"Haec sunt quce nostra polui te voce monere[67]; Vade, age."

'As to your History of Corsica, you have no materials which others have not, or may not have. You have, somehow, or other, warmed your imagination. I wish there were some cure, like the lover's leap, for all heads of which some single idea has obtained an unreasonable and irregular possession. Mind your own affairs, and leave the Corsicans to theirs. I am, dear Sir,

'Your most humble servant, 'SAM. JOHNSON.' 'London, Aug. 21, 1766.'


'Auchinleck, Nov. 6, 1766. 'MUCH ESTEEMED AND DEAR SIR,

'I plead not guilty to[68]----

'Having thus, I hope, cleared myself of the charge brought against me, I presume you will not be displeased if I escape the punishment which you have decreed for me unheard. If you have discharged the arrows of criticism against an innocent man, you must rejoice to find they have missed him, or have not been pointed so as to wound him.

'To talk no longer in allegory, I am, with all deference, going to offer a few observations in defence of my Latin, which you have found fault with.

'You think I should have used spei primae, instead of spei alterae. Spes is, indeed, often used to express something on which we have a future dependence, as in Virg. Eclog. i. l. 14,

".... modo namque gemellos Spem gregis ah silice in nuda connixa reliquit."

and in Georg. iii. l. 473,

"Spemque gregemque simul,"

for the lambs and the sheep. Yet it is also used to express any thing on which we have a present dependence, and is well applied to a man of distinguished influence, our support, our refuge, our praesidium, as Horace calls Maecenas. So, AEneid xii. l. 57, Queen Amata addresses her son-in-law Turnus:--"Spes tu nunc una:" and he was then no future hope, for she adds,

"... decus imperiumque Latini Te penes;"

which might have been said of my Lord Bute some years ago. Now I consider the present Earl of Bute to be 'Excelsae familiae de Bute spes prima;' and my Lord Mountstuart, as his eldest son, to be 'spes altera.' So in AEneid xii. l. 168, after having mentioned Pater AEneas, who was the present spes, the reigning spes, as my German friends would say, the spes prima, the poet adds,

"Et juxta Ascanius, magnae spes altera Romae."

'You think alterae ungrammatical, and you tell me it should have been alteri. You must recollect, that in old times alter was declined regularly; and when the ancient fragments preserved in the Juris Civilis Fontes were written, it was certainly declined in the way that I use it. This, I should think, may protect a lawyer who writes alterae in a dissertation upon part of his own science. But as I could hardly venture to quote fragments of old law to so classical a man as Mr. Johnson, I have not made an accurate search into these remains, to find examples of what I am able to produce in poetical composition. We find in Plaut. Rudens, act iii. scene 4,

"Nam Jiuic alters patria qua: sit profecto nescio."

Plautus is, to be sure, an old comick writer: but in the days of Scipio and Lelius, we find, Terent. Heautontim. act ii. scene 3,

".... hoc ipsa in itinere alterae Dum narrat, forte audivi."

'You doubt my having authority for using genus absolutely, for what we call family, that is, for illustrious extraction. Now I take genus in Latin, to have much the same signification with birth in English; both in their primary meaning expressing simply descent, but both made to stand [Greek: kat exochaen] noble descent. Genus is thus used in Hor. lib. ii. Sat. v. 1. 8,

"Et genus et virtus, nisi cum re, vilior alga est."

'And in lib. i. Epist. vi. 1. 37,

"Et genus et forinam Regina pecunia donat."

'And in the celebrated contest between Ajax and Ulysses, Ovid's Metamorph. lib. xiii. 1. 140,

"Nam genus et proavos, et quae--non fecimus ipsi Vix ea nostra voco."

'Homines nullius originis, for nullis orti majoribus, or nullo loco nati, is, you are "afraid, barbarous."

'Origo is used to signify extraction, as in Virg. AEneid i. 1. 286,

"Nascetur pulchrd Trojanus origine Caesar."

And in AEneid x. 1. 618,

"Ille tamen nostra deducit origine nomen"

And as nullus is used for obscure, is it not in the genius of the Latin language to write nullius originis, for obscure extraction?

'I have defended myself as well as I could.

'Might I venture to differ from you with regard to the utility of vows? I am sensible that it would be very dangerous to make vows rashly, and without a due consideration. But I cannot help thinking that they may often be of great advantage to one of a variable judgement and irregular inclinations. I always remember a passage in one of your letters to our Italian friend Baretti; where talking of the monastick life, you say you do not wonder that serious men should put themselves under the protection of a religious order, when they have found how unable they are to take care of themselves.[69] For my own part, without affecting to be a Socrates, I am sure I have a more than ordinary struggle to maintain with the Evil Principle; and all the methods I can devise are little enough to keep me tolerably steady in the paths of rectitude.

Life of Johnson Vol_02 Page 08

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