« PreviousContinue »
LETTERS FROM BOSWELL TO SIR DAVID
DALRYMPLE, LORD HAILES.
I. DEAR SIR,
I suppose you have been upon the circuit for some weeks, which will afford you an apology for withholding a letter from me, rather beyond your usual time. And yet this apology, tho the most common one in the world, has, in effect, very little in it. For, surely, wherever you are, pen, ink, and paper may be had : and I imagine a man is no more void of ideas in one place than another; except in the case of London, which really inspires us with a rich profusion of ideas. The multiplicity of external effects tends to furnish the mind.
I am writing this in the Inner Temple, in the chambers of a very intimate friend.
He is a sober and a grave man. Indeed, I have a satisfaction to think, that I am most happy in such company, which is a proof that I am at bottom a sober and grave man myself.
You must know seriously that I am a good deal uneasy at present. My father is far from being pleased with me.
We are really on bad terms, which is a most disagreeable thing. He is bent on my returning to Scotland; and following the plan that he did. I am unsettled and roving, and would choose to drive about from one thing to another abnormis sapiens, if it be possible to be so. I have a most independent spirit. I cannot bear control, nor to hang on like a young Laird. I assure you I have
a sincere regard and affection for my father, and am anxious to make him easy.
I wish from my soul, Sir David, that you would use your good offices between us. It is not from the fear of being disinherited (which he threatens) that I am anxious. I am thoughtless enough not to mind that. But my affection for him makes me very unhappy at the thoughts of offending him. I beg you may talk with him, and try to make matters easy. It will be a most humane office. Tell him to have patience with me for a year or two, and I may be what he pleases.
I ever am,
II. DEAR SIR,
Your last letter gave me much comfort, as it exprest your approbation of my present schemes, at least in the general, which is going abroad. As to the particular place, I shall not insist on having my own way. Indeed, what you say of a French Academy has altered my views of it. The only thing that I imagined it preferable for, was that I could acquire the French language better in the country itself, than in Holland. However, you seem to think that I may have that advantage at Utrecht. I have received a most affectionate letter from my father, who is much pleased to find me in so prudent a disposition, and has mentioned Utrecht as agreeable to him. believe that I have most sincere satisfaction in giving ease and hope to so worthy a man and kind a parent. Without affectation or superstition, I pray God to enable me to be steady in my good resolutions. I shall most certainly comply with his will in every step ; and shall with pleasure go to the city which he approves of. I would gladly have your particular directions how to proceed. I suppose I might set out in a month or six weeks. My father says, the sooner I do so the better.
I would not, however, be too precipitant; but would calmly settle any little affairs in Britain which I may be concerned about, and leave England quietly and soberly. My great object is to attain a proper conduct in life. How sad will it be, if I turn (sic) no better than I am; I have much vivacity, which leads me to dis
sipation and folly. This, I think, I can restrain. But I will be moderate, and not aim at a stiff sageness and buckram correct
I must, however, own to you, that I have at bottom a melancholy cast; which dissipation relieves by making me thoughtless, and, therefore, an easier, tho' a more contemptible animal. I dread a return of this malady. I am always apprehensive of it. Pray tell me if Utrecht be a place of a dull and severe cast, or if it be a place of decency and chearfull politeness ? Tell me, too, if years do not strengthen the mind, and make it less susceptible of being hurt? and if having a rational object will not keep up my spirits ? I beg to have your directions as to what books and other things I should carry with me; and in what manner I should live at Utrecht. You know the particulars, as you have been there. My father mentions attending some of the Colleges. Write me your opinion on that head. In short, I have much to ask from you. Much depends on my doing well next winter. My future route (rout) can be settled time enough. I hope my father has never thought of sending a travelling governour (as the phrase is) with me. That is surely a very bad plan for me, and what I could scarcely agree to. Pray keep him from thinking of that. But I suppose I need fear no such thing, as he would surely have mentioned it to me. If I do not act properly by myself, I never will when kept in leading strings. I fancy correspondence between Holland and Britain will be easy and frequent. This is a circumstance of some consequence. My father says nothing of the allowance which he intends to give me. Please talk to him of that. I should like something fixed, as it learns a young man to live according to his income. I have two hundred pounds a year at present. The particulars of what sort of house I am to live in, and where I shall eat and drink, and all the other minutiæ of life, are of some moment. How do you like the Ghost ?? Pomposo is Mr. Samuel John
He is very roughly handled. Dullman is Sir Samuel Fludyer, late Lord Mayor, and Plausible, Mr. Sellon, Lecturer of St. Andrew's, Holbourn. Churchill's Epistle to Hogarth’ is not come out. He told me it was in nubibus. I said, I hoped
1 The Ghost, by Churchill, 1762.-Editor, 2 Published 1763.-Editor. 3 The Epistle to Hogarth was published in 1763, apparently therefore after the date of this letter, June 25.---Editor.