Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sir Alexander Dick


'Prestonfield, Feb. 17, 1777.

'SIR, I had yesterday the honour of receiving your book of your Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, which you was so good as to send me, by the hands of our mutual friend, Mr. Boswell, of Auchinleck; for which I return you my most hearty thanks; and after carefully reading it over again, shall deposit in my little collection of choice books, next our worthy friend's Journey to Corsica...The truths you have told, and the purity of the language in which they are expressed, as your Journey is universally read, may, and already appear to have a very good effect. For a man of my acquaintance, who has the largest nursery for trees and hedges in this country, tells me, that of late the demand upon him for these articles is doubled, and sometimes tripled...'

Sir Alexander Dick's letter to Samuel Johnson refers to Johnson's comments in his account of the trip he took with James Boswell that there were scarcely any trees to be found in Scotland.  Dick was a well known physician, who is remembered for his benevolence.  Dick factors into some background material employed by Sir Walter Scott in his "The Highland Widow".  Samuel Johnson is again involved.  From the notes (Note G on the Countess of Eglington):

'At Sir Alexander Dick's, from that absence of mind to which every man is at times subject. I told, in a blundering manner. Lady Eglintoune's complimentary adoption of Dr. Johnson as her son; for I unfortunately stated that her ladyship adopted him as her son, in consequence of her having been married the year after he was born. Dr Johnson instantly corrected me. 'Sir, don't you perceive that you are defaming the Countess? For, supposing me to be her son, and that she was not married till the year after my birth, I must have been her natural son.' A young lady of quality who was present, very handsomely said, 'Might not the son have justified the fault." My friend was much flattered by this compliment, which 1 never forgot. When in more than ordinary spirits, and talking of hisi journey in Scotland, he has called to me, 'Boswell, what was it that the young lady of quality said of me at Sir Alexander Dick's?' Nobody will doubt that I was happy in repeating it." '

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