The Prince of Biographers

WHEN Goldsmith was one day asked, “ Who is this Scotch cur at Johnson’s heels ? ” the author of The Good-Natured Man characteristically answered: “ You are too severe. He is not a cur ; he is only a bur. Tom Davies flung him at Johnson in sport, and he has the faculty of sticking.” The correction and the definition showed that the Irishman had not unfairly estimated the character of James Boswell, who was not easily shaken off, once he had attached himself in any quarter. It was the knowledge of this which caused Walpole to shut his doors to the pertinacious Scot, when besieged by him. “ He forced himself upon me,” wrote Walpole to Gray, “ in spite of my teeth and my doors, and I see has given a foolish account of all he could pick up from me. He then took an antipathy to me on Rousseau’s account, abused me in the newspapers, and expected Rousseau to do so, too ; but as he came to see me no more, I forgave all the rest. I see now he is a little sick of Rousseau, himself, but I hope it will not cure him of his anger to me ; however, his book will amuse you.” The book was the Journal of a Tour to Corsica, then just published ; and Gray, in reply to Walpole, said that it proved what he had always maintained : “ that any fool may write a most valuable book by chance, if he will only tell what he heard and said with veracity.” 1 Although Boswell had strong claims to the epithet used by Gray, something more than added veracity was needed to write two of the most remarkable and most readable works of the eighteenth century ; for that is what this volatile Scot has done.

Without indorsing Gray’s opinion that the Journal was a most valuable work, we can see that it was adumbrative of the marvelous biography which appeared a quarter of a century later, and which has for over a hundred years been the wonder and delight of myriad readers. The success has never been repeated. The man and the book are unique.

“ Folly,” says Sainte-Beuve, " a spice of folly, if joined to some degree of talent, has become an instrument of success ; ” and the cultivation to their utmost of the special gifts which he possessed was the secret of Boswell’s phenomenal success. “ I certainly have the art,” he says in a letter to his friend Temple, “ of making the most of what I have.”

There was nothing of the element of chance about his writing the Life of Johnson ; it was a deliberate and longcherished plan, which he never once lost sight of. Johnson, having triumphed over poverty and misery, and their certain companion, neglect, was rapidly rising into renown, and with unerring instinct Boswell divined the fame which would be his in going down to posterity as the friend and biographer of the “ literary Colossus.” With that end in view, he did not rest satisfied until he had made the " big man,” as Goldsmith called him, his warm friend. He endured all Johnson’s rough ways and shortness of temper, as well as the not infrequent snubs which his hero worship brought; studying him all the while with a searching closeness which not the smallest peculiarity escaped, for as a literary artist he knew the value and importance of trifles. “ He concentrated his whole attention upon his idol,” Fanny Burney tells us, “not even answering questions from others. When Johnson spoke, his eyes goggled with eagerness ; he leant his ear almost on the doctor’s shoulder; his mouth dropped open to catch every syllable, and he seemed to listen even to Johnson’s breathings as though they had some mystical significance.”

It was through having his attention almost always alert that he was enabled to give us those vivid pictures which make his book a veritable literary cinematograph ; for in truth his pages may be said to live ; with a few simple but subtle strokes the living scene is dramatically brought before us, and we can almost fancy that we hear the loud voice of Johnson and the sonorous tones of Burke, that we see the quaint figure of Goldsmith and the sedate deportment of Gibbon.

Of the kind of man Boswell was he himself has given us the most abundant evidence. His pages are autobiographic in their self-delineation. We see his extraordinary want of tact ; his amazing folly, egotism, self-obtrusion, and excessive freedom of manners ; his want of self-respect, amounting almost to selfdebasement (he did not hesitate to liken himself to a dog) ; his conceit, vanity, absurd pomposity, and serene self-complacency. He was easily enamored, and was no Moslem when the wine was circulating ; for he frequently succumbed to the material good things, and admits that he was unable to recollect the intellectual good things that flowed around him. These faults and frailties were visible to every one, and were readily availed of by his enemies during his life, and by his critics after his death ; but what was not quite so obvious was the undeniable fact that he was endowed with rare talents allied to a special and unique faculty, combining the taste to relish and the ability to record brilliant conversation.

His genuine love of letters was united to a perfect mania for literary society and for talking with literary men, which is the subject of an amusing reference in a letter from David Hume to the Comtesse de Boufflers: “ He [Boswell] is very good-humoured, very agreeable, and very mad. . . . You remember the story of Terentia, who was first married to Cicero, then to Sallust, and at last, in her old age, married a young nobleman, who imagined that she must possess some secret which would convey to him eloquence and genius.” “Very agreeable, very good-humoured,”—that is the impression he always gave, into whatever society he went; and he was always in society ; he could not have lived without excitement of some kind.

“ There is a fine fame in being distinguished in London, were it only in literary society as I am.” Thus he wrote to his lifelong friend the Rev. William Johnson Temple, to whom he unbosomed himself to an amazing extent. They corresponded from the time they left the University of Glasgow until Boswell’s death, and it would be difficult to point to a more complete laying bare of a man’s innermost nature than is to be found in these letters, which were first published forty-two years ago. A great poet said of some of his verses that they

“ May hind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden’s locks,”

and Boswell’s letters to Temple were like to have shared a similar or more ignoble fate ; for mere accident rescued them from a small shop in Boulogne, where they were about to be used as wrapping paper.

These letters prove conclusively that in the Boswellian vocabulary there was no such word as “ reticence.” He told Temple of everything, — of his foolish amours, his excessive drinking, his melancholy and hypochondria, his elation and gayety. Scarce a thought, emotion, or feeling, good or bad, had he that he did not communicate to his friend. The perusal of these letters can never arouse in the reader respect for their writer. The feeling they create is best expressed in Cardinal Wolsey’s remark : —

“ How much, methinks, I could despise this man! ”

But notwithstanding all that has been said against him, follies are about the gravest charge that can be brought against poor Boswell. Much that is to his credit these letters bring to light, — abundant good nature, true friendship, anxious solicitude for his wife, and his desire and care that his sons and daughters should be well educated. There is also evidence of some common sense, but not sufficient to warrant his saying that he was “ a very sensible, good sort of man.” In the letter in which this occurs he tells Temple, “ You may depend upon it that very soon my follies will be at an end, and I shall turn out an admirable member of society.” Poor Boswell! these assurances are frequent, only to be followed by his deploring that circumstances proved too much for him.

His tenderness under criticism is rather amusingly shown by his asking Temple to communicate to him all he hears about his Account of Corsica, but he adds : “ Conceal from me all censure. I would not however dislike to hear impartial corrections. Perhaps Mr. Gray may say something to you of it.” Gray did say something of it, as we have seen, but it was to Walpole, and Boswell’s ears were spared the hearing it.

When he went courting Miss Blair, with whom he fancied himself madly in love, he told Temple : “ I am dressed in green and gold. I have my chaise, in which I sit alone like Mr. Gray, and Thomas rides by me in a claret-coloured suit with a silver-laced hat.”

In the summer of 1769 he visited Ireland, and, it is said, penned this account of his doings which appeared in the Public Advertiser: —

“James Boswell, Esqr., having now visited Ireland, he dined with his Grace the Duke of Leinster, at his seat at Carton ; he went also, by special invitation, to visit the Lord Lieutenant at his country seat at Leixlip, to which he was conducted in one of his Excellency’s coaches, by Lieut.-Colonel Walshe. He dined there, and stayed all night, and next morning came in the coach with his Excellency to the Phœnix Park, and was present at a review of Sir Joseph Yorke’s dragoons. He also dined with the Right Hon. the Lord Mayor. He is now set out on his return to Scotland.”

The notoriety for which he hungered was not long in coming to him. We read under date 14 May, 1768: —

“ I am really the great man now. I have had David Hume in the forenoon, and Mr. Johnson in the afternoon of the same day, visiting me. Sir John Pringle, Dr. Franklin, and some more company, dined with me to-day ; and Mr. Johnson and General Oglethorpe one day, Mr. Garrick alone another, and David Hume and some more literati another, dine with me next week. I give admirable dinners and good claret; and in a day or two I set up my chariot. This is enjoying the fruit of my labours, and appearing like the friend of Paoli. . . . David Hume came on purpose the other day to tell me that the Duke of Bedford was very fond of my book and had recommended it to the Duchess. David is really amiable.”

The natural result of all this folly was that he found himself “ a good deal in debt ” before the end of the year. He made acquaintances as readily as he got into debt. “ No man,” he says, “ has been more successful in making acquaintance easily than I have been: I even bring people quickly on to a degree of cordiality. I am a quick fire, but I know not if I last sufficiently, though surely, my dear Temple, there is always a warm place for you. With many people I have compared myself to a taper, which can light up a great and lasting fire though itself is soon extinguished.”

And on another occasion he writes : “ Am I not fortunate in having something about me that interests most people at first sight in my favour ? ”

In support of this we have the testimony of Dr. Johnson, who declared him to be “ the best traveling companion in the world ; ” and told him in a letter, “ I have heard you mentioned as a man whom everybody likes,” and added, “ I think life has little more to give.” Previous to this, the doctor had, in writing to Mrs. Thrale, dwelt on Boswell’s “ good humour and perpetual cheerfulness,” adding, “ He has better faculties than I had imagined, and more justice of discernment.”

These were not the only occasions on which Boswell was so fortunate as to be praised by the “ big man.” Talking about some of the members of the Club, he observed that they talked from books, — Langton in particular. Garrick, he said, would talk from books, if he talked seriously. “ I,” said he, “ do not talk from books ; you do not talk from books.” “This,” wrote Boswell to Temple, “this was a compliment to my originality; but I am afraid I have not read books enough to be able to talk from them.” Two months later he tells Temple: “ I have promised to Dr. Johnson to read when I get to Scotland, and to keep an account of what I read : I shall let you know how I go on. My mind must be nourished.”

In the next letter to Temple he says : “ He [Dr. Johnson] is to buy for me a chest of books of his choosing, and I am to read more and drink less ; that was his counsel.”

His determination to make the utmost of his Corsican tour is amusingly evident. When General Paoli said to him, in London, “ I need not tell you that everything in my power is at your disposal,” he availed himself of the opportunity to stay at his house and use his coach. “ I felt more dignity,” he says, “ when I had several servants at my devotion, a large apartment, and the convenience and state of a coach ; I recollected that this dignity in London was honourably acquired by my travels abroad, and my pen after I came home, so I could enjoy it with my own approbation ; and in the extent and multiplicity of the metropolis, other people had not even the materials for finding fault, as my situation was not particularly known.”

The implication that he had earned the generous hospitality which Paoli extended to him, and which he so hugely enjoyed, is truly Boswellian in its audacity.

The general’s forbearance and the genuine interest he took in Boswell’s welfare were really remarkable. Writing to Temple from Bath, in April, 1776, Boswell says: “The general has taken my word of honour that I shall not taste fermented liquor for a year, that I may recover sobriety : I have kept this promise now about three weeks. I was really growing a drunkard.”

A similar promise had been given to Temple about a year previously, and how it was kept will be seen from the following extract from a letter dated Edinburgh, 12 August, 1775 : “ My promise under the solemn yew I have observed wonderfully, having never infringed it till, the other day, a very jovial company of us dined at a tavern, and I unwarily exceeded my bottle of old Hock ; and having once broke over the pale, I run wild, but I did not get drunk. I was, however, intoxicated, and very ill next day. 1 ask your forgiveness, and I shall be more strictly cautious for the future. The drunken manners of this country are very bad.” This last sentence is delightful, coming from a native and a votary of Silenus. The distinction made between “ drunk ” and “ intoxicated ” is worthy of notice.

It is always interesting to know how a great man looked to his contemporaries, and perhaps no apter illustration of the readiness to see the mote in another’s eye could be found than Boswell charging Goldsmith with “ vanity and an eager desire of being conspicuous wherever he was.” It is likewise vastlyamusing to find that in Boswell’s eyes Gibbon was “ an ugly, affected, disgusting fellow.” Now we all know that Gibbon was no Adonis, neither was Boswell (far from it) ; but the cause of the criticism becomes apparent when he tells Temple that the historian “ poisons our literary club to me.” “ Whether there was any reason for this,” says John Wilson Croker, “ beyond Boswell’s dislike of Gibbon’s skepticism, I know not.”

That Boswell, who was somewhat abergläubig, had a repugnance to skepticism is shown by his telling Temple that “ I always regret to him [Hume] his unlucky principles, and he smiles at my faith; but I have a hope which he has not, or pretends not to have.” " Ah! je suis fâché qu’il so it détrompé si tôt! ” exclaimed Paoli, when he heard that Hume was dying.

Dr. Adam Smith, of Wealth of Nations fame, considered that Hume approached “ as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.” Boswell, while holding a high opinion of Hume, dissented from this eulogy ; and although Smith was his professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow University, he remarked to Temple, when Smith was elected to the Club, “ It has lost its select merit.” How many were of that opinion when Boswell was made a member ?

“ It pleases me,” he writes to Temple, “ that you express concern for the death of my poor uncle, Dr. Boswell. He was a very good scholar, knew a great many things, had an elegant taste, and was very affectionate; but he had no conduct. His money was all gone. He had a strange kind of religion ; but I flatter myself he will be ere long, if he is not already, in Heaven.”

It will be seen from the portion we have italicized that the nephew had some of the characteristics of his uncle ; but why the poor man’s possible entry into the mansions of the blest should cause Boswell to flatter himself is not clear.

In the same letter he says that he “ can only express hopes of studying,” so that the promise to Dr. Johnson would appear to have gone the way of so many others; but it is questionable if he had any serious intention of pursuing study, for, having quoted the wise man’s saying regarding much of it, he asks Temple, “ Now, if there is on the whole more pain than pleasure in advancing far into literature, would you advise me to do it?”

In truth, he was by nature as ill adapted for persevering study as he was to be a lawyer ; but so great was his ambition to make a figure at the bar that, not satisfied with his Scottish practice, he had himself enrolled at the English bar. “ But in truth,” he says, “ I am sadly discouraged by having no practice, nor probable prospect of it ; and to confess fairly to you, my friend, I am afraid that, were I to be tried, I should be found so deficient in the forms, the quirks and the quiddities, which early habit acquires, that I should expose myself. Yet the delusion of 'Westminster Hall, of brilliant reputation and splendid fortune as a barrister, still weighs upon my imagination. I must be seen in the Courts, and must hope for some happy openings in causes of importance. . . . Could I be satisfied with being Baron of Auchinleck, with a good income for a gentleman in Scotland, I might, no doubt, be independent. But what can be done to deaden the ambition which has ever raged in my veins like a fever ? In the country, I should sink into wretched gloom, or at best into listless dulness and sordid abstraction. Perhaps a time may come when I may by lapse of time be grown fit for it. As yet I really, from a philosophical spirit, allow myself to be driven along the tide of life with a good deal of caution, not to be much hurt.”

His constant and unsuccessful attendance in the courts recalls W. S. Gilbert’s amusing lines : —

“ In Westminster Hall I danced a dance,
Like a semi-despondent fury ;
For I thought I should never hit on a chance
Of addressing a British Jury.”

And he never did.

His political aspirations were likewise fruitless, and having tried and failed to get into Parliament, he for a long time cherished the illusion that Pitt would do something for him. “ I strongly suspect,” he says in a letter to Temple, “ that Pitt has been prejudiced against me.” And he continues : “ It is utter folly in Pitt not to reward and attach to his Administration a man of my popular and pleasant talents, whose merit he has acknowledged in a letter under his own hand. He did not answer several letters, which I wrote at intervals, requesting to wait upon him ; I lately wrote to him that such behaviour to me was certainly not generous. ‘ I think it is not just, and (forgive the freedom) I doubt if it be wise. If I do not hear from you in ten days I shall conclude that you are resolved to have no farther communication with me ; for I assure you, sir, I am extremely unwilling to give you, or indeed myself, unnecessary trouble.’ About two months have elapsed, and he has made no sign. . . . He is an insolent fellow, and has behaved very ill to me.”

It is indubitable that the “ utter folly ” was on Boswell’s side, and not with Pitt, and Dr. Johnson very delicately said as much in his letter to Boswell: “You must remember that what he has to give must, at least for some, time, be given to those who gave and those who preserve his power. A new minister can sacrifice little to esteem or friendship : he must, till he is settled, think only of extending his interest.”

The only political preferment that Boswell obtained was the recordership of Carlisle, which brought him little but degradation and insult, and which he gladly resigned after a short but exceedingly painful experience.

His letters to Temple after this period tell of little else but domestic misfortunes, broken health, and shattered hopes and expectations. The death of Dr. Johnson, his truest and best friend, was followed, five years later, by the death of his wife, for whom, notwithstanding his numerous follies and shortcomings, he had a real and deep affection. The loss of these two good influences was a grievous one for poor Boswell, who more than any other man needed some one who loved him to keep him in the right path.

He drifted into despondency and dissipation, and not improbably would have been submerged but for the incentive to effort which he had in the Life of Johnson, on which he had been at work for a considerable time, and which was now almost ready for the printer. “ You cannot imagine,” he writes to Temple, — “ you cannot imagine what labour, what perplexity, what vexation, I have endured in arranging a prodigious multiplicity of materials, in supplying omissions, in searching for papers buried in different masses, and all this besides the exertion of composing and polishing: many a time have I thought of giving it up. However, though I shall be uneasily sensible of its many deficiencies, it will certainly be to the world a very valuable and peculiar volume of biography, full of literary and characteristical anecdotes told with authenticity and in a lively manner. Would that it were in the booksellers’ shops! Methinks, if I had this magnum opus launched, the Public has no further claim upon me, for I have promised no more, and I may die in peace, or retire into dull obscurity, reddarque tenebris. Such is the gloomy ground of my mind, that any agreeable perceptions have an uncommon, though but a momentary, brightness. But alas ! my friend, be the accidents as they may, how is the substance ? how am I ? With a pious submission to God, but at the same time a kind of obstinate feeling toward men, I walk about upon the earth with inward discontent, though I may appear the most cheerful man you meet. I may have many gratifications, but the comfort of life is at an end.”

In an earlier portion of this letter he thus describes his state : “ With grief continually at my heart I have been endeavouring to seek relief in dissipation and in wine, so that my life for some time past has been unworthy of myself, of you, and of all that is valuable in my character and connections. ... I cannot express to you, Temple, what I suffer from the loss of my valuable wife. While she lived, I had no occasion almost to think concerning my family ; every particular was thought of by her, better than I could. I am the most helpless of human beings; I am in a state very much that of one in despair.”

How thoroughly and accurately he realized the value of his great work is clearly proved by this letter ; but nearly two years previously, on the publication of Mason’s Life of Gray, he told Temple : “ I am absolutely certain that my mode of biography, which gives not only a History of Johnson’s visible progress through the world, and of his publications, but a view of his mind in his letters and conversations, is the most perfect that can be conceived, and will be more of a Life than any work that has ever yet appeared.”

And on another occasion he tells him, “ I think it will be without exception the most entertaining book you ever read.” 2

The beginning of the year 1790 finds Boswell, in his own words, “ wonderfully well at present. I cannot account for my healthful mind at this time; there is no change for the better in my circumstances. I have no better prospect of gratifying my ambition, or of increasing my fortune. The irreparable loss of my valuable wife, the helpless state of my daughters, in short all that ever hung heavy upon me is still as it was; but my spirits are vigorous and elastic. I dine in a different company almost every day, at least scarcely ever twice running in the same company, so that I have fresh accessions of ideas. I drink with Lord Lonsdale one day ; the next I am quiet in Malone’s elegant study revising my Life of Johnson, of which I have high expectations, both as to fame and profit, I surely have the art of writing agreeably.3 The Lord Chancellor told me he had read every word of my Hebridian Journal; be could not help it; adding, ' Could you give a rule how to write a book that a man must read ? I believe Longinus could not.’ ”

That Boswell knew the secret we realize the oftener we turn to that truly wonderful book which delectando pariterque monendo gives renewed delight at every fresh perusal.

Three weeks before it was given to an expectant world he wrote to Temple, in a fit of depression : “ I am at present in such bad spirits that I have every fear concerning it, — that I may get no profit, nay, may lose, — that the public may be disappointed, and think that I have done it poorly, — that I may make many enemies, and even have quarrels. Yet perhaps the very reverse of all this may happen.”

These doubts and fears were not reflected in bis introductory remarks, which are characterized by all his usual selfcomplacency, and very justly so ; for, when not oppressed with transient gloom, he felt convinced that he had by the “ single talent well employed ” secured that for which his soul thirsted, —fame. “ I own,” he admitted, “ I am desirous that my life should tell.”

And it has told. Never was the success aimed at more fully attained. But for this work nothing else that he has done would have saved him from oblivion: not his eccentricities ; not his Corsican Journal or his Dorando, both of which are utterly forgotten ; nor yet his Letters, which, for all their painful candor and unblushing openness, lack the qualities of mind which make letters literature. They are slovenly, and show abundant carelessness in phrasing, and are very often confused in thought and in expression. But letter-writing is an art, and the great letter-writers are exceedingly few, yet not so few as the great biographers. Toward explaining Boswell’s superlative success in this most difficult form of literary composition many efforts have been made. “ He was a great writer because he was a great fool,” paradoxically declared Macaulay ; and if this were true, what a number of great writers we would have, to be sure, when we call to mind Carlyle’s famous dictum ! Rapid generalization and airy dogmatism on the surface of things were too frequent with Macaulay, who in this instance was only echoing what Gray had said sixty-three years earlier. It is not to be wondered that a man of Macaulay’s nature could not understand so complex a character as Boswell’s, which was not of a kind to be estimated and judged by cut-and-dried rules ; a certain degree of sympathetic insight was needed, and in this very necessary adjunct to helpful criticism Macaulay was somewhat deficient. Carlyle, who had looked deeper into human nature, more justly appraised his countryman’s abilities, while pointing a stern finger at his manifold defects. “ Boswell wrote a good book,” he says, “ because he had a heart and an eye to discern wisdom, and an utterance to render it forth ; because of his free insight, his lively talent; above all, of his love and childlike open-mindedness. His sneaking sycophancies, his greediness and forwardness, whatever was bestial and earthly in him, are so many blemishes in his book, which still disturb us in its clearness; wholly hindrances, not helps.”

“ His birth and education,” says his enthusiastic editor and able annotator, John Wilson Croker, “familiarized him with the highest of his acquaintance, and his good nature and conviviality with the lowest. He describes society of all classes with the happiest discrimination. Even his foibles assisted his curiosity ; he was sometimes laughed at, but always well received; he excited no envy, he imposed no restraint. . . . He united lively manners with indefatigable diligence, and the volatile curiosity of a man about town with the drudging patience of a chronicler. . . . Nor were his talents inconsiderable. He had looked a good deal into books, and more into the world.”

There is the point. This coureur had early recognized that “ the proper study of mankind is man,” and he knew how to profit by the study “ and catch the manners living as they rise.” His mind was always open and receptive of fresh ideas, which he had the wit to retain, improve, and develop.

A distinguished critic has credited him with having genius ; qualifying it, however, by saying that it was of a peculiar kind. If there be still those who deny him the possession of that rare and precious gift, it must be admitted that he had a very good working substitute for it in the capacity to take pains; and what is the aptitude for long, unwearying attention but the genius of observation ?

When a man does the work he is best fitted to do, and does it well, he has done all that can be reasonably expected of him, and it is peevish to abuse him for not being other than he was. Boswell has laid us under a deep debt of gratitude, and that is probably the reason why he has been so much abused.

“ I like your son,” said the Duke of Argyll, when the laird of Auchinleck introduced Boswell to him, clad in the uniform of the Guards ;4 “ this lad must not be shot at for 3s. 6d. a day.” He has been shot at for much less ever since. Every puny scribbler has had his fling at the queer little figure that has bobbed down the stream of time, “ pursuing the triumph and partaking the gale ” which both Johnson and he have successfully sustained for over a century.

“ Every man,” said Swift, “ is safe from evil tongues, who can be content to be obscure, and men must take Distinction as they take Land cum onere.” Boswell brought himself before the world, and confessed that he eagerly courted fame, and “ the public,” says Carlyle, " were incited, not only by their natural love of scandal, but by a special ground of envy, to say whatever ill of him could be said.” It is true that in what Carlyle calls “ his corruptible part ” he put a weapon into his assailants’ hands, but when posterity is the richer for a man having lived, much should be forgiven him; and how incalculably poorer we should be had Boswell not given us his matchless work, which is a liberal education in itself ! Never again can we have another such book, from lack both of a subject and an executant. Boswell was frequently the flint that produced the spark from the steel of Johnson’s mind. “ It was,” says Croker, “ a strange and fortunate concurrence that one so prone to talk, and who talked so well, should be brought into such close contact and confidence with one so zealous and so able to record,” and who, to quote Boswell himself, “ by recording so considerable a portion of the wisdom and wit of ‘ the brightest ornament of the eighteenth century,’ has largely provided for the instruction and entertainment of mankind.”

P. A. Sillard.

  1. “ When Boswell published his Account of Corsica,” said the Rev. N. Nicholls, “ I found Mr. Gray reading it. ‘ With this,’ said he, ‘ I am much pleased, because I see the author is too foolish to have invented it.’ ”
  2. Writing to Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker, of Dublin, who furnished him with some letters of Dr. Johnson, he said: “ It is my design in writing the Life of that great and grand man to put, as it were, into a Mausoleum all his precious remains that I can gather.”
  3. Brief as is this letter, it reveals several idiosyncrasies.
  4. It was an early ambition of his to be a military man.