AN EXCESSIVELY RARE LETTER FROM THE SCOTTISH BIOGRAPHER OF DOCTOR JOHNSON
BOSWELL, JAMES. (1740-1795). Scottish lawyer and biographer of Samuel Johnson; the 20th-century publication of his journals proved him to be also one of the world’s greatest diarists. Excessively rare Autograph Letter Signed, “James Boswell”. Four very full pages, small quarto. London, March 14, 1792. Very fine condition. To “Andrew”, the overseer of Boswell’s estate. Boswell writes:
“Yours of 27 and 19 February and 3 March are before me. I have received the Ayr Bank Receipt for £150.
You are right as to taking what men will allow for repairs to Rogerton houses, which will go in part towards building the new ones. I will allow wood for the roof of a house to John Dinsmore provided he is at all the rest of the expense.
In making out the account of improvements yearly, you must include the wood as if purchased by you and grant receipt for the whole. If the price which it would bring me be stated, it comes to the same thing. I see from the Act of Parliament that the Account and Vouchers must be lodged within four months after Martinmas; therefore in future let us be in full time. Send me a copy of what you have now lodged, that I may sign it, which though a mere form is proper. You may thin the Ashes at the foot of the Inclosure; but do not touch what are on the Old Castle. Tell Miller Smith that I hope he will not be unreasonable as to the run of water; but let it go as conveniently for all concerned as may be. I think it is right to carry forward the belt of Rogerton planting, and to straight the march as proposed.
I do not like John Murdock’s setting the half of his fen. In case of sale a years real rent must be paid to me. I have no doubt that the March with Mr. Alexander in the Trabock is properly straighted. I do not have to sell my house in Ayr. Remit £40 to account for me to Mr. Robert Boswell, Writer to the Signet at Edinburgh. I am your well wisher, James Boswell.
…P.S. I have just now received yours of the 10th. I wish to know particularly the lands as to which there is a deficiency of my valuation as to the payment of Road money. I am pleased with your state of the trees for planting. But I wish to have many more willows intermixed. Mr. Fairlie of Fairlie was so good as to say that he would let me have a number. Write to him in my name, that he may be pleased to order them to be cut of rent and you will pay the men employed. I do not interfere with the Traboch tenants. At any rate I cannot…Does John Young intend to build on the road of lands you mention? I cannot agree to any stones from my quarry being carried to Cumnoch. If any such practices are attempted be sure to stop them. I am glad that a process is going on against Miller Brown. I am resolved that the Tachs shall be strictly observed and I desire you may attend particularly to this…”
James Boswell was acquainted with Voltaire, Rousseau, Wilkes and General Paoli. He met Dr. Johnson in London in 1763, visited him frequently and toured the Hebrides with him ten years after their initial meeting. In 1773, he was elected a member of the Literary Club and took copious notes of Dr. Johnson’s conversations. After Johnson’s death, Boswell wrote Life of Samuel Johnson, a masterful biography that was published in 1791. This is the finest letter of his we have had the privilege of offering.