« PreviousContinue »
This letter, as might be expected, had its full effect, and the clergyman acknowledged it in grateful and pious terms.?
The following letters require no extracts from mine to introduce them :
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
" London, June 3, 1782. “Dear Sir,
“ The earnestness and tenderness of your letter is such, that I cannot think myself showing it more respect than it claims, by sitting down to answer it the day on which I received it.
“ This year has afflicted me with a very irksome and severe disorder. My respiration has been much impeded, and much blood has been taken away. I am now harassed by a catarrhous cough, from which my purpose is to seek relief by change of air; and I am, therefore, preparing to go to Oxford.
“Whether I did right in dissuading you from coming to London this spring, I will not determine. You have not lost much by missing my company ; I have scarcely been well for a single week. I might have received comfort from your kindness; but you would have seen me afflicted, and, perhaps, found me peevish. Whatever might have been your pleasure or mine, I know not how I could have honestly advised you to come here with borrowed money. Do not accustom yourself to consider debt only as an inconvenience; you will find it a calamity. Poverty takes away so many means of doing good, and produces so much inability to resist evil, both natural and moral, that it is by all virtuous means to be avoided. Consider a man whose fortune is very narrow; whatever be his rank by birth, or whatever his reputation by intellectual excellence, what can he do? or what evil can he prevent? That he cannot help the needy is evident; he has nothing to spare. But, perhaps, his advice or admonition may be useful. His poverty will destroy his influence; many more can find that he is poor, than that he is wise; and few will reverence the understanding that is of so little advantage to its
· The correspondence may be seen at length in The Gentleman's Magazine, Feb. 1786.
owner. I say nothing of the personal wretchedness of a debtor, which, however, has passed into a proverb. Of riches it is not necessary to write the praise. Let it, however, be remembered, that he who has money to spare, has it always in his power to benefit others, and of such power a good man must always be desirous.
“I am pleased with your account of Easter. We shall meet, I hope, in autumn, both well and both cheerful; and part each the better for the other's company. Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and to the young charmers. I am, &c.,
TO MR. PERKINS.?
“ July 28, 1782. “Dear Sir,
“I am much pleased that you are going a very long journey, which may by proper conduct restore your health and prolong your life.
“Observe these rules :
“1. Turn all care out of your head as soon as you mount the chaise.
“ 2. Do not think about frugality; your health is worth more than it can cost.
“3. Do not continue any day's journey to fatigue.
“ This last direction is the principal; with an unquiet mind, neither exercise, nor diet, nor physic, can be of much use.
1 Which I celebrated in the Church of England chapel at Edinburgh, founded by Lord Chief Baron Smith, of respectable and pious memory.
John Smith, Esq., of Gray's Inn, fourth son of Roger Smith, Esq., of Frolesworth in Leicestershire, was called to the degree of Serjeant-atLaw Oct. 1, 1700; made a Baron of the Exchequer, June 18, 1702 ; one of the Barons of the Exchequer in Scotland, on the first institution of that Court, May 1, 1708; Lurd Chief Baron, April 7, 1709; he died at Frolesworth at the age of seventy. He built and endowed (1722) the Episcopal chapel at the foot of Blackfriars Wynd, Edinburgh. It was destroyed by fire 1822.—Nichol's Illustrations, vol. i., 221-2.--Editor.
Mr. Thrale's successor in the brewery.
“I wish you, dear Sir, a prosperous journey, and a happy recovery. I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ Aug. 24, 1782. “ Dear Sir,
“Being uncertain whether I should have any call this autumn into the country, I did not immediately answer your kind letter. I have no call; but if you desire to meet me at Ashbourne, I believe I can come thither; if you had rather come to London, I can stay at Streatham : take your choice.
“This year has been very heavy. From the middle of January to the middle of June, I was battered by one disorder after another! I am now very much recovered, and hope still to be better. What happiness it is that Mrs. Boswell has escaped.
“My “ Lives" are reprinting, and I have forgotten the author of Gray's character :' write immediately, and it may be perhaps yet inserted. Of London' or Ashbourne you have your free choice; at any place I shall be glad to see you. I am, &c.,
“Sam. Johnson." On the 30th August, I informed him that my honoured father had died that morning; a complaint under which he had long laboured having suddenly come to a crisis, while I was upon a visit at the seat of Sir Charles Preston, from whence I had hastened the day before, upon receiving a letter by express.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ London, Sept. 7, 1782. “DEAR SIR,
“I have struggled through this year with so much infirmity of body, and such strong impressions of the fragility of
1 The Rev. Mr. Temple, Vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall. (See vol. i., p. 347, n.—Editor.)
life, that death, whenever it appears, fills me with melancholy; and I cannot hear without emotion of the removal of any one, whom I have known, into another state.
“Your father's death had every circumstance that could enable you to bear it; it was at a mature age, and it was expected ; and as his general life had been pious, his thoughts had doubtless for many years past been turned upon eternity. That you did not find him sensible must doubtless grieve you ; his disposition towards you was undonbtedly that of a kind, though not of a fond father. Kindness, at least actual, is in our power, but fondness is not; and if by negligence or imprudence you had extinguished his fondness, he could not at will rekindle it. Nothing then remained between you but mutual forgiveness of each other's faults, and mutual desire of each other's happiness. I shall long to know his final disposition of his fortune.
“ You, dear Sir, have now a new station, and have therefore new cares and new employments. Life, as Cowley seems to say, ought to resemble a well-ordered poem; of which one rule generally received is, that the exordium should be simple, and should promise little. Begin your new course of life with the least show and the least expense possible: you may at pleasure increase both, but you cannot easily diminish them. Do not think your estate your own, while any man can call upon you for money which you cannot pay: therefore, begin with timorous parsimony. Let it be your first care not to be in any man's debt.
" When the thoughts are extended to a future state, the present life seems hardly worthy of all those principles of conduct and maxims of prudence which one generation of men has transmitted to another; but upon a closer view, when it is perceived how much evil is produced and how much good is impeded by embarrassment and distress, and how little room the expedients of poverty leave for the exercise of virtue, it grows manifest that the boundless importance of the next life enforces some attention to the interests of this.
"Be kind to the old servants, and secure the kindness of the agents and factors. Do not disgust them by asperity, or unwelcome gaiety, or apparent suspicion. From them you must learn the real state of your affairs, the characters of your tenants, and the value of your lands.
“Make my compliments to Mrs e ll. I think her ex
pectations from air and exercise are the best that she can form. I hope she will live long and happily.
“I forget whether I told you that Rasay has been here. We dined cheerfully together. I entertained lately a young gentleman from Corrichatachin. I received your letters only this morning. I am, &c.,
“Sam. Johnson.” In answer to my next letter I received one from him, dissuading me from hastening to him as I had proposed. What is proper for publication is the following paragraph, equally just and tender :
“One expense, however, I would not have you to spare : let nothing be omitted that can preserve Mrs. Boswell, though it should be necessary to transplant her for a time into a softer climate. She is the prop and stay of your life. How much must your children suffer by losing her!”
My wife was now so much convinced of his sincere friendship for me, and regard for her, that without any suggestion on my part, she wrote him a very polite and grateful letter.
DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. BOSWELL.
“ London, Sept. 7, 1782. “ Dear LADY,
“I have not often received so much pleasure as from your invitation to Auchinleck. The journey thither and back is, indeed, too great for the latter part of the year; but if my health were fully recovered, I would suffer no little heat and cold, nor a wet or a rough road, to keep me from you. I am, indeed, not without hope of seeing Auchinleck again; but to make it a pleasant place I must see its lady well, and brisk, and airy. For my sake, therefore, among many greater reasons, take care, dear Madam, of your health; spare no expense, and want no attendance, that can procure ease or preserve it. Be very careful to keep your mind quiet; and do not think it too much to give an account of your recovery to, Madam, yours, &c.,