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Testimonies Concerning Mr. Lauder Post by :dogears Category :Nonfictions Author :Samuel Johnson Date :June 2011 Read :2884

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Testimonies Concerning Mr. Lauder

Edinb. May 22, 1734.

These are certifying, that Mr. William Lauder past his course at this university, to the general satisfaction of these masters, under whom he studied. That he has applied himself particularly to the study of humanity(1) ever since. That for several years past, he has taught with success, students in the humanity class, who were recommended to him by the professor thereof. And lastly, has taught that class itself, during the indisposition, and since the death of its late professor: and, therefore, is, in our opinion, a fit person to teach humanity in any school or college whatever.


(1) So the Latin tongue is called in Scotland, from the Latin phrase, _classis humaniorum literarum_, the class or form where that language is taught.

A Letter from the Reverend Mr. Patrick Cuming, one of the Ministers of Edinburgh, and Regius Professor of Church History in the University there, to the Reverend Mr. Blair, Rector of the Grammar school at Dundee.

D. B.

Upon a public advertisement in the newspapers, of the vacancy of a master's place in your school, Mr. William Lauder, a friend of mine, proposes to set up for a candidate, and goes over for that purpose. He has long-taught the Latin with great approbation in this place, and given such proofs of his mastery in that language, that the best judges do, upon all occasions, recommend him as one who is qualified in the best manner. He has taught young boys and young gentlemen, with great success; nor did I ever hear of any complaint of him from either parents or children. I beg leave to recommend him to you as my friend; what friendship you show him, I will look upon as a very great act of friendship to me, of which he and I will retain the most grateful sense, if he is so happy as to be preferred. I persuade myself, you will find him ready at all times to be advised by you, as I have found him. Indeed if justice had been done him, he should long ago have been advanced for his merit. I ever am,

D. B.

Your most affectionate, humble servant,


Edin. Nov. 13, 1742.

A Letter from Mr. Mac-Laurin, late Professor of Mathematicks in the University of Edinburgh, to the Reverend Mr. George Blair, Rector of the Grammar school at Dundee.


Though unacquainted, I take the liberty of giving you this trouble, from the desire I have always had to see Mr. Lauder provided in a manner suited to his talent. I know him to have made uncommon progress in classical learning, to have taught it with success, and never heard there could be any complaint against his method of teaching. I am, indeed, a stranger to the reasons of his want of success on former occasions. But after conversing with him, I have ground to hope, that he will be always advised by you, for whom he professes great esteem, and will be useful under you. I am,


Your most obedient, humble servant,


College of Edinburgh, Nov. 30, 1742.

A Letter from the Authors of the Universal History, to Mr. Lauder. London, August 12th, 1741.


When we so gladly took the first opportunity of reviving the memory and merit of your incomparable Johnston, in the first volume of our Universal History, our chief aim was to excite some generous Mecenas to favour the world with a new edition of a poem which we had long since beheld with no small concern, buried, as it were, by some unaccountable fatality, into an almost total oblivion; whilst others of that kind, none of them superior, many vastly inferior to it, rode, unjustly, as we thought, triumphant over his silent grave. And it is with great satisfaction that we have seen our endeavours so happily crowned in the edition you soon after gave of it at Edinburgh, in your learned and judicious vindication of your excellent author, and more particularly by the just deference which your learned and pious convocation has been pleased to pay to that admirable version.

We have had since then, the pleasure to see your worthy example followed here, in the several beautiful editions of the honourable Mr. Auditor Benson, with his critical notes upon the work.

It was, indeed, the farthest from our thoughts, to enter into the merit of the controversy between your two great poets, Johnston and Buchanan; neither were we so partial to either as not to see, that each had their shades as well as lights; so that, if the latter has been more happy in the choice and variety of his metre, it is as plain, that he has given his poetic genius such an unlimited scope, as has in many cases quite disfigured the peculiar and inimitable beauty, simplicity, and energy of the original, which the former, by a more close and judicious version, has constantly, and surprisingly displayed. Something like this we ventured to hint in our note upon these two noble versions; to have said more, would have been inconsistent with our designed brevity.

We have, likewise, since seen what your opponent has writ in praise of the one, and derogation of the other, and think you have sufficiently confuted him, and with respect to us, he has been so far from giving us any cause to retract what we had formerly said, that it has administered an occasion to us of vindicating it, as we have lately done by some critical notes on your excellent Johnston, which we communicated soon after to Mr. A. B. who was pleased to give them a place in his last edition of him, and which we doubt not you have seen long ago. How they have been relished among you we know not, but with us they have been thought sufficient to prove what we have advanced, as well as to direct the attentive reader to discover new instances of your author's exactness and elegance, in every page, if not almost in every line.

We gratefully accept of the books, and kind compliments you were pleased to transmit to us by Mr. Strahan, and had long since returned you our thanks, but for the many avocations which the great work you know us to be engaged in doth of necessity bring upon us; obliging us, or some, at least, of our society, to make, from time to time, an excursion to one or other of our two learned universities, and consulting them upon the best method of carrying on this work to the greatest advantage to the public. This has been some considerable part of our employment for these twelve months past; and we flatter ourselves, that we have, with their assistance and approbation, made such considerable improvements on our original plan, as will scarcely fail of being acceptable to the learned world. They will shortly appear in print, to convince the world that we have not been idle, though this sixth volume is like to appear somewhat later in the year than was usual with our former ones. We shall take the liberty to transmit some copies of our new plan to you as soon as they are printed. All we have left to wish with respect to your excellent countryman and his version is, that it may always meet with such powerful and impartial advocates, and that it may be as much esteemed by all candid judges, as it is by,

Learned Sir,
Your sincere wellwishers and humble servants,
The AUTHORS of the Universal History.

A Letter from the learned Mr. Robert Ainsworth, author of the Latin and English Dictionary, to Mr. Lauder.


These wait on you, to thank you for the honour you have done a person, equally unknown as undeserving, in your valuable present, which I did not receive till several weeks after it was sent: and since I received it, my eyes have been so bad, and my hand so unstable, that I have been forced to defer my duty, as desirous to thank you with my own hand. I congratulate to your nation the just honour ascribed to it by its neighbours and more distant countries, in having bred two such excellent poets as your Buchanan and Johnston, whom to name is to commend; but am concerned for their honour at home, who being committed together, seem to me both to suffer a diminution, whilst justice is done to neither. But at the same time I highly approve your nation's piety in bringing into your schools sacred instead of profane poesy, and heartily wish that ours, and all Christian governments, would follow your example herein. If a mixture of _utile dulci_ be the best composition in poetry, (which is too evident to need the judgment of the nicest critick in the art,) surely the _utile_ so transcendently excels in the sacred hymns, that a Christian must deny his name that doth not acknowledge it: and if the _dulce_ seem not equally to excel, it must be from a vitiated taste of those who read them in the original, and, in others, at second-hand, from translations. For the manner of writing in the east and west is widely distant, and which to a paraphrast must render his task exceeding difficult, as requiring a perfect knowledge in two languages, wherein the idioms and graces of speech, caused by the diversity of their religion, laws, customs, &c. are as remote as the inhabitants, wherein, notwithstanding, your poets have succeeded to admiration.

Your main contest seems to me, when stript of persons, whether the easy or sublime in poesy be preferable; if so,

Non opis est nostrae tantam componere litem:

nor think I it in your case material to be decided. Both these have their particular excellencies and graces, and youth ought to be taught wherein (which the matter ought chiefly to determine) the one hath place, and where the other. Now since the hymns of David, Moses, and other divine poets, intermixt with them, (infinitely excelling those of Callimachus, Alcaeus, Sappho, Anacreon, and all others,) abound in both these virtues, and both your poets are acknowledged to be very happy in paraphrasing them, it is my opinion, both of them, without giving the least preference to either, should be read alternately in your schools, as the tutor shall direct. Pardon, learned Sir, this scribble to my age and weakness, both which are very great, and command me wherein I may serve you, as,

Learned Sir,

Your obliged, thankful, and obedient servant,


Spitalfields, Sept. 1741.

A Letter from the Authors of the Universal History to Mr. Auditor Benson.


It is with no small pleasure that we see Dr. Johnston's translation of the Psalms revived in so elegant a manner, and adorned with such a just and learned display of its inimitable beauties. As we flatter ourselves that the character we gave it, in our first volume of the Universal History, did, in some measure, contribute to it, we hope, that in justice to that great poet, you will permit us to cast the following mites into your treasury of critical notes on his noble version. We always thought the palm by far this author's due, as upon many other accounts, so especially for two excellencies hitherto not taken notice of by any critic, that we know of, and which we beg leave to transmit to you, and if you think fit, by you to the public, in the following observations.

We beg leave to subscribe ourselves,

Sir, &c.

The AUTHORS of the Universal History.

Dr. Isaac Watts, D.D. in his late book, entitled, The Improvement of the Mind, Lond. 1741, p. 114.

Upon the whole survey of things, it is my opinion, that for almost all boys who learn this tongue, (the Latin,) it would be much safer to be taught Latin poesy, as soon, and as far as they can need it, from those excellent translations of David's Psalms, which are given us by Buchanan in the various measures of Horace; and the lower classes had better read Dr. Johnston's translation of those Psalms, another elegant writer of the Scots nation, instead of Ovid's Epistles; for he has turned the same Psalms, perhaps, with greater elegancy, into elegiac verse, whereof the learned W. Benson, esq. has lately published a new edition; and I hear that these Psalms are honoured with an increasing use in the schools of Holland and Scotland. A stanza, or a couplet of those writers would now and then stick upon the minds of youth, and would furnish them infinitely better with pious and moral thoughts, and do something towards making them good men and Christians.

An Act of the Commission of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland, recommending Dr. Arthur Johnston's Latin Paraphrase of the Psalms of David, &c.

At Edinburgh, 13th of November, 1740, post meridiem.

A Petition having been presented to the late General Assembly, by Mr. William Lauder, teacher of humanity in Edinburgh, craving, That Dr. Arthur Johnston's Latin Paraphrase on the Psalms of David, and Mr. Robert Boyd, of Trochrig, his Hecatombe Christiana, may be recommended to be taught in all grammar schools; and the assembly having appointed a committee of their number to take the desire of the foresaid petition into their consideration, and report to the commission: the said committee offered their opinion, that the commission should grant the desire of the said petition, and recommend the said Dr. Johnston's Paraphrase to be taught in the lower classes of the schools, and Mr. George Buchanan's Paraphrase on the Psalms, together with Mr. Robert Boyd of Trochrig's, Hecatombe Christiana in the higher classes of schools, and humanity-classes in universities. The commission having heard the said report, unanimously approved thereof, and did, and hereby do, recommend accordingly.

Extracted by

WILLIAM GRANT(1), Cl. Ecl. Sc.

(1) This honourable gentleman is now his Majesty's Advocate for Scotland.

A Letter from the learned Mr. Abraham Gronovius, Secretary to the University of Leyden, to Mr. Lauder, concerning the Adamus Exsul of Grotius.

Clarissimo Viro, Wilhelmo Laudero, Abrahamus Gronovius, S.P.D.

Postquam binae literae tuae ad me perlatae fuerunt, duas editiones carminum H. Grotii, viri vere summi, excussi; verum ab utraque tragoediam, quam Adamum Exsulem inscripsit (Greek: O AEAPY), abesse deprehendi; neque ullum ejusdem exemplar, quamvis tres(1) editiones exstare adnotaveram, ullibi offendere potui, adeo ut spe, quam vorabam desiderio tuo satisfaciendi, me prorsus excidisse existimarem.

Verum nuperrime forte contigit, ut primam tragoediae Grotianae editionem, Hagae, an. 1601. publicatam, beneficio amicissimi mihi viri nactus fuerim, ejusque decem priores paginas, quibus, praeter chorum, actus primus comprehenditur, a Jacobo meo, optimae spei adolescente, transcriptas nunc ad te mitto. Vale, vir doctissime, meque, ut facis, amare perge. Dabam Lugd. Bat. A. D, IV. Id. Sept. A. D. MDCCXLVI.

(1) Though Gronovius here mentions only three editions of this noble and curious performance, the Adamus Exsul of Grotius; yet it appears from the catalogue of his works, that no fewer than four have been printed, two in quarto, and two in octavo, in the years 1601, 1608, and 1635; two having been made, one in quarto, the other in octavo, anno 1601.

A second Letter from the same gentleman to Mr. Lauder, on the same subject.

Clarissime atque eruditissime vir,

Posteaquam, tandem Jacobus meus residuam partem, quam desiderabas, tragoediae Grotianae transcripserat, ut ea diutius careres, committere nolui: quod autem citius illam ad finem perducere non potuerit, obstiterunt variae occupationes, quibus districtus fuit. Nam, praeter scholastica studia, quibus strenue incubuit, ipsi componenda erat oratio, qua rudimenta linguae Graecae Latinseque deponeret, eamque, quod vehementer laetor, venuste, et quidem stilo ligato, composuit, et in magna auditorum corona pronuntiavit. Quod autem ad exemplar ipsum, quo Adamus Exsul comprehenditur, spectat, id lubens, si meum foret, ad te perferri curarem, verum illud a clarissimo possessore tanti aestimatur, ut perrsuasum habeam me istud minime ab ipso impetraturum: et sane sacra carmina Grotii adeo raro obvia sunt, ut eorundem exemplar apud ipsos remonstrantium ecclesiastas frustra quaesiverim.

Opus ipsum inscriptum est HENRICO BORBONIO, PRINCIPI CONDAEO; et forma libri est in quarto, ut nullo pacto literis includi possit. Ceterum, pro splendidissima et Magnes Britanniae principe, cui merito dicata est, digna editione Psalmorum, ex versione metrica omnium fere poetarum principis JONSTONI maximas tibi grates habet agitque Jacobus. Utinam illustrissimus Bensonus in usum serenissimi principis, atque ingeniorum in altiora surgentium, eadem forma, lisdemque typis exarari juberet divinos illos Ciceronis de Officiis libros, dignos sane, quos diurna nocturnaque manu versaret princeps, a quo aliquando Britannici regni majestas et populi salus pendebunt! Interim tibi, eruditissime vir, atque etiam politissimo D. Caveo, pro muneribus literariis, quae per nobilissimum Lawsonium (1) ad me curastis, magno opere me obstrictum agnosco, cademque, summa cum voluptate, a me perlecta sunt.

Filius meus te plurimum salutat.

Vale, doctissime vir, meisque verbis D. Caveum saluta, atque amare perge,



Dabam Leidis, A. D. xiv. KAL.

(1) The person here meant was the learned and worthy Dr. Isaac Lawson, late physician to the English army in Flanders; by whom Mr. Gronovius did me the honour to transmit to me two or three acts of the Adamus Exsul of Grotius, transcribed by his son, Mr. James. The truth of this particular consists perfectly well with the knowledge of the Doctor's brother, John Lawson, esq. counsellor at law; who also had the same thing lately confirmed to him by Mr. Gronovius himself in Holland.


And now my character is placed above all suspicion of fraud by authentick documents, I will make bold, at last, to pull off the mask, and declare sincerely the true motive that induced me to interpolate a few lines into some of the authors quoted by me in my Essay on Milton, which was this: Knowing the prepossession in favour of Milton, how deeply it was rooted in many, I was willing to make trial, if the partial admirers of that author would admit a translation of his own words to pass for his sense, or exhibit his meaning; which I thought they would not: nor was I mistaken in my conjecture, forasmuch as several gentlemen, seemingly persons of judgment and learning, assured me, they humbly conceived I had not proved my point, and that Milton might have written as he has done, supposing he had never seen these authors, or they had never existed. Such is the force of prejudice! This exactly confirms the judicious observation of the excellent moralist and poet:

Pravo favore labi mortales solent;
Et pro judicio dum stant erroris sui,
Ad poenitendum rebus manifestis agi.

For, had I designed, as the vindicator of Milton supposes, to impose a trick on the publick, and procure credit to my assertions by an imposture, I would never have drawn lines from Hog's translation of Milton, a book common at every sale, I had almost said, at every stall, nor ascribed them to authors so easily attained: I would have gone another way to work, by translating forty or fifty lines, and assigning them to an author, whose works possibly might not be found till the world expire at the general conflagration. My imposing, therefore, on the publick in general, instead of a few obstinate persons, for whose sake alone the stratagem was designed, is the only thing culpable in my conduct, for which again I most humbly ask pardon: and that this, and this only, was, as no other could be, my design, no one, I think, can doubt, from the account I have just now given; and whether that was so criminal, as it has been represented, I shall leave every impartial mind to determine.

(The end)
Samuel Johnson's Writings: Testimonies Concerning Mr. Lauder

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