Thursday, October 7, 2010

History of My Own Time

On October 7, 1773, Johnson and Boswell are waiting for a break in the weather to sail to Mull ("
The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D
").  Johnson is well equiped for a long siege: 'Captain M'Lean joined us this morning at breakfast. There came on a dreadful storm of wind and rain, which continued all day, and rather increased at night. The wind was directly against our getting to Mull. We were in a strange state of abstraction from the world: we could neither hear from our friends, nor write to them. Col had brought Daille On the Fathers, Lucas On Happiness, and More's Dialogues, from the Reverend Mr M'Lean's, and Burnet's History of his own Times, from Captain M'Lean's; and he had of his own some books of farming, and Gregory's Geometry. Dr Johnson read a good deal of Burnet, and of Gregory, and I observed he made some geometrical notes in the end of his pocket-book. I read a little of Young's Six Weeks Tour through the Southern Counties; and Ovid's Epistles, which I had bought at Inverness, and which helped to solace many a weary hour.

We were to have gone with Dr Johnson this morning to see the mine; but were prevented by the storm. While it was raging, he said, 'We may be glad we are not damnati ad metalla.'

Like Samuel Johnson, Walter Scott read voraciously.  Bishop of Salisbury Gilbert Burnet's work was published in 1724 (vol 1) and 1734 (vol 2).  From "Notes and Queries (Fifth Series, Volume Seventh) - 1877)" comes this note concerning one of Walter Scott's influences: 'With reference to the extract from p. 263, the following passage from Peveril of the Peak conclusively proves, I think, that Sir Walter Scott must have seen this curiously annotated copy of Burnet. Charles II., it will be remembered, takes the Duke of Buckingham to task for anticipating him in his lawless pursuit of Alice Bridgenorth :—

"' It is harder,' said the King, in the same subdued tone, which both preserved through the rest of the conversation, ' that a wench's bright eyes can make a nobleman forget the decencies due to his sovereign's privacy.' ' May I presume to ask your Majesty what decencies are those ?' said the Duke."

Hugh A. Kennedy.

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