1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

Samuel Johnson to James Beattie, 21 August 1780; in Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 4:322-23.



Bolt-court, Fleet-street, 21st August 1780.

SIR, — More years than I have any delight to reckon have past since you and I saw one another: of this, however, there is no reason for making any reprehensory complaint: — "Sic fata ferunt." But methinks there might pass some small interchange of regard between us. If you say that I ought to have written, I now write: and I write to tell you, that I have much kindness for you and Mrs. Beattie; and that I wish your health better, and your life long. Try change of air, and come a few degrees southwards. A softer climate may do you both good. Winter is coming in; and London will be warmer, and gayer, and busier, and more fertile of amusement than Aberdeen.

My health is better, but that will be little in the balance when I tell you that Mrs. Montagu has been very ill, and is, I doubt, now but weakly. Mr. Thrale has been very dangerously disordered; but is much better, and I hope will totally recover. He has withdrawn himself from business the whole summer. Sir Joshua and his sister are well; and Mr. Davies* has got great success as an authour, generated by the corruption of a bookseller. More news I have not to tell you, and therefore you must be contented with hearing, what I know not whether you much wish to hear,** that I am, sir, your most humble servant,

SAM. JOHNSON.

[*J. W. Croker's note: What the expression "generated by the corruption of a bookseller" means seems not quite clear; perhaps it is an allusion to the generation of a class of insects, as if [Thomas] Davies, from his adversity as a bookseller, had burst into new and gaudier life as an author.}

[**James Beattie's note: I wish he had omitted the suspicion expressed here, though I believe he meant nothing but jocularity; for, though he and I differed sometimes in opinion, he well knew how much I loved and revered him.]