« PreviousContinue »
[“DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. THRALE.
“ Oxford, 17th October, 1781. “On Monday evening arrived at the Angel inn at Oxford Mr. Johnson and Mr. Barber, without any sinister accident.
“ I am here; but why am I here? on my way to Lichfield, where I believe Mrs. Aston will be glad to see me. We have known each other long, and, by consequence, are both old ; and she is paralytick; and if I do not see her soon, I no more in this world. To make a visit on such considerations is to go on a melancholy errand. But such is the course of life.
“ This place is very empty, but there are more here whom I know than I could have expected. Young Burke' has just been with me, and I have dinęd to-day with Dr. Adams, who seems fond of me."
may see her
Lichfield, 20th October, 1781. “I wrote from Oxford, where I staid two days. On Thursday I went to Birmingham, and was told by Hector that I should not be well so soon as I expected; but that well I should be, Mrs. Careless took me under her care, and told me when I had tea enough. On Friday I came hither, and have escaped the post-chaises all the way. Every body here is as kind as I expected; I think Lucy is kinder than ever.”
“27th October, 1781. “ Poor Lucy's illness has left her very deaf, and, I think, yery inarticulate. I can scarcely make her understand me, and she can hardly make me understand her. So here are merry doings. But she seems to like me better than she did. Shę eats very little, but does not fall away.
“Mrs. Cobb and Peter Garrick are as you left them. Garrick's legatees at this place are very angry that they receive nothing. Things are not quite right, though we are so far from London 3."
* (Richard, the only son of Edmund Burke, at this period at Oxford. He died in 1794, æt, 36. His afflicted father has immortalised him in many pathetic passages of his later works, and particularly in his celebrated “ Letter to a Noble Lord.”_ED.)
? [He means escaped the expense of post-chaises by happening to find places in stage-coaches.-ED.)
3 [Dr. Johnson always controverted the common-place observation of the superior purity and happiness of country life.--Ed.)
6 Ashbourne, 10th November, 1781. “Yesterday I came to Ashbourne, and last night I had very little rest. Dr. Taylor lives on milk, and grows every day better, and is not wholly without hope. Every body inquires after you and Queeney; but whatever [Miss) Burney may think of the celerity of fame, the name of Evelina had never been heard at Lichfield till I brought it. I am afraid my
dear townsmen will be mentioned in future days as the last part of this nation that was civilized'. But the days of darkness are soon to be at an end. The reading society ordered it to be procured this week."
“ Ashbourne, 24th November, 1781. “I shall leave this place about the beginning of next week, and shall leave every place as fast as I decently can, till I get back to you, whose kindness is one of my great comforts. I am not well, but have a mind every now and then to think myself better, and I now hope to be better under your care.”
“ Lichfield, 3d December, 1781. “I am now come back to Lichfield, where I do not intend to stay long enough to receive another letter. I have little to do here but to take leave of Mrs. Aston. I hope not the last leave. But christians may with more confidence than Sophonisba
• Avremo tosto lungo lungo spazio
“My time passed heavily at Ashbourne ; yet I could not easily get away; though Taylor, I sincerely think, was glad to see me go. I have now learned the inconvenience of a winter campaign; but I hope home will make amends for all my foolish sufferings.”
“ Birmingham, 8th December, 1781. “I am come to this place on my way to London and to Streatham. I hope to be in London on Tuesday or Wednesday, and at Streatham on Thursday, by your kind conveyance. I shall have nothing to relate either wonderful or delightful. But remember that you sent me away, and turned me out into the world, and you must take the chance of finding me better or
This you may know at present, that my affection for
[See ante, vol. iii. pp. 351 and 352, where, in a better humour, he describes his townsmen as the most civilized people in England.-En.]
you is not diminished ; and my expectation from you is increased. Do not neglect me nor relinquish me. Nobody will ever love you better or honour you more than, madam, yours, &c.
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”]
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.
“ 5th January, 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 frolick 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 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, yours most affectionately, “Sam. JOHNSON."
and her very
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.
· The truth of this has been proved by sad experience.-BoswELL. Mrs. Boswell died June 4, 1789.-MALONE.
"17th January, 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. Holder, 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 461. Commendavi?. May God have mercy on him! May he have mercy on me!”
Such was Johnson's affectionate regard for Levett }, that 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.
« Well try'd through many a varying year,
See Levett to the grave descend;
Of every friendless name the friend.
6 Yet still he fills affection's eye,
Obscurely wise and coarsely kind ;
Thy praise to merit unrefined.
1 [No doubt the year 1746, and not the age of either party.--Ed.) ? (He, by this word, means that he had in prayer recommended his departed friend to the mercy of God. See ante, vol. i. p. 219.–ED.)
3 See an account of him in “ The Gentleman's Magazine,” February, 1785. -BOSWELL.
4 In both editions of Sir John Hawkins's “ Life of Dr. Johnson," " letter'd ignorance,” is printed.-BOSWELL.
“ When fainting Nature call’d for aid,
And hovering death prepared the blow,
The power of art without the show.
His ready help was ever nigh,
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 3.”.
- TO MRS. STRAHAN.
“ 4th February, 1782. “ DEAR MADAM,—Mrs. Williams showed me your kind letter. This little habitation is now but a melancholy place, clouded with the gloom 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 more entreat you to stay till 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.
1 Johnson repeated this line to me thus :
“ And labour steals an hour to die." But he afterwards altered it to the present reading.-BOSWELL.
? [Is there a pun hidden under this allusion to the parable in Matthew xxv. 15?---Ed.]
3 [Here, by an error of date, followed some observations on a curious passage in one of Johnson's diaries, which is removed in its proper place, March, 1782, post, p. 24.-ED.]