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‘I may perhaps have said this’: Samuel Johnson and Newhailes Library


The library of Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, at Newhailes House is regularly associated with an unsubstantiated quote from Samuel Johnson who supposedly described it as ‘the most learned drawing-room in Europe’. Though the veracity of the association is never likely to be proven, this essay considers: the development of the library; Lord Hailes’s interactions with his peers; and contemporary references to his collection. How Johnson may have interpreted Lord Hailes’s character is also considered in order to judge whether there is at least a reasonable basis for the association.