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ing the joke) " Hang out his skull instead of a helmet, 1778. and you may drink ale out of it in your hall of Odin, Ætat. as he is your enemy; that will be truly ancient. There 69. will be · Northern Antiquities." Johnson. “ He's
s a Whig, Sir; a sad dog, (smiling at his own violent expressions, merely for political difference of opinion.) But he's the best traveller I ever read ; he observes more things than any one else does."
I could not help thinking that this was too high praise of a writer who traversed a wide extent of country in such haste, that he could put together only curt frittered fragments of his own, and afterwards procured supplemental intelligence from parochial ministers, and others not the best qualified or most impartial narrators, whose ungenerous prejudice against the house of Stuart glares in misrepresentation ; a writer, who at best treats merely of superficial objects, and shews no philosophical investigation of character and manners, such as Johnson has exhibited in his masterly “ Jour
" ney," over part of the same ground; and who it should
; seem from a desire of ingratiating himself with the Scotch, has flattered the people of North-Britain so inordinately and with so little discrimination, that the judicious and candid amongst them must be disgusted, while they value more the plain, just, yet kindly report of Johnson.
Having impartially censured Mr. Pennant, as a traveller in Scotland, let me allow him from authorities much better than mine, his deserved praise as an able Zoologist ; and let me also from my own understanding and feelings, acknowledge the merit of his “ London," which, though said to be not quite accurate in some particulars, is one of the most pleasing typographical performances that ever appeared in any language. Mr. Pennant, like his countrymen in general, has the true spirit of a Gentleman. As a proof of it, I shall quote from his “ London” the passage, in which he speaks of my illustrious friend.
“I must by no means omit Bolt-court, the long residence of Doctor Samuel
· The title of a book translated by Dr. Percy.
1778. Johnson, a man of the strongest natural abilities, Ætat great learning, a most retentive memory, of the deep69.
est and most unaffected piety and morality, mingled with those numerous weaknesses and prejudices which his friends have kindly taken care to draw from their dread abode. 6 I brought on myself his transient anger, by observing that in his tour in Scotland, he once had long and woeful experience of oats being the food of men in Scotland as they were of horses in England? It was a national reflection unworthy of him, and I shot my bolt. In return he gave me a tender bug.' Con amore he also said of me The Dog is a Whig's I admired the virtues of Lord Russel, and pitied his fall. I should have been a Whig at the Revolution. There have been periods since, in which I should been, what I now am, a moderate Tory, a supporter, as far as my little influence extends, of a well-poised balance between the crown and people : but should the scale preponderate against the Salus populi, that moment may it be said The dog's a Whig ?”
We had a calm after the storm, staid the evening and supped, and were pleasant and gay. But Dr. Percy told me he was very uneasy at what had passed; for there was a gentleman there who was acquainted with the Northumberland family, to whom he hoped to have appeared more respectable, by shewing how intimate he was with Dr. Johnson, and who might now, on the contrary, go away with an opinion to his disadvantage. He begged I would mention this to Dr. Johnson, which I afterwards did. His observation upon it was, “ This comes of stratagem ; had he told me that he wished to appear to advantage before that gentleman, he should have been at the top of the house, all the time.” He spoke of Dr. Percy in the
* This is the common cant against faithful Biography. Does the worthy genrleman mean that I, who was taught discrimination of character by Johnson, should have omitted his frailties, and, in short, have bedawbed him as the worthy gentleman has bedawbed Scotland ?- Boswell.
See Dr. Johnson's “ Journey to the Western Islands," p. 296 : see his Dictionary article, oats :-and my“ Voyage to the Hebrides,” first edition—PENNANT, * Mr. Boswell's Journal, p. 386,
handsomest manner. “ Then, Sir, (said I) may I be 1778.
( allowed to suggest a mode by which you may effect
Ætat. ually counteract any unfavourable report of what pass- 69. ed. I will write a letter to you upon the subject of the unlucky contest of that day, and you will be kind enough to put in writing as an answer to that letter, what you have now said, and as Lord Percy is to dine with us at General Paoli's soon, I will take an opportunity to read the correspondence in his Lordship’s presence. This friendly scheme was accordingly carried into execution without Dr. Percy's knowledge. Johnson's letter placed Dr. Percy's unquestionable merit in the fairest point of view ; and I contrived that Lord Percy should hear the correspondence, by introducing it at General Paoli's, as an instance of Dr. Johnson's kind disposition towards one in whom his Lordship was interested. Thus every unfavourable impression was obviated that could possibly have been made on those by whom he wished most to be regarded. I breakfasted the day after with him, and informed him of my scheme, and its happy completion, for which he thanked me in the warmest terms, and was highly delighted with Dr. Johnson's letter in his praise, of which I gave him a copy. He said " I would rather have this than degrees from all the Universities in Europe. It will be for me, and my children and grand-children.” Dr. Johnson having afterwards asked me if I had given him a copy of it, and being told I had, was offended, and insisted that I should get it back, which I did. As, however, he did not desire me to destroy either the original or the copy, or forbid me to let it be seen, I think myself at liberty to apply to it his general declaration to me concerning his own letters. “ That he did not choose they should be published in his lifetime ; but had no objection to their appearing after his death.” I shall therefore insert this kindly correspondence, having faithfully narrated the circumstances accompanying it.
" TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON. Ætat.
'MY DEAR SIR, 69.
“I BEG leave to address you in behalf of our friend Dr. Percy, who was much hurt by what you said to him that day we dined at his house;' when, in the course of the dispute as to Pennant's merit as a traveller, you told Percy that he had the resentment of a narrow mind against Pennant, because he did not find every thing in Northumberland.' Percy is sensible that you did not mean to injure him ; but he is vexed to think that your behaviour to him on that occasion may be interpreted as a proof that he is despised by you, which I know is not the case. I have told him, that the charge of being narrow-minded was only as to the particular point in question ; and that he had the
“ Earl Percy is to dine with General Paoli next Friday ; and I should be sincerely glad to have it in my power to satisfy his Lordship how well you think of Dr. Percy, who, I find, apprehends that your good opinion of him may be of very essential consequence ; and who assures me, that he has the highest respect and the warmest affection for you.
“ I have only to add, that my suggesting this occasion for the exercise of your candour and generosity, is altogether unknown to Dr. Percy, and proceeds from my good-will towards him, and my persuasion that you will be happy to do him an essential kindness. I am, more and more, my dear Sir,
“ Your most faithful
“ JAMES Boswell."
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ The debate between Dr. Percy and me is one of those foolish controversies, which begin upon a ques. tion of which neither party cares how it is decided, and
Sunday, April 12, 1778.
which is, nevertheless, continued to acrimony, by the 1778. vanity with which every man resists confutation. Dr.
Ætat. Percy's warmth proceeded from a cause which, per- 69. haps, does him more honour than he could have derived from juster criticism. His abhorrence of Pennant proceeded from his opinion that Pennant had wantonly and indecently censured his patron. His anger made him resolve, that, for having been once wrong, he never should be right. Pennant has much in his notions that I do not like ; but still I think him a very intelligent traveller. If Percy is really offended, I am sorry ; for he is a man whom I never knew to offend any one.
He is a man very willing to learn, and very able to teach ; a man, out of whose company I never
I go without having learned something. It is sure that he vexes me sometimes, but I am afraid it is by making me feel my own ignorance. So much extension of mind, and so much minute accuracy of enquiry, if you survey your whole circle of acquaintance, you will find so scarce, if you find it at all,
find it at all, that you will value Percy by comparison. Lord Hailes is somewhat like him : but Lord Hailes does not, perhaps, go beyond him in research ; and I do not know that he equals him in elegance. Percy's attention to poetry has given grace and splendour to his studies of antiquity. A mere antiquarian is a rugged being.
“ Upon the whole, you see that what I might say in sport or petulance to him, is very consistent with full conviction of his merit.
“ I am, dear Sir,
" Your most, &c. April 23, 1778.
“ SAM. Johnson."
TO THE REVEREND DR. PERCY, NORTHUMBERLAND
I WROTE to Dr. Johnson on the subject of the Pennantian controversy; and have received from him an answer which will delight you. I read it yesterday to Dr. Robertson, at the Exhibition ; and at dinner to