Page images

middle of June, I was battered by one disorder after another! I am now very much recovered, and hope still to be better. What happiness it is that Mrs. Boswell has escaped.

"My Lives are reprinting, and I have forgotten the author of Gray's character: write immediately, and it may be perhaps inserted. Of London or Ashbourne you have your free choice; at any place I shall be glad to see you. I am, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."

On the 30th August, I informed him that my honoured father had died that morning; a complaint under which he had long laboured having suddenly come to a crisis, while I was upon a visit at the seat of Sir Charles Preston, from whence I had hastened the day before, upon receiving a letter by express.



"London, Sept. 7, 1782. “DEAR SIR,—I have struggled through this year with so much infirmity of body, and such strong impressions of the fragility of life, that death, when. ever it appears, fills me with melancholy; and I cannot hear without emotion of the removal of any one, whom I have known, into another state.

"Your father's death had every circumstance that could enable you to bear it; it was at a mature age, and it was expected; and as his general life had been pious, his thoughts had doubtless for many years past been turned upon eternity. That you did not find him sensible must doubtless grieve you; his disposition towards you was undoubtedly that of a kind, though not of a fond father. Kindness, at least actual, is in our power, but fondness is not; and if by negligence or imprudence you had extinguished his fondness, he could not at will rekindle it. Nothing then remained between you but mutual forgiveness of each other's faults, and mutual desire of each other's happiness. I shall long to know his final disposition of his fortune.

"You, dear Sir, have now a new station, and have therefore new cares, and new employments. Life, as Cowley seems to say, ought to resemble a wellordered poem; of which one rule generally received is, that the exordium should be simple, and should promise little. Begin your new course of life with the least show, and the least expense possible; you may at pleasure increase both, but you cannot easily diminish them. Do not think your estate your own, while any man calls upon you for money which you cannot pay; therefore, begin with timorous parsimony. Let it be your first care not to be in any man's debt.

"When the thoughts are extended to a future state, the present life seems hardly worthy of all those principles of conduct and maxims of prudence

1 The Rev. Mr. Temple, Vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall.

which one generation of men has transmitted to another; but upon a closer view, when it is perceived how much evil is produced and how much good is impeded by embarrassment and distress, and how little room the expedients of poverty leave for the exercise of virtue, it grows manifest that the boundless importance of the next life enforces some attention to the interests of this.

"Be kind to the old servants, and secure the kindness of the agents and factors. Do not disgust them by asperity, or unwelcome gaiety, or apparent suspicion. From them you must learn the real state of your affairs, the characters of your tenants, and the value of your lands.

"Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell. I think her expectations from air and exercise are the best that she can form. I hope she will live long and happily.

"I forget whether I told you that Rasay has been here. We dined cheerfully together. I entertained lately a young gentleman from Corrichatachin. I received your letters only this morning. I am, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."

In answer to my next letter, I received one from him, dissuading me from hastening to him as I had proposed. What is proper for publication is the following paragraph, equally just and tender :-

"One expense, however, I would not have you to spare: let nothing be omitted than can preserve Mrs. Boswell, though it should be necessary to transplant her for a time into a softer climate. She is the prop and stay of your life. How much must your children suffer by losing her!"


My wife was now so much convinced of his sincere friendship for me, and regard for her, that without any suggestion on my part, she wrote him a very polite and grateful letter.


"London, Sept. 7, 1782.


"DEAR LADY,-I have not often received so much pleasure as from your Invitation to Auchinleck. The journey thither and back is, indeed, too great for the latter part of the year; but if my health were fully recovered, I would suffer no little heat and cold, nor a wet or a rough road, to keep me from you. indeed, not without hope of seeing Auchinleck again; but to make it a pleasant place I must see its lady well, and brisk, and airy. For my sake, therefore, among many greater reasons, take care, dear Madam, of your health, spare no expense, and want no attendance that can procure ease or preserve it. Be very careful to keep your mind quiet; and do not think it toc much to give an account of your recovery to, Madam, yours, &c.




"London, Dec. 7, 1782. “DEAR SIR,—Having passed almost this whole year in a succession of disorders, I went in October to Brighthelmstone, whither I came in a state of so much weakness, that I rested four times, in walking between the inn and the lodging. By physic and abstinence I grew better, and am now reasonably easy, though at a great distance from health. I am afraid, however, that health begins, after seventy, and long before, to have a meaning different from that which it had at thirty. But it is culpable to murmur at the established order of the creation, as it is vain to oppose it. He that lives must grow old; and he that would rather grow old than die has God to thank for the infirmities of old age.

"At your long silence I am rather angry. You do not, since now you are the head of your house, think it worth your while to try whether you or your friend can live longer without writing; nor suspect, after so many years of friendship, that when I do not write to you I forget you. Put all such useless jealousies out of your head, and disdain to regulate your own practice by the practice of another, or by any other principle than the desire of doing right.


"Your economy, I suppose, begins now to be settled; your expenses are adjusted to your revenue, and all your people in their proper places. Resolve not to be poor. Whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness: it certainly destroys liberty; and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.

"Let me know the history of your life since your accession to your estate ;how many houses, how many cows, how much land in your own hand, and what bargains you make with your tenants.

"Of my 'Lives of the Poets' they have printed a new edition in octavo, I hear of three thousand. Did I give a set to Lord Hailes? If I did not, I will do it out of these. What did you make of all your copy?

"Mrs. Thrale and the three misses are now, for the winter, in Argyll Street. Sir Joshua Reynolds has been out of order, but is well again; and I am, dear Sir, your, &c.



"Edinburgh, Dec. 20, 1782.

"DEAR SIR,-I was made happy by your kind letter, which gave us the agreeable hopes of seeing you in Scotland again.

"I am much flattered by the concern you are pleased to take in my recovery. I am better, and hope to have it in my power to convince you by my attention, of how much consequence I esteem your health to the world and to myself I remain, Sir, with grateful respect, your obliged and obedient servant,


The death of Mr. Thrale had made a very material alteration with respect to Johnson's reception in that family. The manly authority of the husband no longer curbed the lively exuberance of the lady; and as her vanity had been fully gratified, by having the Colossus of Literature attached to her for many years, she gradually became less assiduous to please him. Whether her attachment to him was already divided by another object, I am unable to ascertain; but it is plain that Johnson's penetration was alive to her neglect or forced attention; for on the 6th of October this year we find him making a "parting use of the library" at Streatham and pronouncing a prayer which he composed on leaving Mrs. Thrale's family.

"Almighty God, Father of all mercy, help me by thy grace, that I may, with humble and sincere thankfulness, remember the comforts and conveniences which I have enjoyed at this place; and that I may resign them with holy submission, equally trusting in thy protection when thou givest and when thou takest away. Have mercy upon me, O Lord! have mercy upon me! To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, I commend this family. Bless, guide, and defend them, that they may so pass through this world, as finally to enjoy in thy presence everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." (Pr. and Med., p. 214.)

One cannot read this prayer without some emotions not very favourable to the lady whose conduct occasioned it.'

The next day, he made the following memorandum :

"October 7.-I was called early. I packed up my bundles, and used the foregoing prayer, with my morning devotions somewhat, I think, enlarged. Being earlier than the family, I read St. Paul's farewell, in the Acts, and then read fortuitously in the Gospels, which was my parting use of the library."

And in one of his memorandum-books I find, "Sunday, went to church at Streatham. Templo valedixi cum osculo."

He met Mr. Philip Metcalfe often at Sir Joshua Reynolds's and other places, and was a good deal with him at Brighthelmstone this autumn, being pleased at once with his excellent table and animated

1 Dr. Johnson meant nothing of what Mr. Boswell attributes to him-he makes a part ing use of the library-makes a valediction to the church, and pronounces a prayer on quitting a place where he had enjoyed so much comfort," not because Mrs. Thrale made him less welcome there, but because she, and he with her, were leaving Streatham.-C.


conversation. Mr. Metcalfe showed him great respect, and sent him a note that he might have the use of his carriage whenever he pleased. Johnson (3d October, 1782,) returned this polite answer : "Mr. Johnson is very much obliged by the kind offer of the carriage, but he has no desire of using Mr. Metcalfe's carriage, except when he can have the pleasure of Mr. Metcalfe's company." Metcalfe could not but be highly pleased that his company was thus valued by Johnson, and he frequently attended him in airings. They also went together to Chichester, and they visited Petworth, and Cowdray, the venerable seat of the Lords Montacute.1 "Sir," said Johnson, "I should like to stay here four-and-twenty hours. We see here how our ancestors lived."


That his curiosity was still unabated appears from two letters to Mr. John Nichols, of the 10th and 20th of October this year. In one he says, "I have looked into your 'Anecdotes,' and you will hardly thank a lover of literary history for telling you that he has been much informed and gratified. I wish you would add your own discoveries and intelligence to those of Dr. Rawlinson,' and undertake the Supplement to Wood. Think of it." In the other, "I wish, Sir, you could obtain some fuller information of Jortin,3 Markland, and Thirlby." They were three contemporaries of great eminence."


"Brighthelmstone, Nov. 14, 1782. "DEAR SIR, I heard yesterday of your late disorder, and should think ill of myself if I had heard of it without alarm. I heard likewise of your re covery, which I sincerely wish to be complete and permanent. Your country has been in danger of losing one of its brighest ornaments, and I of losing one of my oldest and kindest friends; but I hope you will still live long, for the honour

1 This venerable mansion has since (Sept. 1793) been totally destroyed by fire.-M.

2 Dr. Richard Rawlinson, an eminent antiquary, and a great benefactor to the University of Oxford. He founded the Anglo-Saxon professorship there, and bequeathed to it all his collection of MSS., medals, antiquities, and curiosities. He died in 1754, æt. 65.-C.

3 Dr. John Jortin, a voluminous and respectable writer on general subjects, as well as an eminent divine. He died in August, 1770.

4 Jeremiah Markland was an eminent critic, particularly in Greek literature. He died in 1776, æt. 83.-C.

5 Styan Thirlby; a critic of at least as much reputation as he deserves. He studied suc cessively divinity, medicine, and law.-He died in 1753, æt. 61.-C.

« PreviousContinue »