Joseph Johnson

John Bugg (ed.), The Joseph Johnson Letterbook

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pg 2627. To Joseph Priestley, 24 August 1796

Lond. Augt. 24 1796

Dear Sir

I acknowledge the pleasure given me by your Letter of the 17th May & rejoice with you in the reception you have lately met with in Philadelphia, if that will not induce you to settle there I think nothing will, but all your friends here wish for it thinking it the place where you would be most useful & most happy.1 You tell me you sent two philosophical papers, a single sermon & a volume of sermons, but none of them have reached me.2 Several of the first have however been brought here for your friends for I have delivered to them, from Mr. Lindsey's Copy I have reprinted them & just as they were done.3 Mr. Henry arrived and brought me your address to the fr. philosophers, this I have added to them, but have omitted the last paragraph in the dedication. The Sermons are in the press from Vaughan's Copy because I do not wish that anything of yours should be lost to your country, & for this reason also I will print your continuation of the Church History. You shall not be plagued with a subscription whatever may be its fate.4 I am glad the case about which I have been teased not a little is at last arrived but no fault lay with me, it was regularly ship'd & a bill of lading sent to Mr. Vaughan.5

The articles mentioned below are put into a box, directed books, a present for Dr. Priestley & enclosed in a trunk to Mr. Dobson.6 Perhaps the liberality of the custom house officers may suffer them to pass without duty tho' I have no great expectation of liberality from such a quarter, however I shall tell Mr. D. their value that he may be prepared to pay it without trouble. The Life of Mad. Guyon printed at Bristol is very scarce.7 The last Vol. of Hist of England now printed in two 8os. What does this mean? I send volumes of the Review not knowing whether you receive the monthly numbers or not.8 Since you left us we have scarcely any theological controversy & few publications that would interest you. Gibbon's Memoirs two large quartos will I suppose be reprinted in America, such parts as are interesting.9

I had paid Jones your bill before I received your letter, & have since received the amount from Mr. Vaughan as well as your dft for the balance of your account. You have not noticed what I mentioned to you about the Charts, should they not now be continued?10

Baron Meseres lately pubd a Hist of Logarithms 2 Vols 40 & sent presents of them abroad.11 He has now pub'd a third Vol. & talks of sending some for you to give away, but upon reflection I believe you had better be pg 27without them unless he gives me at the same time money to pay expences of freight &c.

Your friends here are in general well, Mr. Lindsey has been a considerable time out of town, he laments the complaints you make of not hearing from London & that his letters must have miscarried - he enjoys a wonderful portion of health & spirits.

I rejoice that we are relieved from the apprehension of a war with America, now the principal source of our trade.12 We have no authority for believing that any probable steps are taking on either side for peace in Europe, except among the petty states who have accepted the conditions imposed by the french, who are every where successful, on the Rhine, in Italy, in short wherever they appear it is only to conquer. God grant that they may make a liberal use of their successes.

The people here are as quiet as lambs, hardly any grumbling, no seditions meetings or pamphlets, the minister does what he pleases, but the [friends] fall.13

Be so good as to make my respects to Mrs. P. & your sons. I could not hear of your loss without much concern for Harry was my favorite.14

I am &c.

Your son Joseph has sent me three letters introducing Mr. Forster who has not called a 2nd time, he has said nothing about my continuing some periodical works.

  •     enclosed in box:
  • Newton's Optics. K of Prussia's Works 13v., Mo. Mag V.1, Phil. Tran. [. . .]
  • Rys. gr. An. Rev. V.22.23.
  • Dickson's Nomenclr. Hutton's Dicty pt. 415

Text: JJLB 13v–r, 14v–r. Unpublished.pg 28

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 In February 1796, Priestley delivered the first in a series of thirteen discourses on the evidence for revelation at the Universalist Church in Philadelphia. The lectures attracted crowds and favourable comments from Benjamin Rush and John Adams, to whom the published versions were dedicated (Schofield, The Enlightened Joseph Priestley, 378–9). In May 1796 the lectures were published by Thomas Dobson in Philadelphia as Discourses Relating to the Evidences of Revealed Religion, Delivered in the Church of the Universalists, at Philadelphia, 1796, and Published at the Request of Many of the Hearers. Johnson reprinted Discourses later that year for British distribution.
Editor’s Note
2 The 'papers' were likely Considerations on the Doctrine of Phlogiston and the Decomposition of Water (Philadelphia, PA: Dobson, 1796) and A General View of the Arguments for the Unity of God and Against the Divinity and Pre-existence of Christ (New York: G. Robertson, 1796); the single sermon, Unitarianism Explained and Defended, in a Discourse Delivered in the Church of the Universalists, at Philadelphia, 1796 (Philadelphia, PA: John Thompson, 1796); and the volume of sermons likely Dobson's edition of Discourses (1796).
Editor’s Note
3 Theophilus Lindsey was Priestley's close friend and frequent correspondent.
Editor’s Note
4 Priestley had written a continuation of A General History of the Christian Church to the Fall of the Western Empire (originally published by Johnson in 1790) since emigrating to America.
Editor’s Note
5 Priestley wrote to Thomas Belsham (1750–1829) in March 1796 about finding a large box from Johnson, 'which has lain in the Custom House some months' (John Towill Rutt (ed.), The Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley (London: R. Hunter, 1831–2), vol. 2, 355).
Editor’s Note
6 'Present': books brought into America by people intending to reside there were not subject to duty, nor were materials 'especially imported for a seminary of learning'. Johnson may have hoped for an exemption because the books for Priestley were not intended for resale.
Editor’s Note
7 John Wesley, An Extract of the Life of Madame Guion (1776). The French mystic Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon, Madam Guyon (1648–1717) left a handwritten autobiography that Wesley translated into English. In a letter to Lindsey, Priestley mentions that he had read Wesley's book before the 1791 riots and wished to see it again (Rutt 2.486).
Editor’s Note
8 Likely the Analytical Review (though Priestley also requested copies of the Monthly Magazine and Benjamin Flower's Cambridge Intelligencer).
Editor’s Note
9 Memoirs of My Life and Writings by Edward Gibbon (1737–94) was published posthumously in 1796 by Cadell & Davies.
Editor’s Note
10 In 1797, Johnson published a corrected (ninth) edition of Priestley's A Description of a New Chart of History Containing a View of the Principal Revolutions of Empire That Have Taken Place in the World and in 1800 a new (tenth) edition of A Description of a Chart of Biography. Both study guides were steady sellers in Britain and the United States well into the nineteenth century.
Editor’s Note
11 Francis Maseres (1731–1824), mathematician, lawyer, and member of the Royal Society. He published treatises on trigonometry, logarithms, and algebra, which Priestley declared 'original and excellent' (Rutt (ed.), The Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley, vol. 2, 490). Johnson refers here to Maseres's Scriptores Logarithmici, or a Collection of Several Curious Tracts on the Nature and Construction of Logarithms (London: J. Davis, 1796), vol. 3.
Editor’s Note
12 Perhaps a reference to the Jay Treaty between Britain and the United States, which was signed in London in November 1794 and took effect in February 1796. It settled disputes that dated to the Revolutionary War, and established terms for safe trade between the two countries. Priestley, who continued to support revolutionary France through the 1790s, objected to the treaty being negotiated without the knowledge or agreement of the French government (see Letters to the Inhabitants of Northumberland and Its Neighbourhood, on Subjects Interesting to the Author, and to Them (Northumberland, PA: Andrew Kennedy, 1799), pt 2, 24).
Editor’s Note
13 The Pitt ministry's repressive measures, including the 1795 Gagging Acts, had stifled the public discussion of politics.
Editor’s Note
14 Priestley's youngest son, Henry, died at the age of 18 on 11 December 1795, after a short illness.
Editor’s Note
15 An abbreviated list of books that Johnson shipped to Priestley. Isaac Newton, Opticks, or a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light (1704, and many subsequent editions); Posthumous Works of Frederic II, King of Prussia (1712–1786), trans. Thomas Holcroft (London: G. G. & J. Robinson, 1789), 13 vols; Monthly Magazine, 1 (February 1796); Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London; John Ryland's An English and Greek Grammar (London: G. Keith & E. and C. Dilly, 1777); Analytical Review, 22 (July–December 1795) and 23 (January–June 1796); Stephen Dickson, An Essay on Chemical Nomenclature (London: J. Johnson, and Dublin: W. Gilbert, 1796), which received a substantial review in the Analytical Review; and Charles Hutton's Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary (London: J. Johnson and G. G. & J. Robinson, 1795–6).
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