Page images

" I have enclosed a letter to the Chancellor, which, when you have read it,

1784. you will be pleased to seal with a head, or any other general seal, and convey Ætat. 75. it to him: had I sent it directly to him, I should have seemed to overlook the favour of




« My LORD,

“ After a long and not inattentive observation of mankind, the generosity of your Lordship's offer raises in me not less wonder than gratitude. Bounty, so liberally bestowed, I should gladly receive, if my condition made it necessary; for, to such a mind, who would not be proud to own his obligations? But it has pleased God to restore me to so great a measure of health, that if I should now appropriate so much of a fortune destined to do good, I could not escape from myself the charge of advancing a a false claim. My journey to the continent, though I once thought it neceffary, was never much encouraged by my physicians; and I was very desirous that your Lordship should be told of it by Sir Joshua Reynolds, as an event very uncertain ; for if I grew much better, I should not be willing, if much worse, not able, to migrate.--Your Lordship was first solicited without my knowledge; but; when I was told, that you were pleased to honour me with your patronage, I did not expect to hear of a refusal; yet, as I have had no long time to brood hope, and have not rioted in imaginary opulence, this cold reception has been scarce a disappointment; and, from your Lordship’s kindness, I have received a benefit, which only men like you are able to bestow. I shall now live mihi carior, with a higher opinion of my own merit. I am, my Lord,

“ Your Lordship's most obliged,

Most grateful, and most humble servant, « Sept. 1784.



Upon this unexpected failure I abstain from presuming to make any remarks, or offer any conjectures.

6 Sir Joshua Reynolds, on account of the excellence both of the sentiment and expression of this letter, took a copy of it, which he shewed to some of his friends; one of whom, who admired it, being allowed to perufe it leisurely at home, a copy was made, and found its way into the news-papers and magazines. It was transcribed with some inaccuracies. I print it from the original draft in Johnson's own hand-writing. 4



1784. Having after repeated reasonings, brought Dr. Johnson to agree to my Etar. iztat. 7. removing to London, and even to furnish me with arguments in favour of

what he had opposed; I wrote to him requesting he would write them for me; he was so good as to comply, and I shall extract that part of his letter to me of June 11, as a proof how well he could exhibit a cautious yet encouraging view of it:

“ I remember, and intreat you to remember, that virtus est vitium fugere; the first approach to riches is security from poverty. The condition upon which you have my consent to settle in London is, that your expence never exceeds your annual income. Fixing this basis of security, you cannot be hurt, and you may be very much advanced. The loss of your Scottish business, which is all that you can lose, is not to be reckoned as any equivalent to the hopes and possibilities that open here upon you. If you succeed, the question of prudence is at an end; every body will think that done right which ends happily; and though your expectations, of which I would not advise to talk too much, should not be totally answered, you can hardly fail to get friends who will do for you all that your present situation allows you to hope: and if, after a few years, you should return to Scotland, you will return with a mind supplied by various conversation, and many opportunities of enquiry, with much knowledge and materials for reflection and instruction.”

Let us now contemplate Johnson thirty years after the death of his wife, fill retaining for her all the tenderness of affection.



To the Reverend Mr. BAGSHAW, at BROMLEY.

[ocr errors]

find it proper,

“ PERHAPS you may remember, that in the year 1753, you committed to the ground my dear wife. I now entreat your permission to lay a stone upon her; and have sent the inscription, that, if you you may signify your allowance.

“ You will do me a great favour by showing the place where she lies, that the stone may protect her remains.

“ Mr. Ryland will wait on you for the inscription?, and procure it to be engraved. You will easily believe that I shrink from this mournful office. When it is done, if I have strength remaining, I will visit Bromley once again, and pay you part of the respect to which you have a right from, Reverend Sir,

5. Your most humble servant, so July 12, 1784.


7 Printed in his Works,


[ocr errors]

On the same day he wrote to Mr. Langton: “ I cannot but think that in 1784. my languid and anxious state, I have some reason to complain that I receive Ætat. 75 from you neither enquiry nor confolation. You know how much I value

your friendship, and with what confidence I expect your kindness, if I wanted any act of tenderness that you could perform ; at least, if you do not know it, I think your ignorance is your own fault. Yet how long is it that I have lived almost in your neighbourhood without the least notice.—I do not, however, consider this neglect as particularly shown to me; I hear two of your most valuable friends make the same complaint. But why are all thus overlooked? You are not oppressed by sickness, you are not distracted by business; if

you are fick, you are sick of leisure:--And allow yourself to be told, that no disease is more to be dreaded or avoided. Rather to do nothing than to do good, is the lowest state of a degraded mind. Boileau says to his pupil,

"Que les vers ne soient pas vôtre eternel emploi,
( Cultivez vos amis.'



That voluntary debility, which modern language is content to term indolence,
will, if it is not counteracted by resolution, render in time the strongest
faculties lifeless, and turn the flame to the smoke of virtue.--I do not expect
nor desire to see you, because I am much pleased to find that your mother stays
so long with you, and I should think you neither elegant nor grateful, if you
did not study her gratification. You will pay my respects to both the ladies,
and to all the young people.--I am going Northward for a while, to try what
help the country can give me; but, if you will write, the letter will come
after me.”

Next day he set out on a jaunt to Staffordshire and Derbyshire, Alattering
himself that he might be in some degree relieved.

During his absence from London he kept up a correspondence with several of his friends, from which I shall select what appears to me proper for publication, without attending nicely to chronological order.

To Dr. BROCKLESBY, he writes, Ashbourne, July 20. “ The kind attention which you have so long shewn to my health and happiness, makes it as much a debt of gratitude as a call of interest, to give you an account of what befals me, when accident recovers me from your immediate care. The journey of the first day was performed with very little sense of fatigue; the second day brought me to Lichfield, without much lassitude, but I am afraid that I could not have borne such violent agitation for many days together. Vol. II.





Ærat. 75.

[ocr errors]

Tell Dr. Heberden, that in the coach I read · Ciceronianus,' which I concluded as I entered Lichfield. My affection and understanding went along with Erasmus, except that once or twice he somewhat unskilfully entangles Cicero's civil or moral, with his rhetorical character. I staid five days at Lichfield, but, being unable to walk, had no great pleasure, and yesterday (19th) I came hither, where I am to try what air and attention can perform. Of any improvement in


health I cannot yet please myself with the perception. *.-The asthma has no abatement. Opiates stop the fit, so as that I can fit and sometimes lie easy, but they do not now procure me the power of motion ; and I am afraid that my general strength of body does not encrease. The weather indeed is not benign; but how low is he sunk whose strength depends upon the weather !-I am now looking into Floyer, who lived with his asthma to almost his ninetieth year. His book by want of order is obscure, and his asthma, I think, not of the fame kind with mine. Something however I may perhaps learn.-My appetite still continues keen

I enough; and what I consider as a fymptom of radical health, I have a voracious delight in raw summer fruit, of which I was less eager a few years ago. You will be pleased to communicate this account to Dr. Heberden, and if any thing is to be done, let me have your joint opinion.--Now-abite cura--let me enquire after the Club 8.” July 31.

« Not recollecting that Dr. Heberden might be at Windsor, I thought your letter long in coming. But, you know, nocitura petuntur, the letter which I so much desired, tells me that I have lost one of my best and tenderest friends'. My comfort is, that he appeared to live like a man that had always before his eyes the fragility of our present existence, and was therefore, I hope, not unprepared to meet his judge. Your attention, dear Sir, and that of Dr. Heberden, to my health is extremely kind. I am loth to think that I grow worfe; and cannot fairly prove even to my own partiality, that I grow much better.”

August 5. I return you thanks, dear Sir, for your unwearied attention, both medicinal and friendly, and hope to prove the effect of your care by living to acknowledge it.”

August 12. “ Pray be so kind as to have me in your thoughts, and mention my case to others as you have opportunity. I seem to myself neither

I to gain nor lose strength. I have lately tried milk, but have yet found no


At the Effex Head, Essex-street.

9 Mr. Allen, the printer.



[ocr errors]


Ætat. 75.

[ocr errors]

advantage, and am afraid of it merely as a liquid. My appetite is still good,
which I know is dear Dr. Heberden's criterion of the vis vitæ.--As we cannot
now see each other, do not omit to write, for you cannot think with what
warmth of expectation I reckon the hours of a post-day.”

August 14 “ I have hitherto sent you only melancholy letters, you will
be glad to hear some better account. Yesterday the asthma remitted, per-
ceptibly remitted, and I moved with more ease than I have enjoyed for
many weeks. May God continue his mercy.—This account I would not
delay, because I am not a lover of complaints, or complainers, and yet
I have since we parted, uttered nothing till now but terrour and sorrow.
Write to me, dear Sir.”

August 16. “ Better I hope, and better. My respiration gets more and more ease and liberty. I went to church yesterday, after a very liberal dinner, without

any inconvenience; it is indeed no long walk, but I never walked it without difficulty, since I came, before.

* * * * * * the intention was only
to overpower the seeming vis inertia of the pectoral and pulmonary
I am favoured with a degree of ease that very much delights me, and do
not despair of another race upon the stairs of the Academy.--If I were,
however, of a humour to see, or to how the state of my body, on the dark
side, I might say,

Quid te exempta juvat fpinis de pluribus una ??"
The nights are still neepless, and the water rises, though it does not rise
very fast. Let us, however, rejoice in all the good that we have. The
remission of one disease will enable nature to combat the rest.—The squills
I have not neglected; for I have taken more than a hundred drops a day,
and one day took two hundred and fifty, which, according to the popular
equivalence of a drop to a grain, is more than half an ounce. I thank you,
dear Sir, for your attention in ordering the medicines; your attention to me
has never failed. If the virtue of medicines could be enforced by the
benevolence of the prescriber, how soon should I be well.”

“ The relaxation of the asthma still continues, yet I do not
trust it wholly to itself, but soothe it now and then with an opiate. I not
only perform the perpetual act of respiration with less labour, but I can walk
with fewer intervals of rest, and with greater freedom of motion.--I never
thought well of Dr. James's compounded medicines ; his ingredients appeared
to me sometimes inefficacious and trifling, and sometimes heterogeneous and

Z Z 2 2



[ocr errors]

August 19.

« PreviousContinue »