« PreviousContinue »
struggled hard with very formidable and obstinate maladies ; and though I cannot talk of health, think all praise due to my Creator and Preserver for the continuance of my life. The dropsy has made two attacks, and has given way to medicine; the asthma is very oppressive, but that has likewise once remitted. I am very weak and very sleepless; but it is time to conclude the tale of misery. I hope, dear Sir, that you grow better, for you have likewise your share of human evil, and that your lady and the young charmers are well. ' I am, dear Sir,
“ Sam. Johnson."
TO MR. GEORGE NICOL.
“ Ashbourne, August 19. “ Since we parted, I have been much oppressed by my asthma, but it has lately been less laborious. When I sit I am almost at ease, and I can walk, though yet very little, with less difficulty for this week past than before. I hope I shall again enjoy my friends, and that you and I shall have a little more literary conversation. Where I now am, every thing is very liberally provided for me but conversation. My friend is sick himself, and the reciprocation of complaints and groans affords not much of either pleasure or instruction. What we have not at home this town does not supply; and I shall be glad of a little imported intelligence, and hope that you will bestow, now and then, a little time on the relief and entertainment of, Sir, yours, &c.
TO MR. CRUIKSHANK.
“ Ashbourne, Sept. 4. “Dear Sir, “Do not suppose that I forget you: I hope I shall never be accused of forgetting my benefactors. I had, till lately, nothing to write but complaints upon complaints of miseries upon miseries ; but within this fortnight I have received great relief.
1 Bookseller to his Majesty.
Have your lectures any vacation ? If you are released from the necessity of daily study, you may find time for a letter to me.[In this letter he states the particulars of his case.]—In return for this account of my health, let me have a good account of yours, and of your prosperity in all your undertakings. I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”
TO MR. THOMAS DAVIES.
“ August 14. “ The tenderness with which you always treat me makes me culpable in my own eyes for having omitted to write in so long a separation. I had, indeed, nothing to say that you could wish to hear. All has been hitherto misery accumulated upon misery, disease corroborating disease, till yesterday my asthma was perceptibly and unexpectedly mitigated. I am much comforted with this short relief, and am willing to flatter myself that it may continue and improve. I have at present such a degree of ease as not only may admit the comforts but the duties of life. Make my compliments to Mrs. Davies.- Poor dear Allen !—he was a good man.”
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“ Ashbourne, July 12. “ The tenderness with which I am treated by my friends makes it reasonable to suppose that they are desirous to know the state of my health, and a desire so benevolent ought to be gratified.— I came to Lichfield in two days without any painful fatigue, and on Monday came hither, where I purpose to stay and try what air and regularity will effect. I cannot yet persuade myself that I have made much progress in recovery. My sleep is little, my breath is very much encumbered, and my legs are very weak. The water has increased a little, but has again run off. The most distressing symptom is want of sleep."
“ Aug. 19.—Having had since our separation little to say that could please you or myself by saying, I have not been lavish of useless letters ; but I flatter myself that you will partake of the
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
pleasure with which I can now tell you that, about a week ago, I felt suddenly a sensible remission of my asthma, and consequently a greater lightness of action and motion.—Of this grateful alleviation I know not the cause, nor dare depend upon its continuance; but while it lasts I endeavour to enjoy it, and am desirous of communicating, while it lasts, my pleasure to my friends.—Hitherto, dear Sir, I had written before the post, which stays in this town but a little while, brought me your letter. Mr. Davies seems to have represented my little tendency to recover in terms too splendid. I am still restless, still weak, still watery, but the asthma is less oppressive.—Poor Ramsay!1 On which side soever I turn, mortality presents its formidable frown. I left three old friends at Lichfield when I was last there, and now found them all dead. I no sooner lost sight of dear Allen, than I am told that I shall see him no more. That we must all die, we always knew ; I wish I had sooner remembered it. Do not think me intrusive or importunate, if I now call, dear Sir, on you to remember it.”
“ Sept 2.-I am glad that a little favour from the court has intercepted your furious purposes. I could not in any case have approved such public violence of resentment, and should have considered any who encouraged it as rather seeking sport for themselves than honour for you. Resentment gratifies him who intended an injury, and pains him unjustly who did not intend it. But all this is now superfluous.—I still continue, by God's mercy, to mend. My breath is easier, my nights are quieter, and my legs are less in bulk and stronger in use. I have, however, yet a great deal to overcome before I can yet attain even an old man's health.—Write, do write to me now and then. We are now old acquaintance, and perhaps few people have lived so much and so long together with less cause of complaint on either side. The retrospection of this is very pleasant, and I hope we shall never think on each other with less kindness."
“Sept. 9.-I could not answer your letter before this day, because I went on the sixth to Chatsworth, and did not come back till the post was gone. Many words, I hope, are not necessary between you and me to convince you what gratitude is
· Allan Ramsay, Esq., Painter to his Majesty, who died Aug. 10, 1784, in the seventy-first year of his age, much regretted by his friends.
? Of resigning the chair of the Academy. See Leslie and Taylor's Life of Reynolds, vol. ii., p. 448.—Editor.
excited in my heart by the chancellor's liberality and your kind offices. I did not indeed expect that what was asked by the chancellor would have been refused; but since it has, we will not tell that anything has been asked.—I have enclosed a letter to the chancellor, which, when you have read it, you will be pleased to seal with a head or other general seal, and convey it to him. Had I sent it directly to him, I should have seemed to overlook the favour of your intervention.—My last letter told you of my advance in health, which, I think, in the whole still continues. Of the hydropic tumour there is now very little appearance: the asthma is much less troublesome, and seems to remit something day after day. I do not despair of supporting an English winter.—At Chatsworth, I met young Mr. Burke, who led me very commodiously into conversation with the duke and duchess. We had a very good morning. The dinner was
“ Sept. 18.-I flattered myself that this week would have given me a letter from you, but none has come. Write to me now and then, but direct your next to Lichfield.- I think, and I hope am sure, that I still grow better. I have sometimes good nights, but am still in my legs weak, but so much mended, that I go to Lichfield in hope of being able to pay my visits on foot, for there are no coaches.-I have three letters this day, all about the balloon : I could have been content with one. Do not write about the balloon, whatever else you may think proper to say."
“Oct. 2.--I am always proud of your approbation, and therefore was much pleased that you liked my letter. When you copied it, you invaded the chancellor's right rather than mine.The refusal I did not expect, but I had never thought much about it, for I doubted whether the chancellor had so much tenderness for me as to ask. He, being keeper of the king's conscience, ought not to be supposed capable of an improper petition.—All is not gold that glitters, as we have often been told; and the adage is verified in your place and my favour; but if what happens does not make us richer, we must bid it welcome if it makes us wiser.—I do not at present grow better, nor much worse. My hopes, however, are somewhat abated, and a very great loss is the loss of hope ; but I struggle on as I can."
TO MR. JOHN NICHOLS."
* Lichfield, Oct. 26. " When you were here, you were pleased, as I am told, to think my absence an inconvenience. I should certainly have been very glad to give so skilful a lover of antiquities any information about my native place, of which, however, I know not much, and have reason to believe that not much is known.
Though I have not given you any amusement, I have received amusement from you. At Ashbourne, where I had very little company, I had the luck to borrow Mr. Bowyer's Life ;'a book so full of contemporary history, that a literary man must find some of his old friends. I thought that I could, now and then, have told you some hints worth your notice; and perhaps we may talk a life over. I hope we shall be much together; you must now be to me what you were before, and what dear Mr. Allen was besides. He was taken unexpectedly away ; but I think he was a very good man. I have made little progress in recovery. I am very weak and very sleepless; but I live on and hope.”
This various mass of correspondence, which I have thus brought together, is valuable, both as an addition to the store which the public already has of Johnson's writings, and as exhibiting a genuine and noble specimen of vigour and vivacity of mind, which neither age nor sickness could impair or diminish.
It may be observed, that his writing in every way, whether for the public or privately to his friends, was by
i This very respectable man, who contributed so largely to the literary and topographical history of his country, died in 1826, at the advanced age of eighty-two. “His long life," as his friend and biographer, Mr. Alexander Chalmers, has truly observed, “ was spent in the promotion of useful knowledge.” The Life of Bowyer, to which Johnson refers, was republished in 1812-15, with large additions, in nine vols. 8vo, under the title of Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. It is a storehouse of facts and dates, and every man interested in literary biography must own the vast obligations which are due to its indefatigable compiler.--- Markland.