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You very rightly observe, that he who passing by his brother gave the inheritance to his nephew, could limit no more than he gave; and by Lord Hailes's estimate of fourteen years' purchase, what he gave was no more than you may easily entail according to your own opinion, if that opinion should finally prevail.
"Lord Hailes's suspicion that entails are encroachments on the dominion of Providence, may be extended to all hereditary privileges and all permanent institutions; I do not see why it may not be extended to any provision for the present hour, since all care about futurity proceeds upon a supposition, that we know at least in some degree what will be future. Of the future we certainly know nothing; but we may form conjectures from the past; and the power of forming conjectures includes, in my opinion, the duty of acting in conformity to that probability, which we discover. Providence gives the power, of which reason teaches the use. I am, dear Sir, your most faithful servant, "SAM. JOHNSON. "I hope I shall get some ground now with Mrs. Boswell: make my compliments to her, and to the little people. Don't burn papers; they may be safe enough in your own box; you will wish to see them hereafter."
LETTER 237. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“Dear Sir,—To the letters which I have written about your great question I have nothing to add. If your conscience is satisfied, you have now only your prudence to consult. I long for a letter, that I may know how this troublesome and vexatious question is at last decided. (1) I hope that it will at last end well.
(1) The entail framed by my father with various judicious clauses was settled by him and me, settling the estate upon the heirs male of his grandfather, which I found had been already
Lord Hailes's letter was very friendly, and very seasonable, but I think his aversion from entails has something in it like superstition. Providence is not counteracted by any means which Providence puts into our power. The continuance and propagation of families makes a great part of the Jewish law, and is by no means prohibited in the Christian institution, though the necessity of it continues no longer. Hereditary tenures are established in all civilised countries, and are accompanied in most with hereditary authority. Sir William Temple considers our constitution as defective, that there is not an unalienable estate in land connected with a peerage: and Lord Bacon mentions as a proof that the Turks are barbarians, their want of stirpes, as he calls them, or hereditary rank. Do not let your mind, when it is freed from the supposed necessity of a rigorous entail, be entangled with contrary objections, and think all entails unlawful, till you have cogent arguments, which I believe you will never find. I am afraid of scruples.
"I have now sent all Lord Hailes's papers; part I found hidden in a drawer in which I had laid them for security, and had forgotten them. Part of these are written twice; I have returned both the copies. Part I had read before. Be so kind as to return Lord Hailes my most respectful thanks for his first volume: his accuracy strikes me with wonder; his narrative is far superior to that of Henault, as I have formerly mentioned. I am afraid that the trouble which my irregularity and delay has cost him is greater, far greater,
done by my grandfather, imperfectly, but so as to be defeated only by selling the lands. I was freed by Dr. Johnson from scruples of conscientious obligation, and could, therefore, gratify my father. But my opinion and partiality for male succession, in its full extent, remained unshaken. Yet let me not be thought harsh or unkind to daughters: for my notion is, that they should be treated with great affection and tenderness, and always participate of the prosperity of the family.
than any good that I can do him will ever recompense; but if I have any more copy, I will try to do better.
"Pray let me know if Mrs. Boswell is friends with me, and pay my respects to Veronica, and Euphemia, and Alexander. "I am, Sir, your most humble servant, "SAM. JOHNSON."
LETTER 238. FROM MR. BOSWELL.
Edinburgh, Feb. 20. 1776. "You have illuminated my mind, and relieved me from imaginary shackles of conscientious obligation. Were it necessary, I could immediately join in an entail upon the series of heirs approved by my father; but it is better not to act too suddenly."
TO MR. BOSWELL.
"Feb. 24. 1776. "Dear Sir,—I am glad that what I could think or say has at all contributed to quiet your thoughts. Your resolution not to act, till your opinion is confirmed by more deliberation, is very just. If you have been scrupulous, do not be rash. I hope that, as you think more, and take opportunities of talking with men intelligent in questions of property, you will be able to free yourself from every difficulty. When I wrote last, I sent, I think, ten packets. Did you receive them all?
"You must tell Mrs. Boswell that I suspected her to have written without your knowledge (1), and therefore did not return any answer, lest a clandestine correspondence should have been perniciously discovered. I will write to her soon. I am, dear Sir, &c.
Having communicated to Lord Hailes what Dr. Johnson wrote concerning the question which per
(1) A letter to him on the interesting subject of the family settlement, which I had read.
plexed me so much, his lordship wrote to me: scruples have produced more fruit than I ever expected from them; an excellent dissertation on general principles of morals and law."
I wrote to Dr. Johnson on the 20th of February, complaining of melancholy, and expressing a strong desire to be with him; informing him that the ten packets came all safe; that Lord Hailes was much obliged to him, and said he had almost wholly removed his scruples against entails.
LETTER 240. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"March 5. 1776.
"DEAR SIR, I have not had your letter half an hour; as you lay so much weight upon my notions, I should think it not just delay my answer. I am very sorry that your melancholy should return, and should be sorry likewise if it could have no relief but from my company. My counsel you may have when you are pleased to require it; but of my company you cannot in the next month have much, for Mr. Thrale will take me to Italy, he says, on the 1st of April.
"Let me warn you very earnestly against scruples. I am glad that you are reconciled to your settlement, and think it a great honour to have shaken Lord Hailes's opinion of entails. Do not, however, hope wholly to reason away your troubles; do not feed them with attention, and they will die imperceptibly away. Fix your thoughts upon your business, fill your intervals with company, and sunshine will again break in upon your mind. If you will come to me, you must come very quickly; and even then I know not but we may scour the country together, for I have a mind to see Oxford and Lichfield before I set out on this long journey. To this I can only add that I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate humble servant,
LETTER 241. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"DEAR SIR, -Very early in April we leave England,
LETTER 242. TO THE REV. JOHN WESLEY. "Feb. 6. 1776. "SIR,-When I received your Commentary on the Bible,' I durst not at first flatter myself that I was to keep it, having so little claim to so valuable a present; and when Mrs. Hall informed me of your kindness, was hindered from time to time from returning you those thanks, which I now entreat you to accept. . I have thanks likewise to return you for the addition of your important suffrage to my argument on the American question. To have gained such a mind as yours may justly confirm me in my own opinion. What effect my paper has upon the public, I know not; but I have no reason to be discouraged. The lecturer was surely in the right, who, though he saw his audience slinking away, refused to quit the chair, while Plato stayed,— I am, reverend Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
Above thirty years ago, the heirs of Lord Chancellor Clarendon presented the university of Oxford with the continuation of his "History," and such other of his lordship's manuscripts as had not been published, on condition that the profits arising from their publication should be applied to the establish