« PreviousContinue »
TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. 66 DEAR SIR,
“ WHAT can possibly have happened, that keeps us two such strangers
My thoughts are at present employed in guessing the reason of your
" Your most affectionate humble servant, “ July 13, 1779.
To Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, July 17, 1779.
your affection for me, would, after an unusual silence on my
“ Your much obliged
On the 22d of July, I wrote to him again; and gave him an account of my last interview with my worthy friend, Mr. Edward Dilly, at his brother's house at Southill, in Bedfordshire, where he died soon after I parted from him, leaving me a very kind remembrance of his regard.
I informed him that Lord Hailes, who had promised to furnish him with fome anecdotes for his “ Lives of the Poets,” had fent me three instances of Prior’s borrowing from Gombauld, in “ Recueil des Poetes,” tome 3. Epigram “ To John I owed,' great obligation,” p. 25. " To the Duke of Noailles," p. 32. Sauntering Jack and idle Joan,” p. 25.
My let'er was a pretty long one, and contained a variety of particulars; but he, it would seem had not attended to it; for his next to me was as follows:
TO JAMES BOSWELL, I/4. “ MY DEAR SIR,
“ ARE you playing the same trick again, and trying who can keep silence longest? Remember that all tricks are either knavish or childish; and that it is as foolish to make experiments upon the constancy of a friend, as upon the chastity of a wife.
“ What can be the cause of this second fit of silence, I cannot conjecture; but after one trick, I will not be cheated by another, nor will harrass my thoughts with conjectures about the motives of a man who, probably, acts only by caprice. I therefore suppose you are well, and that Mrs. Boswell is well too; and that the fine summer has restored Lord Auchinleck. I am much better than you left me; I think I am better than when I was in Scotland.
“ I forgot whether I informed you that poor Thrale has been in great danger. Mrs. Thrale likewise has miscarried, and been much indisposed. Every body else is well; Langton is in camp. I intend to put Lord Hailes's description of Drydent into another edition, and as I know his accuracy, wish
, he would consider the dates, which I could not always settle to my own mind.
“ Mr. Thrale goes to Brighthelmston, about Michaelmas, to be jolly and ride a hunting. I shall go to town, or perhaps to Oxford. Exercise and gaiety, or rather carelessness, will, I hope, dissipate all remains of his malady;
4 Which I communicated to him from his Lordship, but it has not yet been published. I have
a copy of it.
and I likewise hope by the change of place, to find some opportunities of growing yet better myself. I am, dear Sir,
« Your humble servant, • Streatham, Sept. 9, 1779.
My readers will not be displeased at being told every night circumstance of the manner in which Dr. Johnson contrived to amuse his folitary hours. He sometimes employed himself in chymistry, sometiines in watering and pruning a vine, and sometimes in small experiments, at which those who may smile, should recollect that there are moments which admit of being soothed only by trifies s.
On the 20th of September I defended myself against his fufpicion of me, which I did not deserve; and I added, “ Pray let us write frequently. A whim strikes me, that we should each fend off a theet once a week, like a stage-coach, whether it be full or not; nay, though it should be empty. The very sight of your hand-writing would comfort me; and were a sheet to be thus fent regularly, we should much oftener convey something, were it only a few kind words."
My friend Colonel James Stuart, second son of the Earl of Bute, who had distinguished himself as a good officer of the Bedfordshire militia, had taken a publick-spirited resolution to serve his country in its difficulties, by raising a regular regiment, and taking the command of it himself. This, in the heir of the immense property of Wortley, was highly honourable. Having been in Scotland recruiting, he obligingly asked me to accompany him to Leeds, then the head-quarters of his corps ; from thence to London for a short time, and afterwards to other places to which the regiment might be ordered. Such an offer, at a time of the year when I had full leisure, was very pleasing; especially as I was to accompany a man of sterling good sense, information, discernment, and conviviality; and was to have a second crop, in one year, of London and Johnson. Of this I informed my illustrious friend, ,
s In one of his manuscript Diaries, there is the following entry, which marks his curious minute attention : “ Aug. 7, 1779. Partem brachii dextri carpo proximam et cutem pectoris circa maxillam dextram rasi, ut notum fieret quanto temporis pili renovarentur."
Another of the same kind appears, “ July 26, 1768. I shaved my nail by accident in whetting the knife, about an eighth of an inch from the bottom, and about a fourth from the top. This I measure that I may know the growth of nails; the whole is about five eighths of an inch.”
And, “ Aug. 15, 1783. I cut from the vine 41 leaves, which weighed five oz. and a half, and
in characteristical warm terms, in a letter dated the 30th of September, from Leeds.
On Monday, October 4, I called at his house before he was up. He sent for me to his bedside, and expressed his fatisfaction at this incidental meeting, with as much vivacity as if he had been in the gaiety of youth. He called briskly, “ Frank, go and get coffee, and let us breakfast in fplendour.”
. During this visit to London I had several interviews with him, which it is unnecessary to distinguish particularly. I consulted him as to the appointment of guardians to my children, in case of my death. “ Sir, (said he,) do not appoint a number of guardians. When they are many, they trust one to another, and the business is neglected. I would advise you to choose only one; let him be a man of respectable character, who, for his own credit, will do what is right; let him be a rich man, so that he may be under no temptation to take advantage; and let him be a man of business, who is used to conduct affairs with ability and expertness, to whom, therefore, the execution of the trust will not be burthenfome.”
On Sunday, October 10, we dined together at Mr. Strahan’s. The converfation having turned on the prevailing practice of going to the East-Indies in quest of wealth ;-JOHNSON. “A man had, better have ten thousand pounds at the end of ten years passed in England, than twenty thousand pounds at the end of ten years passed in India, because you muse compute what you give for money; and a man who has lived ten years in India, has given up ten years.
of social comfort and all those advantages which arise from living in England. The ingenious Mr. Brown, distinguished by the name of Capability Brown, told me, that he was once at the seat of Lord Clive, who had returned from India with great wealth ; and that he Thewed him at the door of his bed-chamber a large chest, which he said he had once had full of gold; upon which Brown observed, 'I am glad you can bear it so near your bedchamber.”
We talked of the state of the poor in London.—Johnson.“Saunders Welch, the Justice, who was once High-Constable of Holborn, and had the best opportunities of knowing the state of the poor, told me, that I under-rated the number, when I computed that twenty a week, that is, above a thousand a year, died of hunger;, not absolutely of immediate hunger, but of the wasting and other diseases which are the consequences of hunger. This happens only in fo large a place as London, where people are not known. What we are told about the great sums got by begging is not true: the trade is overstocked. And, you may depend upon it, there are many
cannot get work. A particular kind of manufacture fails. Those who harre
We left Mr. Strahan’s at seven, as Johnson had said he intended to go to
I went home with him, and we had a long quiet conversation.
I read him a letter from Dr. Hugh Blair, concerning Pope, (in writing whose life he was now employed,) which I shall insert as a litcrary curiosity
TO J AMEs Boswell, Esq.
“ IN the year 1763, being at London, I was carried by Dr. Jolin
6 The Reverend Dr. Law, Bishop of Carlisle, in the Preface to his valuable edition of Archbishop King's “Essay on the Origin of Evil," mentions that the principles maintained in it had been adopted by Pope in his ~ Effay on Man;" and adds, “ The fact, notwithstanding such “
, denial, (Bishop Warburton's,) might have been strictly verified by an unexceptionable testimony, viz. that of the late Lord Bathurst, who saw the very same system of the to En Tier (taken from the Archbishop) in Lord Bolingbroke's own hand, lying before Mr. Pope, while he was composing his Essay.” This is respectable evidence; but that of Dr. Blair is more direct from the fountain-head, as well