« PreviousContinue »
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.,
“London, Dec. 7, 1782. “Dear Sir,
“Having passed almost this whole year in a succession of disorders, I went in October to Brighthelmstone, whither I came in a state of so much weakness, that I rested four times in walking between the inn and the lodging. By physic and abstinence I grew better, and am now reasonably easy, though at a great distance from health. I am afraid, however, that health begins, after seventy, and long before, to have a meaning different from that which it had at thirty. But it is culpable to murmur at the established order of the creation, as it is vain to oppose it. He that lives must grow old; and he that would rather grow old than die has God to thank for the infirmities of old age.
“At your long silence I am rather angry. You do not, since now you are at the head of your house, think it worth your while to try whether you or your friend can live longer without writing; nor suspect, after so many years of friendship, that when I do not write to you I forget you. Put all such useless jealousies out of your head, and disdain to regulate your own practice by the practice of another, or by another principle than the desire of doing right.
“Your economy, I suppose, begins now to be settled; your expenses are adjusted to your revenue, and all your people in their proper places. Resolve not to be poor. Whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness: it certainly destroys liberty; and it makes some virtues impractice able, and others extremely difficult.
“Let me know the history of your life since your accession to your estate ;-how many houses, how many cows, how much land in your own hand, and what bargains you make with your tenants.
“Of my 'Lives of the Poets' they have printed a new edition in octavo, I hear, of three thousand. Did I give a set to Lord Hailes? If I did not, I will do it out of these. What did you make of all your copy ?
“Mrs. Thrale and the three misses are now, for the winter, in Argyll Street. Sir Joshua Reynolds has been out of order but is well again; and I am, dear Sir, your affectionate humble servant,
MRS. BOSWELL TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
“Edinburgh, Dec. 20, 1782. “Dear Sir,
“I was made happy by your kind letter, which gave us the agreeable hopes of seeing you in Scotland again.
“I am much flattered by the concern you are pleased to take in my recovery. I am better, and hope to have it in niy power to convince you by my attention, of how much consequence I esteem your health to the world and to myself. I remain, Sir, with grateful respect, your obliged and obedient servant,
The death of Mr. Thrale had made a very material alteration with respect to Johnson's reception in that family. The manly authority of the husband no longer curbed the lively exuberance of the lady; and as her vanity had been fully gratified, by having the Colossus of Literature attached to her for many years, she gradually became less assiduous to please him. Whether her attachment to him was already divided by another object, I am unable to ascertain; but it is plain that Johnson's penetration was alive to her neglect or forced attention; for on the 6th of October this year we find him making a “parting use of the library” at Streatham, and pronouncing a prayer which he cơmposed on leaving Mr. Thrale's family."
“ Almighty God, Father of all mercy, help me by thy grace, that I may, with humble and sincere thankfulness, remember the comforts and conveniences which I have enjoyed at this place; and that I may resign them with holy submission, equally trusting in thy protection when thou givest and when thou takest away. Have mercy upon me, O Lord ! have mercy upon me!
I Prayers and Meditations, p. 208. First edition.
“To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, I commend this family. Bless, guide, and defend them, that they may so pass through this world, as finally to enjoy in thy presence everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
One cannot read this prayer without some emotions not. very favourable to the lady whose conduct occasioned it.?
In one of his memorandum books I find, “Sunday, went to church at Streatham. Templo valedixi cum
He met Mr. Philip Metcalfe often at Sir Joshua Reynolds's and other places, and was a good deal with him at. Brighthelmstone this autumn, being pleased at once with his excellent table and animated conversation. Mr. Metcalfe showed him great respect, and sent him a note that he might have the use of his carriage whenever he pleased. Johnson (3rd October, 1782) returned this polite answer: “ Mr. Johnson is very much obliged by the kird offer of the carriage, but he has no desire of using Mr. Metcalfe's carriage except when he can have the pleasure of Mr. Metcalfe's company.” Mr. Metcalfe could not but be highly pleased that his company was thus valued by Johnson, and he frequently attended him in airings. They also went together to Chichester, and they visited Petworth, and Cowdray, the venerable seat of the Lords Montacute. “Sir,” said Johnson, “I should like to stay here fourand - twenty hours. We see here how our ancestors lived.”
That his curiosity was still unabated appears from two letters to Mr. John Nichols, of the 10th and 20th of October this year. In one he says, “I have looked into
1 The next day he made the following memorandum :
“ October 7.-I was called early. I packed up my bundles, and used the foregoing prayer, with my morning devotions somewhat, I think, enlarged. Being earlier than the family, I read St. Paul's farewell in the Acts, and then read fortuitously in the Gospels,—which was my parting use of the library."
2 Mr. Metcalfe, who signed the Round Robin. He, Burke, and Malone were executors of Sir Joshua.-Editor.
3 This venerable mansion has since [25th Sept., 1793] been totally destroyed by fire. -Malone.
your • Anecdotes, and you will hardly thank a lover of literary history for telling you that he has been much informed and gratified. I wish you would add your own discoveries and intelligence to those of Dr. Rawlinson, and undertake the Supplement to Wood. Think of it." In the other, “I wish, Sir, you could obtain some fuller information of Jortin, Markland, and Thirlby. They were three contemporaries of great eminence.”
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“ Brighthelmstone, Nov. 14; 1782. “DEAR SIR,
“I heard yesterday of your late disorder, and should think ill of myself if I had heard of it without alarm. I heard likewise of your recovery, which I sincerely wish to be complete and permanent. Your country has been in danger of losing one of its brightest ornaments, and I of losing one of my oldest and kindest friends ; but I hope you will still live long, for the honour of the nation; and that more enjoyment of your elegance, your intelligence, and your benevolence is still reserved for, dear Sir, your most affectionate, &c.,
The Rev. Mr. Wilson? having dedicated to him his “ Archæological Dictionary," that mark of respect was thus acknowledged:
Dr. Richard Rawlinson, an eminent antiquary, and a great benefactor to the University of Oxford. He founded the Anglo-Saxon professorship there, and bequeathed to it all his collection of MSS., medals, antiquities, and curiosities. He died in 1754, æt. 65. There had been some idea of obtaining this professorship for Johnson.Croker.
2 A concise but very just character of Mr. Wilson is given by Dr. Whittaker in the dedication of a plate, in the History of Whalley. “ Viro Reverendo Thomæ Wilson, s. T. B. ecclesiæ" de Clitheroe, ministro-sodali jucundissimo-åpxaloloyu insigni-felici juvenum institutori.” He died in 1813, aged sixty-five years]; during about forty of which he was labouriously occupied as the master of the grammar school of Clitheroe.--Markland.
TO THE REV. MR. WILSON.
“ Dec. 31, 1782. “REVEREND SIR,
“ That I have long omitted to return you thanks for the honour conferred upon me by your dedication, I entreat you with great earnestness not to consider as inore faulty than it is. A very importunate and oppressive disorder has for some time debarred me from the pleasures and obstructed me in the duties of life. The esteem and kindness of wise and good men is one of the last pleasures which I can be content to lose ; and gratitude to those from whom this pleasure is received is a duty of which I hope never to be reproached with the final neglect. I therefore now return you thanks for the notice which I have received from you, and which I consider as giving to my name not only more bulk, but more weight; not only as extending its superficies, but as increasing its value. Your book was evidently wanted, and will, I hope, find its way into the school; to which, however, I do not mean to confine it; for no man has so much skill in ancieni rites and practices as not to want it. As I suppose myself to owe part of your kindness to my excellent friend, Dr. Patten, he has likewise a just claim to my acknowledgement, which I hope you, Sir, will transmit. There will soon appear a new edition of my Poetical Biography; if you will accept of a copy to keep me in your mind, be pleased to let me know how it may be conveniently conveyed to you. This present is small, but it is given with good-will by, reverend Sir your most, &c.,
“ Sam. Johnson.”
In 1783 he was more severely afflicted than ever, as will appear in the course of his correspondence; but still the same ardour for literature, the same constant piety, the same kindness for his friends, and the same vivacity, both in conversation and writing, distinguished him.
Having given Dr. Johnson a full account of what I was doing at Auchinleck, and particularly mentioned what I knew would please him,-my having brought an old man of eighty-eight from a lonely cottage to a comfortable.