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played in his exercises, and in the societies of his fellow-students, excited an applause which warmed his opening mind with hopes of future literary greatness.
Some eminent Scotsmen, such as Hume, Kaimes, and Robertson, had about this time, distinguished themselves in literature. Those ancient prejudices had been gradually effaced, by which the Scots were too long withheld from the liberal cultivation of every English art. A theatre for the exhibition of the works of the English drama had, in spite of presbyterian prejudices, at length, begun to attract, at Edin burgh, the resort of the leaders in the sphere of fashion. Even the pleaders at the Scottish bar began to become ambitious of discarding from their speech the broad gabble of their native dialect, and anxiously asked the players to tutor them to prattle English. The voice of fashion, loudly echoing the softer suggestions of academical erudition and taste, called all the gay and the young to cultivate and to prize elegant letters.
unrivalled felicity of humour, wit, and fancy. So much hasty applause would have been enough to spoil any young man. Not pride, but the vanity of literary and colloquial eminence, was thus early rooted in Boswell's bosom, and became his ruling passion. He learned to ac◄ count it the supreme felicity of life, to sparkle in gay convivial converse over wine, and to mingle with pas sionate delight in the society of professed wits. He was encouraged to try his fortune, far too rashly, as a youthful author; and to send to the press various levities in poe. try and prose, which had been much more wisely condemned to the fire. Of these, several appear, ed in a small Collection of Poems, by Scottish gentlemen, which was, about this time, published at Edinburgh. Boswell's pieces in this Collection possess scarcely any other merit than that of a giddy vivacity. It was fortnately enriched with some more precious materials, the compositions of Dr. Thomas Blacklock, of Gilbert Gordon, Esq. of Halleaths, and of Jerome Stone, rector of the school of Dunkeld. A series of letters between Boswell and his friend, the late Hon. Andrew Erskine, were, with similar imprudence, published about the same time, but certainly not at all to the honour of either of the young gentlemen. So little fitted is often that which has enlivened the gaiety of convivial conversation, or has, in manuscript, been applauded, to meet, from the press, the examination of an unprejudiced jury, before which none but its genuine independent merits can have weight in its favour.
Passionately desirous to flutter and to shine among the young and fashionable, as well as ambitious to merit the esteem of the learned, Boswell, the farther he entered upon the scenes of life, became still more ardently the votary of wit and of the literary arts. The greater number of the young men of fortune, in many countries, are commonly so idle, and of course so silly, in the first years of opening manhood, that a very small portion of wit and common sense must be easily sufficient to constitute a prodigy of parts among them. Boswell, accordingly, found no difficulty in making himself the dictator of a little circle. He was taught to believe himself a native genius, destined to attain to all that was great in elegant literature, almost without the aid of study. His socic-rature and business, and one of idlety was eagerly courted; his sayings were repeated; his little compositions, however light and frivolous, were praised, as flowing from an
Thus far, young Boswell's life had been gay and flattering: he was now to launch farther out upon the ocean of the world. In the choice of professional destination, he hesitated between a life of lite
ness and fashion. Had it not been for his father's authority, the latter would have gained his preference. But Lord Auchinleck, believing
that the lively talents of his son could not fail of success at the bar, urged him to become a lawyer, with flatteries, promises, and some threats, which at last subdued James's passion for a red coat, a cockade and a commission in the Guards. A sort of compromise took place between the father and the son; in consequence of which, the latter obtained permission, with a suitable pecuniary allowance, to visit London, to study the civil law at Utrecht, and to make the tour of Europe, before he should, finally, fix himself at home as a practising advocate.
With a breast agitated by a tumult of hopes, wishes, and uncertain fancies, young Boswell repaired to that great mart of business, knowledge, and pleasure, London. He was impatient to mingle in its scenes of amusement, to drink of all that was elegant in its letters and its arts at the very fountain-head, to gratify an ingenuous curiosity, which he long continued to feel, of approaching the presence, and obtaining the personal acquaintance, of all those who were, on any account, the most illustrious among his contemporaries. A young man of manners so lively and agreeable, talents so promising, and a family and fortune 30 respectable, could not but meet with an easy indroduction, by means of his father's friends and his own, into the highest and the most fashionable circles of polite company which the metropolis afforded. The charm of his sprightly conversation and good natured manners was universally felt. He became a general favourite; and quickly led to diffuse himself, if we may so speak, very widely in the society of London. He plunged eagerly into the stream of convivial festivity and of gay amusement. No young man ever enjoyed, with a keener and more exquisite gust, the flatteries of partial friends, the success of a brilliant repartee, the attentions of that fascinating politeness which aims to win your heart by making you in love with yourself, or that happy
play of convivial conversation in which wisdom, wit, elegance, and good breeding, temper sensual and social enjoyment with the generous flow of liberal intelligence. For the sake of knowledge, of social converse, of commendation, of celebrity, he was still ready to forsake his study to mingle with company; and he might perhaps gain in the one way more than he lost in the other. But, in the meantime, the dissipation of perpetual company-keeping, and the use of the sensualities with which it was accompained, made themselves still more and more necesary to the young man, who thought only of enjoying them without making himself their slave.
His passion for the acquaintance of men of great intellectual eminence had, however, in the first instance, the merit of saving him from the emptiness of mere foppery, as from brutal and profligate debauchery. Even in the society of a Wilkes and a Foote, in their loosest and most convivial hours, it was not possible, that there should not be more of the feast of reason, and the flow of soul, than of sensual grossness. Men of well-earned celebrity for any sort of intellectual excellence, although they may have their hours of relaxation, can never be acceptable associates to the sottish debauchee. He who loves to converse with them, even in these hours, must possess a mind somewhat congenial with theirs: nor will he long seek their company with fondness, unless his heart and understanding become impregnated with their sentiments. Attaching himself to Dr. Samuel Johnson, Boswell thus acquired a protection from frivolity and vice, and the advantage of the lessons of an instructor in wisdom, scarcely less beneficial than when the Athenian youth, with sudden emotion, dashed his crown of roses on the ground, and, abjuring the false joys of love and wine, devoted all his future life to the study of philosophy, and the practice of austere virtue.
The eloquence of the Ramblers, being of that gorgeous and strongly discriminated character which the most easily engages the attention of youth, had powerfully impressed the imagination of Boswell during his studies at Edinburgh. Johnson's Dictionary, presenting its author in the character of the great censor and dictator of the English language, aided and confirmed the impression. When, in addition to this, he learned, that Johnson's conversation was not less rich and original than his books, there needed nothing more to make him earnestly ambitious of the great lexicographer's acquaintance. He found in Johnson, when the desired introduction was at last obtained, not precisely what he had imagined, but of a different sort even more than his hopes and wishes had taught him to expect. He courted with every winning assiduity a man of whom he was proud to profess himself the follower. Almost from the very first days of their acquaintance, he gladly haunted the presence of the illustrious moralist, and watched and preserved the treasures which fell from his lips, as if he had already determined to become his biographer. Attentions so respectfully flattering are not easily resisted by either philosophers or heroes; Johnson could not but become partial to an admirer who professed to court his company almost with the humble devotion of a mortal attending the footsteps of a divinity; who was himself a youth of genius, fortune and fashion; and who ardently professed to be ambitious of nothing so much as of making eminent improvement in piety, virtue, and liberal intelligence.
Satiated, at length, with the enjoyments of London, Boswell departed, with a new flutter of hopes and wishes, to pursue knowledge and pleasure in those new varieties of form, in which they might present themselves on the continent. At Utrecht he studied law for some time, under an eminent civilian; but, as I should suspect, without
such enlarged and successful apprehension of the noble collection of Tribonian, as might have enabled him to see in it a wonderfully perfect system of moral wisdom, applied, upon the principles of right and expediency, to a very extensive variety of cases in the practice of social and political life; or to trace it, with a curicus and philosophical eye, as one of the most faithful, minute, and interesting, of all records of the detail of manners. He failed not, however, to make a few slight inquiries into the laws and the language of the country, which served to fill with erudition his letters to Johnson, and, it may be, also, to his Scottish friends, Lord Kaimes and Lord Hailes. From Utrecht, he, after a while, continued his travels through Germany into Switzerland. The ambition of becoming known to eminent men, was still one of his predominant foibles; and, to the unspeakable gratification of that passion of his, he had the felicity of being, in his tour through Germany, the travelling companion of the Right Honourable George Keith, the last Earl Marischal of Scotland. In Switzerland, Lord Marischal introduced his young country man to Rousseau; who then, an exile from France and from Geneva, resided at Motiers, in the principality of Neuf. chatel, under the protection of the great King of Prussia. Boswell in due time, found occasion to tell the world how fondly he had visited Jean-Jaques Rousseau; how kindly he had been received by the solita ry philosopher; with what flattering and confidential commendations a man so discerning and so suspicious had deigned to honour his merits! But, when Rousseau's Confessions were, long after, published, it did not appear from them, that he preserved the recollection of having ever seen such a man as James Boswell. To have seen only Citizen Rousseau, would have beca little. Boswell had the pleasure of visiting also the patriarch of Ferney, and the delight of hearing
Voltaire deal out sarcasms and malicious fictions, the inspirations of fear and envy, against a rival wit and philosopher, who was as vain and as famous as himself.
From Rousseau, Boswell obtained an indirect recommendation, which procured him one of the most splendid and lasting friendships of his subsequent life. But it is probable that he was more charmed with the conversation and manners of Voltaire, than with those of the excitizen of Geneva.
Having thus seen the lions in Germany and Switzerland, Boswell hastened away over the Alps to Italy. It was not enough for this youth's ambition, to make nothing more than the common tour which was ordinarily made by every cne else. Addison had pervaded and celebrated the republic of San Marino; Boswell resolved to visit that of Corsica. The Corsicans, after struggling with various success, for a long course of years, to throw off the yoke of the Genoese, were at last about to be transferred to masters against whose power their efforts would be vain. At this moment they enjoyed, in the interior parts of the isle, a miserable independence, purchased at the expense of almost all besides that was precious in life. Their last generous exertions to secure the prize of liberty had, more than all the former, drawn upon them the admiration and the eager sympathy of Europe. Courts and cabinets might see their fortunes with indifference, or might even cabal against them; but the people, true philosophers, the benevolent and humane in every condition, and particularly all the enthusiastic admirers of manly fortitude and gallant enterprise, were ardent in their wishes for the final success of the Corsicans. Paoli, their leader, was celebrated as a hero and a lawgiver, worthy of the most illustrious times of Grecian or of Roman liberty. Rousseau, the warm friend of Corsican freedom, had received Paoli's invitation to become the historian and the assist
ant-legislator of the rising republic. The fame of Paoli and the Corsicans had greatly interested the curiosity of Boswell, as a young Scottish Whig, even before he saw Rousseau. Rousseau's conversation completed the charm. The Genevan philosopher was too cau, tious, however, to give Boswell more than an indirect letter of introduction to the Corsican general. With this, and such other recommendations as he could procure, our traveller made his way to Pacli's head-quarters. Pleased with the visit of an admirer who was a man of fashion, a Briton, a young enthusiast for liberty, the Corsicans received Boswell with kindness and respect, and entertained him with liberal hospitality. He was too polite and good-natured, too much an enthusiast for freedom, not to express himself to be more than pleased with all that he experienced and all he saw. General Paoli, who was truly a man of keen and comprehensive understanding, with a heart pregnant with heroic and patriotic sentiments, seems to have been not less sensible to admiration and praise, than almost all other great men whose hearts have been frankly unfolded to the world, are known to have commonly been. Boswell flattered the General, and the General flattered him in return. The legislature, the administration of justice, the arms, the vigilance for defence, the modes of industry, the familiar manners of the Corsicans, every thing in truth that could be perceived by a few lively superficial glances; but, above all, the conversation, the figure, the looks, the gestures of Paoli, were observed by the young Scotsman with the enthusiasm of an admirer, and with the care of one that meant to treasure up his present observations for future use. Paoli, and his Corsicans, could not help expressing, in Boswell's hearing, their wishes, that they might obtain the protection and aid of Britain: and Boswell, in the Don Quixote-like fervour of his imagination, was al
most moved, when these wishes met his ear, and when he saw himself lodged, feasted, and attended in ceremonious state, to believe himself a British ambassador, deputed to declare Britain the tutelar divinity of Corsican freedom. To flatter him in a manner the most intoxicating, it was supposed by some wise headed politicians on the Continent, that it was not for nothing such a man as Boswell could have gone among the Corsican savages; and all the newspapers of Europe soon told, that he had adventured thither as the secret agent of the British court. After he retired from the court of Paoli, he was politely re⚫ceived, and entertained with courteous hospitality, by the French officers on the isle: he returned at last to the Italian continent, vain of his expedition, and gratefully boasting of all the favours and honours which it had procured him.
He did not now prolong the time of his absence from his native country. Taking his way through France, he had soon the pleasure of presenting himself to his old friends in London. His temper and manners were still as conciliating as formerly; his briskness of talk was now somewhat softened; his politeness was improved by a graceful polish, which the converse of elegant strangers had naturally communicated: and, as it is not so much from study as from the observation of nature, and from mingling in society, that the traveller's proper improvements are to be obtained; Boswell had profited in the acquisition of knowledge, much more than nine-tenths of the young men of fortune from Britain are commonly wont to profit in the same course of fashionable travel; he could boast, too, of having kept, in his absence, some of the best company in Europe; and, whenever any of the wits or the heroes of the Continent were mentioned, might speak of them almost as familiar acquaintance. None of all his friends in London welcomed his return with more cordial kindness VOL. I....NO. III.
than Johnson. From the Continent he had held an epistolary correspondence with this Coryphæus of English philology; and from Johnson had received several letters filled with such benignity and wisdom, as but few of the wits or philosophers of the Continent had hearts and understandings to supply.
He soon hastened down to Scotland. His father and his Scottish friends were sufficiently charmed with his new acquirements, and still partial to his genius and merits. A while he was busied in paying his compliments, in displaying his improvements, and in receiving flatteries and congratulations. In compliance with the wishes of his literary friends, he then prepared to give to the public, through the press, those observations which he had made in the Corsican part of his travels. From his books, and from the information of his learned friends, he sought a knowledge of all those facts concerning the ancient and modern state of that isle, with which his personal observation and inquiries in the isle had not already furnished him. His book at length appeared: and as Corsica was, just at that time, a very popular subject of conversation and inquiry; a work upon it, from a young man of whom the fashionable dictators in literature were inclined to speak favourably, could not be otherwise than well received. Its genuine merits deserved no less. It is written in a pure, lively, correct, and easy style and flow of composition. With the anecdotical sprightliness of Boswell himself, it mingles in no sparing proportion a seasoning of the erudition of his friend Lord Hailes, and of the light philosophical speculation of Lord Kaimes. The history, natural, civil, and military, which it exhibits, of the isle of Corsica, is, as propriety required, on a small scale, but in allits parts wonderfully complete. It marks the character of the Corsican people with a picturesque felicity which few historians have excelled. Above all, he paints the 10