Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Boothby, Hill

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BOOTHBY, Miss HILL (1708–1756), friend of Dr. Johnson, born on 27 Oct. 1708, was grand-daughter of Sir William Boothby, third baronet, and daughter of Mr. Brook Boothby, of Ashbourne Hall, Derbyshire. Her mother was Elizabeth Fitzherbert, a daughter of John Fitzherbert, of Somersall-Herbert. Miss Boothby was a woman of considerable ability. Miss Anna Seward calls her ‘the sublimated methodistic Hill Boothby who read her bible in Hebrew.’ She made the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson about three years before her death, while she was presiding over the household of a distant relation, Mr. Fitzherbert, of Tissington, near Ashbourne, for whose late wife she had entertained an enthusiastic affection. The acquaintance with Johnson soon ripened into a warm friendship, Johnson addresses her as ‘sweet angel’ and ‘dearest dear,’ and assures her that he ‘has none other on whom his heart reposes.’ His letters to her, preserved by Miss Seward, and now usually printed in the editions of Croker's ‘Boswell,’ are all in a like affectionate strain. In them he discloses the mystery of the orange-peel, which Boswell asked for in vain. According to Mrs. Piozzi, Johnson was annoyed by Miss Boothby's friendship for Lord Lyttelton, and was influenced by this jealousy in writing that nobleman's life. Croker doubted the story, arguing that only passionate love for Miss Boothby could have been a sufficiently strong motive to have thus influenced Johnson; and that a love of that kind between them was incredible. Miss Boothby died on 16 Jan. 1756; and her letters to Johnson, written with some vivacity, and generally in a tone of enthusiastic piety, were collected and published by Richard Wright, of Lichfield, in 1805, a book which also contains the fragment of Johnson's autobiography, and some verses to Miss Boothby's memory by Sir Brooke Boothby, her nephew, and the author of ‘The Tears of Penelope.’ She is said to have been the original of Miss Sainthill in ‘The Spiritual Quixote,’ by the Rev. R. Graves (1773).

[See Miss Hill Boothby’s letters to Dr. Johnson (London: printed for Richard Phillips, 6 Bridge Street, Blackfriars); Boswell's Johnson (Croker); Piozzi's Johnsoniana § 73; Hayward's Piozzi, i. 256; Letters from Anna Seward from 1784–1807, Some of which are extracted in Johnsoniana, part xxii.]

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