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and of an assignment to one half of my rents, 7007. which, upon my honour, are always due, and would be forthcoming in case of my decease? I will not sell, till I have your answer as to this.
"On Tuesday we had a Club of eleven · Lords Lucan (in the chair), Ossory, Macartney, Eliot, Bishop of Clonfert, young Burke, myself, Courtenay, Windham, Sir Joshua, and Charles Fox, who takes to us exceedingly, and asked to have dinner a little later; so it was to be at half-past five. Burke had made great interest for his drum-major, and, would you believe it? had not Courtenay and I been there, he would have been chosen. I am strangely ill, and doubt if even you could dispel the demoniac influence. I have now before me p. 483. in print: the 923 pages of the copy only is exhausted, and there remains 80, besides the death; as to which I shall be concise, though solemn. Pray how shall I wind up? Shall I give the character from my Tour, somewhat enlarged?
London, Feb. 25. 1791. I have not seen Sir Joshua I think for a fortnight. I have been worse than you can possibly imagine, or I hope ever shall be able to imagine; which no man can do without experiencing the malady. It has been for some time painful to me to be in company. I, however, am a little better, and to meet Sir Joshua to-day at dinner at Mr. Dance's, and shall tell him that he is to have good Irish claret.
"I am in a distressing perplexity how to decide as to the property of my book. You must know, that I am certainly informed that a certain person who delights in mischief has been depreciating it, so that I fear the sale of it may be very dubious. Two quartos and two guineas sound in an alarming manner. I believe, in my present frame, I should accept even of 500l.; for I suspect that were I now to talk to Robinson, I should find him not disposed to give 1000l. Did he absolutely
offer it, or did he only express himself so as that you concluded he would give it? The pressing circumstance is, that I must lay down 10007. by the 1st of May, on account of the purchase of land, which my old family enthusiasm urged me to make. You, I doubt not, have full confidence in my honesty. May I then ask you if you could venture to join with me in a bond for that sum, as then I would take my chance, and, as Sir Joshua says, game with my book? Upon my honour, your telling me that you cannot comply with what I propose will not in the least surprise me, or make any manner of difference as to my opinion of your friendship. I mean to ask Sir Joshua if he will join; for indeed I should be vexed to sell my Magnum Opus for a great deal less than its intrinsic value. I meant to publish on Shrove Tuesday; but if I can get out within the month of March I shall be satisfied. I have now, I think, four or five sheets to print, which will make my second volume about 575 pages. But I shall have more cancels. That nervous mortal W. G. H. (1) is not satisfied with my report of some particulars which I wrote down from his own mouth, and is so much agitated, that Courtenay has persuaded me to allow a new edition of them by H. himself to be made at H.'s expense. Besides, it has occurred to me, that when I mention 66 a literary fraud," by Rolt the historian, in going to Dublin, and publishing Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination, with his own name, I may not be able to authenticate it, as Johnson is dead, and he may have relations who may take it up as an offence, perhaps a libel. Courtenay suggests, that you may perhaps get intelligence whether it was true. The Bishop of Dromore can probably tell, as he knows a great deal about Rolt. In case of doubt, should I not cancel the leaf, and either omit the curious anecdote or give it as a story which Johnson laughingly told as having circulated?"
"March 8. I have before me your volunteer letter of February 24th, and one of 5th current, which, if you have dated it right, has come with wonderful expedition. You may be perfectly sure that I have not the smallest fault to find with your disinclination to come again under any pecuniary engagements for others, after having suffered so much. Dilly proposes that he and Baldwin should each advance 2007. on the credit of my book; and if they do so, I shall manage well enough, for I now find that I can have 6007. in Scotland on the credit of my rents; and thus I shall get the 10007. paid in May.
"You would observe some stupid lines on Mr. Burke in the Oracle' by Mr. Boswell! I instantly wrote to Mr. Burke, expressing my indignation at such impertinence, and had next morning a most obliging answer. Sir William Scott told me I could have no legal redress. So I went civilly to Bell, and he promised to mention handsomely that James Boswell, Esq. was not the author of the lines. The note, however, on the subject was a second impertinence. But I can do nothing. I wish Fox, in his bill upon libels, would make a heavy penalty the consequence of forging any person's name to any composition, which, in reality, such a trick amounts to.
"In the night between the last of February and first of this month, I had a sudden relief from the inexplicable disorder, which occasionally clouds my mind and makes me miserable, and it is amazing how well I have been since. Your friendly admonition as to excess in wine has been often too applicable; but upon this late occasion I erred on the other side. However, as I am now free from my restriction to Courtenay, I shall be much upon my guard; for, to tell the truth, I did go too deep the day before yesterday; having dined with Michael Angelo Taylor, and then supped at the London Tavern with the stewards of the Humane Society, and continued till I know not what hour in the morn
ing. John Nichols was joyous to a pitch of bacchanalian vivacity. I am to dine with him next Monday; an excellent city party, Alderman Curtis, Deputy Birch, &c. &c. I rated him gently on his saying so little of your Shakspeare. (1) He is ready to receive more ample notice. You may depend on your having whatever reviews that mention you sent directly. Have I told you that Murphy has written "An Essay on the Life and Writings of Dr. Johnson," to be prefixed to the new edition of his works? He wrote it in a month, and has received 2007. for it. I am quite resolved now to keep the property of my Magnum Opus; and I flatter myself I shall not repent it.
My title, as we settled it, is The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL. D., comprehending an account of his studies and various works, in chronological order, his conversations with many eminent persons, a series of his letters to celebrated men, and several original pieces of his composition: the whole exhibiting a view of literature and literary men in Great Britain, for near half a century, during which he flourished.” very kind if you will suggest what yet occurs. to have published to-day; but it will be about a month yet before I launch."
It will be
"March 12. Being the depositary of your chance in the lottery, I am under the disagreeable necessity of communicating the bad news that it has been drawn a blank. I am very sorry, both on your account and that of your sisters, and my own; for had your share of good fortune been 31661. 13s. 4d. I should have hoped for a loan to accommodate me. As it is, I shall, as I wrote to you, be enabled to weather my difficulties for some time: but I am still in great anxiety about the sale of my book, I find so many people shake their
heads at the two quartos and two guineas. Courtenay is clear that I should sound Robinson, and accept of a thousand guineas, if he will give that sum. Meantime, the title-page must be made as good as may be. It appears to me that mentioning his studies, works, conversations, and letters is not sufficient; and I would suggest comprehending an account, in chronological order, of his studies, works, friendships, acquaintance, and other particulars; his conversations with eminent men ; a series of his letters to various persons; also several original pieces of his composition never before published. The whole, &c. You will, probably, be able to assist me in expressing my idea, and arranging the parts. In the advertisement I intend to mention the letter to Lord Chesterfield, and perhaps the interview with the King, and the names of the correspondents in alphabetical order. How should chronological order stand in the order of the members of my title? I had at first "celebrated correspondents," which I don't like. How would it do to say "his conversations and epistolary correspondence with eminent (or celebrated) persons? Shall it be "different works,” and “various particulars?” In short, it is difficult to decide.
What a Yet he looks well, mare—in short is in
"Courtenay was with me this morning. mystery is his going on at all! talks well, dresses well, keeps his all respects like a parliament man. Do you know that my bad spirits are returned upon me to a certain degree ; and such is the sickly fondness for change of place, and imagination of relief, that I sometimes think you are happier by being in Dublin, than one is in this great metropolis, where hardly any man cares for another. I am persuaded I should relish your Irish dinners very much. I have at last got chambers in the Temple, in the very staircase where Johnson lived; and when my Magnum Opus is fairly launched, there shall I make a trial."