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THE

LIFE

OF

SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL. D.

In 1764 and 1765 it should seem that Dr. Johnson was so busily employed with his edition of Shakspeare as to have had little leisure for any other literary exertion, or, indeed, even for private correspondence ? He did not favour me with a single letter for more than two years, for which it will appear that he afterwards apologised.

Notwithstanding his long silence, I never omitted to write to him, when I had any thing worthy of communicating. I generally kept copies of my letters to him, that I might have a full view of our correspondence, and never be at a loss to understand any reference in his letters. He kept the greater part of mine very carefully; and a short time before his death was attentive enough to seal them up in bundles, and order them to be delivered to me, which was accordingly done. Amongst them I found one, of which I had not made a copy, and which I own I

[This trait is amusing : Mr. Boswell concludes that because Johnson did not, for two years, write to him, he wrote to nobody, and was exclusively occupied with his Shakspeare, though we have seen, that, in those years, he found time to pay visits to his friends in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and at Cambridge and Winchester. He also visited Brighton. If Mr. Boswell had been those two years in London, there can be no doubt that he would have found Johnson by no mcans absorbed in Shakspeare.—Ed.] VOL. II.

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read with pleasure at the distance of almost twenty years. It is dated November, 1765, at the Palace of Pascal Paoli, in Corte, the capital of Corsica, and is full of generous enthusiasm. After giving a sketch of what I had seen and heard in that island, it proceeded thus: “I dare to call this a spirited tour. I dare to challenge your approbation.”

This letter produced the following answer, which I found on my arrival at Paris.

“ A MR, MR. BOSWELL, chez Mr. Waters, Banquier, à Paris.

“ Johnson's-court, Fleet-street, 14 Jan. 1766. “ DEAR SIR, -Apologies are seldom of any use. We will delay till your arrival the reasons, good or bad, which have made me such a sparing and ungrateful correspondent. Be assured, for the present, that nothing has lessened either the esteem or love with which I dismissed you at Harwich. Both have been increased by all that I have been told of you by yourself, or others; and when you return, you will return to an unaltered, and, I hope, unalterable friend.

“ All that you have to fear from me is the vexation of disappointing me. No man loves to frustrate expectations which have been formed in his favour; and the pleasure which I promise myself from your journals and remarks is so great, that perhaps no degree of attention or discernment will be sufficient to afford it.

“ Come home, however, and take your chance. I long to see you, and to hear you; and hope that we shall not be so long separated again. Come home, and expect such welcome as is due to him, whom a wise and noble curiosity has led, where perhaps no native of this country ever was before.

“ I have no news to tell you that can deserve your notice; nor would I willingly lessen the pleasure that any novelty may give you at your return. I am afraid we shall find it difficult to keep among us a mind which has been so long feasted with variety. But let us try what esteem and kindness can effect.

“ As your father's liberality has indulged you with so long a ramble, I doubt not but you will think his sickness, or even his desire to see you, a sufficient reason for hastening your return. The longer we live, and the more we think, the higher value we learn to put on the friendship and tenderness of

parents and of friends. Parents we can have but once; and he

I was

promises himself too much, who enters life with the expectation of finding many friends. Upon some motive, I hope, that you will be here soon; and am willing to think that it will be an inducement to your return, that it is sincerely desired by, dear sir, your affectionate humble servant, “ SAM. JOHNSON." [“ DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.

Pearson

MSS. “ Johnson's-court, Fleet-street, 14 Jan. 1766. DEAR MADAM,- The reason why I did not answer your letters was that I can please myself with no answer. loath that Kitty should leave the house till I had seen it once more, and yet for some reasons I cannot well come during the session of parliament'. I am unwilling to sell it, yet hardly know why. If it can be let, it should be repaired, and I purpose to let Kitty have part of the rent while we both live; and wish that you would get it surveyed, and let me know how much

money will be necessary to fit it for a tenant. I would not have you stay longer than is convenient, and I thank you for your care of Kitty.

“ Do not take my omission amiss. I am sorry for it, but know not what to say. You must act by your own prudence, and I shall be pleased. Write to me again ; I do not design to neglect you any more. It is great pleasure for me to hear from you; but this whole affair is painful to me. I wish

you, my dear, many happy years. Give my respects to Kitty. I am, dear madam, your most affectionate humble servant,

“ Sam. Jounson.”] [We find in a letter from Dr. Warton to his bro- Ed. ther some account of Johnson and his society at this period. “ DR. WARTON TO MR. WARTON.

Mem.

" 22d Jan. 1766. of Dr. “ I only dined with Johnson, who seemed cold? and indif- W. p.

312.

· [The reasons which confined him to London during the session of parlia. ment, may be suspected to have had some connexion with his eng gement in politics with Hamilton ; and it must be confessed, that Mr. Hamilton's declaration, (ante, vol. i. p. 505.), that he could not explain what these allusions meant, looks like the evasion of a question which that gentleman did not wish, perhaps did not feel himself authorised, to answer unreservedly. It seems clear, that Johnson was employed by or with Hamilton in some course of political occupation, which obliged him to be in town during the session of parliament, and which Johnson thought likely to be of such continuance and importance, as to require his preparing his entering upon it by the solemnity of a prayer.—Ev.)

2 [This slight coolness between Johnson and Joseph Warton was probably not serious. A subsequent difference, which arose out of a dispute at Sir Joshua Reynolds's table, was more lasting.–Ed.]

Mem. of Dr.

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312.

ferent, and scarce said any thing to me; perhaps he has heard what I said of his Shakspeare, or rather was offended at what I wrote to him-as he pleases. Of all solemn coxcombs, Goldsmith is the first; yet sensible—but affects to use Johnson's hard words in conversation. We had a Mr. Dyer', who is a scholar and a gentleman. Garrick is entirely off from Johnson, and cannot, he says, forgive him his insinuating that he withheld his old editions, which always were open to him, nor I suppose his never mentioning him in all his works.]”

I returned to London in February, and found Dr. Johnson in a good house in Johnson's-court, Fleetstreet, in which he had accommodated Miss Williams with an apartment on the ground floor, while

Mr. Levett occupied his post in the garret: his faith-. Hawk. ful Francis was still attending upon him. [An upper p. 452, 453,454. room, which had the advantages of a good light and

free air, he fitted up for a study, and furnished with books, chosen with so little regard to editions or their external appearance, as showed they were intended for use, and that he disdained the ostentation of learning. Here he was in a situation and circumstances that enabled him to enjoy the visits of his friends, and to receive them in a manner suitable to the rank and condition of many of them. A silver standish, and some useful plate, which he had been prevailed on to accept as pledges of kindness from some who most esteemed him, together with furniture that would not have disgraced a better dwelling, banished those appearances of squalid indigence, which, in his less happy days, disgusted those who came to see him.

In one of his diaries he noted down a re

1 Samuel Dyer, Esq. a most learned and ingenious member of the Literary Club, for whose understanding and attainments Dr. Johnson had great respect. He died September 14, 1772. A more particular account of this gentleman may be found in a note on the Life of Dryden, p. 186, prefixed to the edition of that great writer's prose works, in four volumes, 8vo. 1800 : in which his cha. racter is vindicated, and the very unfavourable and unjust representation of it, given by John Hawkins in his Life of Johnson, p. 222_232, is minutely examined.—MALONE. [Johnson paid Dyer a degree of deference he showed to nobody else._ED.]

p. 452,

solution to take a seat in the church : this he might Hawk, possibly do about the time of this removal. The church 453,454. he frequented was that of St. Clement Danes, which, though not his parish church, he preferred to that of the Temple, which latter Sir John Hawkins had recommended to him as being free from noise, and, in other respects, more commodious. His only reason was, that in the former he was best known. He was not constant in his attendance on divine worship; but, from an opinion peculiar to himself, and which he once intimated to me, seemed to wait for some secret impulse as a motive to it. The Sundays which he passed at home were, nevertheless, spent in private exercises of devotion, and sanctified by acts of charity of a singular kind : on that day he accepted of no invitation abroad, but gave a dinner to such of his poor friends as might else have gone without one. He had little now to conflict with but what he called his morbid melancholy, which, though oppressive, had its intermissions, and left him the free exercise of all his faculties, and the power of enjoying the conversation of his numerous friends and visitants. These reliefs he owed in a great measure to the use of opium ', which he was accustomed to take in large quantities, the effect whereof was generally such an exhilaration of his spirits as he sometimes suspected for intoxication.]

He received me with much kindness. The fragments of our first conversation, which I have preserved, are these: I told him that Voltaire, in a conversation with me, had distinguished Pope and Dryden thus :-“ Pope drives a handsome chariot, with a couple of neat trim nags; Dryden a coach,

1

[As Boswell does not contradict this statement, it must be presumed to be true, and is therefore admitted into the text; but it will be seen that, many years after this, and even when labouring under his last fatal illness, Johnson had some scruples about the use of opium. Perhaps, if we are to give credit to Hawkins's assertion, these later scruples may have arisen from his having formerly made too frequent use of this fascinating palliative.-Ed.]

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