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BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
Having, after repeated reasonings, brought Dr. Johnson to agree to my 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, as a proof how well he could exhibit a cautious yet encouraging view of it.
“ June 11, 1784. “I remember, and entreat you to remember that virtus cst vitium fugere, the first approach to riches is security from poverty. The condition upon which you hare my consent to settle in London is, that your expense 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
have communicated the circumstance. It was impossible for me to take the King's pleasure on the suggestion I presumed to move. I am an untoward solicitor. The time seemed to press, and I chose rather to take on myself the risk of his Majesty's concurrence than delay a journey which might conduce to Dr. Johnson's health and comfort.
“But these are all trifles, and scarce deserve even this cursory explanation. The only question of any worth is whether Dr. Johnson has any wish to go abroad, or other occasion for my assistance. Indeed he should give me credit for perfect simplicity, when I treat this as merely a pleasure afforded me, and accept it accordingly: any reluctance, if he examines himself thoroughly, will certainly be found to rest, in some part or other, upon a doubt of the disposition with which I offer it.
“I am, &c.,
“ THUkLow." That tbis letter was kept from Boswell's knowledge is certain, by his obvious vexation at thinking that the refusal had come from the Kingthat it was designedly kept from him is rendered probable by the following curious circumstance. On the face of the original letter his name had been obliterated with so much care that but for the different colour of the ink and some other small circumstances, it would not have been discoverable ; it is artfully done, and the sentence appears to run, 66 except Dr. Johnson, you, and I”-“Boswell” being erased. This looks like an uncandid trick, to defraud Boswell of his merit in this matter : but by whom the obliteration was made I cannot guess.-Croker,
advise you 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 inquiry, with much knowledge, and materials for reflection and instruction.”
Let us now contemplate Johnson thirty years after the death of his wife, still retaining for her all the tenderness of affection.
TO THE REV. MR. BAGSHAW,
“July 12, 1784. 6 SIR,
“Perhaps you may remember, that in the year 1752 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 find it proper, 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, your most humble servant,
“Sam. Johnson.” On the same day he wrote to Mr. Langton :
“ I cannot but think that in my languid and anxious state, I have some reason to complain that I receive from you neither inquiry nor consolation. You know how much I value your friendship, and with what confidence I expect your kindness, if I
i Mr. Ryland was one of his oldest friends, and had probably been an acquaintance of his wife's. Mr. Ryland died July 24, 1798, ætat. 81,Croker.
2 See vol. i., p. 178.—Editor.
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
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 orerlooked? You are not oppressed by sickness, you are not distracted by business ; if you are sick, 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 votre eternel emploi,
Cultivez vos amis.'— “ That voluntary debility which modern language is content to cerm 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 or 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 write, the letter will come after me."
Next day he set out on a jaunt to Staffordshire and Derbyshire, flattering 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. 66 The kind attention which you have so long shown 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 befalls me, when accident removes 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. 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 wbat air and attention can perform.–Of any improvement in my health I cannot yet please myself with the perception. * * * * * * The asthma has no abatement. Opiates stop the fit, so as that I can sit 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 increase. 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 same kind with mine. Something, however, I may, perhaps, learn.—My appetite still continues keen enough; and what I consider as a symptom 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 anything is to be done, let me have your joint opinion.Now-abite, curæ !-let me inquire after the club."2
“July 31st.-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
? A little circumstance of pathetic interest has been courteously communicated to me by Mr. Henry Stevens, of Vermont. On examining the old borrowing books of the Library of Lichfield Cathedral, of July 17, 1784, he found that Johnson borrowed and signed for “ Sir John Floyer on the Asthma,” and the book is ticked off as returned on tho 9th November following.- Editor.
? At the Essex head, Essex Street. 3 Mr. Allen, the printer.
extremely kind. I am loth to think that I grow worse; and cannot fairly prove even to my own partiality that I grow much better."
“ Aug. 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.”
“ Aug. 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 to gain nor lose strength. I have lately tried milk, but have yet found no 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."
“ Aug. 14.—I have hitherto sent you only melancholy letters : you will be glad to hear some better account. Yesterday the asthma remitted, perceptibly 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 terror and sorrow. Write to me, dear Sir."
“Aug. 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 inertice of the pectoral and pulmonary muscles.--I am favoured with a degree of ease that very much delights me, and do not despair of another race up the stairs of the Academy.--If I were, however, of a humour to see, or to show, the state of my body, on the dark side, I might say,
Quid te exempta juvat spinis de pluribus una ?' The nights are still sleepless, 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 equivalent of