of
finding a remembrance of his 'classic friend' in such circumstances.

Dunvegan and the castle of the Macleods received them in hospitable
style. 'Boswell,' said Johnson, in allusion to Sir Alexander's stinted
ways, 'we came in at the wrong end of the island;' the memories of their
visit had not been forgotten when Scott was there on his Lighthouse Tour
in 1814. The Rambler 'had tasted lotus, and was in danger of forgetting
he was ever to depart.'

Landing at Strolimus, they proceeded to Corrichatachin, 'with but a
single star to light us on our way.' There took place the scene that,
though familiar, must be given in the writer's own words. A man who, for
artistic setting and colour, could write it deliberately down even to
his own disadvantage, and who could appeal to serious critics and
readers of discernment and taste against the objections which he saw
himself would be raised from the misinterpretation of others, is a
figure not to be met with every day in literature.

    'Dr Johnson went to bed soon. When one bowl of punch was
    finished, I rose, and was near the door, on my way upstairs to
    bed; but Corrichatachin said, it was the first time Col had
    been in his house, and he should have his bowl; and would not I
    join in drinking it? The heartiness of my honest landlord, and
    the desire of doing social honour to our very obliging
    conductor, induced me to sit down again. Col's bowl was
    finished; and by that time we were well warmed. A third bowl
    was soon made, and that too was finished. We were cordial, and
    merry to a high degree; but of what passed I have no
    recollection, with any accuracy. I remember calling
    _Corrichatachin_ by the familiar appellation of _Corri_ which
    his friends do. A fourth bowl was made, by which time Col, and
    young M'Kinnon, Corrichatachin's son, slipped away to bed. I
    continued a little time with Corri and Knockow; but at last I
    left them. It was near five in the morning when I got to bed.
    _Sunday, September 26._ I awaked at noon with a severe
    head-ach. I was much vexed that I should have been guilty of
    such a riot, and afraid of a reproof from Dr Johnson, I thought
    it very inconsistent with that conduct which I ought to
    maintain, while the companion of the Rambler. About one he came
    into my room, and accosted me, "What, drunk yet?" His tone of
    voice was not that of severe upbraiding; so I was relieved a
    little. "Sir," (said I), "they kept me up." He answered, "No,
    you kept them up, you drunken dog:"--this he said with
    good-humoured _English_ pleasantry. Soon afterwards,
    Corrichatachin, Col, and other friends assembled round my bed.
    Corri had a brandy bottle and glass with him, and insisted I
    should take a dram. "Ay," said Dr Johnson, "fill him drunk
    again. Do it in the morning, that we may laugh at him all day.
    It is a poor thing for a fellow to get drunk at night, and
    skulk to bed, and let his friends have no sport." Finding him
    thus jocular, I became quite easy; and when I offered to get
    up, he very good naturedly said, "You need be in no such hurry
    now." I took my host's advice, and drank some brandy, which I
    found an effectual cure for my head-ach. When I rose, I went
    into Dr Johnson's room, and taking up Mrs M'Kinnon's
    Prayer-Book, I opened it at the twentieth Sunday after Trinity,
    in the epistle for which I read, "And be not drunk with wine,
    wherein there is excess." Some would have taken this as a
    divine interposition.'

Such is the extraordinary confession. St Augustine, Rousseau, De
Quincey, have not quite equalled this. He found it had been made the
subject of serious criticism and ludicrous banter. But his one object,
as he tells 'serious criticks,' has been to delineate Johnson's
character, and for this purpose he appeals from Philip drunk to Philip
sober, and to the approbation of the discerning reader. Later on, he has
laid the flattering unction to his heart, and has extracted comfort
from the soul of things evil. He felt comfortable, and 'I then thought
that my last night's riot was no more than such a social excess as may
happen without much moral blame; and recollected that some physicians
maintained, that a fever produced by it was, upon the whole, good for
health: so different are our reflections on the same subject, at
different periods; and such the excuses with which we palliate what we
know to be wrong.'

Leaving Skye, they ran before the wind to Col.

    'It was very dark, and there was a heavy and incessant rain.
    The sparks of the burning peat flew so much about, that I
    dreaded the vessel might take fire. Then as _Col_ was a
    sportsman, and had powder on board, I figured that we might be
    blown up. Our vessel often lay so much on one side, that I
    trembled lest she should be overset, and indeed they told me
    afterwards that they had run her sometimes to within an inch of
    the water, so anxious were they to make what haste they could
    before the night should be worse. I now saw what I never saw
    before, a prodigious sea, with immense billows coming upon a
    vessel, so that it seemed hardly possible to escape. I am glad
    I have seen it once. I endeavoured to compose my mind; when I
    thought of those who were dearest to me, and would suffer
    severely, should I be lost, I upbraided myself. Piety afforded
    me comfort; yet I was disturbed by the objections that have
    been made against a particular providence, and by the arguments
    of those who maintain that it is in vain to hope that the
    petitions of an individual, or even of congregations, can have
    any influence with the Deity. I asked _Col_ with much
    earnestness what I could do. He with a happy readiness put into
    my hand a rope, which was fixed to the top of one of the masts,
    and told me to hold it till he bade me pull. If I had
    considered the matter, I might have seen that this could not be
    of the slightest service; but his object was to keep me out of
    the way.... Thus did I stand firm to my post, while the wind
    and rain beat upon me, always expecting a call to pull my
    rope.... They spied the harbour of Lochiern, and _Col_ cried,
    "Thank God, we are safe!" Dr Johnson had all this time been
    quiet and unconcerned. He had lain down on one of the beds, and
    having got free from sickness, was satisfied. The truth is, he
    knew nothing of the danger we were in. Once he asked whither we
    were going; upon being told that it was not certain whether to
    Mull or Col, he cried, "Col for my money!" I now went down to
    visit him. He was lying in philosophick tranquillity, with a
    greyhound of _Col's_ at his back keeping him warm.'

Mull, Tobermory, Ulva's Isle, and Inch Kenneth followed. Then
Iona,--'the sacred place which as long as I can remember, I had thought
on with veneration.' The two friends, as they landed on the island,
'cordially embraced,' as they had done in the _White Horse_ at
Edinburgh, and the mark of feeling is a note that we are yet with them
in the eighteenth century. They lay in a barn with a portmanteau for a
pillow, and 'when I awaked in the morning and looked round me, I could
not help smiling at the idea of the chief of the Macleans, the great
English moralist, and myself lying thus extended in such a situation.'
The old Boswell of the Roman Catholic days appears at this time.
'Boswell,' writes Johnson to Mrs Thrale, 'who is very pious went into
the chapel at night to perform his devotions, but came back in haste for
fear of spectres.' Second sight was often in their thoughts and
conversation on their tour; at the club Colman had jocularly to bid
Boswell 'cork it up' when he was too full of his belief on the point.
His fear of ghosts reminds one of Pepys in the year of the great plague,
as he went through the graveyard of the church, with the bodies buried
thick and high, 'frighted and much troubled.'

'I left him,' says Boswell himself, 'and Sir Allan at breakfast in our
barn, and stole back again to the cathedral, to indulge in solitude and
devout meditation. When contemplating the venerable ruins, _I reflected
with much satisfaction_, that the solemn scenes of piety _never lose
their sanctity and influence_, though the cares and follies of life may
prevent us from visiting them.... I hoped that, ever after having been
in this holy place, I should maintain an exemplary conduct. One has a
strange propensity to fix upon some point of time from whence a better
course of life may begin.' This is a revelation of the inner Boswell. On
the eve of the appearance of the _Tour in Corsica_, he had written to
Temple, about 'fixing some period for my perfection as far as possible.
Let it be when my account of Corsica is finished. I shall then have a
character to support.' On landing at Rasay, he noticed the remains of a
cross on the rock, 'which had to me a pleasing vestige of religion,' and
he 'could not but value the family seat more for having even the ruins
of a chapel close to it. There was something comforting in the thought
of being so near a piece of consecrated ground.'

Oban received them with a tolerable inn. They were again on the
mainland, and found papers with conjectures as to their motions in the
islands. Next day they spent at Inverary. The castle of the Duke of
Argyll was near, and now, for the first time on the tour, the
indefatigable agent in advance was completely nonplussed. The spectre of
the great Douglas Trial loomed large in the eyes of the pamphleteer and
the hero of the riot. He had reason, he says, to fear hostile reprisals
on the part of the Duchess, who had been Duchess of Hamilton and mother
of the rival claimant, before she had become the wife of John, fifth
Duke of Argyll. It is from this scene and from the Stratford Jubilee
fiasco that the general reader draws his picture of poor Bozzy, and the
belief remains that James Boswell was a pushing and forward interloper,
half mountebank and half showman. Read in the original, as a revelation
of the writer's character, the very reverse is the impression; he is
there presented not in any ludicrous light but rather in a good-humoured
and fussy way. He met his friend the Rev. John Macaulay, one of the
ministers of Inverary, who accompanied them to the castle, where Boswell
presented the doctor to the Duke. 'I shall never forget,' quaintly adds
the chronicler, 'the impression made upon my fancy by some of the
ladies' maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a
long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inviting
appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought, for a moment, I could
have been a knight-errant for them.' This grandfather of the historian
and essayist, the man who has dealt the heaviest blow to the reputation
of poor Bozzy, was to encounter some warm retorts from the Rambler like
his brother, Macaulay's grand-uncle, the minister at Calder. Mr
Trevelyan is eager for the good name of his family, and finds it
impossible to suppress a wish that the great talker had been there to
avenge them. It may not be quite impossible that, mingling with the
brilliant essayist's ill-will to the politics of the travellers, there
was an unconscious strain of resentment at the contemptuous way in which
his relations had been tossed by the doctor, and that Bozzy's own
subsequent denunciations of the abolitionists and the slave trade had
edged the memories in the mind of the son of Zachary Macaulay. Be this
as it may, for this scene Macaulay has a keen eye, and as much of his
colour is derived from it, it is but right that in some abridged form
the incident be set down here in Boswell's own words--

    'I went to the castle just about the time when I supposed the
    ladies would be retired from dinner. I sent in my name; and,
    being shewn in, found the amiable Duke sitting at the head of
    his table with several gentlemen. I was most politely received,
    and gave his grace some particulars of the curious journey
    which I had been making with Dr Johnson.... As I was going
    away, the Duke said, "Mr Boswell, won't you have some tea?" I
    thought it best to get over the meeting with the Duchess this
    night; so respectfully agreed. I was conducted to the
    drawing-room by the Duke, who announced my name; but the
    duchess, who was sitting with her daughter, Lady Betty
    Hamilton, and some other ladies, took not the least notice of
    me. I should have been mortified at being thus coldly received,
    had I not been consoled by the obliging attention of the Duke.

    '_Monday, October 25._ I presented Dr Johnson to the Duke of
    Argyll ... the duke placed Dr Johnson next himself at table. I
    was in fine spirits; and though sensible of not being in favour
    with the duchess, I was not in the least disconcerted, and
    offered her grace some of the dish that was before me. It must
    be owned that I was in the right to be quite unconcerned, if I
    could. I was the Duke of Argyll's guest; and I had no reason to
    suppose that he adopted the prejudices and resentments of the
    Duchess of Hamilton.

    'I knew it was the rule of modern high life not to drink to
    anybody; but, that I might have the satisfaction for once to
    look the duchess in the face, with a glass in my hand, I with a
    respectful air addressed her,--"My Lady Duchess, I have the
    honour to drink your grace's good health." I repeated the words
    audibly, and with a steady countenance. This was, perhaps,
    rather too much; but some allowance must be made for human
    feelings. I made some remark that seemed to imply a belief in
    _second sight_. The duchess said, "I fancy you will be _a
    methodist_." This was the only sentence her grace deigned to
    utter to me; and I take it for granted, she thought it a good
    hit on _my credulity_ in the Douglas Cause.

    'We went to tea. The duke and I walked up and down the
    drawing-room, conversing. The duchess still continued to shew
    the same marked coldness for me; for which, though I suffered
    from it, I made every allowance, considering the very warm part
    that I had taken for Douglas, in the cause in which she thought
    her son deeply interested. Had not her grace discovered some
    displeasure towards me, I should have suspected her of
    insensibility or dissimulation. Her grace made Dr Johnson come
    and sit by her, and asked him why he made his journey so late
    in the year. "Why, madam (said he), you know Mr Boswell must
    attend the Court of Session, and it does not rise till the
    12th of August." She said, with some sharpness, "I _know
    nothing_ of Mr Boswell." Poor Lady Lucy Douglas, to whom I
    mentioned this, observed, "She knew _too much_ of Mr Boswell."
    I shall make no remark on her grace's speech, etc., etc.'

In all this scene it will be confessed there is nothing but rudeness on
the part of the duchess, one of the beautiful Gunnings, intentional or
otherwise, while the kindly touches on Boswell's part, his allowance for
her supposed feelings over the trial, and his determination, for once,
to look a duchess in the face, are admirable. Bozzy was by birth a
gentleman, and there is not the slightest indication here of any want of
breeding or taste on his side.

At Dumbarton, steep as is the incline, Johnson ascended it. The
_Saracen's Head_, which had welcomed Paoli before now, received the
travellers. There was now no more sullen fuel or peat. 'Here am I,'
soliloquized the Rambler, with a leg upon each side of the grate, 'an
_Englishman_, sitting by a coal fire.'

'Jamie's aff the hooks noo;' said the old laird, as they drew near
Auchinleck, 'he's bringing doon an auld dominie.' Boswell begged of his
companion to avoid three topics of discourse on which he knew his father
had fixed opinions--Whiggism, Presbyterianism, and Sir John Pringle. For
a time all went well. They walked about 'the romantick groves of my
ancestors,' and Bozzy discoursed on the antiquity and honourable
alliances of the family, and on the merits of its founder, Thomas, who
fell with King James at Flodden. But the storm broke, over the judge's
collection of medals, where that of Oliver Cromwell brought up Charles
the First and Episcopacy. All must regret that the writer's filial
feelings withheld the 'interesting scene in this dramatick sketch.' It
is the one _lacuna_ in the book. Sir John Pringle, as the middle term
in the debate, came off without a bruise, but the honours lay with Lord
Auchinleck. The man whose 'Scots strength of sarcasm' could retort on
Johnson, that Cromwell was a man that let kings know they 'had a _lith_
in their neck,' was likely to open new ideas to the doctor, whose
political opinions could not rank higher than prejudices. 'Thus they
parted,' says the son, after his father had, with his dignified
courtesy, seen Johnson into the postchaise; 'they are now in a happier
state of existence, in a place where there is no room for _Whiggism_.'
'I have always said,' the doctor maintained, 'the first Whig was the

Edinburgh was reached on November 9th. Eighty-three days had passed
since they left it, and for five weeks no news of them had been heard.
Writing from London, on his arrival, Johnson said, 'I came home last
night, without any incommodity, danger, or weariness, and am ready to
begin a new journey. I know Mrs Boswell wished me well to go.' The
irregular hours of her guest, and his habit of turning the candles
downward when they did not burn brightly, letting the wax run upon the
carpet, had not been quite to the taste of the hostess, who resented,
'what was very natural to a female mind,' the influence he possessed
over the actions of her husband.

We may well call this tour a spirited one, as Boswell had styled his own
Corsican expedition. No better book of travels in Scotland has ever been
written than Boswell's _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_. The accuracy
of his description, his eye for scenes and dramatic effects, have all
been fully borne witness to by those who have followed in their track,
and the fact of the book being day by day read by Johnson, during its
preparation, gives it an additional value from the perfect veracity of
its contents--'as I have resolved that the very journal which Dr Johnson
read shall be presented to the publick, I will not expand the text in
any considerable degree.' If the way in which the Rambler roughed it,
'laughing to think of myself roving among the Hebrides at sixty, and
wondering where I shall rove at four score,' is admirable, none the less
so is Bozzy's imperturbable good humour. 'It is very convenient to
travel with him,' writes his companion from Auchinleck to Mrs Thrale,
'for there is no house where he is not received with kindness and
respect. He has better faculties than I had imagined; more justness of
discernment and more fecundity of images.' They had hoped to go sailing
from island to island, and had not reckoned with what Scott, who wonders
they were not drowned, calls the proverbial carelessness of Hebridean
boatmen. They really had come two months too late. But Boswell's
attention to the old man smoothed all difficulties,--'looking on the
tour as a co-partnership between Dr Johnson and myself,' he did his part
faithfully, dancing reels, singing songs, and airing the scraps of
Gaelic he picked up, thinking all this better than 'to play the abstract

Johnson's account of the journey is an able performance, and is written
with a lighter touch and grace than is to be found in his early works.
One passage from it has become famous,--his description of Iona. 'The
man whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or
whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona,' rivals
Macaulay's New Zealander as a stock quotation, and the whole book is not
without incisive touches. But it is completely eclipsed by the _Journal_
of Boswell. From start to finish there is not a dull page, and the
literary polish is, we venture to think, of a higher kind than is seen
in the _Life_. The artistic opening, and the grouping of the characters,
together with the wealth of archæological and historical information,
the tripping style and sustained interest, all render this book of
Boswell's a masterpiece. Johnson's account, published in 1775, took ten
years to reach a second edition. Boswell's appeared in September, 1785;
and by December 20 the issue was exhausted, a third followed on August
15, 1786, and the next year saw a German translation issued at Lubeck.
There had been grave indiscretions, lack of reticence, and other faults
in the book. Caricatures were rife. _Revising for the Second Edition_
shewed Sir Alexander Macdonald seizing the author by the throat, and
pointing with his stick to the open book, where two leaves are marked as
torn out. But Boswell, in _The Gentleman's Magazine_ for March 1786,
asserts that no such applications or threats had been made. The results,
however, may have added to the writer's unpopularity, as Lord Houghton
suggests, at the Edinburgh bar, through the answers, replies, and other
rejoinders to the strictures of Johnson, for which Boswell, as the
pioneer and the introducer of the stranger, 'the chiel among them takin'
notes,' may in Edinburgh society have been held as mainly responsible.

To Johnson, the memories of the tour--the lone shieling and the misty
island--were a source of pleasing recollection. Taken earlier, it would
have removed many of his insular prejudices by wider survey and more
varied conversation. 'The expedition to the Hebrides,' he wrote to
Boswell some years after, 'was the most pleasant journey I ever made;'
and two years later, after restless and tedious nights, he is found
reverting to it and recalling the best night he had had these twenty
years back, at Fort Augustus. Yet all through September they had not
more than a day and a half of really good weather, and but the same
during October. Out of such slight materials and uncomfortable
surroundings has Boswell produced a masterpiece of descriptive writing.
The memory of Johnson has lingered where that of the Jacobite Pretender
has well-nigh completely passed away. Mr Gladstone, proposing a
Parliamentary vote of thanks to Lord Napier for 'having planted the
Standard of St George upon the mountains of Rasselas;' Sir Robert Peel,
quoting, in his address to Glasgow University as Lord Rector, Johnson's
description of Iona; Sir Walter Scott finding in Skye that he and his
friends had in their memories, as the one typical association of the
island, the ode to Mrs Thrale, all combine to shew the abiding interest
attaching to the Rambler even in Abyssinia and to his foot-steps in



    'My father used to protest I was born to be a strolling
    pedlar.'--SIR WALTER SCOTT--_Autobiography._

'You have done Auchinleck much honour and have, I hope, overcome my
father who has never forgiven your warmth for monarchy and episcopacy. I
am anxious to see how your pages will operate on him.' Boswell had good
grounds for thus expressing himself to Johnson over the publication of
the latter's book. He had not long, it would seem, to wait for the
breaking of the storm, as we find him writing to Temple in ominous
language. 'My father,' he says, 'is most unhappily dissatisfied with me.
He harps on my going over Scotland with a brute (think how shockingly
erroneous!) and wandering, or some such phrase, to London. I always
dread his making some bad settlement.' Then the old judge would grimly
relate how Lord Crichton, son of the Earl of Dumfries, would go to
Edinburgh, and how, when he was carried back to the family vault, the
Earl, as he saw the hearse from the window, had said, 'Ay, ay, Charles,
thou went without an errand: I think thou hast got one to bring thee
back again.'

But had the son chosen to be quite candid here, we should see how just a
cause the father had for his displeasure. In the spring of 1774, he had
written to Johnson suggesting a run up to London, expressing the
peculiar satisfaction which he felt in celebrating Easter at St Paul's,
which to his fancy was like going up to Jerusalem at the feast of the
Passover. The doctor was wisely deaf to this subtle appeal. 'Edinburgh,'
said he, 'is not yet exhausted,' and reminded him that his wife, having
permitted him last year to ramble, had now a claim upon him at home,
while to come to Iona or to Jerusalem could not be necessary, though
useful. Next year, however, Boswell was in London, 'quite in my old
humour,' as he tells Temple, arguing with him for concubinage and the
plurality of the patriarchs, from all which we may see that the plea
urged to Johnson for the visit was to be taken in a lax sense by
Boswell, who made his chief excuse out of some business at the bar of
the House over an election petition in Clackmannan. He waited on Temple
in Devon and shocked his host by his inebriety, but 'under a solemn yew
tree' he had vowed reformation. But his return to town, if it 'exalted
him in piety' at St Paul's, seems to have led but to fresh dissipation.
He hints at 'Asiatic multiplicity,' but this is only when he has taken
too much claret. The good resolutions at Iona and the influence of the
ruins had passed away, the trip is extended to two months, and he frets
irritably over his old friend Henry Dundas's election as King's
Advocate,--'to be sure he has strong parts, but he is a coarse
unlettered dog.' Harry Dundas at least was never found philandering as
we find Bozzy on this occasion, where the mixture of religion and
flirtation is so confusing. 'After breakfasting with Paoli,' he writes
before leaving for the north, 'and worshipping at St Paul's, I dined
_tête-à-tête_ with my charming Mrs Stuart, of whom you have read in my
Journal. We dined in all the elegance of two courses and a dessert, with
dumb waiters, except when the second course and the dessert were
served. We talked with unreserved freedom, as we had nothing to fear. We
were _philosophical_, upon honour--not deep, but feeling, we were pious;
we drank tea and bid each other adieu as finely as romance paints. She
is my wife's dearest friend, so you see how beautiful our intimacy is.'
But from Johnson's letter to Mrs Thrale we see looming ahead a crisis.
'He got two and forty guineas in fees while he was here. He has by _his
wife's persuasion and mine_ taken down a present for his
mother-in-law,'--an error, doubtless, for 'stepmother.' He had entered
himself this time at the Temple, and Johnson was his bond. He left to be
in time for practice before the General Assembly, finding 'something low
and coarse in such employment, but guineas must be had'--a feeling quite
different from that of Lord Cockburn who thought the aisle of St Giles
had seen the best work of the best men in the kingdom since 1640.
Perhaps his feelings on this point were soothed by the traveller in the
coach, a Miss Silverton, an 'amiable creature who has been in France. I
can unite little fondnesses with perfect conjugal love.' Alas for poor
Peggie Montgomerie, 'of the ancient house of Eglintoun,' blamed by his
father for not bridling the follies of his son, waiting, doubtless,
anxiously for the present to the second wife of his father as a means of

Then the secret leaks out that the father had refused Boswell's plan of
being allowed £400 a year and the trial of fortune at the London bar.
His debts of £1000 had been paid, and his allowance of £300 threatened
with the reduction of a third. The promise under the old yew had not
been kept; the one bottle of hock as a statutory limit had been
exceeded, he had been 'not drunk, but was intoxicated,'--a subtle point
for bacchanalian casuists, and very ill next day. He lays it on the
drunken habits of the country which, he says, are very bad, and with the
recollection of Burns' temptations in Dumfries we may admit that they
were. His father, too, was now about to entail his estate, and Bozzy's
predilection for feudal principles and heirs male brought things to a
deadlock. He appealed to Lord Hailes, who admitted conscience and self
formed a strong plea when found on different sides. Finally, after the
judge had inserted in the deed his precautions against 'a weak, foolish
and extravagant person,' the estate was entailed on Boswell. 'My
father,' he tells Temple, 'is so different from me. We _divaricate_ so
much, as Dr Johnson said. He has a method of treating me which makes me
feel like a timid boy, which to _Boswell_ (comprehending all that my
character does in my own imagination and in that of a wonderful number
of mankind) is intolerable. It requires the utmost exertion of practical
philosophy to keep myself quiet; but it has cost me drinking a
considerable quantity of strong beer to dull my faculties.' The picture
of the son drinking himself down to the level of the father is truly

He feared the final settlement. He might be disgraced by his father, and
not a shilling secured to his wife and children. Then he is comforted by
the thought that his father is visibly failing, and he consults his
brother David with a view to a settlement, should the succession pass to
him. The birth of a son, who was diplomatically called Alexander, was
taken by the old man as a compliment, and we find Boswell visiting at
Auchinleck, 'not long at one time, but frequent renewals of attention
are agreeable,' he finds, to his father. He proposed to Johnson a tour
round the English cathedrals, but a brief trip with him to Derbyshire
was all that resulted. We now find for the first time in the _Life_
indications of what would ensue when the strong hand of Johnson was
removed from the guidance of his weaker companion. 'As we drove back to
Ashbourne,' he writes with curious frankness, 'Dr Johnson recommended to
me, _as he had often done_, to drink water only,' and we meet with as
curious a defence of drinking--the great difficulty of resisting it when
a good man asks you to drink the wine he has had twenty years in his
cellar! Benevolence calls for compliance, for, 'curst be the _spring_,'
he adds with a change of Pope's verse, 'how well soe'er it flow, that
tends to make one worthy man my foe!' 'I do,' he wrote in the _London
Magazine_ for March 1780, 'fairly acknowledge that I love drinking; that
I have a constitutional inclination to indulge in fermented liquors, and
that if it were not for the restraints of reason and religion, I am
afraid that I should be as constant a votary of Bacchus as any man.
Drinking is in reality an occupation which employs a considerable
portion of the time of many people; and to conduct it in the most
rational and agreeable manner is one of the great arts of living. Were
we so framed that it were possible by perpetual supplies of wine to keep
ourselves for ever gay and happy, there could be no doubt that drinking
would be the _summum bonum_, the chief good to find out which
philosophers have been so variously busied.' It looks as if poor Bozzy,
when he wrote this, had heard of the Brunonian system of medicine, and
of the unfortunate exemplication of it in practice and in precept by its
founder in Edinburgh. No wonder such excesses produced violent reaction
to low spirits and the 'black dog' of hypochondria. He finds it, after
going to prayers in Carlisle Cathedral, 'divinely cheering to have a
cathedral so near Auchinleck,' one hundred and fifty miles off, as
Johnson sarcastically replied. Bozzy had been writing a series of
articles, 'The Hypochondriack,' in the _London Magazine_, for about two
years, but he was advised not to mention his own mental diseases, or to
expect for them either the praise for which there was no room, or the
pity which would do him no good. The active old man was now in better
health than he had been upon the Hebridean tour, and was in hopes of yet
shewing himself with Boswell in some part of Europe, Asia, or Africa.
'What have you to do with liberty and necessity?' cries the doctor to
his friend, who had been worrying himself and his correspondent with
philosophical questions, on which some six years before he had got some
light from the _Lettres Persanes_ of Montesquieu. 'Come to me, my dear
Bozzy, and let us be as happy as we can. We will go again to the Mitre,
and talk old times over.' Thrice during the 1781 visit to London do we
see his unfortunate habits breaking out; and, when we find him saying he
has unfortunately preserved none of the conversations, Miss Hannah More,
who met him that day at the Bishop of St Asaph's, explains it--'I was
heartily disgusted with Mr Boswell, who came upstairs after dinner much
disordered with wine.'

Let us hear his own confession over his conduct at the house of Lady

'Another evening Johnson's kind indulgence towards me had a pretty
difficult trial. I had dined at the Duke of Montrose's with a very
agreeable party, and his Grace, according to his usual custom, had
circulated the bottle very freely. Lord Graham and I went together to
Miss Monckton's where I certainly was in extraordinary spirits, and
above all fear or awe. In the midst of a great number of persons of the
first rank, amongst whom I recollect with confusion a noble lady of the
most stately decorum, I placed myself next to Johnson, and thinking
myself now fully his match, talked to him in a loud and boisterous
manner, desirous to let the company know how I could contend with Ajax.
I particularly remember pressing him upon the value of the pleasures of
the imagination, and, as an illustration of my argument, asking him,
"What, sir, suppose I were to fancy that the--(naming the most charming
Duchess in his Majesty's dominions) were in love with me, should I not
be very happy?" My friend with much address evaded my interrogatories,
and kept me as quiet as possible, but it may be easily conceived how he
must have felt.'

His father was now dying, and a London trip, which had been planned by
Boswell for 1782, found the son at the very limit of his credit. 'If you
anticipate your inheritance,' he was reminded, 'you can at last inherit
nothing. Poverty (added the old _impransus_ Johnson, out of the depths
of his own experience), my friend, is so great an evil that I cannot but
earnestly enjoin you to avoid it. Live on what you have; live, if you
can, on less.' Lord Auchinleck died suddenly at Edinburgh, on August
30th, 1782; and it was unfortunate for Bozzy that neither at the death
of his father nor of his mother, nor, as we shall see of Johnson, was he
present. The evening of the old man's days had been, we are assured by
Ramsay of Ochtertyre, clouded by the follies and eccentricities of his
son. For thirty years he had been sorely tried; twice he had paid his
debts, he had indulged him with a foreign tour, had provided him with
every means of securing professional success at the bar, only to see
that son do everything to miss it and become everything his father hated
in life--a Tory, an Anglican, and a Jacobite. The new laird was anxious
to display himself on a wider sphere. Johnson was now visibly failing,
and was glad of someone to lean upon for little attentions. 'Boswell,'
he said, 'I think I am easier with you than with almost anybody. Get as
much force of mind as you can. Let your imports be more than your
exports, and you'll never go far wrong.' He reverted to the old days of
the tour in a hopeful strain: 'I should like to come and have a cottage
in your park, toddle about, live mostly on milk, and be taken care of by
Mrs Boswell. She and I are good friends now, are we not?'

In 1783 Boswell appeared before the public with a _Letter to the People
of Scotland_. It was on Fox's proposed bill to regulate the affairs of
the East India Company. Against it he stands forth, 'as an ancient and
faithful Briton, holding an estate transmitted to him by charters from a
series of kings.' Guardedly Johnson admitted that 'your paper contains
very considerable knowledge of history and of the constitution: it will
certainly raise your character, though perhaps it may not make you a
minister of state.' A copy to Pitt elicited the formal acceptance of
thanks, but the exclusion of the bill Boswell took as proof of his own
advocacy. He stood for Ayrshire, turning back from York when the
dissolution was announced. 'Our Boswell,' wrote the doctor to Langton,
'is now said to stand for some place. Whether to wish him success his
best friends hesitate.'

May found him with the Rambler for the last time. 'I intend,' he writes
to Dr Percy, 'to be in London about the end of this month, chiefly to
attend upon Dr Johnson with respectful affection. He has for some time
been very ill with dropsical asthmatical complaints, which at his age
are very alarming. I wish to publish as a regale to him a neat little
volume--_The Praises of Doctor Samuel Johnson, by co-temporary writers_.
Will your lordship take the trouble to send me a note of the writers who
have praised our much respected friend?' The attentive Bozzy had written
to all the leading men in the Edinburgh School of Medicine--Cullen,
Hope, Monro, and others. With the expectation that an increase of
Johnson's pension would enable him to visit Italy, he consulted Sir
Joshua Reynolds, and, with his approval, wrote to Thurlow the
Chancellor. At the house of the painter they dined for the last time.

    'I accompanied him in Sir Joshua Reynolds's coach, to the entry
    of Bolt Court. He asked me whether I would not go with him to
    his house; I declined it, from an apprehension that my spirits
    would sink. We bade adieu to each other affectionately in the
    carriage. When he had got down upon the foot-pavement he called
    out, "Fare you well;" and, without looking back, sprung away
    with a kind of pathetick briskness, if I may use that
    expression, which seemed to indicate a struggle to conceal
    uneasiness, and impressed me with a foreboding of our long,
    long separation.'

We think of the dying Cervantes, and the student-admirer of the All
Famous and the Joy of the Muses--'parting at the Toledo bridge, he
turning aside to take the road to Segovia.'



  'Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.'--JULIUS CÆSAR, iii. 2.

There is something unsatisfactory in the fact that Boswell was not with
Johnson as he died. It gives to his book an air of something distinctly
lacking, which is not with us as we close Lockhart's _Life of Scott_.
His own account is that he was indisposed during a considerable part of
the year, which may, or may not, be a euphemism for irregular habits;
yet, when we consider how easily he might have been with his old friend,
we must own to a feeling that Boswell's mere satisfaction at learning he
was spoken of with affection by Johnson at the close does not satisfy
the nature of things or the artistic sense of fitness. No literary
executor had been appointed, and the materials for a biography had been
mostly destroyed by Johnson's orders. This, we may be sure, had not been
expected by Boswell, who set himself, however, to prepare for the press
his own _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_, which his friend when alive
had not been willing to see appear as a pendant to the _Journey_.
'Between ourselves,' he tells Temple, 'he is not apt to encourage one to
share reputation with him.' Yet he felt, as he wrote to Percy on 20th
March 1785, that it was a great consolation to him now that he had, as
it was, collected so much of the wit and the wisdom of that wonderful
man. 'I do not expect,' he adds, 'to recover from it. I gaze after him
with an eager eye; and I hope again to be with him.'

Now that the strong hand of Johnson was removed, 'and the light of his
life as if gone out,' the rest of Boswell's life was but a downward
course. He struggles with himself, and feels instinctively the lack of
the curb which the powerful intellect of the Rambler had held on the
weaker character of the other. We find him repeating often to himself
the lines from the _Vanity of Human Wishes_:--

    'Shall helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
    Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?'

The Lord Advocate had brought into the Commons a bill for the
reconstruction of the Court of Session, proposing to reduce the number
of judges from fifteen to ten, with a corresponding increase of salary.
The occasion was wildly seized by Boswell in May 1785 to issue a
half-crown pamphlet, with the title, '_A letter to the People of
Scotland_, on the alarming attempt to infringe the Articles of the
Union, and introduce a most pernicious innovation, by diminishing the
number of the Lords of Session.' This extraordinary production, intended
doubtless as a means of recommendation of the author for parliamentary
honours, can hardly now be read in the light of events by any
sympathetic Boswellian but with feelings of sorrow and confusion. Its
publication we may be sure would never have been sanctioned by Johnson.

After stating the foundation of the Court of Session, by James V. in
1532, on the model of the Parliament of Paris, he attacks Dundas for
having in himself the whole power of a grand jury. 'Mr Edward Bright of
Malden, the fat man whose print is in all our inns, could button seven
men in his waistcoat; but the learned lord comprehends hundreds.' He
calls on the Scottish people not to be cowed: 'let Lowther come forth
(we cannot emulate Boswell in the plenitude and the magnitude of his
capital letters and other typographical devices), he upon whom the
thousands of Whitehaven depend for three of the elements.' His own
opposition he proclaims is honest, because he has no wish for an office
in the Court of Session; he will try his abilities in a wider sphere.
Rumours of a coalition in the county of Ayr between Sir Adam Ferguson
and the Earl of Eglintoun he hopes are unfounded, 'both as an enthusiast
for ancient feudal attachments, and as having the honour and happiness
to be married to his lordship's relation, a true Montgomerie, whom I
esteem, whom I love, after fifteen years, as on the day when she gave me
her hand.' He assures the people they will have their objections to the
bill supported by 'my old classical companion Wilkes, with whom I pray
you to excuse my keeping company, he is so pleasant;' by Mr Burke, the
Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, and by 'that brave Irishman,
Captain Macbride, the cousin of my wife.' In grandiose capitals he
appeals to Fox and to Pitt. 'Great sir,' he cries, 'forgive my thus
presumptuously, thus rashly, attempting for a moment to forge your
thunder! But I conjure you--in the name of God and the King, I conjure
you--to announce in your own lofty language, that there shall be a stop
put to this conspiracy, which I fear might have the effect of springing
a mine that would blow up your administration.' This letter 'hastily
written upon the spur of the occasion is already too long,' yet he calls
upon his countrymen to allow him to 'indulge a little more my own
egotism and vanity, the indigenous plants of my own mind.' His whole
genealogy, Flodden and all, we hear over again. 'If,' he pertinently
adds, 'it should be asked what this note has to do here, I answer to
illustrate the authour of the text. And to pour out all myself as old
Montaigne, I wish all this to be known.' After a eulogy of himself as no
time-server, and his profession of readiness 'to discuss topicks with
mitred St Asaph, and others; to drink, to laugh, to converse with
Quakers, Republicans, Jews and Moravians,' he exhorts his friends and
countrymen, in the words of his departed Goldsmith, who gave him many
Attic nights and that jewel of the finest water, the acquaintance of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, 'to fly from petty tyrants to the throne.' He declares
himself a Tory, but no slave. He is in possession of an essay, dictated
to him by Dr Johnson, on the distinction between Whig and Tory, and
concludes with _eclat_, 'with one of the finest passages in John Home's
noble and elegant tragedy of _Douglas_.'

No condensation of this, the most 'characteristical' of all his
writings, can give the reader any idea of this extraordinary production.
Once only does it deviate into sense when, on the last page, we find the
advertisement of the _Tour to the Hebrides_, 'which was read and liked
by Dr Johnson, and will faithfully and minutely exhibit what he said was
the pleasantest part of his life.'

In the Hilary Term of 1786, he was called to the English bar, feeling
it, as he said, 'a pity to dig in a lead mine, when he could dig in a
gold one.' Johnson had always thrown cold water on the idea, though as
early as February 1775, as we find from a letter of Boswell's to Strahan
the printer, the idea had been proposed to him. In the May of 1786 he
writes to Mickle, the translator of the _Lusiad_, that he is in a
wavering state; he has the house of his friend Hoole, and he still
retains the use of General Paoli's residence in Portman Square. When he
did finally take up his own quarters in Cavendish Square, the result was
not what he had expected. He was discouraged by the want of practice,
and the prospect of any. In fact, he was to feel what, as Malone says,
Lord Auchinleck had all along told his son, that it would cost him much
more trouble to hide his ignorance of Scotch and English law than to
shew his knowledge. He feared his own deficiencies in 'the forms, quirks
and quiddities,' which he saw could be learned only by early habit. He
even doubted whether he should not be satisfied with being simply baron
of Auchinleck with a good income in Scotland; but he felt that such a
course could not 'deaden the ambition which has raged in my veins like a
fever.' The Horatian motto inscribed on the front of Auchinleck House,
telling of the peace of mind dearer than all to be found everywhere, if
the mind itself is in its own place, was never appreciated, however, by
the new laird.

His ignorance of law was soon shewn at the Lancaster assizes. Mr Leslie
Stephen is inclined to view the story as being not very credible. Yet we
fear the authority is indisputable. 'We found Jemmy Boswell,' writes
Lord Eldon, 'lying upon the pavement--inebriated. We subscribed at
supper a guinea for him and half a guinea for his clerk, and sent him
next morning a brief with instructions to move for the writ of _Quare
adhæsit pavimento_, with observations calculated to induce him to think
that it required great learning to explain the necessity of granting it.
He sent all round the town to attorneys for books, but in vain. He
moved, however, for the writ, making the best use he could of the
observations in the brief. The judge was astonished, and the audience
amazed. The judge said, 'I never heard of such a writ--what can it be
that adheres _pavimento_? Are any of you gentlemen at the bar able to
explain this?' The Bar laughed. At last one of them said, 'My Lord, Mr
Boswell last night _adhæsit pavimento_. There was no moving him for some
time. At last he was carried to bed, and he has been dreaming about
himself and the pavement.' Lord Jeffrey once assisted Bozzy to bed in
similar circumstances. 'You are a promising lad,' he told him next
morning, 'and if you go on as you have begun, you may be a Bozzy
yourself yet.' No wonder that we find him hesitating about going on the
spring northern circuit, which would cost him, he says, fifty pounds,
and oblige him to be in rough company for four weeks.

His only piece of promotion came from Lord Lonsdale. Pitt had been
brought in by this nobleman for the pocket-borough of Appleby, and Bozzy
had hopes of a Parliamentary introduction that way. Carlyle of Inveresk
found this worthless patron of the unfortunate office seeker 'more
detested than any man alive, as a shameless political sharper, a
domestic bashaw, and an intolerable tyrant over his tenants.' Penrith
and Whitehaven were in fear when he walked their streets; he defied his
creditors; and the father of the poet Wordsworth died without being able
to enforce his claims. The author of the _Rolliad_ describes his power

                'Even by the elements confessed,
    Of mines and boroughs Lonsdale stands possessed;
    And one sad servitude alike denotes
    The slave that labours and the slave that votes.'

It was on this political boroughmonger and jobber that Boswell was now
pinning his faith. The complete dependence of him on Lonsdale in return
for the Recordership of Carlisle did not escape the notice of the wits,
who now found that the writer who had been declaring over the India Bill
of Fox his devotion to the throne, the Tory, but no slave, had
transferred his entire loyalty and abjectest protestations to 'his king
in Westmoreland.' To add to his distress, his wife was dying. A short
trial of London had led her to return to Ayrshire, and her husband was
lost in doubt whether to revisit her or cling to 'the great sphere of
England,' the whirl of the metropolis, in hopes that the great prize
would at last be drawn. In the north he found her still lingering on,
but in his eagerness to obtain political influence 'I drank so freely
that riding home in the dark I fell from my horse and bruised my
shoulder.' From London he was again summoned, but with his curious
infelicity at such times of trouble, he was not in time to witness her
death: 'not till my second daughter came running out from the house and
announced to us the dismal event in a burst of tears.' Remorse found
vent in an agony of grief. 'She never would have left me,' he cries to
Temple; 'this reflection will pursue me to my grave.' In July, the
widower of a month hastened north to contest the county, only to find
Sir Adam Fergusson chosen. 'Let me never impiously repine,' is his cry
of distress. 'Yet as "Jesus wept" for the death of Lazarus, I hope my
tears at this time are excused. The woeful circumstance of such a state
of mind is that it rejects consolation; it feels an indulgence in its
own wretchedness.' His hustings appearances would appear to have been at
least marked by fluency, for Burns, his junior by eighteen years,
declares his own inability to fight like Montgomerie or 'gab like

As he draws to a close, the letters of Boswell improve both in form and
matter. It is painful to see him on every hand seeking the Parliamentary
interest out of which he was all the while doing his best to write
himself. No party could or would take him seriously. His rent-roll was
over £1600, a large sum in these days, and it was yearly rising.
Earnestly did his brother David press upon him a return to Auchinleck
and the retrenchment of his expenses. But the spell of the lights of
London was on him, and 'I could not endure Edinburgh,' he tells us,
'unless I were to have a judge's place to bear me up,' and that was a
thing not to be dreamed of after the publication of the _Letter_. He
dispersed his family to various schools, finding the eldest of the boys
beginning to oppose him, 'and no wonder,' as he bitterly adds. Then the
cry is forced from him in allusion to the famous passage in Shakespeare
on Wolsey's hopes and fall--a passage which, curiously enough, we have
come upon in the common-place book which Boswell had kept as a boy--'O
Temple, Temple, is this realizing any of the towering hopes which have
so often been the subject of our letters. Yet I live much with a great
man, who, upon any day that his fancy shall be inclined, may obtain for
me an office.' Everywhere he casts about, trying the Lord Chancellor,
not seeing the smallest opening in Westminster Hall, but buoyed up by
'the delusion that practice may come at any time.'

'We must do something for you,' Burke had said in a kindly way, 'for our
own sakes.' He recommended him to General Conway, but though the place
was not obtained the letter was valued by Boswell more. Writing to Mr
Abercrombie in America, even as late as the July of 1793, he is found
expressing 'a great wish to see that country; and I once flattered
myself that I should be sent thither in a station of some importance;'
and from a letter to Burke we learn that this expected post had been a
commissionership in the treaty between America and Britain. Dundas was
another of his hopes. 'The excellent Langton says it is disgraceful, it
is utter folly in Pitt not to attach to his administration a man of my
popular and pleasant talents.' Dundas, however, after having been given
a margin of two months for a reply, has made no sign; 'how can I delude
myself? I will tell you,' he informs Temple, 'Lord Lonsdale shews me
more and more regard. Three of his members assure me that he will give
me a seat at the General Election.' Then that last reed was to break. At
Lowther Castle, his wig was removed from his room, as a practical joke
of a coarse order on the unoffending Boswell, and all the day he was
obliged to go in his nightcap, which he felt was very ill-timed to one
in his situation. The loss of the wig the unsuspecting victim declares
will remain as great a secret as the writer of the letters of Junius,
but ere long the tyrant whom he had invoked as the man of Macedonia to
help Scotland has undeceived him. 'I suppose you thought,' he roughly
said, 'I was to bring you into Parliament? I never had any such
intention.' It is impossible not to feel for Boswell at this crisis. 'I
am down at an inn,' he writes to Temple, 'and ashamed and sunk on
account of the disappointment of hopes which led me to endure such
grievances. I deserve all that I suffer. I am at the same time
distracted what to do in my own county. I am quite in a fever. O my old
and most intimate friend, I intreat you to afford me some consolation,
and pray do not divulge my mortification. I now resign my Recordership,
and shall get rid of all connection with this brutal fellow.' His last
Parliamentary venture was cut short by the reflection how small was his
following. How curiously after all this reads his own little
autobiographical sketch in the _European Magazine_! 'It was generally
supposed that Mr Boswell would have had a seat in Parliament; and indeed
his not being amongst the Representatives of the Commons is one of those
strange things which occasionally happen in the complex operations of
our mixed Government. That he has not been _brought into Parliament_ by
some great man is not to be wondered at when we peruse his publick
declaration.' Not to be wondered at, truly, though the writer chose to
refer the wonder to his independence. Then the reader is informed how he
had been a candidate at the general election for his own county of Ayr,
'where he has a very extensive property and a very fine place of which
there is a view and description in Grose's _Antiquities of Scotland_.'
The conclusion of the sketch relates how, at the last Lord Mayor's day,
he sang with great applause a state-ballad of his own composition,
entitled _The Grocer of London_. This was the last shot in the political
locker. At a Guildhall dinner, given to Pitt by the worshipful company
of grocers, Boswell contrived to get himself called upon for a song. He
rose, and delivered himself of a catch on the model of Dibdin's 'Little
cherub that sits up aloft,' prefaced and interlarded by an address to
the guest of the evening. Honoured as he had been on his continental
tour at the courts of Europe, yet never till to-night had he felt
himself so flattered as now he was, in the presence of the minister he
admired, and to whose home and foreign policy he gave a hearty, if
discriminating support. Boswell for his song was encored six times, till
the cold features of the minister were seen to relax in a smile, amid
the general roar of plaudits and laughter! After this 'state ballad,' a
copy of which was last seen at Lord Houghton's sale, Bozzy and a
friend, in a state of high glee, returned to their lodgings, shouting
all the way _The Grocer of London_! 'He has declared,' adds the
complacent autobiographer, 'his resolution to persevere on the next

All this time his great work was slowly advancing. At the end of the
_Journal_ had appeared a notice: 'preparing for the Press, in one volume
quarto, the _Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D._, by James Boswell, Esq.' The
note proceeds to sketch the plan; the collecting of materials for more
than twenty years, his desire to erect to him a literary monument, the
interweaving of 'the most authentick accounts' that can be obtained from
those who knew him, etc. To his chagrin, Mrs Thrale's volume of
anecdotes had been out before him, and Sir John Hawkins had been
commissioned by the London booksellers to produce a _Life_, which had
duly appeared. Not even the unequivocal success and merits of the
_Journal_ could induce 'the trade' to take Boswell seriously. No one had
thought of him, any more than Gay would have been thought of as the
biographer of the circle to which he had been admitted. Percy, even Sir
William Scott, had been successively approached, but none had given a
consideration to 'Johnson's Bozzy.' Such neglect, however, must have
spurred him to exertion. The lively lady's anecdotage, dateless and
confused, he could afford to despise as 'too void of method even for
such a farrago,' as Horace Walpole said of it. But the solemn Hawkins,
as an old friend and executor of Johnson's will, was a more dangerous
rival. 'Observe how he talks of me,' cries Boswell querulously, 'as
quite unknown.' No doubt Sir John was 'unclubable,' and by Reynolds,
Dyer, Percy, and Malone he was detested. Yet his book, though eclipsed
by Boswell's, is not unmeritorious; but for his allusion to 'Mr Boswell,
a native of Scotland,' he has been made to pay severely by systematic
castigation from his rival, who now doggedly, as Johnson would have
said, set himself to the work before him. Wherever first-hand
information could be had, he was constantly on the track. Miss Burney
has told how she met him at the gate of the choir of St George's chapel
at Windsor--'his comic-serious face having lost none of its wonted
singularity, nor yet his mind and language.' She had letters from
Johnson, and he must have some of the doctor's choice little notes: 'We
have seen him long enough upon stilts, I want to shew him in a new
light. He proposed a thousand curious expedients to get them, but I was
invincible.' The approach of the king and queen broke off the interview,
but next morning he was again on the watch. We must regret that they
were not given, however much his indiscretions had made people chary of
their confidences. 'Jemmy Boswell,' writes Lord Eldon, 'called upon me,
desiring to know my definition of taste. I told him I must decline
defining it, because I knew he would publish it.' To secure first-hand,
sifted, and 'authentick' material this man, so long decried by sciolists
as merely a fool with a note-book, would forego every rebuff or refusal.
'Boswell,' says Horace Walpole, 'that quintessence of busy-bodies called
on me last week, and was let in when he should not have been. After
tapping many topics, to which I made as dry answers as an unbribed
oracle, he vented his errand; 'had I seen Dr Johnson's _Lives of the

During the progress of the _Life_ he turned aside to his last literary
vagary--_No Abolition of Slavery; or the Universal Empire of Love_,
1791. This long-lost brochure has this year been rediscovered, but it
will add little interest to his life, as its main tenets had long been
known. A writer in the _Athenæum_ for May 9th describes it as quarto in
form, and dedicated to Miss B----, whom he identifies with Miss Bagnal
to be shortly mentioned. On the three topics of slavery, the Middlesex
election, and America, Bozzy differed respectfully but firmly from the
doctor, who drank at Oxford to the next insurrection of the negroes in
the West Indies. Accordingly he stands stoutly by the planters and the
feudal scheme of subordination, whose annihilation he maintains would
'shut the gates of mercy on mankind.' For his apparent inconsistency
Burke is attacked:--

    'Burke, art thou here, too? thou whose pen
    Can blast the fancied rights of men.
    Pray by what logic are those rights
    Allow'd to Blacks,--denied to Whites?'

Others may fail their king and country, but he as a throne and altar
Tory calls all to know that

    'An ancient baron of the land
    I by my king shall ever stand.'

He was now at last near the haven. The mass of his papers and materials
had been arranged, after a labour which, as he tells Reynolds, was
really enormous. The capacity for sustained effort, when set to it, of
which he had boasted over his condensation of the evidence in the great
Douglas case, stood him now in good service amid all his vexations,
dissipations and follies.

In February 1788 we hear of his having yet seven years of the life to
write. By January 1789 he had finished the introduction and the
dedication to Sir Joshua Reynolds, both of which had appeared difficult,
but he was confident they had been well done. To excite the interest in
his coming book, or as Mr Leslie Stephen thinks, to secure copyright, he
published in 1790 two quarto parts at half a guinea each--the letter to
Chesterfield and the conversation of Johnson with the king. By December
he has had additional matter sent him from Warren Hastings, and he hoped
to be out on 8th March, but the January of the new year found him with
still two hundred pages of copy, and the death not yet written. Yet many
a time, as he writes Temple, had he thought of giving it up. To add to
his troubles, he had indulged in landed speculations, paying £2500 for
the estate of a younger branch; he had been lending money to a cousin,
and if he could but raise a thousand pounds on the strength of his book,
he should be inclined to hold on, or 'game with it,' as Sir Joshua said.
Neither Reynolds nor Malone, however, took the hint; and at the latter's
door he cast longing looks as he passed. He tells him he had been in the
chair at the club, with Fox 'quoting Homer and Fielding to the
astonishment of Jo. Warton.' He had bought a lottery ticket with the
hopes of the prize of £5000, but--blank! The advance he needed was got
elsewhere, and the property in his book saved. April finds him
correcting the last sheet. He feared the result: 'I may get no profit,
the public may be disappointed, I may make enemies, even have quarrels.
But the very reverse of all this may happen.' Then on the 19th he writes
to Dempster: 'my _magnum opus_, in two volumes quarto, is to be
published on Monday, 16th May'--by a lucky chance it was the anniversary
of the red day in Boswell's calendar, his meeting with Johnson eight and
twenty years before! 'When it is fairly launched, I mean to stick close
to Westminster Hall, and it will be truly kind if you recommend me
appeals or causes of any sort.'

The rest of his life is soon told. Paoli was now again in Corsica. When
Mirabeau had recalled the exiles, the general had been made by Louis
XVI. military commandant of the island. Johnson, also, was gone, and the
two strongest checks upon the excesses of Boswell were removed. Piteous
it is to find him writing to Malone: 'that most friendly fellow
Courtenay, begging the pardon of an M.P. for so free an epithet,' had
taken him in hand, and had taken his word that for some months his daily
allowance of wine should not exceed four good glasses at dinner, and a
pint after it. The qualifying adjective 'good' is dangerous, and before
the time for the bill was half expired, Bozzy has closured it and the
amendment. The state of his affairs, the loss of his wife bore heavily
on him, together with 'the disadvantage to my children in having so
wretched a father--nay, the want of absolute certainty of being happy
after death, the _sure_ prospect of which is frightful.' Then a fitful
gleam of the old Adam breaks out. He has heard of a Miss Bagnal, 'about
seven and twenty, lively and gay, a Ranelagh girl, but of excellent
principles insomuch that she reads prayers to the servants in her
father's family every Sunday evening.' Another matrimonial scheme was
the daughter of the late Dean of Exeter, 'a most agreeable woman _d'un
certain âge_,' as he engagingly adds, 'and with a fortune of £10,000.'
The preparation of a second edition of the _Life_ for July 1793 raised
his spirits, but after a while he had run into excess, been knocked down
and robbed. This he vows shall be a crisis in his life, and Temple's
apprehension of his friend being carried off in a state of intoxication
he finds awful to contemplate. Early in 1795 the end is announced by
Temple's son writing to his father--'a few nights ago Mr Boswell
returned from the Literary Club, quite weak and languid;' and the last
letter to Temple from his correspondent of thirty-seven years is dated
8th April: 'I would fain write to you in my own hand, but really
cannot.' His son James finishes the letter, to tell that the patient
'feels himself a good deal stronger to-day.' He was attended by Dr
Warren, who had been with Johnson as he died. Some slight hopes of a
recovery had been held out; and, with the ruling passion strong in death
to interview a celebrity, he rallied in a letter to Warren Hastings.
With the spirit on him of the days when he had told Chatham that his
disinterested soul had enjoyed the contemplation of the great minister
in the bower of philosophy, he tells him, 'the moment I am able to go
abroad, I will fly to Mr Hastings and expand my soul in the purest
satisfaction.' On May 19th 1795, at two in the morning, after an illness
of five weeks, he died. He was in his fifty-fifth year.

A life which cannot challenge the world's attention--like that of John
Sterling--which perhaps does not even modestly solicit it, yet one which
no less certainly will be found to reward the critic of literary history
and pathology. A complex, weak, unsteady life enough, and no one did
more than Boswell himself to bring into glaring prominence the faults
that lie on the surface, by that frank, open, and ostentatious
peculiarity which he avowed, and which he compared to the
characteristics of the old seigneur, Michael de Montaigne. Never was
there a franker critic of James Boswell, Esq., than himself; 'the most
unscottified of mortals,' as Johnson called him, has little or none of
the reserve and reticence that are generally supposed to be marks of the
national character. A rare and curious _Epistle in Verse_, by the Rev.
Samuel Martin of Monimail, 1795, touches on the main points of his life,
and the author, who was apparently a friend of Boswell, had learned
'with affectionate concern and respect that at the end prayer was his
stay.' He criticises, in rather halting and prosaic lines,

    'The prison scenes, his prying into death,
    How felons and how saints resign their breath;
    How varying and conflicting passions roll,
    How scaffold exhibitions shew the soul.'

He laments his 'injurious hilarity,' his degrading himself as 'the
little bark, attendant on the huge all-bearing ark,' his political and
ecclesiastical aberrations from the surer and better standpoints of his
family and country. The feeling of this friend of Boswell would
represent, we cannot doubt, the verdict at the time of his own circle.

The 'prison scenes' are an integral part in Boswell's psychology. Never
did George Selwyn attend them with greater regularity, or Wyndham run
after prize fights more assiduously. In the _Public Advertizer_, April
25, 1768, we find him writing: 'I myself am never absent from a publick
execution. When I first attended them, I was shocked to the greatest
degree ... convulsed with pity and terror. I feel an irresistible
impulse to be present at every execution, as there I behold the various
effects of the near approach of death.' The parallels of Charles V.,
Philip II., Philip IV., Charles II. of Spain, will not escape the
reader, and strangely, or rather naturally enough, Boswell is found
disagreeing with the censure pronounced by Johnson on the celebration of
his own obsequies in his lifetime by Charles V. In the _St James'
Gazette_ of April 20, 1779, he is found actually riding in the cart to
Tyburn with Hackman, the murderer of Miss Ray, and writing to the papers
over the feeling of 'unusual Depression of Spirits, joined with that
Pause, which so solemn a warning of the dreadful effects that the
Passion of Love may produce must give all of us who have lively
Sensations and warm Tempers.' But he suddenly deviates into business
when he adds that 'it is very philosophically explained and illustrated
in the _Hypochondriack_, a periodical Paper, peculiarly adapted to the
people of England, and which comes out monthly in the _London Magazine_,
etc.' In his Corsican tour we had seen him interviewing the executioner
in the island, and some days before his final parting with Johnson he
had witnessed the execution of fifteen men before Newgate and been
clouded in his mind by doubts as to whether human life was or was not
mere machinery and a chain of planned fatality. These cravings are
clearly the marks of a mind morbidly affected and diseased, the result
of the Dutch marriage as Ramsay believed. All through his life Boswell
is conscious of his 'distempered imagination,' and the letters to Temple
are scattered with irrelevances and repetitions, fatuities and
inconsistencies that can be explained only on the score of mental
disease. Were any doubts possible on this point, the expressions of his
opinions on religion would dispel them. His 'Popish imagination,'
quickened as it may have been by the escapade with the actress, was but
the natural outcome of an ill-balanced mind. His feelings about
consecrated places, _loca solennia_ such as Iona, and Wittenberg, Rasay
and Carlisle, we have seen. He delighted, says Malone, in what he called
the _mysterious_, leading Johnson on ghosts, and kindred subjects. He
was a believer in second sight: 'it pleases my superstition,' he tells
Temple, 'which you know is not small, and being not of the gloomy but
the grand species is an enjoyment.' When his uncle John died, we learn
he was 'a good scholar and affectionate relative, but had no conduct.
And, do you know, he was not confined to one woman; he had a strange
kind of religion, but I flatter myself he will be ere long, if he is not
already, in heaven!' He comforts himself constantly over life being a
mere state of purification, and looks forward to a condition of events
in which 'a man can soap his own beard and enjoy whatever is to be had
in this transitory state of things.' He is for ever questioning Johnson
upon purgatory, 'having much curiosity to know his notions on that
point.' One of the last authentic glimpses of Boswell is his being found
in the company of Wilberforce, going west, with a nightcap in his
pocket, on some visit to a friend such as Miss Hawkins says he was but
too fond of doing,--'away to the west as the sun went down'--doubtful of
future punishment, but resolute in maintaining the depravity of man. It
would almost appear as if Bozzy had read himself into Butler's doctrine
that our present life is a state of probation for a future one, but had
forgotten the qualification 'that our future interest is now depending
on ourselves.'

The very influence of Johnson himself may have affected the weaker mind
of Boswell injuriously. Both suffered from hypochondria, though that of
the latter was far distant from the affliction of Johnson whom Dr Adams
found 'in a deplorable state, sighing, groaning, talking to himself, and
restlessly walking from room to room.' Temple maintained that the effect
of Johnson's company had been of a depressing nature to his friend, and
Sir Wm. Forbes believed that some slight tincture of superstition had
been contracted from his companionship with the sage. The 'cloudy
darkness,' as he himself calls it, of his mind, the weakness and the
confusion of moral principles manifest enough in the Temple
correspondence, are better revealed in the conversation with Johnson at
Squire Dilly's, 'where there is always abundance of excellent fare and
hearty welcome.' 'Being in a frame of mind which, I hope for the
felicity of human nature, many experience,--in fine weather,--at the
country-house of a friend,--consoled and elevated by pious exercises, I
expressed myself with an unrestrained fervour to my "guide, philosopher,
and friend;" My dear Sir, I would fain be a good man; and I am very good
now. I fear God, and honour the King; I wish to do no ill, and to be
benevolent to all mankind.' He looked at me with a benignant indulgence;
but took occasion to give me wise and salutary caution. 'Do not, sir,
accustom yourself to trust to _impressions_.' Boswell had surely
forgotten all this when he cries bitterly to Temple that he was inclined
to agree with him in thinking 'my great oracle did allow too much credit
to good principles, without good practice.' Perhaps he remembered
Johnson's appreciation of Campbell, the good pious man that never passed
a church without pulling off his hat, all which shewed 'he has good
principles.' Boswell had, unfortunately, been 'caught young' by the
sceptical talk of Dempster, Hume, and Wilkes, and his extended
Continental ramble had impaired the earlier views under which he had
been reared.

But James Boswell deserves at the hands of his readers and of critics
better treatment than has been measured out to him in the contemptuous
estimate of Macaulay, and, still worse, in the shrill attack of the
smaller brood 'whose sails were never to the tempest given,' but who
have, by the easy repetition of a few phrases and an imperfect
acquaintance with the writings and character of the man they decry, come
to the complacent depreciation which, as Niebuhr said, is ever so dear
to the soul of mediocrity. If James Boswell was not like Goldsmith, a
great man, as Johnson finely pronounced, whose frailties should not be
remembered, nor was, perhaps, in any final sense a great writer, yet for
twenty years he had been the tried friend of the man who at the Mitre
had called out to him, 'Give me your hand, I have taken a liking to
you.' A plant that, like Goldsmith also, 'flowered late,' he has created
in literature and biography a revolution, and produced a work whose
surpassing merits and value are known the more that it is studied.



    'Eclipse is first, the rest nowhere.'--MACAULAY.

'How delicate, decent is English Biography,' says Carlyle, 'bless its
mealy mouth! A Damocles sword of Respectability hangs for ever over the
poor English Life-writer (as it does over poor English Life in general),
and reduces him to the verge of paralysis. Thus it has been said there
are no English lives worth reading, except those of Players, who by the
nature of the case have bidden Respectability good-day. The English
biographer has long felt that, if in writing his man's biography he
wrote down anything that could by possibility offend any man, he had
written wrong.' The biographer, as Mr Froude found out for a commentary
on all this, is placed between a Scylla and Charybdis, between what is
due to the subject, and what is expected by the public. If something is
left out of the portrait, the likeness will be imperfect; if the anxiety
or the inquisitiveness of readers to know private details is left
ungratified, the writer will be met by the current cant that the public
has a right to know. The line is not easily drawn, and few subjects for
the biographer can ever desire to be as candidly dealt with by him as
Cromwell acted with Sir Peter Lely, in the request to be painted as he
was, warts and all. Thus, too often the result will be but biography
written _in vacuo_, 'the tragedy of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet
omitted--by particular desire.'

Biography, like History, has suffered from considerations of dignity and
propriety. The writers of the Hume and Robertson school of history, in
their stately minuet with the historical muse, have been careful to
exclude everything that seemed beneath the dignity of the sceptred pall;
biographers have as consciously studied the proprieties. 'The Muse of
history,' says Thackeray, 'wears the mask and speaks to measure; she too
in our age busies herself with the affairs only of kings. I wonder shall
history ever pull off her periwig and cease to be Court-ridden? I would
have History familiar rather than heroic, and think that Mr Hogarth and
Mr Fielding will give our children a much better idea of the manners of
the present age in England, than the _Court Gazette_ and the newspapers
which we get thence.' As the historian has striven to obscure the real
nature of the Grand Monarque, by confining his action to courts and
battlefields, so the biographer, in his desire of never stepping beyond
the proper, has enveloped his hero in a circle of correct ideas, after
the manner of George the Fourth and his multiplicity of waistcoats.
Dignity and respectability have ruined alike the historian and the

Lockhart foresaw that some readers would accuse him of trenching upon
delicacy and propriety over his sixth and seventh chapters in the _Life
of Scott_, and the circumstances were after all such as, had choice been
permitted him, he might easily have omitted, considering it his duty to
tell what he had to say truly and intelligibly. Of all men Macaulay had
nothing to fear from any rational biography that should ever be written
of him, yet has not Mr Trevelyan assured his readers that the reviewers
had told him, that he would much better have consulted his uncle's
reputation by the omission of passages in his letters and diaries? Such
criticism, as he justly says, is to seriously misconceive the province
and the duty of the biographer, and his justification is that the
reading world has long extended to the man the just approbation which it
so heartily extended to his books. The Latin critics assigned
history,--and accordingly history in miniature, biography,--to the
department of oratory. The feeling, in consequence, has long prevailed
of regarding biography as the field for the display of every other
feeling then veracity. It has been emotional, or it has been decorously
dull. To all such writers the style adopted by Boswell would appear, and
justly appear, revolutionary. The cry is raised of there being nothing
sacred, of the violation of domestic privacy, of the sanctities of life
being endangered, of indiscretions, and violations of confidences, by
the biographer. Accordingly, just as Macaulay decided that, in general,
tragedy was corrupted by eloquence, and comedy by wit, so biography and
history have suffered from the dignity of Clio. Boswell was perfectly
aware what he was doing, nor did he awake to find himself famous for a
method into which the sciolists pretend he only unconsciously blundered.
In the preface to the third edition of the _Journal_ he
writes:--'Remarks have been industriously circulated in the publick
prints by shallow or envious cavillers, who have endeavoured to persuade
the world that Dr Johnson's character has been _lessened_ by recording
such various instances of his lively wit and acute judgment, on every
topick that was presented to his mind. In the opinion of every person of
taste and knowledge that I have conversed with, it has been greatly
_heightened_; and I will venture to predict, that this specimen of his
colloquial talents will become still more valuable, when, by the lapse
of time, he shall have become an _ancient_; and no other memorial of
this great and good man shall remain but the following Journal.' This is
not the writing of one who has been without a clear idea of what he was
undertaking, and of his own qualifications for the task. 'You, my dear
sir,' he tells Sir Joshua Reynolds in the dedication, 'perceived all the
shades which mingled in the grand composition; all the peculiarities and
slight blemishes which marked the literary Colossus.' The inclusion of
the letters and of private details was an integral part of his scheme.
When he introduced the subject of biography at Dr Taylor's, no doubt
with his own book in his eye, he said that in writing a man's life the
man's peculiarities should be mentioned because they mark his character.
When he resolved on their publication, he thought it right to ask
Johnson explicitly on this point, and the reply was what in 1773 the
doctor had given to Macleod in Skye, when he had asked if Orrery had
done wrong, to expose the defects of Swift with whom he had lived in
terms of intimacy. 'Why, no, sir,' Johnson had decided, 'after the man
is dead, for then it is done historically.' A biographer that would omit
or disguise the relations of Nelson to Lady Hamilton, would be justly
suspected of disingenuousness, and Lockhart, especially in his treatment
of the political side of his subject,--for example in the notorious
_Beacon_ incident--is but too open to this charge. But disingenuousness
is a charge that never could have occurred to Boswell, whose veracity is
the prime quality that has made him immortal. When the _Journal_ was in
the press, Hannah More, studious of the name of the moralist and the
sage, 'besought him to mitigate his asperities.' 'I will not,' said
Boswell roughly, but wisely for posterity, 'cut off his claws, nor make
a tiger a cat to please anyone.'

Boswell's books are veritable books. Few books have had such a severe
test applied to them. His first was dedicated to Paoli, whose sanction
must be taken to guarantee every line of it. "In every narrative," he
writes in the dedication to Malone of the _Journal_, "whether historical
or biographical, authenticity is of the utmost consequence. Of this I
have ever been so firmly persuaded that I inscribed a former work to
that person who was the best judge of its truth. Of this work the
manuscript was daily read by Johnson, and you have perused the original
and can vouch for the strict fidelity of the present publication." His
_Life of Johnson_ was as fearlessly dedicated to Sir Joshua Reynolds,
one whose intimacy with Johnson could stamp, with assured knowledge of
the subject, the credit and success of the work. Among the 'some dozen,
or baker's dozen, and those chiefly of very ancient date,' of reliable
biographies whose paucity Carlyle laments, the works of Boswell may be
safely included. Their accuracy is confessed by workers in all fields.
His _Tour_ created a type; no better volume of travels has ever been
written than the _Journal_; and the critic who has dealt at the
reputation of Boswell its heaviest blow has yet to confess, that Homer
is no more the first of poets, Shakespeare the first of dramatists,
Demosthenes the first of orators, than Boswell is the first of
biographers, with no second.

How is this? Written in 1831, before Lockhart Southey and Carlyle by
their biographies of Scott, Nelson, and Frederick had appeared as
rivals, why is it no less true now? What singular gift or quality can
account for this singular aloofness from the ordinary or extraordinary
class of writers? Why does Boswell yet wear the crown of indivisible
supremacy in biography? His own words will not explain it, the
possession of Johnson's intimacy, the twenty years' view of his subject,
his faculty for recollecting, and his assiduity in recording
communications. This and more than this Lockhart possessed, the nearest
rival to the biographical throne. He was the son-in-law of his subject,
for whom he had as true an admiration as Boswell had for Johnson. But
Boswell was only in the company of his idol some 180 days, or 276 if we
include the time on the tour in Scotland, in all the twenty years of his
acquaintance. Lockhart had the journals of Sir Walter, and the
communications of nearly a hundred persons. A comparison in any sense,
literary, social, or moral, would have been felt by Lockhart as an
insult, for he clearly regards Sir Alexander Boswell as a greater man
than his father. But if, like the grandsire of Hubert at Hastings,
Lockhart has drawn a good bow, Boswell, like the Locksley of the
novelist, has notched his shaft, and comparisons have long ceased to be
instituted. Gray has attempted the explanation--a fool with a note-book.
He has invented nothing, he has only reported. But every year sees that
person at work, with his _First Impressions of Brittany_, _Three Weeks
in Greece_, and the everlasting _Tour in Tartanland_. These are the
creations of the note-book, but it has given them no permanence. The
tourist puts in everything he sees, truly enough, or thinks he sees. But
it is the art of Boswell to select 'the characteristical,' and the
typical, to group and to dramatize. Ninety-four days he spent on the
northern tour, and the result is a masterpiece. Pepys is garrulous,
often vulgar, always lower-middle-class; but Boswell writes like a

Macaulay has explained it by a paradox. Goldsmith was great in spite of
his weaknesses, Boswell by reason of his; if he had not been a great
fool, he would never have been a great writer. He was a dunce, a
parasite, a coxcomb, a Paul Pry, had a quick observation, a retentive
memory, and accordingly--he has become immortal! Alas for the paucity of
such immortals under so common circumstances; their number should be
legion! That a fool may occasionally write interesting matter we know;
but that a man should write a literary classic, graced by arrangement,
selection, expression, is not even paradox but hyperbole run mad. The
truth is, Macaulay had no eye for such a complex character as Boswell.
Too correct himself, too prone to the cardinal virtues and consistency,
to follow one who, by instinct, seemed to anticipate Wendell Holmes'
advice--'Don't be consistent, but be simply _true_'--and too sound
politically in the field where Boswell and the doctor abased themselves
in absurd party spirit, Macaulay can no more understand sympathetically
the vagaries of Boswell than Mommsen or Drumann can follow the political
inconsistency of Cicero. He had no Boswellian 'delight in that
intellectual chemistry which can separate good qualities from evil in
the same person;' and in his essay on _Milton_ he has disclaimed
explicitly all such hero-worship of the living or the dead and denounced
Boswellism as the most certain mark of an ill-regulated intellect. Nor
had he, or Carlyle either, before him the evidence of the letters to

Carlyle, in the theory of hero-worship, has made capital use of Boswell.
He sees the strong mind of Johnson leading 'the poor flimsy little soul'
of James Boswell; he feels 'the devout Discipleship, the gyrating
observantly round the great constellation.' He has Boswell's reiterated
declarations to support him. On one side Carlyle's vindication of the
biographer is successful; he errs in emphasizing the discovery by
Boswell of the Rambler. In such a discovery Langton and Beauclerk had
long preceded him, and the Johnson that Boswell met in Davies' parlour
was the pensioned writer who had out-lived his dark days, and was the
literary dictator of the day, and the associate of Burke and of
Reynolds. But Carlyle comes nearer the truth when he touches on the
Boswellian recipe for being graphic--the possession of an open, loving
heart, and what follows from the possession of such. Like White of
Selborne, with his sparrows and cockchafers, Boswell, too, has copied
some true sentences from the inspired book of nature.

But however this may account for his insight--the heart seeing farther
than the head--it will not account for his literary qualities. Of all
his contemporaries, Goldsmith and Burke excepted, no one is a greater
master of a pure prose style than Boswell, and for ease of narrative,
felicity of phrase, and rounded diction he is incomparable. Macaulay
believed a London apprentice could detect Scotticisms in Robertson;
Hume's style is often vicious by Gallicisms and Scots law phrases which
nothing but his expository gifts have obscured from the critics. Beattie
confesses learning English as a dead language and taking several years
over the task. But Boswell, 'scarce by North Britons now esteemed a
Scot,' writes with an ease that renders his style his own. 'The fact
is,' says Mr Cotter Morison, 'that no dramatist or novelist of the whole
century surpassed or even equalled Boswell in rounded and clear and
picturesque presentation, or in real dramatic faculty.'

Let us take one portrait from the Boswell gallery--the meeting of the
two old Pembroke men, Johnson and Oliver Edwards.

    'It was in Butcher Row that this meeting happened. Mr Edwards,
    who was a decent-looking elderly man in gray clothes and a wig
    of many curls, accosted Johnson with familiar confidence,
    knowing who he was, while Johnson returned his salutation with
    a courteous formality, as to a stranger. But as soon as Edwards
    had brought to his recollection their having been at Pembroke
    College together nine-and-forty years ago, he seemed much
    pleased, asked where he lived, and said he should be glad to
    see him in Bolt Court. EDWARDS: "Ah, sir! we are old men now."
    JOHNSON (who never liked to think of being old): "Don't let us
    discourage one another." EDWARDS: "Why, Doctor, you look stout
    and hearty. I am happy to see you so; for the newspapers told
    us you were very ill." JOHNSON: "Ay, sir, they are always
    telling lies of _us old fellows_."

    Wishing to be present at more of so singular a conversation as
    that between two fellow collegians, who had lived forty years
    in London without ever having chanced to meet, I whispered to
    Mr Edwards that Dr Johnson was going home, and that he had
    better accompany him now. So Edwards walked along with us, I
    eagerly assisting to keep up the conversation. Mr Edwards
    informed Dr Johnson that he had practised long as a solicitor
    in Chancery.... When we got to Dr Johnson's house and were
    seated in his library, the dialogue went on admirably. EDWARDS:
    "Sir, I remember you would not let us say _prodigious_ at
    College. For even then, sir (turning to me), he was delicate in
    language, and we all feared him." JOHNSON (to Edwards): "From
    your having practised the law long, sir, I presume you must be
    rich." EDWARDS: "No, sir; I had a good deal of money; but I had
    a number of poor relations to whom I gave great part of it."
    JOHNSON: "Sir, you have been rich in the most valuable sense of
    the word." EDWARDS: "But I shall not die rich." JOHNSON: "Nay,
    sure, sir, it is better to _live_ rich, than to _die_ rich."
    EDWARDS: "I wish I had continued at College." Johnson: "Why do
    you wish that, sir?" EDWARDS: "Because I think I should have
    had a much easier life than mine has been. I should have been a
    parson, and had a good living, like Bloxam and several others,
    and lived comfortably." JOHNSON: "Sir, the life of a parson,
    of a conscientious clergyman, is not easy. I have always
    considered a clergyman as the father of a larger family than he
    is able to maintain. I would rather have Chancery suits upon my
    hands than the cure of souls." Here, taking himself up all of a
    sudden, he exclaimed, "O! Mr Edwards! I'll convince you that I
    recollect you. Do you remember our drinking together at an
    ale-house near Pembroke Gate?" ... EDWARDS: "You are a
    philosopher, Dr Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a
    philosopher; but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always
    breaking in."--Mr Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr Courtenay, Mr
    Malone, and, indeed, all the eminent men to whom I have
    mentioned this, have thought it an exquisite trait of
    character. The truth is, that philosophy, like religion, is too
    generally supposed to be hard and severe, at least so grave as
    to exclude all gaiety. EDWARDS: "I have been twice married,
    Doctor. You, I suppose, have never known what it was to have a
    wife." JOHNSON: "Sir, I have known what it was to have a wife,
    and (in a solemn, tender, faltering tone) I have known what it
    was to _lose a wife_. It had almost broke my heart."

    EDWARDS: "How do you live, sir? For my part, I must have my
    regular meals, and a glass of good wine. I find I require it."
    JOHNSON: "I now drink no wine, sir. Early in life I drank wine:
    for many years I drank none, I then for some years drank a
    great deal." EDWARDS: "Some hogsheads, I warrant you." JOHNSON:
    "I then had a severe illness, and left it off. I am a
    straggler. I may leave this town and go to Grand Cairo, without
    being missed here or observed there." EDWARDS: "Don't you eat
    supper, sir?" JOHNSON: "No, sir." EDWARDS: "For my part, now, I
    consider supper as a turnpike through which one must pass, in
    order to get to bed." JOHNSON: "You are a lawyer, Mr Edwards.
    Lawyers know life practically. A bookish man should always have
    them to converse with. They have what he wants." EDWARDS: "I am
    grown old, I am sixty-five." JOHNSON: "I shall be sixty-eight
    next birthday. Come, sir, drink water, and put in for a
    hundred." ... Mr Edwards, when going away, again recurred to
    his consciousness of senility, and looking full in Johnson's
    face, said to him, "You'll find in Dr Young,

        'O my coevals! remnants of yourselves.'"

    Johnson did not relish this at all; but shook his head with
    impatience. Edwards walked off seemingly highly pleased with
    the honour of having been thus noticed by Dr Johnson. When he
    was gone, I said to Johnson I thought him but a weak man.
    JOHNSON: "Why, yes, sir. Here is a man who has passed through
    life without experience: yet I would rather have him with me
    than a more sensible man who will not talk readily. This man is
    always willing to say what he has to say."'

How admirable is the art in this scene, how numerous and fine are the
strokes of character, and the easy turn of the dialogue! No fool with a
note-book, no tippling reporter, as the shallow critics say, could have
written this. To them there would have appeared in a chance meeting of
two old men nothing worthy of notice, yet how dramatically does Boswell
touch off the Philistine side of Edwards, and insert the fine shading
and the inimitable remarks about the setting up for the philosopher, and
supper being a turnpike to bed! This art of the biographer is what gives
a memorableness to slight incidents, by the object being real and really
seen; it is the 'infinitude of delineation, the intensity of conception
which informs the Finite with a certain Infinitude of significance,
ennobling the Actual into Idealness.'

Openness of mind will do much, but there must be the seeing eye behind
it. For the mental development of Boswell, there is no doubt that, as
with Goldsmith, his foreign travels had done much. As Addison in the
_Freeholder_ had recommended foreign travel to the fox-hunting Tory
squires of his day as a purge for their provincial ideas, Boswell shares
with the author of the _Traveller_ and the _Deserted Village_
cosmopolitan instincts and feelings. 'I have always stood up for the
Irish,' he writes, 'in whose fine country I have been hospitably and
jovially entertained, and with whom I feel myself to be congenial. In
my _Tour in Corsica_ I do generous justice to the Irish, in opposition
to the English and Scots.' Again, 'I am, I flatter myself, completely a
citizen of the world. In my travels through Holland, Germany,
Switzerland, Italy, Corsica, France, I never felt myself from home; and
I sincerely love every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.'
This is the very antithesis to Johnson, whose frank confession was, 'for
anything that I can see, foreigners are fools.'

Yet Boswell's stock of learning was small. 'I have promised,' he writes
in 1775, 'to Dr Johnson to read when I get to Scotland; and to keep an
account of what I read. He is to buy for me a chest of books, of his
choosing, off stalls, and I am to read more, and drink less--that was
his counsel.' The death of his wife forces the confession, 'how much do
I regret that I have not applied myself more to learning,' and he
acknowledges to their common friend Langton that, if Johnson had said
that Boswell and himself did not talk from books, this was because he
had not read books enough to talk from them. In his manuscripts there
are many misspellings. He assigns to Terence a Horatian line and, in a
letter to Garrick, quotes as Horatian the standard _mens sana in corpore
sano_ of Juvenal. More strange is his quoting in a note an illustration
of the phrase 'Vexing thoughts,' without his being apparently aware that
the words are by Rous of Pembroke, the Provost of Eton, whose portrait
in the college hall he must often have seen, the writer of the Scottish
Metrical Version of the Psalms. Yet his intellectual interests were
keen. Late in life he has 'done a little at Greek; Lord Monboddo's
_Ancient Metaphysics_ which I am reading carefully helps me to recover
the language.' He has his little scraps of irritating Latinity which he
loves to parade, and when he dined at Eton, at the fellows' table, he
'made a considerable figure, having certainly the art of making the most
of what I know. I had my classical quotations very ready.' Besides, the
easy allusiveness of Boswell to books and to matters beyond the scope of
general readers, his interest in all things going forward in the
Johnsonian circle, his shewing himself in some metaphysical
points--predestination, for example--fully a match for Johnson, and his
own words in the _Journal_--'he had thought more than anybody supposed,
and had a pretty good stock of general learning and knowledge'--all
conspire to shew that, if he had no more learning than what he could not
help, James Boswell was altogether, as Dominie Sampson said of
Mannering, 'a man of considerable erudition despite of his imperfect

Nor were his entire interests Johnsonian. Scattered through his writings
we find allusions to other books, in a more or less forward stage of
completeness, and of which some must have been destroyed by his
faithless executors. We hear of a _Life of Lord Kames_; an _Essay on the
Profession of an Advocate_; _Memoirs_ of Hume when dying, 'which I may
some time or other communicate to the world;' a quarto with plates on
_The Beggar's Opera_; a _History of James IV._, 'the patron of my
family;' a _Collection of Feudal Tenures and Charters_, 'a valuable
collection made by my father, with some additions and illustrations of
my own;' an _Account of my Travels_, 'for which I had a variety of
materials collected;' a _Life of Sir Robert Sibbald_, 'in the original
manuscript in his own writing;' a _History of the Rebellion of 1745_; an
edition of _Walton's Lives_; a _Life of Thomas Ruddiman_, the Latin
grammarian; a _History of Sweden_, where three of his ancestors had
settled, who took service under Gustavus Adolphus; an edition of
_Johnson's Poems_, 'a complete edition, in which I shall with the utmost
care ascertain their authenticity, and illustrate them with notes and
various readings;' a work on _Addison's Poems_, in which 'I shall
probably maintain the merit of Addison's poetry, which has been very
unjustly depreciated.' His _Journal_, which is unfortunately lost, he
designed as the material for his own _Autobiography_. A goodly list, and
a varied one, involving interest, knowledge, and research, fit to form
the equipment of a professed scholar.

Boswell foresaw the danger, and he justified his method of reporting
conversations. 'It may be objected by some persons, as it has been by
one of my friends, that he who has the power of thus exhibiting an exact
transcript of conversations is not a desirable member of society. I
repeat the answer which I made to that friend:--'Few, very few, need be
afraid that their sayings will be recorded. Can it be imagined that I
would take the trouble to gather what grows on every hedge, because I
have collected such fruits as the _Nonpareil_ and the _Bon Chretien_? On
the other hand, how useful is such a faculty, if well exercised! To it
we owe all those interesting apophthegms and _memorabilia_ of the
ancients, which Plutarch, Xenophon, and Valerius Maximus, have
transmitted to us. To it we owe all those instructive and entertaining
collections which the French have made under the title of _Ana_, affixed
to some celebrated name. To it we owe the Table-Talk of Selden, the
_Conversation_ between Ben Jonson and Drummond of Hawthornden, Spence's
_Anecdotes_ of Pope, and other valuable remains in our own language. How
delighted should we have been, if thus introduced into the company of
Shakespeare and of Dryden, of whom we know scarcely anything but their
admirable writings! What pleasure would it have given us, to have known
their petty habits, their characteristick manners, their modes of
composition, and their genuine opinion of preceding writers and of their

The world in consideration of what it has gained, and the recollection
of what we should have acquired had such a reporter been found for the
talk of other great men, has long since forgiven Boswell, and forgotten
also his baiting the doctor with questions on all points, his rebuffs
and his puttings down--'there is your _want_, sir; I will not be put to
the question;' his watching 'every dawning of communication from that
illuminated mind;' his eyes goggling with eagerness, the mouth dropt
open to catch every syllable, his ear almost on the shoulder of the
doctor, and the final burst of 'what do you do there, sir,--go to the
table, sir,--come back to your place, sir.'

And these conversations which he reported in his short-hand, yet 'so as
to keep the substance and language of discourse?' How far did he
Johnsonize the form or matter? The remark by Burke to Mackintosh, that
Johnson was greater in Boswell's books than in his own, the absence of
the terse and artistic touch to the sayings of the Rambler in the pages
of Hawkins, Thrale, Murphy and others, suggest inevitably that they have
been touched up by their reporter. The _Boswelliana_ supplies here some
slight confirmation of this, for there have been preserved in that
collection stories that reappear in the _Life_, and the final form in
which they appear in the later book is always that of a pointed and
improved nature. It would, therefore, seem that Boswell, whose
imitations of Johnson Mrs Thrale declared in some respects superior to
Garrick's, in his long devotion to the style and manner of his friend,
'inflated with the Johnsonian ether,' did consciously or otherwise add
much to the originals, and so has denied himself a share of what would
otherwise be justly, if known, set down to his credit.

'I own,' he writes in 1789 to Temple, 'I am desirous that my life should
tell.' He counted doubtless on the _Autobiography_ for this purpose. 'It
is a maxim with me,' said the great Bentley, 'that no man was ever
written out of reputation but by himself.' At first sight it would
appear that Boswell had inflicted upon his own fame an indelible blot.
From whom but himself should we ever have learned those failings, of
which Macaulay has deftly made so much in his unsympathetic writing down
of the man, after the manner of the Johnsonian attack on Milton and
Gray? In whom but himself should we detect the excrescences in his
works--the permutations and combinations in shaving, the wish for a
pulley in bed to raise him, his puzzle over the disproportionate wages
of footmen and maidservants, his boastings, his family pride, his
hastily writing in the sage's presence Johnson's parody of Hervey in the
_Meditations on a Pudding_, his superstitions, and his weaknesses? It is
this that has cost him so dear with the critics, and the superior
people, 'empty wearisome cuckoos, and doleful monotonous owls,
innumerable jays also and twittering sparrows of the housetops.' He
compares his own ideas to his handwriting, irregular and sprawling; his
nature to Corinthian brass, made up of an infinite variety of
ingredients, and his head to a tavern which might have been full of
lords drinking Burgundy, but has been invaded by low punch-drinkers whom
the landlord cannot expel. Blots and inequalities there are in the great
book. Cooper off the prairie, Galt out of Ayrshire, are not more untrue
to themselves than is Boswell at such moments. But 'within the focus of
the Lichfield lamps' he regains his strength like a Samson.

Boswell, with all his experience, never attained the mellow Sadduceeism
of the diner-out. As a reward, he never lost the literary conscience,
the capacity for labour, the assiduity and veracity that have set his
work upon a pedestal of its own. The dedication to Reynolds, a masterly
piece of writing, will shew the trouble that he took over his method,
'obliged to run half over London in order to fix a date correctly.' And
he knew the value of his work, which the man with the note-book never
does. In his moments of self-complacency he could compare his
_Johnsoniad_ with the _Odyssey_; and he will not repress his
'satisfaction in the consciousness of having largely provided for the
instruction and entertainment of mankind.' Literary models before him he
had none. Scott suggests the life of the philosopher Demophon in Lucian,
but Boswell was not likely to have known it. He modestly himself says he
has enlarged on the plan of Mason's _Life of Gray_; but his merits are
his own. For the history of the period it is, as Cardinal Duperron said
of Rabelais, _le livre_--_the_ book--'in worth as a book,' decides
Carlyle, 'beyond any other production of the eighteenth century.'

Time has dealt gently with both Johnson and Boswell. 'The chief glory of
every people,' said the former in the preface to his _Dictionary_
'arises from its authors: whether I shall add anything to the reputation
of English literature must be left to time.' In the constituency of the
present no dead writer addresses such an audience as Johnson does. Of
Johnson Boswell might have said, as Cervantes did of his great creation
Don Quixote, he and his subject were born for each other. There is no
greater figure, no more familiar face in our literature than 'the old
man eloquent'; and as the inseparable companion 'held in my heart of
hearts, whose fidelity and tenderness I consider as a great part of the
comforts which are yet left to me,' rises the figure of his biographer,
the Bozzy no more of countless follies and fatuities, but Boswell, the
prince of biographers, the inheritor of unfulfilled renown, now become,
like his hero himself, an ancient. And they are still in the heyday of
their great fame. Along the stream of time the little bark, as he hoped,
sails attendant, pursues the triumph and partakes the gale.

With James Boswell it has happened, as Mark Pattison says of Milton, to
have passed beyond the critics into a region of his own. That 'mighty
civil gentlewoman,' the mistress of the _Green Man_ at Ashbourne, M.
Killingley, who waited on him with the note of introduction to his
extensive acquaintance--'a singular favour conferr'd on one who has it
not in her power to make any other return but her most grateful thanks,
&c.,'--is but a symbol of the feelings of the readers who ever wish well
to the name and the fame of James Boswell.


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