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not to tell you, and therefore you must be contented with hearing, what I know not whether you much wish to hear,1 that I am, Sir,
"Your most humble servant,
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
London, Aug. 21, 1780.
"I find you have taken one of your fits of taciturnity, and have resolved not to write till you are written to; it is but a peevish humour, but you shall have your way.
"I have sat at home in Bolt-court all the summer, thinking to write the Lives, and a great part of the time only thinking. Several of them, however, are done, and I still think to do the rest.
"Mr. Thrale and his family have, since his illness, passed their time first at Bath, and then at Brighthelmstone; but I have been at neither place. I would have gone to Lichfield if I could have had time, and I might have had time if I had been active; but I have missed much, and done little.
"In the late disturbances, Mr. Thrale's house and stock were in great danger; the mob was pacified at their first invasion, with about 50%. in drink and meat; and at their second, were driven away by the soldiers. Mr. Strahan got a garrison into his house, and maintained them a fortnight; he was so frighted that he removed part of his goods. Mrs. Williams took shelter in the country.
"I know not whether I shall get a ramble this autumn; it is now about the time when we were travelling, I have, however, better health than I had then, and hope you and I may yet show ourselves on some part of Europe, Asia, or Africa. In the mean time let us play no trick, but keep each other's kindness by all means in our power.
"The bearer of this is Dr. Dunbar, of Aberdeen, who has written and published a very ingenious book,3 and who I think has a kindness for me, and will, when he knows you, have a kindness for you.
"I suppose your little ladies are grown tall; and your son has become a learned young man. I love them all, and I love your naughty lady, whom I never shall persuade to love me. When the Lives are done, I shall send them
proceeding to illustrate. "All excellence has a right to be recorded. I shall therefore think it superfluous to apologise for writing the life of a man, who, by an uncommon assemblage of private virtues, adorned the highest eminence in a public profession."-BOSWELL.
1 I wish he had omitted the suspicion expressed here, though I believe he meant nothing but jocularity; for though he and I differed sometimes in opinion, he well knew how much I loved and revered him.-BEATTIE.
2 It will no doubt be remarked how he avoids the rebellious land of America. This puts me in mind of an anecdote for which I am obliged to my worthy social friend Governor Richard Penn: "At one of Miss E. Hervey's assemblies, Dr. Johnson was following her up and down the room; upon which Lord Abington observed to her, 'Your great friend is very fond of you: you can go nowhere without him.' 'Ay,' said she, 'he would follow me to any part of the world.' 'Then,' said the Earl, 'ask him to go with you to America."— BOSWELL.
3 Dr. Dunbar was Professor of Philosophy in King's College, Aberdeen, and author of "Essays on the History of Mankind in Rude and Uncultivated Ages." He died in 1779.—ED.
to complete her collection, but must send them in paper, as, for want of a pattern, I cannot bind them to fit the rest. I am, Sir,
"Yours most affectionately,
This year he wrote to a young clergyman in the country the followng very excellent letter, which contains valuable advice to Divines in general:
Bolt-court, Aug. 30, 1780.
"Not many days ago Dr. Lawrence showed me a letter, in which you make mention of me: I hope, therefore, you will not be displeased that I endeavour to preserve your good-will by some observations which your letter suggested to me.
"You are afraid of falling into some improprieties in the daily service by reading to an audience that requires no exactness. Your fear, I hope, secures you from danger. They who contract absurd habits are such as have no fear. It is impossible to do the same thing very often, without some peculiarity of manner; but that manner may be good or bad, and a little care will at least preserve it from being bad; to make it good, there must, I think, be something of natural or casual felicity, which cannot be taught.
"Your present method of making your sermons seems very judicious. Few frequent preachers can be supposed to have sermons more their own than yours will be. Take care to register, somewhere or other, the authors from whom your several discourses are borrowed; and do not imagine that you shall always remember, even what perhaps you now think it impossible to forget.
"My advice, however, is, that you attempt, from time to time, an original sermon; and in the labour of composition, do not burden your mind with too much at once; do not exact from yourself at one effort of ex-cogitation, propriety of thought and elegance of expression. Invent first, and then embellish. The production of something, where nothing was before, is an act of greater energy than the expansion or decoration of the thing produced. Set down diligently your thoughts as they rise in the first words that occur; and when you have matter, you will easily give it form: nor, perhaps, will this method be always necessary; for by habit your thoughts and diction will flow together.
"The composition of sermons is not very difficult: the divisions not only help the memory of the hearer, but direct the judgment of the writer; they supply sources of invention, and keep every part in its proper place.
"What I like least in your letter is your account of the manners of your parish; from which I gather, that it has been long neglected by the parson. The Dean of Carlisle,1 who was then a little rector in Northamptonshire, told me, that it might be discerned whether or no there was a clergyman resident in a parish, by the civil or savage manner of the people. Such a congregation as yours stands in need of much reformation; and I would not have you think it impossible to reform them. A very savage parish was civilised by a decayed gentlewoman, who came among them to teach a potty school. My learned friend Dr. Wheeler of Oxford, when he was a young man, had the care of a neighbouring
1 Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore.-BoswELL.
parish for 157. a year, which he was never paid; but he counted it a convenience, that it compelled him to make a sermon weekly. One woman he could not bring to the communion; and when he reproved or exhorted her, she only answered, that she was no scholar. He was advised to set some good woman or man of the parish, a little wiser than herself, to talk to her in a language level to her mind. Such honest, I may call them holy, artifices, must be practised by every clergyman; for all means must be tried by which souls may be saved. Talk to your people, however, as much as you can; and you will find, that the more frequently you converse with them upon religious subjects, the more willingly they will attend, and the more submissively they will learn. A clergyman's diligence always makes him venerable. I think I have now only to say, that in the momentous work you have undertaken, I pray GoD to bless you. I am, Sir, 66 'Your most humble servant, "SAM. JOHNSON."
My next letters to him were dated August 24, September 6, and October 1, and from them I extract the following passages :
"My brother David and I find the long-indulged fancy of our comfortable meeting again at Auchinleck, so well realised, that it in some degree confirms the pleasing hopes of O preclarum diem! in a future state.
"I beg that you may never again harbour a suspicion of my indulging a peevish humour, or playing tricks; you will recollect, that when I confessed to you, that I had once been intentionally silent to try your regard, I gave you my word and honour that I would not do so again.
"I rejoice to hear of your good state of health; I pray GoD to continue it long. I have often said, that I would willingly have ten years added to my life, to have ten from yours; I mean, that I would be ten years older to have you ten years younger. But let me be thankful for the years during which I have enjoyed your friendship, and please myself with the hopes of enjoying it many years to come in this state of being, trusting always, that in another state we shall meet never to be separated. Of this we can form no notion; but the thought, though indistinct, is delightful, when the mind is calm and clear.
"The riots in London were certainly horrible; but you gave me no account of your own situation during the barbarous anarchy. A description of it by DR. JOHNSON would be a great painting;1 you might write another 'LONDON, A POEM.'
"I am charmed with your condescending affectionate expression, 'Let us keep each other's kindness by all the means in our power.' My revered friend! how elevating is it to my mind, that I am found worthy to be a companion to Dr. Samuel Johnson! all that you have said in grateful praise of Mr. Walmsley, I have long thought of you; but we are both Tories, which has a very general influence upon our sentiments. I hope that you will agree to meet me at York, about the end of this month; or if you will
I had not then seen his letters to Mrs. Thrale.-BosWELL.
come to Carlisle, that would be better still, in case the Dean be there. Please to consider, that to keep each other's kindness, we should every year have that free and intimate communication of mind which can be had only when we are together. We should have both our solemn and our pleasant talk."
"I write now for the third time, to tell you that my desire for our meeting this autumn is much increased. I wrote to 'Squire Godfrey Bosville, my Yorkshire chief, that I should, perhaps, pay him a visit, as I was to hold a conference with Dr. Johnson, at York. I give you my word and honour that I said not a word of his inviting you; but he wrote to me as follows:"I need not tell you I shall be happy to see you here the latter end of this month, as you propose; and I shall likewise be in hopes that you will persuade Dr. Johnson to finish the conference here. It will add to the favour of your own company, if you prevail upon such an associate to assist your observations. I have often been entertained with his writings, and I once belonged to a club of which he was a member, and I never spent an evening there, but I heard something from him well worth remembering.'
"We have thus, my dear Sir, good comfortable quarters in the neighbourhood of York, where you may be assured we shall be heartily welcome. I pray you then resolve to set out; and let not the year 1780 be a blank in our social calendar, and in that record of wisdom and wit, which I keep with so much diligence, to your honour, and the instruction and delight of others."
Mr. Thrale had now another contest for the representation in Parliament of the borough of Southwark, and Johnson kindly lent him his assistance by writing advertisements and letters for him. I shall insert one as a specimen:
"TO THE WORTHY ELECTORS OF THE BOROUGH OF SOUTHWARK.
Southwark, Sept. 5, 1780.
"A new Parliament being now called, I again solicit the honour of being elected for one of your representatives; and solicit it with the greater confidence, as I am not conscious of having neglected my duty, or of having acted otherwise than as becomes the independent representative of independent constituents; superior to fear, hope, and expectation, who has no private purp to promote, and whose prosperity is involved in the prosperity of his country. As my recovery from a very severe distemper is not yet perfect, I have declined to attend the Hall, and hope an omission so necessary will not be harshly censured.
"I can only send my respectful wishes, that all your deliberations may tend to the happiness of the kingdom, and the peace of the borough.
"I am, Gentlemen, your most faithful
"And obedient servant,
"TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LADY SOUTHWELL,1 DUBLIN.
Bolt-court, Fleet-street, London, Sept. 9, 1780. "Among the numerous addresses of condolence which your great loss must have occasioned, be pleased to receive this from one whose name perhaps you have never heard, and to whom your Ladyship is known only by the reputation of your virtue, and to whom your Lord was known only by his kindness and beneficence.
"Your Ladyship is now again summoned to exert that piety of which you once gave, in a state of pain and danger, so illustrious an example; and your Lord's beneficence may be still continued by those who, with his fortune, inherit his virtues.
"I hope to be forgiven the liberty which I shall take of informing your Ladyship, that Mr. Mauritius Lowe, a son of your late Lord's father,2 had by recommendation to your Lord, a quarterly allowance of 107., the last of which, due July 26, he has not received: he was in hourly hope of his remittance, and flattered himself that on October 26th he should have received the whole half year's bounty, when he was struck with the dreadful news of his benefactor' death.
"May I presume to hope, that his want, his relation, and his merit, which excited his Lordship's charity, will continue to have the same effect upon those whom he has left behind; and that, though he has lost one friend, he may not yet be destitute. Your Ladyship's charity cannot easily be exerted where it is wanted more; and to a mind like yours, distress is a sufficient recommendation. "I hope to be allowed the honour of being,
"Madam, your Ladyship's most humble servant,
On his birth-day, Johnson has this note :
"I am now beginning the seventy-second year of my life, with more strength of body, and greater vigour of mind, than I think is common at that age.”
Margaret, the second daughter and one of the co-heiresses of Arthur Cecil Hamilton, Esq. She was married in 1741 to Thomas George, the third Baron, and first Viscount Southwell, and lived with him in the most perfect connubial felicity till September, 1780, when Lord Southwell died, a loss which she never ceased to lament to the hour of her own dissolution, in her eighty-first year, August 16, 1802. The "illustrious example of piety and fortitude," to which Dr. Johnson alludes, was the submitting, when past her fiftieth year, to an extremely painful surgical operation, which she endured with extraordinary firmness and composure, not allowing herself to be tied to her chair, nor uttering a single moan. This slight tribute of affection to the memory of these two most amiable and excellent persons, who were not less distinguished by their piety, beneficence, and unbounded charity, than by a suavity of manners which endeared them to all who knew them, it is hoped, will be forgiven from one who was honoured by their kindness and friendship from his childhood.-MALONE.
2 Thomas, the second Lord Southwell, who died in London in 1766. Johnson was well acquainted with this nobleman, and said, "he was the highest bred man, without insolence, that he was ever in company with." His younger brother, Edmund Southwell, lived in intimacy with Johnson for many years. (See an account of him in Hawkins' Life of Johnson, p. 405.) He died in London, Nov. 22, 1772.-BOSWELL.
In opposition to the Knight's unfavourable representation of this gentleman, to whom I was indebted for my first introduction to Johnson, I take this opportunity to add, that he appeared to me a pious man, and was very fond of leading the conversation to religious subjects.-MALONE.