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In the end of this year he was seized with a spasmodic asthma of such violence, that he was confined to the house in great pain, being sometimes obliged to sit all night in his chair, a recumbent posture being so hurtful to his respiration, that he could not endure lying in bed; and there came upon him at the same time that oppresive and fatal disease, a dropsy. It was a very severe winter, which probably aggravated his complaints; and the solitude in which Mr. Levett and Mrs Williams had left him rendered his life very gloomy. Mrs. Desmoulins, who still lived, was herself so very ill, that she could contribute very little to his relief. He, however, had none of that unsocial shyness which we commonly see in people afflicted with sickness. He did not hide his head from the world, in solitary abstraction; he did not deny himself to the visits of his friends and acquaintances; but at all times when he was not overcome by sleep, was as ready for conversation as in his best days.
"One penny shall be left by each member for the waiter."
Johnson's definition of a club, in this sense, in his Dictionary, is "An assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain cond:ons."
Burton's Books-Alderman Clark-Correspondence-Dr. Gillespie-Drs. Cullen, Hope and Monro-Divine Interposition-Lord Monboddo-Dr. Ross-George Steevens-Mrs. Montagu -Burke's Conversation-Foote-The Empress of Russia-Mrs. Thrale-Ecclesiastical Discipline-Fear of Death-Capel Lofft-Thomas à Kempis-Dr. Douglas-Editions of Horace-Charles Fox.
AND now I am arrived at the last year of the life of SAMUEL JOHNSON; a year in which, although passed in severe ndisposition, he nevertheless gave many evidences of the continuance of those wonderous powers of mind which raised him so high in the intellectual world. His conversation and his letters of this year were in no respect inferior to those of former years. The following is a remarkable proof of his being alive to the most minute curiosities of literature.
TO MR. DILLY, BOOKSELLER,
In the Poultry.
"Jan. 6, 1784.
"SIR,-There is in the world a set of books which used to be sold by the booksellers on the bridge, and which I must entreat you to procure me. They are called Burton's Books:1 the title of one is 'Admirable Curiosities, Rarities, and Wonders in England.' I believe there are about five or six of them; they seem very proper to allure backward readers; be so kind as to get them for me, and send me them with the best printed edition of 'Baxter's Call to the Unconverted.' I am, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
TO MR. PERKINS.
"Jan. 21, 1784.
"DEAR SIR,—I was very sorry not to see you when you were so kind as to call on me; but to disappoint friends, and if they are not very good-natured, to disoblige them is one of the evils of sickness. If you will please to let me know which of the afternoons in this week I shall be favoured with another
1 These books are much more numerous than Johnson supposed.
visit by you and Mrs. Perkins, and the young people, I will take all the measures that I can to be pretty well at that time. I am, &c.
His attention to the Essex Head Club appears from the following letter to Mr. Alderman Clark, a gentleman for whom he deservedly entertained a great regard.'
TO RICHARD CLARK, ESQ.
"Jan. 27, 1784.
"DEAR SIR,-You will receive a requisition, according to the rules of the club, to be at the house as president of the night. This turn comes once a month, and the member is obliged to attend, or send another in his place. You were inrolled in the club by my invitation, and I ought to introduce you; but as I am hindered by sickness, Mr. Hoole will very properly supply my place as introductor, or yours as president. I hope in milder weather to be a very constant attendant. I am, Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON.
"You ought to be informed that the forfeits began with the year, and that every night of non-attendance incurs the mulct of threepence, that is, ninepence a-week."
On the 8th of January I wrote to him, anxiously inquiring as to his health, and enclosing my "Letter to the People of Scotland on the Present State of the Nation." "I trust," said I, "that you will be liberal enough to make allowance for my differing from you on two points, [the Middlesex election and the American war,] when my general principles of government are according to your own heart, and when, at a crisis of doubtful event, I stand forth with honest zeal as an ancient and faithful Briton. My reason for introducing those two points was, that as my opinions with regard to them had been declared at the periods when they were least favourable, I might have the credit of a man who is not a worshipper of ministerial power."
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"Feb. 11, 1784.
"DEAR SIR,—I hear of many inquiries which your kindness has disposed to make after me. I have long intended you a long letter, which perhaps the imagination of its length hindered me from beginning. I will, therefore, con tent myself with a shorter.
1 He died at Chertsey, January 16, 1831, æt. 93.-C.
Having promoted the institution of a new club in the neighbourhood, at the house of an old servant of Thrale's, I went thither to meet the company, and was seized with a spasmodic asthma, so violent, that with difficulty I got to my own house, in which I have been confined eight or nine weeks, and from which I know not when I shall be able to go even to church. The asthma, however, is not the worst. A dropsy gains ground upon me: my legs and thighs are very much swollen with water, which I should be content if I could keep there; but I am afraid that it will soon be higher. My nights are very sleepless and very tedious, and yet I am extremely afraid of dying.
"My physicians try to make me hope, that much of my malady is the effect of cold, and that some degree at least of recovery is to be expected from vernal breezes and summer suns. If my life is prolonged to autumn, I shall be glad to try a warmer climate; though how to travel with a diseased body, without a companion to conduct me, and with very little money, I do not well see. Ramsay has recovered his limbs in Italy; and Fielding was sent to Lisbon, where, indeed, he died; but he was, I believe, past hope when he went. Think for me what I can do.
"I received your pamphlet, and when I write again may perhaps tell you some opinion about it; but you will forgive a man struggling with disease his neglect of disputes, politics, and pamphlets. Let me have your prayers. My compliments to your lady, and young ones. Ask your physicians about my case and desire Sir Alexander Dick to write me his opinion. I am, dear Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.
"Feb. 28, 1784.
"MY DEAREST LOVE,-I have been extremely ill of an asthma and dropsy, but received by the mercy of God sudden and unexpected relief last Thursday, by the discharge of twenty pints of water. Whether I shall continue free, or shall fill again, cannot be told. Pray for me. Death, my dear, is very dreadful; let us think nothing worth our care but how to prepare for it; what we know amiss in ourselves let us make haste to amend, and put our trust in the mercy of God and the intercession of our Saviour. I am, &c.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"London, Feb. 27, 1784.
"DEAR SIR, I have just advanced so far towards recovery as to read a pamphlet; and you may reasonably suppose that the first pamphlet which I read was yours. I am very much of your opinion, and, like you, feel great indignation at the indecency with which the king is every day treated. Your paper contains very considerable knowledge of history and of the constitution,
very properly produced and applied. It will certainly raise your character, though perhaps it may not make you a minister of state.
"I desire you to see Mrs. Stewart once again, and tell her, that in the lettercase was a letter relating to me, for which I will give her, if she is willing to give it me, another guinea. The letter is of consequence only to me. I am, dear Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
In consequence of Johnson's request that I should ask our physicians about his case, and desire Sir Alexander Dick to send his opinion, I transmitted him a letter from that very amiable baronet, then in his eighty-first year, with his faculties as entire as ever, and mentioned his expressions to me in the note accompanying it,— "With my most affectionate wishes for Dr. Johnson's recovery, in which his friends, his country, and all mankind have so deep a stake;" and at the same time a full opinion upon his case by Dr. Gillespie, who, like Dr. Cullen, had the advantage of having passed through the gradations of surgery and pharmacy, and by study and practice had attained to such skill, that my father settled on him two hundred pounds a year for five years, and fifty pounds a year during his life, as an honorarium to secure his particular attendance. The opinion was conveyed in a letter to me, beginning, “I am sincerely sorry for the bad state of health your very learned and illustrious friend, Dr. Johnson, labours under at present."
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"London, March 2, 1784.
"DEAR SIR,-Presently after I had sent away my last letter, I received your kind medical packet. I am very much obliged both to you and to your physicians for your kind attention to my disease. Dr. Gillespie has sent me an excellent consilium medicum, all solid practical experimental knowledge. I am at present, in the opinion of my physicians (Dr. Heberden and Dr. Brocklesby), as well as my own, going on very hopefully. I have just begun to take vine
1 "Letter to the People of Scotland on the present State of the Nation." I sent it to Mr. Pitt, with a letter, in which I thus expressed myself:-" My principles may appear to you too monarchical; but I know and am persuaded they are not inconsistent with the true principles of liberty. Be this as it may, you, Sir, are now the prime minister, called by the sovereign to maintain the rights of the crown, as well as those of the people, against a violent faction. As such, you are entitled to the warmest support of every good subject in every department." He answered, "I am extremely obliged to you for the sentiments you do me the honour to express, and have observed with great pleasure the zealous and able support given to the cause of the public in the work you were so good to transmit to me "