Page images
PDF
EPUB

great and little. I hope Lady Rothes and Miss Langton are both well. That is a good basis of content. Then how goes George on with his studies ? How does Miss Mary? And how does my own Jenny ? I think I owe Jenny a letter, which I will take care to pay. In the mean time tell her that I acknow. ledge the debt.

"Be pleased to make my compliments to the ladies. If Mrs. Langton comes to London, she will favour me with a visit, for I am not well enough to go out.'

TO OZIAS HUMPHRY, ESQ.'

“ April 5, 1784. “ Sir,

“Mr. Hoole has told me with what benevolence you listened to a request which I was almost afraid to make, of leave to a young painter to attend you from time to time in your painting-room, to see your operations, and receive your instructions. The young man has perhaps good parts, but has been without a regular education. He is my godson, and therefore I interest myself in his progress and success, and shall think myself much favoured if I receive from you a permission to send him.

“My health is, by God's blessing, much restored, but I am not yet allowed by my physicians to go abroad ; nor, indeed, do I think myself yet able to endure the weather. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,

“Sam. Johnson.” 1 The eminent painter, representative of the ancient family of Homfrey (now Humphry) in the west of England; who, as appears from their arms which they have invariably used, have been (as I have seen authenticated by the best authority) one of those among the knights and esquires of honour, who are represented by Holinshed as having issued from the Tower of London on coursers apparelled for the justes, accom. panied by ladies of honour, leading every one a knight, with a chain of gold, passing through the streets of London into Smithfield, on Sunday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, being the first Sunday after Michael. mas, in the fourteenth year of King Richard the Second. This family once enjoyed large possessions, but, like others, have lost them in the progress of ages. Their blood, however, remains to them well ascer. tained ; and they may hope, in the revolution of events, to recover that rank in society for which, in modern times, fortune seems to be an indispeusable requisite.

Mr. Humphry died in 1810, æt. 68. His eminence as a painter was a good-natured error of Boswell's.-Croker.

? Son of Mr. Samuel Paterson. See vol. ii., p. 170, and vol. iii., p. 127.

TO THE SAME.

“ April 10, 1784.

“SIR,

“The bearer is my godson, whom I take the liberty of recommending to your kindness; which I hope he will deserve by his respect to your excellence, and his gratitude for your favours. I.anı, Sir, your most humble servant,

“Sam. Johnson."

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

“I am very much obliged by your civilities to my godson, but must beg of you to add to them the favour of permitting him to see you paint, that he may know how a picture is begun, advanced, and completed. If he may attend you in a few of your operations, I hope he will show that the benefit has been properly conferred, both by his proficiency and his gratitude. At least I shall consider you as enlarging your kindness to, Sir, your humble servant,

“ SAM. Johnson."

TO THE REVEREND DR. TAYLOR,

Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

“ London, Easter Monday, April 12, 1784. “ DEAR SIR,

“What can be the reason that I hear nothing from you ? I hope nothing disables you from writing. What I have seen, and what I have felt, gives me reason to fear every thing. Do not omit giving me the comfort of knowing, that after all my losses, I have yet a friend left.

“I want every comfort. My life is very solitary and very cheerless. Though it has pleased God wonderfully to deliver me from the dropsy, I am yet very weak, and have not passed the door since the 13th of December. I hope for some help from warm weather, which will surely come in time.

" I could not have the consent of the physicians to go to church yesterday; I therefore received the holy sacrament at home, in the room where I communicated with dear Mrs. Williams, a little before her death. O my friend, the approach of death is very dreadful! I am afraid to think on that which I know I cannot avoid. It is vain to look round and round for that help which cannot be had. Yet we hope and hope, and fancy that he who has lived to-day may live to-morrow. But let us learn to derive our hope only from God.

“In the mean time let us be kind to one another. I have no friend now living but you and Mr. Hector, that was the friend of my youth. Do not neglect, dear Sir, yours affectionately,

“Sam. Johnson." What follows is a beautiful specimen of his gentleness and complacency to a young lady, his godchild, one of the daughters of his friend Mr. Langton, then, I think, in her seventh year. He took the trouble to write it in a large round hand, nearly resembling printed characters, that she might have the satisfaction of reading it herself. The original lies before me, but shall be faithfully restored to her; and I dare say will be preserved by her as a jewel, as long as she lives.

JOHNSON TO MISS JANE LANGTON,
In Rochester, Kent.

“ May 10, 1784. “ MY DEAREST Miss JENNY,

“I am sorry that your pretty letter has been so long without being answered; but, when I am not pretty well, I do not always write plain enough for young ladies. I am glad, my dear, to see that you write so well, and hope that you mind your pen, your book and your needle, for they are all necessary. Your books will give you knowledge, and make you respected; and your needle will find you useful employment when you do not care to read. When you are a little older, I hope you will be very diligent in learning arithmetic; and, above all, that through your whole life you will carefully say your prayers and read your Bible. I am, my dear, your most humble servant,

“SAM. Johnson." Mr. Croker says: “I have seen it very lately, framed and glazed, in the possession of the lady to whom it was addressed.” This note bears the date 1847.-Editor.

On Wednesday, May 5, I arrived in London, and next morning had the pleasure to find Dr. Johnson greatly recovered. I but just saw him ; for a coach was waiting to carry him to Islington, to the house of his friend the Reverend Mr. Strahan, where he went sometimes for the benefit of good air, which, notwithstanding his having formerly laughed at the general opinion upon the subject, he now acknowledged was conducive to health.

One morning afterwards, when I found him alone, he communicated to me, with solemn earnestness, the very remarkable circumstance which had happened in the course of his illness, when he was much distressed by the dropsy. He had shut himself up, and employed a day in particular exercises of religion, fasting, humiliation, and prayer. On a sudden he obtained extraordinary relief, for which he looked up to Heaven with grateful devotion. He made no direct inference from this fact; but from his manner of telling it, I could perceive that it appeared to him as something more than an incident in the common course of events. For my own part, I have no difficulty to avow that cast of thinking, which, by many modern pretenders to wisdom, is called superstitious. But here I think even men of dry rationality may believe, that there was an intermediate interposition of Divine Providence, and that the “fervent prayer of this righteous man” availed.?

On Sunday, May 9, I found Colonel Vallancy, the celebrated antiquary and engineer of Ireland, with him. On

i Upon this subject there is a very fair and judicious remark in the Life of Dr. Abernethy, in the first edition of the Biographia Britannica, which I should have been glad to see in his Life, which has been written for the second edition of that valuable work, "To deny the exercise of a particular providence in the Deity's government of the world is certainly impious, yet nothing serves the cause of the scorner more than incautious forward zeal in determining the particular instances of it.”

In confirmation of my sentiments, I am also happy to quote that sen. sible and elegant writer, Mr. Melmoth, in Letter VIII. of his collection, published under the name of Fitzosborne: “ We may safely assert, that the belief of a particular Providence is founded upon such probable reasons as may well justify our assent. It would scarce, therefore, be wise to renounce an opinion which affords so firm a support to the soul in those seasons wherein she stands in most need of assistance, merely because it is not possible, in questions of this kind, to solve every difficulty which attends them.”

Monday, the 10th, I dined with him at Mr. Paradise's, where was a large company; Mr. Bryant, Mr. Joddrel, Mr. Hawkins Browne, &c. On Thursday, the 13th, I dined with him at Mr. Joddrel's, with another large company; the Bishop of Exeter, Lord Monboddo,' Mr. Murphy, &c.

On Saturday, May 15, I dined with him at Dr. Brocklesby's, where were Colonel Vallancy, Mr. Murphy, and that ever-cheerful companion, Mr. Devaynes, apothecary to his majesty. Of these days, and others on which I saw him, I have no memorials, except the general recollection of his being able and animated in conversation, and appearing to relish society as much as the youngest man. I find only these three small particulars : When a person was mentioned, who said, “I have lived fifty-one years in the world without having had ten minutes of uneasiness ;” he exclaimed, “ The man who says so lies: he attempts to impose on human credulity." The Bishop of Exeter? in vain observed that men were very different. His lordship's manner was not impressive; and I learnt afterwards, that Johnson did not find out that the person who talked to him was a prelate; if he had, I doubt not that he would have treated him with more respect; for, once talking of George Psal. manazar, whom he reverenced for his piety, he said, “I should as soon think of contradicting a bishop.” One of the company provoked him greatly by doing what he could least of all bear, which was, quoting something of his own writing, against what he then maintained. “What, Sir,” cried the gentleman,“ do you say to

• The busy day, the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by'? " 4

1 I was sorry to observe Lord Monboddo avoid any communication with Dr. Johnson. I flattered myself that I had made them very good friends; (see Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, third edition, p. 67), but unhappily his lordship had resumed and cherished a violent prejudice against my illustrious friend, to whom I must do the justice to say, there was on his part not the least anger, but a good-humoured sportiveness. Nay, though he knew of his lordship's indisposition towards him, he was even kindly; as appeared from his inquiring of me after him, by an abbreviation of his name, “ Well, how does Monny?

? Malone supplies the name : Dr. John Ross.Editor.
3 Boswell himself, we believe.Editor
4 Verses on the death of Mr. Levett.

« PreviousContinue »