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TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “ DEAR SIR,
London, October 27, 1779. “Why should you importune me so earnestly to write? Of what importance can it be to hear of distant friends, to a man who finds himself welcome wherever he goes, and makes new friends faster than he can want them? If, to the delight of such universal kindness of reception, anything can be added by knowing that you retain my good-will, you may indulge yourself in the full enjoyment of that small addition.
“I am glad that you made the round of Lichfield with so much success: the oftener you are seen the more you are liked. It was pleasing to me to read that Mrs. Aston was so well, and that Lucy Porter was so glad to see you.
“In the place where you now are, there is much to be observed : and you will easily procure yourself skilful directors. But what will you do to keep away the black dog that worries you at home? If you would, in compliance with your father's advice, inquire into the old tenures and old characters of Scotland, you would certainly open to yourself many striking scenes of the manners of the middle ages. The feudal system, in a country half-barbarous, is naturally productive of great anomalies in civil life. The knowledge of past times is naturally growing less in all cases not of public record; and the past time of Scotland is so unlike the present, that it is already difficult for a Scotchman to image the economy of his grandfather. Do not be tardy nor negligent; but gather up eagerly what can yet be found.
“We have, I think, once talked of another project—a History of the late insurrection in Scotland, with all its incidents. Many falsehoods are passing into uncontradicted history. Voltaire, who loved a striking story, bas told what he could not find to be true.
“You may make collections for either of these projects, or for both, as opportunities occur, and digest your materials at leisure. The great direction which Burton has left to men disordered like you, is this-Be not solitary; be not idle: which I would thus modify;-If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle. “There is a letter for you, from
“ Your humble servant,
" TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON. “MY DEAR SIR,
Carlisle, Nov. 7, 1779. “That I should importune you to write to me at Chester is not wonderful, when you consider what an avidity I have for delight; and that the amor of pleasure, like the amor nummi, increases in proportion with the quantity which we possess of it. Your letter, so full of polite kindness and masterly counsel,
1 I have a valuable collection made by my father, which, with some additions and illustrations of my own, I intend to publish. I have some hereditary claim to be an antiquary, not only from my father, but as being descended, by the mother's side, from the able and learned Sir John Skene, whose merit bids defiance to all the attempts which have been made to lessen his fame.-BOSWELL.
came like a large treasure upon me, while already glittering with riches. I was quite enchanted at Chester; so that I could with difficulty quit it. But the enchantment was the reverse of that of Circé; for so far was there from being anything sensual in it, that I was all mind. I do not mean all reason only: for my fancy was kept finely in play. And why not?If you please I will send you a copy, or an abridgment of my Chester journal, which is truly a log-book of felicity.
“The Bishop treated me with a kindness which was very ilattering. I told him that you regretted you had seen so little of Chester. His Lordship bade me teil you, that he should be glad to show you more of it. I am proud to find the friendship with which you honour me is known in so many places.
“I arrived here late last night. Our friend the Dean has been gone from hence some months; but I am told at my inn, that he is very populous (popular.) However, I found Mr. Law, the Archdeacon, son to the Bishop, and with him I have breakfasted and dined very agreeably. I got acquainted with him at the assizes here about a year and a half ago; he is a man of great variety of knowledge, uncommon genius, and, I believe, sincere religion. I received the holy sacrament in the Cathedral in the morning, this being the first Sunday in the month; and was at prayers there in the morning. It is divinely cheering to me to think that there is a Cathedral so near Auchinleck; and I now leave Old England in such a state of mind as I am thankful to GOD for granting me.
* The black dog that worries me at home I cannot but dread; yet, as I have been for some time past in a military train, I trust I shall repulse him. To hear from you will animate me like the sound of a trumpet; I therefore hope, that soon after my return to the northern field, I shall receive a few lines
“ Colonel Stuart did me the honour to escort me in his carriage to show me Liverpool, and from thence back again to Warrington, where we parted. In justice to my valuable wife, I must inform you she wrote to me, that as I was so happy, she would not be so selfish as to wish me to return sooner than business absolutely required my presence. She made my clerk write to me a post or two after to the same purpose, by commission from her; and this day a kind letter from her met me at the Post-office here, acquainting me that she and the little ones were well, and expressing all their wishes for my return home. “I am, more and more, my dear Sir, your affectionate
* And obliged humble servant,
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “DEAR SIR,
London, Nov. 13, 1779. * Your last letter was not only kind but fond. But I wish you to get rid of all intellectual excesses, and neither to exalt your pleasures, nor aggravate
1 His regiment was afterwards ordered to Jamaica, where he accompanied it, and almost lost his life by the climate. This impartial order, I should think a sufficient refutation of the idle rumour that "there was still something behind the throne greater than the throne itself." —BOSWELL
your vexations beyond their real and natural state. Why should you not be as happy at Edinburgh as at Chester? In culpa est animus, qui se non effugit usquam. Please yourself with your wife and children, and studies, and practice.
“I have sent a petition, from Lucy Porter, with which I leave it to your discretion whether it is proper to comply. Return me her letter, which I have sent, that you may know the whole case, and not be seduced to any. thing that you may afterwards repent. Miss Doxy perhaps you know to be Mr. Garrick's niece.
If Dean Percy can be popular at Carlisle, he may be very happy. He has in his disposal two livings, each equal, or almost equal in value to the deanery; he may take one himself, and give the other to his son.
“How near is the Cathedral to Auchinleck, that you are so much delighted with it? It is I suppose, at least an hundred and fifty miles off. However, if you are pleased, it is so far well.
“Let me know what reception you have from your father, and the state of his health. Please him as much as you can, and add no pain to his last years.
“Of our friends here I can recollect nothing to tell you. I have neither seen nor heard of Langton. Beauclerk is just returned from Brighthelmstone, I am told much better. Mr. Thrale and his family are still there; and his health is said to be visibly improved; he has not bathed but hunted.
“At Bolt-court there is much malignity, but of late little open hostility. I have had a cold, but it is gone. “Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, &c. “I am, Sir, your humble servant,
“SAM. JOHNSON." On November 22, and December 21, I wrote to him from Edinburgh, giving a very favourable report of the family of Miss Doxy's lover-that after a good deal of inquiry I had discovered the sister of Mr. Francis Stewart, one of his amanuenses when writing his Dictionary; that I had, as desired by him, paid her a guinea for an old pocket-book of her brother's, which he had retained : and that the good woman, who was in very moderate circumstances, but contented and placid, wondered at his scrupulous and liberal honesty, and received the guinea as if sent her by Providence. That I had repeatedly begged of him to keep his promise to send his letter to Lord Chesterfield, and that this memento, like Delenda est Carthago, must be in every letter that I should write to him, till I had obtained my object.
In 1780, the world was kept in impatience for the completion of Johnson's “Lives of the Poets," upon which he was employed so far as his indolence allowed him to labour.
I wrote to him on January 1, and March 13, sending him my notes of Lord Marchmont's information concerning Pope, complaining that I had not heard from him for almost four months, though he was two letters in my debt; that I had suffered again from melancholy; hoping that he had been in so much better company (the Poets), that he had pot time to think of his distant friends ; for if that were the case, I should have some recompense for my uneasiness ; that the state of my affairs did not admit of my coming to London this year, and begging he would return me Goldsmith's two poems, with his lines marked.
1 Requesting me to inquire concerning the family of a gentleman who was then paying his addresses to Miss Doxy.-BOSWELL.
His friend Dr. Lawrence, having now suffered the greatest affliction to which a man is liable, and which Johnson himself had felt in the most severe manner, Johnson wrote to him in an admirable strain of sympathy and pious consolation.
" TO DR. LAWRENCE. “DEAR SIR,
January 20, 1780. “At a time when all your friends ought to show their kindness, and with a character which ought to make all that know you your friends, you may wonder that you have yet heard nothing from me.
“I have been hindered by a vexatious cough, for which within these ten days I have been bled once, fasted four or five times, taken physic five times, and opiates, I think six. This day it seems to remit.
“The loss, dear Sir, which you have lately suffered, I felt many years ago, and know, therefore, how much has been taken from you, and how little help can be had from consolation. He that outlives a wife whom he has loved,sees himself disjointed from the only mind that has the same hopes, and fears, and interest; from the only companion with whom he has shared much good or evil; and with whom he could set his mind at liberty, to retrace the past or anticipate the future. The continuity of being is lacerated; the settled course of sentiment and action is stopped : and life stands suspended and motionless, till it is driven by external causes into a new channel. But the time of suspense is dreadful.
“Our first recourse, in this distressed solitude, is, perhaps for want of habitual piety, to a gloomy acquiescence in necessity. Of two mortal beings, one must lose the other; but surely there is a higher and better comfort to be drawn from the consideration of that Providence which watches over all, and a belief that the living and the dead are equally in the hands of God, who will reunite those whom he has separated; or who sees that it is best not to reunite.
“I am, dear Sir,
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “ DEAR SIR,
April 8, 1780. “Well, I had resolved to send you the Chesterfield letter; but I will write once again without it. Never impose tasks upon mortals. To require two things is the way to have them both undone.
“For the difficulties which you mention in your affairs I am sorry; but difficulty is now very general: it is not therefore less grievous, for there is less hope of help. I pretend not to give you advice, not knowing the state of your affairs; and general counsels about prudence and frugality would do you little good. You are, however, in the right not to increase your own perplexity by a journey hither; and I hope that by staying at home you will please your father.
“Poor dear Beauclerk_nec, ut soles, dabis joca. His wit and his folly, his acuteness and maliciousness, his merriment and reasoning, are now over. Such another will not often be found among mankind. He directed himself to be buried by the side of his mother—an instance of tenderness which I hardly expected. He has left his children to the care of Lady Di, and if she dies, of Mr. Langton, and of Mr. Leicester, his relation, and a man of good character. His library has been offered for sale to the Russian Ambassador.2
“Dr. Percy, notwithstanding all the noise of the newspapers, has had no literary loss.3 Clothes and moveables were burnt to the value of about £100; but his papers, and I think his books, were all preserved.
“Poor Mr. Thrale has been in extreme danger from an apoplectical disorder, and recovered, beyond the expectation of his physicians; he is now at Bath, that his mind may be quiet, and Mrs. Thrale and Miss are with him.
“Having told you what has happened to your friends, let me say something to you of yourself
. You are always complaining of melancholy, and I conclude from those complaints that you are fond of it. No man talks of that which he is desirous to conceal, and every man desires to conceal that of which he is ashamed. Do not pretend to deny it; manifestum habemus furem ; make it an invariable and obligatory law to yourself, never to mention your own mental diseases; if you are never to speak of them you will think on them but little, and if you think little of them, they will molest you rarely. When you talk of them, it is plain that you want either praise or pity; for praise there is no room, and pity will do you no good; therefore, from this hour speak no more, think no more, about them.
“ Your transaction with Mrs. Stewart gave me great satisfaction; I am much obliged to you for your attention. Do not lose sight of her; your countenance may be of great credit, and of consequence of great advantage to her. The
LADY DIANA BEAUCLERK.
1 The Hon. Topham Beauclerk died March 11, 1780.-MALONE.
Mr. Beauclerk's library was sold by public auction in April and May, 1781, for £5011.MALONE.
3 By a fire in Northumberland House, where he had an apartment, in which I have passed many an agreeable hour.-BOSWELL.