« PreviousContinue »
by timely recollection and steady resolution, escape from those evils which have lain heavy upon me.
I am, my dearest Boswell, “ Your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.
“ Bolt-court, Nov. 16, 1776."
On the 16th of November I informed him that Mr. Strahan had sent me twelve copies of the Journey to the Western Islands, handsomely bound, instead of the twenty copies which were stipulated; but which, I supposed, were to be only in sheets; requested to know how they should be distributed ; and mentioned that I had another son born to me, who was named David, and was a sickly infant.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ DEAR SIR,--I have been for some time ill of a cold, which, perhaps, I made an excuse to myself for not writing, when in reality I knew not what to say.
“ The books you must at last distribute as you think best, in my name, or your own, as you are inclined, or as you judge most proper. Every body cannot be obliged; but I wish that nobody may be offended. Do the best
you can. “I congratulate you on the increase of your family, and hope that little David is by this time well, and his mamma perfectly recovered. I am much pleased to hear of the re-establishment of kindness between you and your father. Cultivate his paternal tenderness as much as you
To live at variance at all is uncomfortable : and variance with a father is still more uncomfortable. Besides that, in the whole dispute, you have the wrong side ; at least you gave the first provocations, and some of them very offensive. Let it now be all over. As
you reason to think that your new mother has shown you any foul play, treat her with respect, and with some degree of
confidence: this will secure your father. When once a discordant family has felt the pleasure of peace, they will not willingly lose it. If Mrs. Boswell would but be friends with me, we might now shut the temple of Janus.
“What came of Dr. Memis's cause? Is the question about the negro determined ? Has sir Allan any reasonable hopes? What is become of poor Macquarry? Let me know the event of all these litigations. I wish particularly well to the negro and sir Allan.
“ Mrs. Williams has been much out of order; and though she is something better, is likely, in her physician's opinion, to endure her malady for life, though she ay, perhaps, die of some other. Mrs. Thrale is big, and fancies that she carries a boy: if it were very reasonable to wish much about it, I should wish her not to be disappointed. The desire of male heirs is not appendant only to feudal tenures. A son is almost necessary to the continuance of Thrale's fortune; for what can misses do with a brewhouse? Lands are fitter for daughters than trades.
“ Baretti went away from Thrale's in some whimsical fit of disgust or ill-nature, without taking any leave. It is well if he finds in any other place as good an habitation, and as many conveniencies. He has got five-and-twenty guineas by translating sir Joshua's Discourses into Italian, and Mr. Thrale gave him an hundred in the spring ; so that he is yet in no difficulties.
“ Colman has bought Foote's patent, and is to allow Foote for life sixteen hundred pounds a year, as Reynolds told me, and to allow him to play so often on such terms that he may gain four hundred pounds more. What Colman can get by this bargain", but trouble and hazard, I do not see.
I am, dear sir
" Your humble servant, “ Dec. 21, 1776.
b It turned out, however, a very fortunate bargain ; for Foote, though not then fifty-six, died at an inn in Dover in less than a year, Oct. 21st, 1777.MALONE,
The reverend Dr. Hugh Blair, who had long been admired as a preacher at Edinburgh, thought now of diffusing his excellent sermons more extensively, and increasing his reputation by publishing a collection of them. He transmitted the manuscript to Mr. Strabán the printer, who, after keeping it for some time, wrote a letter to him, discouraging the publication. Such at first was the unpropitious state of one of the most successful theological books that has ever appeared. Mr. Straban, however, had sent one of the sermons to Dr. Johnson for his opinion; and after his unfavourable letter to Dr. Blair had been sent off, he received from Johnson, on Christmas eve, a note, in which was the following paragraph.
“ I have read over Dr. Blair's first sermon with more than approbation : to say it is good, is to say too little.”
I believe Mr. Strahan had, very soon after this time, a conversation with Dr. Johnson concerning them; and then he very candidly wrote again to Dr. Blair, enclosing Johnson's note, and agreeing to purchase the volume, for which he and Mr. Cadell gave one hundred pounds. The sale was so rapid and extensive, and the approbation of the publick so high, that, to their bonour be it recorded, the proprietors made Dr. Blair a present, first of one sum, and afterwards of another, of fifty pounds, thus voluntarily doubling the stipulated price ; and when he prepared another volume, they gave him at once three hundred pounds, being in all five hundred pounds, by an agreement to which I am a subscribing witness; and now for a third octavo volume he has received no less than six hundred pounds.
In 1777, it appears from his Prayers and Meditations, that Johnson suffered much from a state of mind, settled and perplexed,” and from that constitutional gloom which, together with his extreme humility and anxiety with regard to his religious state, made him contemplate himself through too dark and unfavourable a medium. It may be said of him, that be “saw God louds.” Certain we may be of his injustice to himself in the following
lamentable paragraph, which it is painful to think came from the contrite heart of this great man, to whose labours the world is so much indebted : “ When I survey my past life, I discover nothing but a barren waste of time, with some disorders of body, and disturbances of the mind, very near to madness, which I hope he that made me will suffer to extenuate many faults, and excuse many deficiencies i,” But we find his devotions in this
eminently fervent; and we are comforted by observing intervals of quiet, composure, and gladness.
On Easter day we find the following emphatick prayer: “Almighty and most merciful Father, who seest all our miseries, and knowest all our necessities, look down pon me and pity me. Defend me from the violent incursion of evil thoughts, and enable me to form and keep such resolutions as may conduce to the discharge of the duties which thy providence shall appoint me; and so help me by thy Holy Spirit, that my heart may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found, and that I may serve thee with pure affection and a cheerful mind. Have mercy upon me, O God, have mercy upon me : years and infirmities oppress me; terrour and anxiety beset me.
Have mercy upon me, my Creator and my Judge. In all perplexities relieve and free me; and so help me by thy Holy Spirit, that I may now so commemorate the death of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, as that when this short and painful life shall have an end, I may, for his sake, be received to everlasting happiness. Amenk.”
While he was at church, the agreeable impressions upon
his mind are thus commemorated : “I was for some time much distressed, but at last obtained, I hope from the God of peace, more quiet than I have enjoyed for a long time. I had made no resolution; but as my heart grew lighter, my hopes revived and my courage increased; and I wrote with my pencil, in my common prayer book,
Prayers and Meditations, vol. ix.
k Ibid. p. 259.
Serviendum et lætandum.” Mr. Steevens, whose generosity is well known, joined Dr. Johnson in kind assistance to a female relation of Dr. Goldsmith, and desired that on her return to Ireland she would procure authentick particulars of the life of her celebrated relation. Concerning her is the following letter.
TO GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ.
“DEAR SIR,-You will be glad to hear that from Mrs. Goldsmith, whom we lamented as drowned, I have received a letter, full of gratitude to us all, with promise to make the enquiries which we recommended to her.
“ I would have had the honour of conveying this intelligence to Miss Caulfield, but that her letter is not at hand, and I know not the direction. You will tell the good news. I am, sir,
“ Your most, etc.
" SAM, JOHNSON.
February 25, 1777.”
MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, February 14, 1777. “ MY DEAR SIR,—My state of epistolary accounts with you at present is extraordinary. The balance, as to number, is on your side. I am indebted to you for two letters; one dated the 16th of November, upon which very day I wrote to you, so that our letters were exactly exchanged; and one dated the 21st of December last.
“ My heart was warmed with gratitude by the truly kind contents of both of them; and it is amazing and vexing that I have allowed so much time to elapse without writing to you. But delay is inherent in me, by nature