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In one of his little memorandum-books is the following minute :
“ August 9, 3 P.M., ætat. 72, in the summer-house at Streatham.
“ After innumcrable resolutions formed and neglected, I have retired hither, to plan a life of greater diligence, in hope that I may yet be useful, and be daily better prepared to appear before my Creator and my Judge, from whose infinite mercy I humbly call for assistance and support.
“My purpose is,—To pass eight hours every day in some serious employment.
“Having prayed, I purpose to employ the next six weeks upon the Italian language for my settled study."
How venerably pious does he appear in these moments of solitude! and how spirited are his resolutions for the improvement of his mind, even in elegant literature, at a very advanced period of life, and when afflicted with many complaints !
In autumn he went to Oxford, Birmingham, Lichfield, and Ashbourne, for which very good reasons might be given in the conjectural yet positive manner of writers, who are proud to account for every event which they relate. He himself, however, says, “The motives of my journey I hardly know: I omitted it last year, and am not willing to miss it again.” But some good considerations arise, amongst which is the kindly recollection of Mr. Hector, surgeon, of Birmingham. “Hector is likewise an old friend, the only companion of my childhood that passed through the school with me. We have always loved one another ; perhaps we may be made better by some serious conversation, of which, however, I have no distinct hope."
He says, too, “At Lichfield, my native place, I hope to show a good example by frequent attendance on public worship.”2
My correspondence with him during the rest of this year was, I know not why, very scanty, and all on my side. I
i Prayers and Meditations, p. 195. First edition.
wrote him one letter to introduce Mr. Sinclair (now Sir John), the member for Caithness,' to his acquaintance; and informed him in another that my wife had been again affected with alarming symptoms of illness.
In 1782 his complaints increased, and the history of his life this year is little more than a mournful recital of the variations of his illness, in the midst of which, however, it will appear from his letters, that the powers of his mind were in no degree impaired. .
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“Jan, 5, 1782. “ DEAR SIR,
“I sit down to answer your letter on the same day in which I received it, and am pleased that my first letter of the year is to you. No man ought to be at ease while he knows himself in the wrong; and I have not satisfied myself with my long silence. The letter relating to Mr. Sinclair, however, was, I believe, never brought.
“My health has been tottering this last year; and I can give no very laudable account of my time. I am always hoping to do better than I have ever hitherto done. My journey to Ashbourne and Staffordshire was not pleasant; for what enjoyment has a sick man visiting the sick ? Shall we ever have another frolic like our journey to the Hebrides ?
“I hope that dear Mrs. Boswell will surmount her complaints : in losing her you will lose your anchor, and be tossed, without stability, by the waves of life. I wish both you and her very many years, and very happy.
“For some months past I have been so withdrawn from the world, that I can send you nothing particular. All your friends, however, are well, and will be glad of your return to London. I am, dear Sir, &c.,
1 The Right Hon. Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, Bart.; a voluminous writer on agriculture and statistics.-Croker.
? The truth of this has been proved by sad experience. Mrs. Boswell died June 4, 1789.-Malone.
At a time when he was less able than he had once been to sustain a shock, he was suddenly deprived of Mr. Levett; which event he thus communicated to Dr. Lawrence.
“Jan. 17, 1782. “Sir,
“Our old friend, Mr. Levett, who was last night eminently cheerful, died this morning. The man who lay in the same room, hearing an uncommon noise, got up and tried to make him speak, but without effect. He then called Mr. Hol. der, the apothecary, who, though when he came he thought him dead, opened a vein, but could draw no blood. So has ended the long life of a very useful and very blameless man. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
“Sam JOHNSON." In one of his memorandum-books in my possession is the following entry :
“ January 20, Sunday, Robert Levett was buried in the churchyard of Bridewell, between one and two in the afternoon. He died on Thursday, 17, about seven in the morning, by an instantaneous death. He was an old and faithful friend : I have known him from about 1746. Commendavi. May God have mercy on him! May he have mercy on me!”
Such was Johnson's affectionate regard for Levettthat he honoured his memory with the following pathetic verses :
“ Condemn'd to Hope's delusive mine,
As on we toil from day to day,
Our social comforts drop away.
See Levett to the grave descend :
Of every friendless name the friend.
Obscurely wise and ccarsely kind;
1 See an account of him in the Gentleman's Magazine, Feb., 1785.
Nor, letter'd arrogance, deny
Thy praise to merit unrefined.
And hovering death prepared the blow,
The power of art without the show.
His ready help was ever nigb,
And lonely want retired to die.?
No petty gains disdain'd by pride :
The toil of every day supply'd.
Nor made a pause, nor left a void ;
His single talent well employ’d.
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by ;
Though now his eightieth year was nigh.
No cold gradations of decay,
And freed his soul the nearest way."
TO MRS. STRAHAN.
“ Feb. 4, 1782. “Dear Madam,
“ Mrs. Williams showed me your kind letter. This little habitation is now but a melancholy place, clouded with the gloom
In both editions of Sir John Hawkins' Life of Dr. Johnson “ letter'd ignorance” is printed. 2 Johnson repeated this line to me thus :
“And labour steals an hour to die.” But he afterwards altered it to the present reading.
of disease and death. Of the four inmates, one has been suddenly snatched away ; two are oppressed by very afflictive and dangerous illness; and I tried yesterday to gain some relief by a third bleeding from a disorder which has for some time distressed me, and I think myself to-day much better.
“I am glad, dear Madam, to hear that you are so far recovered as to go to Bath. Let me once moro entreat you to stay tili your health is not only obtained, but confirmed. Your fortune is such as that no moderate expense deserves your care; and you have a husband who, I believe, does not regard it. Stay, therefore, till you are quite well. I am, for my part, very much deserted; but complaint is useless. I hope God will bless you, and I desire you to form the same wish for me. I am, dear Madam, &c.,
TO EDMUND MALONE, ESQ.
“Feb. 27, 1782. “SIR,
“I have for many weeks been so much out of order, that I have gone out only in a coach to Mrs. Thrale's, where I can use all the freedom that sickness requires. Do not, therefore, take it amiss, that I am not with you and Dr. Farmer. I hope, hereafter to see you often. I am, Sir, &c.,
TO THE SAME.
“ March 2, 1782. “DEAR SIR,
“I hope I grow better, and shall soon be able to enjoy the kindness of my friends. I think this wild adherence to Chatterton? more unaccountable than the obstinate defence of
1 This note was in answer to one which accompanied one of the earliest pamphlets on the subject of Chatterton's forgery, entitled Cursory Observations on the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley, &c. Mr. Thomas Warton's very able Inquiry appeared about three months afterwards ; and Mr. Tyrwhitt's admirable Vindication of his Appendix, in the summer of the same year, left the believers in this daring imposture nothing but “the resolution to say again what had been said before.” Daring,