This is the most unaccountable rhodomontade that I ever uttered. I am really dull at present, and my affectation to be clever, is exceedingly awkward. My manner resembles that of a footman who has got an ensign's commission, or a kept mistress who is made a wife.
I have not at any time been more insipid, more muddy, and more standing-water like than I am just now. The country is my aversion. It renders me quite torpid. Were you here just now, you would behold your vivacious friend a most stupid exhibition. It is very surprising that the country should affect me so; whether it be that the scenes to be met with there, fall infinitely short of my ideas of pastoral simplicity; or that I have acquired so strong a relish for the variety and hurry of a town life, as to languish in the stillness of retirement; or that the atmosphere is too moist and heavy, I shall not determine.
I have now pretty good hopes of getting soon into the guards, that gay scene of life of which I have been so long and so violently enamoured. Surely this will cause you to rejoice.
I have lately had the pleasure and the pride of receiving a most brilliant epistle from Lady B——. It excels Captain Andrew's letters by many degrees. I have picked as many diamonds out of it, as to make me a complete set of buckles; I have turned so much of it into brocade waistcoats, and so much into a very rich suit of embroidered horse-furniture. I know how unequal I am to the task of answering it; nevertheless present her Ladyship with the inclosed. It may amuse her a little. It is better to have two shillings in the pound, than nothing at all.
I was really shocked at the lethargy of our correspondence. Let it now be renovated with increase of spirit, so that I may not only subscribe myself your sincere friend, but your witty companion,
* * * * *
New-Tarbat, May 1, 1762.
Well then, my friend, you leave the bar, Resolv'd on drums, on dress, and war, While fancy paints in liveliest hues, Swords, sashes, shoulder-knots, reviews, You quit the study of the laws, And show a blade in Britain's cause, Of length to throw into a trance, The frighten'd kings of Spain and France! A hat of fiercest cock is sought, And your cockade's already bought, While on your coat there beams a lace, That might a captain-general grace!
For me, who never show admir'd, Or very long ago was tir'd, I can with face unmov'd behold, A scarlet suit with glittering gold; And tho' a son of war and strife, Detest the listless languid life; Then coolly, Sir, I say repent, And in derision hold a tent; Leave not the sweet poetic band, To scold recruits, and pore on Bland, Our military books won't charm ye, Not even th' enchanting list o' th' army.
Trust me, 'twill be a foolish sight, To see you facing to the right; And then, of all your sense bereft, Returning back unto the left; Alas! what transport can you feel, In turning round on either heel? Much sooner would I choose indeed, To see you standing on your head; Or with your breeches off to rub Foul clothes, and dance within a tub.
[Footnote 42: Humphrey Bland, author of "Military Discipline," (1727). He served under the Duke of Marlborough. Was present also at the battles of Dettingen and Fontenoy. Became colonel of the Second Dragoon Guards.—ED.]
Besides, my dear Boswell, we find in all history ancient and modern, lawyers are very apt to run away. Demosthenes the Greek, writer to the signet, who managed the great suit against Philip of Macedon, fairly scoured off, I think, at the battle of Cheronea; and Cicero, the Roman advocate is universally accused of cowardice. I am not indeed ignorant that some of your ancestors behaved well at Flodden; but as they lost the day, I think the omen but bad, and as they were killed, I think that makes the omen still worse; however, perhaps you don't think so, and I allow that argument to be very convincing, and rather more conclusive, than if you had said, "I don't know that."
[Footnote 43: "Thomas Boswell obtained from James IV., as a signal mark of royal favour, the estate of Auchinleck. He was slain at Flodden."—"Memoir of James Boswell," by Rev. C. Rogers, p. 3.—ED.]
You complain much of the country, and you assign various reasons for disliking it; among others, you imagine the atmosphere too moist and heavy; I agree with you in that opinion, all the black clouds in the sky are continually pressing upon you, for as the proverb says, Like draws to like. Believe me, I have sometimes taken you at a distance, for the pillar of smoke which used to accompany the Israelites out of Egypt; it would be impossible to tell how many things I have taken you for at different times; sometimes I have taken you for the witches' cauldron in Macbeth; this resemblance was in some degree warranted by your figure and shape; sometimes for an enormous ink-bottle; sometimes for a funeral procession; now and then for a chimney sweeper, and not unfrequently for a black-pudding. For my part, Boswell, I must confess I am fond of the country to a degree; things there are not so artificially disguised as in towns, real sentiments are discovered, and the passions play naturally and without restraint. As for example, it was only in the country I could have found out Lady J——'s particular attachment to the tune of Appie Mac-Nab; in the town, no doubt, she would have pretended a great liking for Voi Amante; in the town, I never would have seen Lady B—— go out armed for fear of the Turkey-cock, which is her daily practice here, and leaves room for numberless reflections: she cannot eat Turkeys when roasted or boiled; and she dreads them when alive so much, that she displays every forenoon a cudgel to them, fitted by its size to strike terror into a bull, or a butting cow. What can her keeping of Turkeys be owing to? Assuredly to vanity, which is of such an insinuating nature, that we are apt very often to meet it where we least expect it; I have seen it in an old shoe, in a dirty shirt, in a long nose, a crooked leg, and a red face. So much it seemed good for me to say upon the subject of vanity, supporting by the most irrefragable arguments, the doctrine of Solomon.
We had a visit from Mr. C—— of S—— here this morning; he came in a chaise drawn by four bay horses; I am certain of the number, you may draw what inference you please from this intelligence, I give you only a simple narration of the fact. I am surprised you say nothing of my proposal of your coming here, and still more that you say nothing of your Cub. Why don't you send me a copy? We were all so much entertained with your letter to Lady B——, that I was really seized with a qualm of envy; we regard it as one of those efforts of genius, which are only produced by a fine flow of spirits, a beautiful day, and a good pen.
I pray you, Boswell, note well this sheet of paper, its size is magnificent: If Lady B—— was possessed of such an extent of plain ground, she would undoubtedly throw it into a lawn, and plant it with clumps of trees, she would vary it with fish-ponds, and render it rural with flocks; here, where I am writing, might a cow feed; here might be an arbour; here, perhaps, might you recline at full length; by the edge of this stream might the Captain walk, and in this corner, might Lady B—— give orders to her shepherds. I am drawn in the most irresistible manner to conclude, by the external impulse of the cloth's being laid, and by the internal impulse of being hungry. Believe me, Boswell, to be in the most unconscionable manner, your affectionate friend,
P.S.—I send you franks, which return filled with the utmost wit and humour.
* * * * *
Auchinleck, May 4, 1762.
For military operation I have a wondrous inclination; Ev'n when a boy, with cheerful glee, The red-coats march I used to see; With joy beheld the corporals drill, The men upon the Castle-hill; And at the sound of drum and fife, Felt an unusual flow of life. Besides, my honest friend, you know I am a little of a beau. I'm sure, my friend need not be told, That Boswell's hat was edg'd with gold; And that a shining bit of lace, My brownish-colour'd suit did grace; And that mankind my hair might see, Powder'd at least two days in three. My pinchbeck buckles are admir'd By all who are with taste inspir'd. Trophies of Gallic pride appear, The crown to every Frenchman dear, And the enchanting fleur de lis, The flower of flowers you must agree; While for variety's sweet sake, And witty Charles's tale to wake, The curious artist interweaves A twisted bunch of oaken leaves.
Tell me, dear Erskine, should not I My favourite path of fortune try? Our life, my friend, is very short, A little while is all we've for't; And he is blest who can beguile, With what he likes, that little while.
[Footnote 44: I have omitted the first eighty lines of this poem.—ED.]
My fondness for the guards must appear very strange to you, who have a rooted antipathy at the glare of scarlet. But I must inform you, that there is a city called London, for which I have as violent an affection as the most romantic lover ever had for his mistress. There a man may indeed soap his own beard, and enjoy whatever is to be had in this transitory state of things. Every agreeable whim may be freely indulged without censure. I hope, however, you will not impute my living in England, to the same cause for which Hamlet was advised to go there; because the people were all as mad as himself.
I long much for another of our long conversations on a fine forenoon, after breakfast, while the sun sheds light and gladness around us. Believe me,
* * * * *
Auchinleck, May 8, 1762.
Dear ERSKINE,—I should have wondered very much, had I been told of Lady J——'s particular attachment to the tune of Appie Mac-nab, two months ago: but I must inform you, that a few days before I left Edinburgh, having occasion to look into the advocates' library, I there chanced to turn up an old Roman song-book, and, to my great surprise, met with the individual air of Appie Mac-nab, which I discovered to be part of an original Patrician cantata on the daughter of the famous Appius, set for the Tibiae sinistrae. In a manuscript marginal note, it is said to have been composed by Tigellius the famous musician, whose death and character Horace takes occasion to entertain and instruct us with, in the second satire of his first Book. You see, therefore, that Lady J——'s taste for Italian music, cannot be called in question; and indeed, I think her liking Appie Mac-nab, is a very strong proof of it, as she certainly could not know its original. The Roman song-book, a very great curiosity, was brought from Rome some hundred years ago, by father Macdonald, an old popish priest, who left it as a legacy to the Duke of Gordon. It is probable, that some musician in the North of Scotland, has transcribed the Appian cantata from it, and giving its principal air a Scottish turn, and adapting proper words to it, has produced the vulgar ballad of Appie Mac-nab.
Lady B——'s terror for the Turkey-cock, diverts me extremely. Did they but come to an engagement, how noble must it be! The idea makes a strong impression on my fancy. I shall certainly write something astonishing upon it.
This charming weather has reconciled me to the country. It enlivens me exceedingly. I am cheerful and happy. I have been wandering by myself, all this forenoon, through the sweetest place in the world. The sunshine is mild, the breeze is gentle, my mind is peaceful. I am indulging the most agreeable reveries imaginable. I am thinking of the brilliant scenes of happiness, which I shall enjoy as an officer of the guards. How I shall be acquainted with all the grandeur of a court, and all the elegance of dress and diversions; become a favourite of ministers of state, and the adoration of ladies of quality, beauty, and fortune! How many parties of pleasure shall I have in town! How many fine jaunts to the noble seats of dukes, lords, and members of parliament in the country! I am thinking of the perfect knowledge which I shall acquire of men and manners, of the intimacies which I shall have the honour to form with the learned and ingenious in every science, and of the many amusing literary anecdotes which I shall pick up. I am thinking of making the tour of Europe, and feasting on the delicious prospects of Italy and France; of feeling all the transports of a bard at Rome, and writing noble poems on the banks of the Tiber. I am thinking of the distinguished honours which I shall receive at every foreign court, and of what infinite service I shall be to all my countrymen upon their travels. I am thinking of returning to England, of getting into the house of commons, of speaking still better than Mr. Pitt, and of being made principal secretary of state. I am thinking of having a regiment of guards, and of making a glorious stand against an invasion by the Spaniards. I am thinking how I shall marry a lady of the highest distinction, with a fortune of a hundred thousand pounds. I am thinking of my flourishing family of children; how my sons shall be men of sense and spirit, and my daughters women of beauty, and every amiable perfection. I am thinking of the prodigious respect which I shall receive, of the splendid books which will be dedicated to me, and the statues which will be erected to my immortal honour.
I am thinking that my mind is too delicate, and my feelings too fine for the rough bustle of life; I am therefore thinking that I shall steal silently and unperceived through the world; that I shall pass the winter in London, much in the same way that the Spectator describes himself to have done; and in summer, shall live sometimes here at home; sometimes in such a pleasing retirement as Mrs. Row beautifully paints in her letters moral and entertaining. I like that book much. I read it when I was very young, and I am persuaded, that it contributed to improve my tender imagination. I am thinking that I shall feel my frame too delicate for the British Climate. I am thinking that I shall go and live in one of the most pleasant provincial towns in the South of France, where I shall be blest with constant felicity. This is a scheme to which I could give vast praise, were I near the beginning of my letter; but as that is very far from being the case, I must reserve it for a future epistle.
[Footnote 45: "Letters, Moral and Entertaining, in Prose and Verse," by Elizabeth Rowe.—ED.]
I am glad to find you are so anxious to hear about the Cub at Newmarket, Love me, love my Cub. However, I can tell you nothing about him. Dodsley has not yet sent me a copy.
Derrick, a London author, whom you have heard me mention, has sent me his versifications of the battle of Lora, and some of the Erse fragments. If you want to see them, let me have some franks.
[Footnote 46: "Pray, Sir," said Mr. Morgann to Johnson, "whether do you reckon Derrick or Smart the best poet?" Johnson at once felt himself roused; and answered, "Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea." Boswell's "Life of Johnson." Date of March 30th, 1783.—ED.]
I shall be at Dumfries soon, where I hope to see my friend Johnston. We will talk much of old Scotch history, and the memory of former years will warm our hearts. We will also talk of Captain Andrew, with whom we have passed many a pleasant hour. Johnston is a very worthy fellow: I may safely say so; for I have lived in intimacy with him more years than the Egyptian famine lasted.
And now, O most renowned of Captains! having fairly written myself out of pen, ink, and paper, I conclude with my usual epithet, of
Your affectionate friend,
* * * * *
New-Tarbat, May 13, 1762.
Dear BOSWELL,—Your first epistle being of a length which modern letters seldom attain to, surprised me very much; but at the sight of your second, consisting of such an exuberant number of sheets, I was no less amazed than if I had wakened at three o'clock in the morning, and found myself fast clasped in the arms of the empress Queen; or if I had found myself at the mouth of the river Nile, half-eaten by a crocodile; or if I had found myself ascending the fatal ladder in the Grass-market at Edinburgh, and Mr. Alexander Donaldson the hangman. To confess a truth, I imagine your funds for letter-writing are quite inexhaustible; and that the fire of your fancy, like the coal at Newcastle, will never be burnt out; indeed, I look upon you in the light of an old stocking, in which we have no sooner mended one hole, than out starts another; or I think you are like a fertile woman, who is hardly delivered of one child, before slap she is five months gone with a second. I need not tell you your letters are entertaining; I might as well acquaint King George the Third, that he is sovereign of Great Britain, or gravely disclose to my servant, that his name is William. It is superfluous to inform people of what it is impossible they should not know.
You think you have a knack of story-telling, but there you must yield to me, if you hearken attentively to what I am about to disclose, you will be convinced; it is a tale, my dear Boswell, which whether we consider the turnings and windings of fortune, or the sadness of the catastrophe, is delightful and improving.—You demand of me, Sir, a faithful recital of the events which have distinguished my life. Though the remembrance of every misfortune which can depress human nature, must be painful; yet the commands of such a revered friend as James Boswell must be obeyed; and Oh, Sir! if you find any of my actions blamable, impute them to destiny, and if you find any of them commendable, impute them to my good sense. I am about fifty years of age, grief makes me look as if I was fourscore; thirty years ago I was a great deal younger; and about twenty years before that, I was just born; as I find nothing remarkable in my life, before that event, I shall date my history from that period; some omens happened at my birth: Mr. Oman at Leith was married at that time; this was thought very portentous; the very day my mother was brought to bed of me, the cat was delivered of three kittens; but the world was soon bereaved of them by death, and I had not the pleasure of passing my infancy with such amiable companions; this was my first misfortune, and no subsequent one ever touched me more nearly; delightful innocents! methinks, I still see them playing with their tails, and galloping after corks; with what a becoming gravity did they wash their faces! how melodious was their purring! From them I derived any little taste I have for music; I composed an Ode upon their death; as it was my first attempt in poetry, I write it for your perusal; you will perceive the marks of genius in the first production of MY TENDER IMAGINATION; and you will shed a tear of applause and sorrow, on the remains of those animals, so dear to the premature years of your mourning and lamenting friend.
ON THE DEATH OF THREE KITTENS.
Attend, ye watchful cats, Attend the ever lamentable strain; For cruel death, most kind to rats, Has kill'd the sweetest of the kitten-train.
How pleas'd did I survey, Your beauteous whiskers as they daily grew, I mark'd your eyes that beam'd so grey, But little thought that nine lives were too few.
It was delight to see My lovely kittens three, When after corks through all the room they flew, When oft in gamesome guise they did their tails pursue. When thro' the house, You hardly, hardly, heard a mouse; And every rat lay snug and still, And quiet as a thief in mill; But cursed death has with a blow, Laid all my hopes low, low, low, low: Had that foul fiend the least compassion known; I should not now lament my beauteous kittens gone.
You have often wondered what made me such a miserable spectacle; grief for the death of my kittens, has wrought the most wonderful effects upon me; grief has drawn my teeth, pulled out my hair, hollowed my eyes, bent my back, crooked my legs, and marked my face with the small-pox; but I give over this subject, seeing it will have too great a hold of your tender imagination: I find myself too much agitated with melancholy to proceed any longer in my life to-day; the weather also is extremely bad, and a thousand mournful ideas rush into my mind; I am totally overpowered with them; I will now disburden myself to you, and set down each sad thought as it occurs.
I am thinking how I will never get a clean shirt to my back; how my coat will always be out at the elbows; and how I never will get my breeches to stay up. I am thinking how I will be married to a shrew of a wife, who will beat me every evening and morning, and sometimes in the middle of the day. I am thinking what a d——d w—— she will be, and how my children will be most of them hanged, and whipped through towns, and burnt in the hand. I am thinking of what execrable poems I will write; and how I will be thrown into prison for debt; and how I will never get out again; and how nobody will pity me. I am thinking how hungry I will be; and how little I will get to eat; and how I'll long for a piece of roast-beef; and how they'll bring me a rotten turnip. And I am thinking how I will take a consumption, and waste away inch by inch; and how I'll grow very fat and unwieldy, and won't be able to stir out of my chair. And I am thinking how I'll be roasted by the Portuguese inquisition; and how I'll be impaled by the Turks; and how I'll be eaten by Cannibals; and how I'll be drowned on a voyage to the East Indies; and how I'll be robbed and murdered by a highwayman; and how I'll lose my senses; and how very mad I'll be; and how my body will be thrown out to dogs to devour; and how I'll be hanged, drawn, and quartered; and how my friend Boswell will neglect me; and how I'll be despised by the whole world; and how I will meet with ten thousand misfortunes worse than the loss of my kittens.
Thus have I, in a brief manner, related a few of the calamities which, in the present disposition of my mind, appear so dreadful; I could have enlarged the catalogue, but your heart is too susceptible of pity, and I will not shock you altogether. You will doubtless remark the great inequality of our fortunes. In your last letter, you was the happiest man I was ever acquainted with; I wish it may last, and that your children may have as much merit as you imagine; I only hope you won't plan a marriage with any of mine, their dispositions will be so unlike, that it must prove unhappy.
Pray send me Derrick's versifications, which though they are undoubtedly very bad, I shall be glad to see, as sometimes people take a pleasure in beholding a man hanged. And now, Boswell, I am going to end my letter, which being very short, I know will please you, as you will think you have gained a complete victory over the captain, seeing that you are several sheets a-head of me; but times may alter, and when I resume my adventures, you will find yourself sorely defeated; believe me,
* * * * *
New-Tarbat, May 25, 1762.
Dear BOSWELL,—It has been said, that few people succeed both in poetry and prose. Homer's prose essay on the gun-powder-plot, is reckoned by all critics inferior to the Iliad; and Warburton's rhyming satire on the methodists is allowed by all to be superior to his prosaical notes on Pope's works. Let it be mine to unite the excellencies both of prose and verse in my inimitable epistles. From this day, my prose shall have a smack of verse, and my verse have a smack of prose. I'll give you a specimen of both—My servant addresses me in these words, very often—
The roll is butter'd, and the kettle boil'd, Your honour's newest coat with grease is soil'd; In your best breeches glares a mighty hole, Your wash-ball and pomatum, Sir, are stole. Your tailor, Sir, must payment have, that's plain, He call'd to-day, and said he'd call again.
There's prosaic poetry; now for poetic prose—Universal genius is a wide and diffused stream that waters the country and makes it agreeable; 'tis true, it cannot receive ships of any burden, therefore it is of no solid advantage, yet is it very amusing. Gondolas and painted barges float upon its surface, the country gentleman forms it into ponds, and it is spouted out of the mouths of various statues; it strays through the finest fields, and its banks nourish the most blooming flowers. Let me sport with this stream of science, wind along the vale, and glide through the trees, foam down the mountain, and sparkle in the sunny ray; but let me avoid the deep, nor lose myself in the vast profound, and grant that I may never be pent in the bottom of a dreary cave, or be so unfortunate as to stagnate in some unwholesome marsh. Limited genius is a pump-well, very useful in all the common occurrences of life, the water drawn from it is of service to the maids in washing their aprons; it boils beef, and it scours the stairs; it is poured into the tea-kettles of the ladies, and into the punch-bowls of the gentlemen.
Having thus given you, in the most clear and distinct manner, my sentiments of genius, I proceed to give you my opinion of the ancient and modern writers; a subject, you must confess, very aptly and naturally introduced. I am going to be very serious, you will trace a resemblance between me and Sir William Temple, or perhaps David Hume, Esq.
[Footnote 47: Temple wrote "An Essay upon Ancient and Modern Learning."—ED.]
A modern writer must content himself with gleaning a few thoughts here and there, and binding them together without order or regularity, that the variety may please; the ancients have reaped the full of the harvest, and killed the noblest of the game: in vain do we beat about the once plenteous fields, the dews are exhaled, no scent remains. How glorious was the fate of the early writers! born in the infancy of letters; their task was to reject thoughts more than to seek after them, and to select out of a number, the most shining, the most striking, and the most susceptible of ornament. The poet saw in his walks every pleasing object of nature undescribed; his heart danced with the gale, and his spirits shone with the invigorating sun, his works breathed nothing but rapture and enthusiasm. Love then spoke with its genuine voice, the breast was melted down with woe, the whole soul was dissolved into pity with its tender complaints; free from the conceits and quibbles which, since that time, have rendered the very name of it ridiculous; real passion heaved the sigh; real passion uttered the most prevailing language. Music too reigned in its full force; that soft deluding art, whose pathetic strains so gently steal into our very souls, and involve us in the sweetest confusion; or whose animating strains fire us even to madness: how has the shore of Greece echoed with the wildest sounds; the delicious warblings of the Lyre charmed and astonished every ear. The blaze of rhetoric then burst forth; the ancients sought not by false thoughts, and glittering diction, to captivate the ear, but by manly and energetic modes of expression, to rule the heart and sway the passions.
[Footnote 48: "The most ancient poets are considered as the best ... whether the first writers took possession of the most striking objects for description, and the most probable occurrences for fiction, and left nothing to those that followed them but transcription of the same events, and new combinations of the same images."—"Rasselas," chapter x.—ED.]
There, Boswell, there are periods for you. Did you not imagine that you was reading "The Rambler" of Mr. Samuel Johnson; or that Mr. Thomas Sheridan himself was resounding the praises of the ancients, and his own art? I shall now finish this letter without the least blaze of rhetoric, and with no very manly or energetic mode of expression, assure you, that I am,
[Footnote 49: Thomas Sheridan, the father of R.B. Sheridan, was about this time lecturing on Oratory. "He knows that I laugh at his oratory," Johnson once said to Boswell.—ED.]
* * * * *
Auchinleck, June 1, 1762.
At length, O Erskine! Lady B—— and the Turkey-cock are sung in strains sublime. I have finished an ode. Receive it with reverence. It is one of the greatest productions of the human mind. Just that sort of composition which we form an awful and ravishing conception of, in those divine moments, when the soul (to use a bold metaphor) is in full blow, and soaring fancy reaches its utmost heights. Could it but be really personified—it would be like Saul of old, taller than any of the people, and were it to be guilty of a capital crime, it could not enjoy one of the greatest privileges of a British subject, to be tried by its Peers.
[Footnote 50: The Ode is not worth reprinting.—ED.]
I am sure that my ode is great. Mr. James Bruce the gardener, my faithful counsellor and very excellent companion, declares it is quite to his mind. He stood by me while I took my portrait of the cock, from a large one which struts upon the green. I shall be in Edinburgh in a few days; for which reason, I remain your affectionate friend,
* * * * *
New-Tarbat, June 5, 1762.
Dear BOSWELL,—The first idea of our correspondence was not yours; for, many months before you addressed me, I wrote you the following letter at Fort George, where you may remember our acquaintance commenced. You'll observe that some of the stanzas are parodies on Gray's Elegy in a Church-yard, I use the liberty to mark them. I stood too much in awe of you, to send it when it was written, and I am too much at my ease now, to be withheld any longer from presenting you with it.
I am, Sir,
With the greatest respect and esteem,
Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,
[Footnote 51: These stanzas are nearly as bad as Boswell's Ode, and, like it, are not worth reprinting.—ED.]
* * * * *
Auchinleck, June 9, 1762.
Dear ERSKINE,—At this delightful season of the year, when everything is cheerful and gay, when the groves are all rich with leaves, the gardens with flowers, and the orchards with blossoms, one would think it almost impossible to be unhappy; yet such is my hard fate at present, that instead of relishing the beautiful appearance of nature, instead of participating the universal joy, I rather look upon it with aversion, as it exhibits a strong contrast to the cloudy darkness of my mind, and so gives me a more dismal view of my own situation. Fancy, capricious fancy will allow me to see nothing but shade. How strange is it to think, that I who lately abounded in bliss, should now be the slave of black melancholy! How unaccountable does it appear to the reasoning mind that this change should be produced without any visible cause. However, since I have been seized with the pale cast of thought, I know not how, I comfort myself, that I shall get free of it as whimsically. You must excuse this piece of serious sententiousness; for it has relieved me; and you may look upon it as much the same with coughing before one begins to sing, or deliver anything in public, in order that the voice may be as clear as possible.
The death of your kittens, my dear Erskine! affected me very much. I could wish that you would form it into a tragedy, as the story is extremely pathetic, and could not fail greatly to interest the tender passions. If you have any doubts as to the propriety of their being three in number, I beg it of you to reflect that the immortal Shakespeare has introduced three daughters into his tragedy of King Lear, which has often drawn tears from the eyes of multitudes. The same author has likewise begun his tragedy of Macbeth with three witches; and Mr. Alexander Donaldson has resolved, that his collection of original poems by Scotch gentlemen, shall consist of three volumes, and no more.
I don't know, indeed, but your affecting tale might better suit the intention of an opera, especially when we consider the musical genius of the feline race: were a sufficient number of these animals put under the tuition of proper masters, nobody can tell what an astonishing chorus might be produced. If this proposal shall be embraced, I make no doubt of its being the wonder of all Europe, and I remain,
Yours, as usual,
* * * * *
New-Tarbat, June 14, 1762.
AND are YOU gloomy! oh James Boswell! has your flow of spirits evaporated, and left nothing but the black dregs of melancholy behind? has the smile of cheerfulness left your countenance? and is the laugh of gaiety no more? oh woeful condition! oh wretched friend! but in this situation you are dear to me; for lately my disposition was exactly similar to yours. No conversation pleased me; no books could fix my attention; I could write no letters, and I despised my own poems. Tell me how you was affected; could you speak any? could you fix your thoughts upon anything but the dreary way you was in? and would not the sight of me have made you very miserable? I have lately had the epidemical distemper; I don't mean poverty, but that cold which they call the influenza, and which made its first appearance in London; whether it came to Scotland in the wagon, or travelled with a companion in a post-chaise, is quite uncertain.
[Footnote 52: "The time is wonderfully sickly; nothing but sore-throats, colds, and fevers." Horace Walpole, in a letter to George Montagu, April 29, 1762.—ED.]
Derrick's versifications are infamously bad; what think you of the Reviewers commending such an execrable performance? I have a fancy to write an ironical criticism upon it, and praise all the worst lines, which you shall send to Derrick, as the real sentiments of a gentleman of your acquaintance on reading his work. For want of something else to entertain you, I begin my criticism immediately.—To versify poetical prose has been found a very difficult task. Dr. Young and Mr. Langhorne, in their paraphrases upon the Bible (which Lord Bolingbroke tells us, is an excellent book) have succeeded but indifferently: I therefore took up Mr. Samuel Derrick's versifications from Fingal, with little expectation of being entertained; but let no man judge of a book till at least he reads the title page; for lo! Mr. Samuel Derrick has adorned his with a very apt and uncommon quotation, from a good old poet called Virgil. I am much pleased with the candour so conspicuous in the short advertisement to the public, in which Mr. Derrick seems very willing to run snacks in reputation with Mr. MacPherson, which will greatly rejoice that gentleman, who cannot justly boast of so extensive a fame as Mr. Samuel Derrick. The dedication is very elegant, though, I am apt to think, the author has neither praised Lord Pomfret nor himself enough; two worthy people, who, in my opinion, deserve it. But at last, we come to the poems themselves: and here I might indulge myself in warm and indiscriminate applause; but let it be my ambition to trace Mr. Derrick step by step through his wonderful work; let me pry both into the kitchen and dining-room of his genius, to use the comparison of the great Mr. Boyle. The first lines, or the exordium of the battle of Lora, are calmly sublime, and refined with simplicity. In the eighth line, our author gives the epithet of posting to the wind, which is very beautiful: however, to make it natural, it ought to be applied, in poetical justice, to that wind which wafts a packet-boat. I had almost forgot, the sixth line says, "the voice of songs, a tuneful voice I hear." Now, I should be glad to know, whether these same songs be a man or a woman. Lines 23 and 24.
"In secret round they glanc'd their kindled eyes, Their indignation spoke in bursting sighs."
It seems to me improbable, that a pair of kindled eyes could glance in secret; and I cannot think that sighs are the language of indignation. Lines 57, 58, 59.
"So on the settled sea blue mists arise, In vapory volumes darkening to the skies, They glitter in the sun."
These mists that glitter and are dark at the same time, are very extraordinary, and the contrast is lovely and new. Line 67th begins—"His post is terror."—This is a post, that, I believe, none of our members of Parliament would accept. Lines 175, 176,
"An hundred steeds he gives that own the rein, Never a swifter race devour'd the plain."
Devoured the plain! if this is not sublime, then am I no critic; however, its lucky for the landed interest, that the breed of those horses is lost; they might do very well, I confess, in the Highlands of Scotland; but a dozen of them turned loose near Salisbury would be inconceivably hurtful. I'm tired of this stuff; if you think it worth the while you may end it and send it to Derrick; but let your part be better than mine, or it won't do. "Grief for thy loss drank all my vitals dry"—I laughed heartily at that line.
In this letter I have bestowed my dulness freely upon you; you have had my wit, and you must take my stupidity into the bargain; as when we go to the market, we purchase bones as well as beef; and when we marry an heiress, we are obliged to take the woman as well as the money; and when we buy Donaldson's collection, we pay as dear for the poems of Mr. Lauchlan MacPherson, as we do for those written by the incomparable Captain Andrew.
[Footnote 53: "If I were as tedious as a king, I could find it in my heart to bestow it all of your worship."—"Much Ado about Nothing." Act iii., scene 5.—ED.]
You are in Edinburgh, I imagine, by this time, if the information of Mr. Alexander Donaldson may be depended upon. I shall be in town one night soon on my way to Kelly, for the H——s of D—— threaten an invasion upon this peaceful abode. Farewell.
* * * * *
Edinburgh, June 19, 1762.
Dear ERSKINE,—You have upon many occasions made rather too free with my person, upon which I have often told you that I principally value myself. I feel a strong inclination to retaliate. I have great opportunity, and I will not resist it. Your figure, Erskine, is amazingly uncouth. The length of your body bears no manner of proportion to its breadth, and far less does its breadth bear to its length. If we consider you one way, you are the tallest, and if we consider you another way, you are the thickest man alive. The crookedness of your back is terrible; but it is nothing in comparison of the frightful distortions of your countenance. What monsters have you been the cause of bringing into the world! not only the wives of sergeants and corporals of the 71st regiment, but the unhappy women in every town where you was quartered, by looking at you have conceived in horror. Natural defects should be spared; but I must not omit the large holes in your ears, and the deep marks of the iron on your hands. I hope you will allow these to be artificial. Nature nails no man's ears to the pillory. Nature burns no man in the hand. As I have a very sincere friendship for you, I cannot help giving you my best advice with regard to your future schemes of life. I would beseech you to lay aside all your chimerical projects, which have made you so absurd. You know very well, when you went upon the stage at Kingston in Jamaica, how shamefully you exposed yourself, and what disgrace and vexation you brought upon all your friends. You must remember what sort of treatment you met with, when you went and offered yourself to be one of the fathers of the inquisition at Macerata, in the room of Mr. Archibald Bower; a project which could enter into the head of no man who was not utterly destitute of common sense.
[Footnote 54: The author of the "History of the Popes." He had been a professor in the University of Macerata, and a Counsellor of the Inquisition. He became a Protestant, and died in England.—ED.]
You tell me, that your intention at present is, to take orders in the Church of England; and you hope I will approve of your plan: but I must tell you honestly, that this is a most ridiculous hair-brained conceit. Before you can be qualified for the smallest living, you must study nine years at Oxford; you must eat at a moderate computation, threescore of fat beeves, and upwards of two hundred sheep; you must consume a thousand stone of bread, and swallow ninety hogsheads of porter. You flatter yourself with being highly promoted, because you are an Earl's brother, and a man of genius. But, my dear friend, I beg it of you to consider, how little these advantages have already availed you. The army was as good a scene for you to rise in as the church can be; and yet you are only a lieutenant in a very young regiment.
I seriously think, that your most rational scheme should be, to turn inn-keeper upon some of the great roads: you might have an elegant sign painted of Apollo and the Muses, and entertainment for men and horses, by THE HONOURABLE ANDREW ERSKINE, would be something very unusual, and could not fail to bring numbers of people to your house. You would by this means have a life of most pleasing indolence, and would never want a variety of company, as you would constantly dine and sup with your guests. Men of fashion would be glad to receive you as their equal; and men of no fashion would be proud to sit at table with one who had any pretension to nobility. I hope the honest concern which I shew for your real welfare, will convince you how much I am,
My dear Sir,
Your most affectionate friend,
* * * * *
Kelly, July 5, 1762.
Dear BOSWELL,—Vanity has, in all former ages, been reckoned the characteristic of poets; in our time, I think they are more particularly distinguished by modesty; I have carefully perused their works, and I have never once found them throwing out either thought, sentiment, or reflection of their own; convincing proof of their humility; they seem all to allow that the ancients, and some few of the earlier moderns, were much better writers than themselves; therefore they beg, borrow, and steal from them, without the smallest mercy or hesitation. In some things, however, they are quite original; their margins and prices are larger than any ever known before; and they advertise their pieces much oftener in the newspapers than any of their predecessors. You compliment me highly on my elegies, and tell me that I have even dared to be original now and then; and you ask me very seriously, how I come to be so well acquainted with the tender passion of love.—Ah, Sir, how deceitful are appearances! under a forbidding aspect and uncouth form, I conceal the soul of an Oroondates, a soul that thrills with the most sensible emotions at the sight of beauty. Love easily finds access where the mind is naturally inclined to melancholy; we foster the pleasing delusion, it grows up with our frame, and becomes a part of our being; long have I laboured under the influence of that passion; long vented my grief in unavailing sighs. Besides, your thin meagre man is always the most violent lover; a thousand delusions enter his paper-skull, which the man of guts never dreams of. In vain does Cupid shoot his arrows at the plump existence, who is entrenched in a solid wall of fat: they are buried like shrimps in melted butter; as eggs are preserved by mutton-tallow, from rottenness and putrefaction, so he, by his grease, is preserved from love. Pleased with his pipe, he sits and smokes in his elbow-chair; totally unknown to him is the ardent passion that actuates the sentimental soul: alas! unhappy man! he never indulged in the pleasing reverie which inspires the spindle-shanked lover, as he strays through nodding forest by gliding stream; if he marries, he chooses a companion fat as himself; they lie together, and most musical is their snore, they melt like two pounds of butter in one plate in a sunshiny-day.
Pray, Boswell, remember me kindly to honest Johnston. Let me know if his trees are growing well, at his paternal estate of Grange; if he is as fond of Melvil's Memoirs as he used to be; and if he continues to stretch himself in the sun upon the mountains near Edinburgh.
I ever am,
Yours most affectionately,
[Footnote 55: Sir James Melville. Born 1535, died 1607. His "Memoirs" were published in 1683.—ED.]
* * * * *
Kelly, July 6, 1762.
Dear BOSWELL,—Nothing happened during my journey; I arrived in Aberdeen on Thursday last; the town is really neater, cleaner, and better than you would imagine; but the country around is dismal; long gloomy moors, and the extended ocean, are the only prospects that present themselves; the whole region seems as if made in direct opposition to descriptive poetry. You meet here with none of the lengthened meads, sunny vales and dashing streams, that brighten in the raptured poet's eye; however, as I believe you have been here, I shall trouble you with no farther descriptions.
Never was parting more tender than that of mine with George Robertson the postilion, and the Kelly chaise at Dundee water-side; we formed as dolorous a trio as then existed upon the face of this valley of tears. Oh George! Oh! Erskine! were the cries that echoed across the waves, and along the mountains.
Tears trickled down the rugged boatman's face, An unpaid freight he thought no harder case; The seals no longer sported in the sea, While ev'ry bell rung mournful in Dundee, Huge ploughmen wept, and stranger still, 'tis said, So strong is sympathy, that asses bray'd.
Farewell, lovely George, I roared out, and oh! if you should happen to be dry, for such is the nature of sorrow, take this shilling, and spend it in the sugared ale, or the wind-expelling dram: with sweet reluctance he put forth his milk-white hand, cold with clammy sweat, and with a faltering voice, feebly thanked me. Oh! I shall never forget my emotions when he drove from me, and the chaise lessened in my view; now it whirled sublime along the mountain's edge; now, I scarcely saw the head of George nodding in the vale. Thus, on the summit of a craggy cliff, which high overlooks the resounding waves, Jean, Susan, or Nell, sees in a boat her lovely sailor, who has been torn from her arms by a cruel press-gang; now it climbs the highest seas; now it is buried between two billows, and vanishes from her sight. Weep not, sweet maid, he shall return loaded with honours; a gold watch shall grace each fob, a pair of silver buckles shall shine resplendent upon his shoes, and a silk handkerchief shall be tied around his neck, which soon shall cover thy snowy bosom.
When the chaise was totally lost, and my breast was distracted with a thousand different passions; all of a sudden I broke out into the following soliloquy.—Surely, surely mortal man is a chaise: now trailing through the heavy sand of indolence, anon jolted to death upon the rough road of discontent; and shortly after sunk in the deep rut of low spirits; now galloping on the post-road of expectation, and immediately after, trotting on the stony one of disappointment; but the days of our driving soon cease, our shafts break, our leather rots, and we tumble into a hole.
* * * * *
Kelly, July 7, 1762.
Dear BOSWELL,—I imagined, that by ceasing to write to you for some time, I should be able to lay up a stock of materials, enough to astonish you, and that, like a river damm'd up, when let loose, I should flow on with unusual rapidity; or like a man, who has not beat his wife for a fortnight, I should cudgel you with my wit for hours together; but I find the contrary of all this is the case; I resemble a person long absent from his native country, of which he has formed a thousand endearing ideas, and to which he at last returns; but alas! he beholds with sorrowful eyes, everything changed for the worse; the town where he was born, which used to have two snows and three sloops trading to all parts of the known world, is not now master of two fishing-boats; the steeple of the church, where he used to sleep in his youth, is rent with lightning; and the girl on whom he had placed his early affections, has had three bastard children, and is just going to be delivered of a fourth; or I resemble a man who has had a fine waistcoat lying long in the very bottom of a chest, which he is determined shall be put on at the hunter's ball; but woe's me, the lace is tarnished, and the moths have devoured it in a melancholy manner; these few similies may serve to shew, that this letter has little chance of being a good one; yet they don't make the affair certain. Prince Ferdinand beat the French at Minden; Sheridan, in his lectures, sometimes spoke sense; and John Home wrote one good play. I have read Lord Kames's Elements, and agree very heartily with the opinion of the Critical Reviewers; however, I could often have wished, that his Lordship had been less obscure, or that I had had more penetration; he praises the Mourning Bride excessively, which, nevertheless, I can not help thinking a very indifferent play; the plot wild and improbable, and the language infinitely too high and swelling. It is curious to see the opinions of the Reviewers concerning you and me; they take you for a poor distressed gentleman, writing for bread, and me for a very impudent Irishman; whereas you are heir to a thousand a year, and I am one of the most bashful Scotchmen that ever appeared! I confess, indeed, my bashfulness does not appear in my works, for them I print in the most impudent manner; being exceeded in that respect by nobody but James Boswell, Esq.
Yours, &c., ANDREW ERSKINE.
[Footnote 56: A snow (Low-German, snau; High-German, schnau) is a small vessel with beaked or snout-like bows, according to Wedgewood. But more probably it takes its name from the triangular shape of its sails.—Schnauzegel, a trysail.—ED.]
[Footnote 57: "As we sat over our tea, Mr. Home's tragedy of Douglas was mentioned. I put Dr. Johnson in mind that once, in a coffee-house at Oxford, he called to old Mr. Sheridan, 'how came you, Sir, to give Home a gold medal for writing that foolish play?'" Boswell's "Tour to the Hebrides." Date of October 26, 1773.—ED.]
[Footnote 58: "The Elements of Criticism," by Henry Home, Lord Kames. "Sir," said Johnson, "this book is a pretty essay and deserves to be held in some estimation though much of it is chimerical!" Boswell's "Life of Johnson." Date of May 16, 1763.—ED.]
[Footnote 59: "In this play there is more bustle than sentiment; the plot is busy and intricate, and the events take hold on the attention; but, except a very few passages, we are rather amused with noise, and perplexed with stratagem, than entertained with any true delineation of natural characters."—Johnson's "Lives of the Poets."—ED.]
* * * * *
Kames, October 19, 1762.
Dear ERSKINE,—In my own name, and in the name of Lord Kames, I desire to see you here immediately. I have been reading the "Elements of Criticism." You and the Reviewers have pronounced enough of serious panegyric on that book. In my opinion, it has the good properties of all the four elements. It has the solidity of earth, the pureness of air, the glow of fire, and the clearness of water. The language is excellent, and sometimes rises to so noble a pitch, that I exclaim, in imitation of Zanga in the Revenge,
"I like this roaring of the Elements."
[Footnote 60: "The Revenge," a tragedy, by Edward Young, author of "Night Thoughts."—ED.]
If this does not bring you, nothing will; and so, Sir, I continue,
Yours as usual,
* * * * *
Kelly, October 28, 1762.
Dear BOSWELL,—How shall I begin? what species of apology shall I make? the truth is, I really could not write, my spirits have been depressed so unaccountably. I have had whole mountains of lead pressing me down: you would have thought that five Dutchmen had been riding on my back, ever since I saw you; or that I had been covered with ten thousand folios of controversial divinity; you would have imagined that I was crammed in the most dense part of a plumb-pudding, or steeped in a hogshead of thick English Port. Heavens! is it possible, that a man of some fame for joking, possessed of no unlaughable talent in punning, and endued with no contemptible degree of liveliness in letter-writing, should all of a sudden have become more impenetrably stupid than a Hottentot legislator, or a moderator of the general assembly of the Kirk of Scotland. By that smile which enlivens your black countenance, like a farthing candle in a dark cellar, I perceive I am pardoned; indeed I expected no less; for, I believe, if a sword was to run you through the body, or a rope was to hang you, you would forget and forgive: you are at Kames just now, very happy, I suppose; your letter seems to come from a man in excellent spirits; I am very unequal at present to the task of writing an answer to it, but I was resolved to delay no longer, lest you should think I neglected you wilfully; a thought, I'm sure, you never shall have occasion to entertain of me, though the mist of dulness should for ever obscure and envelope my fancy and imagination. I cannot think of coming to Kames, yet I am sufficiently thankful for the invitation; my lowness would have a very bad effect in a cheerful society; it would be like a dead march in the midst of a hornpipe, or a mournful elegy in a collection of epigrams.
Farewell. Yours, &c.,
* * * * *
Parliament-Close, Nov. 10, 1762.
Dear ERSKINE,—All I have now to say, is to inform you, that I shall set out for London on Monday next, and to beg that you may not leave Edinburgh before that time.
My letters have often been carried to you over rising mountains and rolling seas. This pursues a simpler track, and under the tuition of a cadie, is transmitted from the Parliament-Close to the Canongate. Thus it is with human affairs; all is fluctuating, all is changing. Believe me,
[Footnote 61: "There is at Edinburgh a society or corporation of errand-boys, called 'cawdies,' who ply in the streets at night with paper lanthorns, and are very serviceable in carrying messages."—"Humphry Clinker," vol. ii., p. 240.—ED.]
* * * * *
London, Nov. 20, 1762.
Dear ERSKINE,—What sort of a letter shall I now write to you? Shall I cram it from top to bottom with tables of compound interest? with anecdotes of Queen Anne's wars? with excerpts from Robertson's history? or with long stories translated from Olaus Wormius?
[Footnote 62: A distinguished Danish historian and antiquary, "Known in the history of anatomy by the bones of the skull named after him ossa Wormiana."—ED.]
To pass four-and-twenty hours agreeably was still my favourite plan. I think at present that the mere contemplation of this amazing bustle of existence, is enough to make my four-and-twenty go merrily round. I went last night to Covent-Garden; and saw Woodward play Captain Bobadil; he is a very lively performer; but a little extravagant: I was too late for getting into Drury-Lane, where Garrick played King Lear. That inimitable actor is in as full glory as ever; like genuine wine, he improves by age, and possesses the steady and continued admiration even of the inconstant English.
[Footnote 63: In Ben Jonson's "Every Man in his Humour." This was thought to be Woodward's masterpiece.—ED.]
[Footnote 64: This is scarcely correct. Garrick's popularity was, at this time, falling off, and his theatre did not fill. "The profits of the following season," says Davies, "fell very short to those of the preceding years." At the close of the season he went abroad, and was away for nearly two years. In Rogers's "Table Talk," it is recorded—"Before his going abroad, Garrick's attraction had much decreased; Sir W.W. Pepys said that the pit was often almost empty. But, on his return to England, people were mad about seeing him." His popularity did not wane a second time.—ED.]
I don't know what to say to you about myself: if I can get into the Guards, it will please me much; if not, I can't help it. Perhaps you may hear of my turning Templar, and perhaps ranger of some of his Majesty's parks. It is not impossible but I may catch a little true poetic inspiration, and have my works splendidly printed at Strawberry-hill, under the benign influence of the Honourable Horace Walpole. You and I, Erskine, are, to be sure, somewhat vain. We have some reason too. The Reviewers gave great applause to your Odes to Indolence and Impudence; and they called my poems "agreeable light pieces," which was the very character I wished for. Had they said less, I should not have been satisfied; and had they said more, I should have thought it a burlesque.
[Footnote 65: Walpole always expressed the greatest contempt for Boswell. In one of his letters he says that "he is the ape of most of Johnson's faults, without a grain of his sense." In another letter he writes about "a jackanapes who has lately made a noise here, one Boswell, by anecdotes of Dr. Johnson." Improbable though it was that Boswell should catch a little true poetic inspiration, it was still more improbable that he should ever have a single one of his works printed at The Strawberry Press.—ED.]
What a fine animated prospect of life now spreads before me! Be assured, that my genius will be highly improved, and please yourself with the hopes of receiving letters still more entertaining. I ever am,
Your affectionate friend,
The following sketch of the Corsican War of Independence may, perhaps, enable the reader better to follow Boswell in his narrative, and in his description of Paoli's character. I have founded it chiefly on Boswell's own account, though I have, at the same time consulted other authorities. As an historical writer, in theory at least, he would scarcely satisfy the exact school of historians that has sprung up since his day. "I confess I am not," he says in his second chapter, "for humouring an inordinate avidity for positive evidence." He is speaking, however, about the origin of nations, and not about the wars of Corsica, which he describes at some length.
From about the beginning of the fourteenth century Corsica had belonged to the Republic of Genoa. The islanders had proved restive under the yoke of their hard masters, and more than once had risen in revolt. The Government of the Republic was, indeed, the worst of despotisms. A succession of infamous Governors—men who came to Corsica poor, and, after their two years of office, returned to Genoa rich—had cruelly oppressed the people. By their ill-gotten wealth, and by their interest in the Senate, they were able on their return to secure themselves against any inquiry into their conduct. The foreign trade of the islanders was almost ruined by a law which appointed Genoa as the sole port to which their products could be exported. The Corsicans, like many other mountaineers, had always been too much given up to private feuds. But it was charged against their Genoese masters, that, in their dread of union among their subjects, they themselves fomented dissentions. It was asserted in a petition presented to the King of France in 1738, that, under the last sixteen Governors, no less than 26,000 Corsicans had died by the hands of the assassin.
In the legal proceedings that followed on these deeds of bloodshed, the Genoese judges found their profit. Condemnation was often followed by confiscation of the criminal's estates; acquittal had often been preceded by a heavy bribe to the judge. Multitudes were condemned to the galleys on frivolous charges in the hope that they would purchase their freedom at a high price. The law was even worse than the judges. A man could be condemned to the galleys or to death on secret information, without being once confronted with his accusers, without undergoing any examination, without the observance of any formality of any kind in the sentence that was passed on him. The judge could either acquit the greatest criminal, or condemn a man of stainless character "ex informata conscientia, on the information of his own conscience, of which he was not obliged to give any account." He could at any time stop the course of justice, "by saying 'Non procedatur, let there be no process;' which could easily be cloaked under the pretence of some defect in point of form." When this atrocious law was at last abolished, Montesquieu wrote, "On a vu souvent des peuples demander des privileges; ici le souverain accorde le droit de toutes les nations." No wonder that Horace Walpole exclaimed more than twenty years before Boswell's book was published, "I hate the Genoese; they make a commonwealth the most devilish of all tyrannies!"
In 1729 the people rose once more against their rulers. It was the case of Wat Tyler over again. A tax-gatherer demanded a small sum—it was but about fivepence—of a poor old woman. Small as it was, she had not wherewithal to pay. He abused her, and seized some of her furniture. She raised an outcry. Her neighbours came flocking in and took her part. The tax-gatherer used threats, and was answered with a volley of stones. Troops were sent to support him in the execution of his office, and the people, in their turn, flew to their weapons. The revolt spread, and soon the whole island was in arms. The Genoese, as vassals of the Empire, sought the aid of their sovereign lord, the Emperor Charles the Sixth, who sent a strong body of troops to the island. The Corsicans were unable to resist, and "laid down their arms, upon condition that a treaty should be made between them and the Genoese, having for guarantee the Emperor." Hostages were sent by the islanders, to whom the Republic was inclined to show but scant respect. In fact, the Emperor's consent to their execution had been almost obtained, when the Prince of Wirtemberg, the commander of the imperial forces in Corsica, sent an express to Vienna, "with a very strong letter, representing how much the honour of Caesar would suffer, should he consent to the death of those who had surrendered themselves upon the faith of his sacred protection." The great Prince Eugene also spoke out, and for this time, Caesar's honour—at all events, all that was left of it—was saved.
The suspension of hostilities was but short; for neither was the cruelty of the Genoese, nor the hatred of the Corsicans easily confined within the limits of a treaty. "There is not," writes Boswell, "a Corsican child who can procure a little gun-powder, but he immediately sets fire to it, huzzas at the explosion, and, as if he had blown up the enemy, calls out, 'Ecco i Genovesi; there go the Genoese!'" In 1734, the whole island once more was in the flames of an insurrection. Giafferi and Giacinto Paoli, the father of the famous Pascal Paoli, were chosen as leaders. The Genoese hired Swiss mercenaries. They thought that against soldiers, brought up amidst the Alps, as these had been, the mountains of Corsica would provide no shelter for freedom. But the Swiss "soon saw that they had made a bad bargain, and that they gave the Genoese too much blood for their money." When at Lucerne we gaze at the noble monument set up by Switzerland in memory of her sons who were massacred in Paris, it is well at times to remember how the Swiss lion was at the hire of the very jackals of the world.
Genoa next published an indemnity to all her assassins and outlaws, on condition that they should fight for the Republic, in Corsica. "The robbers and assassins of Genoa," writes Boswell, "are no inconsiderable proportion of her people. These wretches flocked together from all quarters, and were formed into twelve companies." The Corsican chiefs called a general assembly, in which "On donna la Corse a la Vierge Marie, qui ne parut pas accepter cette couronne." They were not, however, to be left long without a king, for the following year one of the strangest adventurers whom the world has ever seen made a bid for the crown. He promised the islanders the support of the great powers, and, with their aid, he undertook, if he were made king, to clear Corsica of her enemies. Men whose fortunes are well-nigh desperate, are of easy faith, and the conditions of this poor German Baron were accepted.
[Footnote 66: Voltaire, "Precis du Siecle de Louis XV.," chapter xl.]
His name was Theodore. He was Baron Neuhof, in the county of La Marc, in Westphalia. Horace Walpole, who had seen him, describes him as "a comely, middle-sized man, very reserved, and affecting much dignity." Boswell says that "he was a man of abilities and address." He had served in the French army, and, later on, had travelled through Spain, Italy, England, and Holland, ever in search of some new adventure. He had passed over to Tunis, and, under pretence of conquering Corsica for that power, had obtained a supply of money and arms. In a ship of ten guns furnished by the Bey, but carrying the English flag, which Theodore had the impudence to raise, he sailed to Leghorn. There he sold the ship, and despatched his offers to the Corsican leaders.
He quickly passed over to the island. This was in the spring of 1736. "He was a man of a very stately appearance, and the Turkish dress which he wore, added to the dignity of his mien.... He had his guards, and his officers of state. He conferred titles of honour, and he struck money, both of silver and copper. There was such a curiosity over all Europe to have King Theodore's coins, that his silver coins were sold at four zechins each; and when the genuine ones were exhausted, imitations of them were made at Naples, and, like the imitations of antiques, were bought up at a high price, and carefully preserved in the cabinets of the virtuosi." He boasted of the immense treasures he had brought with him, and, as a proof, he scattered among the people fifty sequins in small coins of a debased or worn out currency. "Il donna des souliers de bon cuir, magnificence ignoree en Corse." He blockaded the seaport towns that were in the occupation of the Genoese. "He used to be sometimes at one siege, sometimes at another, standing with a telescope in his hand, as if he spied the assistance which he said he expected" from his allies, the other monarchs of Europe. Couriers, who had been despatched by himself, were constantly arriving from Leghorn, bringing him despatches, as he pretended, from the great powers. The Genoese set a price on his head. He replied in a manifesto, with all the calmness and dignity of an injured monarch.
At the end of eight months, he "perceived that the people began to cool in their affections towards him, and he therefore wisely determined to leave them for a little, and try his fortune again upon the continent." He went to Amsterdam, where he was thrown into prison for debt. But even in prison he made fresh dupes. He induced some merchants, particularly Jews, to pay his debts, and to furnish him with a ship, arms, and provisions. He undertook in return, that they, and they alone, should carry on the whole foreign trade of Corsica. When he reached the island he did not venture to land; but contented himself with disembarking his stores, and with putting to death the supercargo, "that he might not have any trouble from demands being made upon him." In the end he retired to London. "I believe I told you that King Theodore is here," wrote Horace Walpole in 1749, to Sir Horace Mann, our Envoy at Florence. "I am to drink coffee with him to-morrow at Lady Schaub's."
The rest of the story of this adventurer is so strange that, though it scarcely bears on Corsica, I shall venture to continue it. In the summer of the next year Walpole writes to his friend, "I believe I told you that one of your sovereigns, and an intimate friend of yours, King Theodore, is in the King's Bench prison." The unfortunate monarch languished there for some years. Walpole, with a kindliness which was natural to him, raised a subscription for his majesty. He advocated his cause in a paper in "The World," with the motto Date obolum Belisario. But he wrote to his former correspondent, "His majesty's character is so bad, that it only raised fifty pounds; and though that was so much above his desert, it was so much below his expectation, that he sent a solicitor to threaten the printer with a prosecution for having taken so much liberty with his name—take notice, too, that he had accepted the money! Dodsley, you may believe, laughed at the lawyer; but that does not lessen the dirty knavery.... I have done with countenancing kings." After he had remained in prison more than six years, "he took the benefit of the Act of Insolvency, and went to the Old Bailey for that purpose: in order to it, the person applying gives up all his effects to his creditors: his Majesty was asked what effects he had? He replied 'Nothing but the kingdom of Corsica;' and it was actually registered for the benefit of his creditors. As soon as Theodore was at liberty, he took a chair and went to the Portuguese Minister, but did not find him at home; not having sixpence to pay, he prevailed on the chairmen to carry him to a tailor he knew in Soho, whom he prevailed upon to harbour him; but he fell sick the next day, and died in three more." Walpole set up a stone in St. Ann's Churchyard, Soho, in memory of his majesty, with the following inscription:—
Near this place is interred Theodore, King of Corsica; Who died in this parish, Dec. 11, 1756, Immediately after leaving the King's Bench Prison, By the benefit of the Act of Insolvency: In consequence of which, he registered His Kingdom of Corsica For the use of his Creditors.
The Grave, great teacher, to a level brings, Heroes and beggars, galley-slaves and kings. But Theodore this moral learn'd, ere dead; Fate pour'd its lessons on his living head, Bestow'd a kingdom and denied him bread.
Disappointed though they were in their king, the Corsicans nevertheless carried on the war with spirit. They would, no doubt, have soon freed the whole island, had not the French come to the help of their oppressors. It was in vain that the islanders sent a memorial to the King of France. "If," said their spokesman to Louis XV., "your sovereign commands force us to yield to Genoa, well then, let us drink this bitter cup to the health of the most Christian king, and die." The king and the emperor acting together drew up articles of peace which seemed fair enough; but, as a preliminary, the Corsicans were to be disarmed. To this they refused to yield. Their leaders "published a spirited manifesto to their countrymen, concluding it with the noble sentiment of Judas Maccabeus: 'Melius est mori in bello quam videre mala gentis nostrae. It is better for us to die in battle than to behold the calamities of our people.'" The French dispatched an expedition to the assistance of the Genoese which utterly failed. The following year (1739) a more formidable expedition was sent under an able commander, the Marquis de Maillebois. He divided his forces into two bodies. Marching through the heart of the country each army carried devastation in its path. "He cut down the standing corn," writes Boswell, "the vines, the olives, set fire to the villages, and spread terror and desolation in every quarter. He hanged numbers of monks and others who were keenest in the revolt, and at the same time published, wherever he went, his terms of capitulation." In a few weeks, all but the wildest parts of the island were reduced. By the end of the next year there was not a single patriot left in arms.
In 1741 broke out the war of the Austrian Succession, and the French troops, which were needed elsewhere, were recalled. Once more the island rose; even young boys took the field. The Genoese were driven into the fortified towns. The Corsican leader Gaffori was besieging the Castle of Corte, when the defenders, making a sudden sally, seized his infant son, whom his nurse had thoughtlessly carried too near the walls. "The General," says Boswell, in language which strikes us as most odd, though, to the men of his time, it sounded perhaps natural enough, "showed a decent concern at this unhappy accident, which struck a damp into the whole army. The Genoese," he goes on to say, "thought they could have Gaffori upon their own terms, since they were possessed of so dear a pledge. When he advanced to make some cannon play, they held up his son, directly over that part of the wall against which his artillery was levelled. The Corsicans stopped, and began to draw back; but Gaffori, with the resolution of a Roman, stood at their head, and ordered them to continue the fire." The child escaped and lived to tell Boswell this curious story.
In 1745, England "not, as if from herself, but as complying with the request of her ally, the king of Sardinia," sent a squadron of ships to the assistance of the Corsicans. They came before Bastia on November 18th—three days, as it is worth while noticing, after the town of Carlisle had surrendered to the forces of the Young Pretender. "There was but little wind blowing, and the men of war had to be towed up by the long boats. The fortress of Bastia let fly first, and made a terrible fire, particularly against the commodore's ship, whose flag was beat down three times, and her main and mizen masts broke. The Commodore being exasperated immediately ordered the Castle to be cannonaded and bombarded, which was continued near two hours with extraordinary fury, when part of the wall was seen to tumble down." The place surrendered in a few days to the Corsicans. In the following year the patriots sent envoys to the English ambassador at Turin with proposals that Corsica should put herself entirely under the protection of Great Britain. No definite answer was given. In 1748 some English troops were landed in the island, but on the conclusion of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle they were withdrawn, and the Corsicans and Genoese were again left to fight out their own battles.
[Footnote 67: "The Gentleman's Magazine," vol. xv., p. 628.]
Five years later (1753) Gaffori, who had long held the office of sole general of the island, was carried off by assassination. "The murderers," says Boswell, "were set on by the Republic. At least, it is a fact that some of these wretches have still a miserable pension to support them, in the territory of Genoa." His place was filled by Pascal Paoli, the son of the old Corsican leader, who ever since the French invasion had lived with his boy in retirement at Naples. When the young man was sent for by his countrymen, his old father, "hoary and gray with years, fell on his neck and kissed him, gave him his blessing, and with a broken feeble voice, encouraged him in the undertaking on which he was entering: 'My son,' said he, 'I may, possibly, never see you more; but in my mind I shall ever be present with you. Your design is a great and a noble one; and I doubt not, but God will bless you in it.'"
Paoli's task was full of difficulties. In "the affairs of Corsica, he found the utmost disorder and confusion. There was no subordination, no discipline, no money, hardly any arms and ammunition; and, what was worse than all, little union among the people. He immediately began to remedy these defects. His persuasion and example had wonderful force. In a short time he drove the Genoese to the remotest corners of the island.... He, in a manner, new-modelled the government upon the soundest principles of democratical rule, which was always his favourite idea." He carried a law by which assassination was made capital on whatever pretence it had been committed. He set about establishing schools in every village, and he founded a University at Corte. Boswell writing to Temple in 1767 says, "I have received an elegant letter from the University of Corte, and also an extract of an oration pronounced this year at the opening of the University, in which oration I am celebrated in a manner which does me the greatest honour."
But the jealousy of France was again excited, and again she sent troops to the island. This was in 1764, nine years after Paoli had received the supreme command. Rousseau, full of indignation at this monstrous proceeding, thus expressed himself in a letter to a friend, "Il faut avouer que vos Francois, sont un peuple bien servile, bien vendu a la tyrannie, bien cruel, et bien acharne sur les malheureux. S'ils savoient un homme libre a l'autre bout du monde, je crois qu'ils iroient pour le seul plaisir de l'exterminer. It must be owned that your countrymen, the French, are a very servile nation, wholly sold to tyranny, exceedingly cruel and relentless in persecuting the unhappy. If they knew of a free man at the other end of the world I believe they would go thither for the mere pleasure of extirpating him." The French did not act on the offensive. They merely garrisoned certain towns, and professed to limit their occupation to the space of four years. It was in the second year of their occupation (1765) that Boswell visited the island.
At the end of the four years the Republic of Genoa ceded Corsica to the crown of France. In the cession there was a pretence of a reservation with which it is needless to trouble the reader. "Genoa," writes Voltaire, "made a good bargain, and France made a better." "Il restait a savoir," he added, "si les hommes ont le droit de vendre d'autres hommes, mais c'est une question qu'on n'examina jamais dans aucun traite." Negociations were opened with Paoli, but there was no common ground between the free chief of a free people and the despot who wished to enslave them. Paoli might have looked for high honours and rewards had he consented to enter the French service. He had the far greater and purer glory of resisting a King of France for nearly a whole year. No foreign power came to his aid. "A few Englishmen alone," wrote Voltaire, "full of love for that liberty which he upheld, sent him some money and arms." His troops were badly armed. Their muskets were not even furnished with bayonets. Their courage went some way to make up for their want of proper weapons. In one battle they piled up in front of them a rampart of their dead, and behind this bloody pile they loaded their pieces before they began their retreat.
But against the disciplined forces that France could bring, all resistance was in vain. "Poor brave Paoli!" wrote Horace Walpole, "but he is not disgraced. We, that have sat still and seen him overwhelmed, must answer it to history. Nay, the Mediterranean will taunt us in the very next war." Walpole wrote this letter but two months before the birth of Buonaparte. Had England, who has joined in many a worthless quarrel, struck in for the Corsicans, what a change might have been made in the history of the world! If Buonaparte had never been a citizen of France the name of Napoleon might be unknown. Paoli escaped in an English ship, and settled in England. Walpole met him one day at Court. "I could not believe it," he wrote, "when I was told who he was.... Nobody sure ever had an air so little foreign!... The simplicity of his whole appearance had not given me the slightest suspicion of anything remarkable in him."
Paoli remained in England, an honoured guest, for thirty years. In 1789 Mirabeau moved, in the National Assembly, the recall of all the Corsican patriots. Paoli went to Paris, where "he was received with enthusiastic veneration. The Assembly and the Royal Family contended which should show him most distinction." The king made him lieutenant-general and military commandant in Corsica. "He used the powers entrusted to him with great wisdom and moderation." The rapid changes that swept over France did not leave him untouched. He was denounced in the Convention and "was summoned to attend for the purpose of standing on his defence. He declined the journey on account of his age." A large part of his countrymen stood by him, and in an assembly appointed him general-in-chief, and president of the council of government. The Convention sent an expedition to arrest him. Buonaparte happened at the time to be in Corsica, on leave of absence from his regiment. He and Paoli had been on friendly terms, indeed they were distantly related, but Buonaparte did not hesitate for a moment which side to take. He commanded the French troops in an attack on his native town. Paoli's party proved the stronger, and Napoleon Buonaparte and his brother Lucien were banished. The Corsicans sought the aid of the English who, in the year 1794, landed, five regiments strong, in the island. A deputation went to London to offer the Crown of Corsica to the King of Great Britain. The offer was accepted, but contrary to the hopes and the expectations of the islanders, not Paoli, but Sir Gilbert Eliot was made Viceroy. The great patriot then found that he could best serve his country by leaving it. For about two years Corsica remained part of the British Empire; but in 1796 the English were forced to abandon it. Paoli returned to England, where he passed the rest of his years. He died in 1807 at the age of eighty-two. His monument is in Westminster Abbey.
THE JOURNAL OF A TOUR
TO THAT ISLAND;
AND MEMOIRS OF
BY JAMES BOSWELL, Esq;
ILLUSTRATED with a New and Accurate MAP OF CORSICA.
Non enim propter gloriam, divitias aut honores pugnamus, sed propter libertatem solummodo, quam nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit.
Lit. Comit. et Baron. Scotiae ad Pap. A.D. 1320.
GLASGOW, PRINTED BY ROBERT AND ANDREW FOULIS FOR EDWARD AND CHARLES DILLY IN THE POULTRY, LONDON; MDCCLXVIII.
SIR,—Dedications are for most part the offerings of interested servility, or the effusions of partial zeal; enumerating the virtues of men in whom no virtues can be found, or predicting greatness to those who afterwards pass their days in unambitious indolence, and die leaving no memorial of their existence, but a dedication, in which all their merit is confessedly future, and which time has turned into a silent reproach.
He who has any experience of mankind, will be cautious to whom he dedicates. Publickly to bestow praise on merit of which the publick is not sensible, or to raise flattering expectations which are never fulfilled, must sink the character of an authour, and make him appear a cringing parasite, or a fond enthusiast.
I am under no apprehensions of that nature, when I inscribe this book to Pascal Paoli. Your virtues, Sir, are universally acknowledged; they dignify the pages which I venture to present to you; and it is my singular felicity that my book is the voucher of its dedication.
In thus addressing you, my intention is not to attempt your panegyrick. That may in some measure be collected from my imperfect labours. But I wish to express to the world, the admiration and gratitude with which you have inspired me.
This, Sir, is all the return that I can make for the many favours which you have deigned to confer upon me. I intreat you to receive it as a testimony of my disposition. I regret that I have neither power nor interest to enable me to render any essential service to you and to the brave Corsicans. I can only assure you of the most fervent wishes of a private gentleman. I have the honour to be, with all respect and affection,
Your ever devoted
obliged humble servant
Auchinleck, Ayrshire, 29 October, 1767.
[Footnote 68: Boswell's birthday. The preface to the third edition also bears the date of his birthday.—ED.]
No apology shall be made for presenting the world with An Account of Corsica. It has been for some time expected from me; and I own that the ardour of publick curiosity has both encouraged and intimidated me. On my return from visiting Corsica, I found people wherever I went, desirous to hear what I could tell them concerning that island and its inhabitants. Unwilling to repeat my tale to every company, I thought it best to promise a book which should speak for me.
But I would not take upon me to do this till I consulted with the General of the nation. I therefore informed him of my design. His answer is perhaps too flattering for me to publish: but I must beg leave to give it as the licence and sanction of this work.
Paoli was pleased to write to me thus; "Nothing can be more generous than your design to publish the observations which you have made upon Corsica. You have seen its natural situation, you have been able to study the manners of its inhabitants, and to see intimately the maxims of their government, of which you know the constitution. This people with an enthusiasm of gratitude, will unite their applause with that of undeceived Europe."
* * * * *
It is amazing that an island so considerable, and in which such noble things have been doing, should be so imperfectly known. Even the succession of chiefs has been unperceived; and because we have read of Paoli being at the head of the Corsicans many years back, and Paoli still appears at their head, the command has been supposed all this time in the person of the same man. Hence all our newspapers have confounded the gallant Pascal Paoli in the vigour of manhood, with the venerable chief his deceased father, Giacinto Paoli. Nay the same errour has found its way into the page of the historian; for Dr. Smollet when mentioning Paoli at the siege of Furiani a few years ago, says he was then past fourscore.
I would in the first place return my most humble thanks to Pascal Paoli, for the various communications with which he has been pleased to favour me; and as I have related his remarkable sayings, I declare upon honour, that I have neither added nor diminished; nay so scrupulous have I been, that I would not make the smallest variation even when my friends thought it would be an improvement. I know with how much pleasure we read what is perfectly authentick.
Count Rivarola was so good as to return me full and distinct answers to a variety of queries which I sent him with regard to many particulars concerning Corsica. I am much indebted to him for this, and particularly so, from the obliging manner in which he did it.
[Footnote 69: The Sardinian Consul in Corsica. See page 142.—ED.]
The reverend Mr. Burnaby, chaplain to the British factory at Leghorn, made a tour to Corsica in 1766, at the same time with the honourable and reverend Mr. Hervey, now bishop of Cloyne. Mr. Burnaby was absent from Leghorn when I was there, so I had not the pleasure of being personally known to him. But he with great politeness of his own accord, sent me a copy of the Journal which he made of what he observed in Corsica. I had the satisfaction to find that we agreed in every thing which both of us had considered. But I found in his Journal, observations on several things which I had omitted; and several things which I had remarked, I found set in a clearer light. As Mr. Burnaby was so obliging as to allow me to make what use I pleased of his Journal, I have freely interwoven it into my work.
[Footnote 70: The son of Pope's Lord Hervey. He succeeded in 1779 to the Earldom of Bristol.—ED.]
I acknowledge my obligations to my esteemed friend John Dick Esquire, his Britannick Majesty's Consul at Leghorn, to Signor Gian Quilico Casa Bianca, to the learned Greek physician Signor Stefanopoli, to Colonel Buttafoco, and to the Abbe Rostini. These gentlemen have all contributed their aid in erecting my little monument to liberty.
[Footnote 71: Colonel Buttafoco was one of Rousseau's correspondents. At the time of the French Revolution he was elected Deputy from Corsica to the National Assembly. He was most violently attacked by Napoleon Buonaparte in a letter dated "From my closet at Milleli, 23rd January, Year 2." The letter thus begins:—"From Bonifacio to Cape Corso, from Ajaccio to Bastia, there is one chorus of imprecations against you." The writer goes on to say, "Your countrymen, to whom you are an object of horror, will enlighten France as to your character. The wealth, the pensions, the fruits of your treasons, will be taken from you.... O Lameth! O Robespierre! O Petion! O Volney! O Mirabeau! O Barnave! O Bailly! O La Fayette! this is the man who dares to seat himself by your side!"—Scott's "Life of Napoleon Buonaparte," vol. ix., Appendix I.—ED.]
I am also to thank an ingenious gentleman who has favoured me with the translations of Seneca's Epigrams. I made application for this favour, in the "London Chronicle;" and to the honour of literature, I found her votaries very liberal. Several translations were sent, of which I took the liberty to prefer those which had the signature of Patricius, and which were improved by another ingenious correspondent under the signature of Plebeius. By a subsequent application I begged that Patricius would let me know to whom I was obliged for what I considered as a great ornament to my book. He has complied with my request; and I beg leave in this publick manner, to acknowledge that I am indebted for those translations to Thomas Day Esquire, of Berkshire, a gentleman whose situation in life is genteel, and his fortune affluent. I must add that although his verses have not only the fire of youth, but the maturity and correctness of age, Mr. Day is no more than nineteen.
[Footnote 72: This is, I believe the author of "Sandford and Merton," who was born in 1748, and was nineteen years old at the date of the dedication of Boswell's work. His father had died when Day was a year old, and had left him a fortune of L1,200 a year.—ED.]
Nor can I omit to express my sense of the candour and politeness with which Sir James Steuart received the remark which I have ventured to make in opposition to a passage concerning the Corsicans, in his "Inquiry into the principles of Political Oeconomy."
I have submitted my book to the revisal of several gentlemen who honour me with their regard, and I am sensible how much it is improved by their corrections. It is therefore my duty to return thanks to the reverend Mr. Wyvill rectour of Black Notely in Essex, and to my old and most intimate friend the reverend Mr. Temple rectour of Mamhead in Devonshire. I am also obliged to My Lord Monboddo for many judicious remarks, which his thorough acquaintance with ancient learning enabled him to make. But I am principally indebted to the indulgence and friendly attention of My Lord Hailes, who under the name of Sir David Dalrymple, has been long known to the world as an able Antiquarian, and an elegant and humourous Essayist; to whom the world has no fault but that he does not give them more of his own writings, when they value them so highly.
[Footnote 73: See "Letters of James Boswell addressed to the Rev. W.J. Temple."—Bentley, London, 1857.—ED.]
[Footnote 74: It is the custom in Scotland to give the Judges of the Court of Session the title of Lords by the names of their estates. Thus Mr. Burnett is Lord Monboddo, and Sir David Dalrymple is Lord Hailes.]
[Footnote 75: "Johnson this evening drank a bumper to Sir David Dalrymple, 'as a man of worth, a scholar, and a wit. I have,' said he, 'never heard of him, except from you; but let him know my opinion of him: for as he does not show himself much in the world, he should have the praise of the few who hear of him.'"—Boswell's "Johnson." Date of July 20, 1763.—ED.]
I would however have it understood, that although I received the corrections of my friends with deference, I have not always agreed with them. An authour should be glad to hear every candid remark. But I look upon a man as unworthy to write, who has not force of mind to determine for himself. I mention this, that the judgement of the friends I have named may not be considered as connected with every passage in this book.
Writing a book I have found to be like building a house. A man forms a plan and collects materials. He thinks he has enough to raise a large and stately edifice; but after he has arranged, compacted and polished, his work turns out to be a very small performance. The authour, however, like the builder, knows how much labour his work has cost him; and therefore estimates it at a much higher rate than other people think it deserves.
I have endeavoured to avoid an ostentatious display of learning. By the idle and the frivolous indeed, any appearance of learning is called pedantry. But as I do not write for such readers, I pay no regard to their censures. Those by whom I wish to be judged, will I hope, approve of my adding dignity to Corsica, by shewing its consideration among the ancients, and will not be displeased to find my page sometimes embellished with a seasonable quotation from the Classicks. The translations are ascribed to their proper authours. What are not so ascribed are my own.