« PreviousContinue »
I am happy in recording these particulars, which prove that my illustrious friend lived to think much more favourably of players than he appears to have done in the early part of his life '.
“ TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD.
“ Bolt-court, Fleet-street, 10th Nov. 1783. “DEAR MADAM,—The death of poor Mr. Porter, of which your maid has sent an account, must have very much surprised you. The death of a friend is almost always unexpected: we do not love to think of it, and therefore are not prepared for its coming. He was, I think, a religious man, and therefore that his end was happy.
“Death has likewise visited my mournful habitation. Last month died Mrs. Williams, who had been to me for thirty years in the place of a sister : her knowledge was great and her conversation pleasing. I now live in cheerless solitude.
“My two last years have passed under the pressure of successive diseases. I have lately had the gout with some severity. But I wonderfully escaped the operation which I mentioned, and am upon the whole restored to health beyond my own expectation.
“As we daily see our friends die round us, we that are left must cling closer, and, if we can do nothing more, at least pray for one another; and remember, that as others die we must die too, and prepare ourselves diligently for the last great trial. I am, madam, yours affectionately, “ SAM. JOHNSON.”
[“ TO MRS. THRALE.
vol. ii. “ London, 13th November, 1783. “ Since
have written to me with the attention and tenderness of ancient time?, your letters give me a great part of the pleasure which a life of solitude admits. You will never bestow
share of your good-will on one who deserves better. Those that have loved longest love best. A sudden blaze of kindness may by a single blast of coldness be extinguished ; but
[Johnson's dislike to players in early life was nothing more than his jealousy of Garrick's sudden elevation. After Garrick's death he began
to think more favourably of them.”—ED.]
? [This is the first letter in which we perceive a serious coldness towards Mrs. Thrale, but it is clear that it had existed some time prior to this date, though it certainly had not been so early as Mr. Boswell supposed.--Ed.]
Letters, that fondness which length of time has connected with many vol. ii.
circumstances and occasions, though it may for a while be depressed by disgust or resentment, with or without a cause, is hourly revived by accidental recollection. To those that have lived long together, every thing heard and every thing seen recalls some pleasure communicated or some benefit conferred, some petty quarrel or some slight endearment. Esteem of great powers, or amiable qualities newly discovered, may embroider a day or a week, but a friendship of twenty years is interwoven with the texture of life. A friend may be often found and lost; but an old friend never can be found, and nature hits provided that he cannot easily be lost.
“ You seem to mention Lord Kilmurrey' as a stranger. We were at his house in Cheshire; and he one day dined with Sir Lynch. What he tells of the epigram is not true, but perhaps he does not know it to be false. Do not you remember how he rejoiced in having no park?-he could not disoblige his neighbours by sending them no venison.”]
A pleasing instance of the generous attention of one of his friends has been discovered by the publi
cation of Mrs. Thrale's Collection of Letters. In a p. 328. letter to one of the Miss Thrales, he writes, “ A
friend, whose name I will tell when your mamma has tried to guess it, sent to my physician to inquire whether this long train of illness had brought me into difficulties for want of money, with an invitation to send to him for what occasion required. I shall write
this night to thank him, having no need to borrow.” p. 342 And afterwards, in a letter to Mrs. Thrale, “Since
you cannot guess, I will tell you, that the generous man was Gerard Hamilton. I returned him a very thankful and respectful letter.”
I applied to Mr. Hamilton, by a common friend, and he has been so obliging as to let me have Johnson's letter to him upon this occasion, to adorn my collection.
« TO THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM GERARD HAMILTON.
66 19th November, 1783.
may not be imputed to sullenness or pride. I am, indeed, in no want. Sickness is, by the generosity of my physicians, of little expense to me. But if any unexpected exigence should press me, you shall see, dear sir, how cheerfully I can be obliged to so much liberality. I am, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
I find in this, as in former years, notices of his kind attention to Mrs. Gardiner, who, though in the humble station of a tallow-chandler upon Snow-hill, was a woman of excellent good sense, pious, and charitable?. She told me she had been introduced to him by Mrs. Masters’, the poetess, whose volumes he revised, and, it is said, illuminated here and there with a ray of his own genius. Mrs. Gardiner was very zealous for the support of the ladies' charityschool, in the parish of St. Sepulchre. It is confined to females; and, I am told, it afforded a hint for the story of “ Betty Broom” in “ The Idler.” Johnson this year, I find, obtained for it a sermon from the late Bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. Shipley, whom he, in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale, characterises as “knowing and conversable;" and whom all who knew his lordship, even those who differed from him in politicks, remember with much respect. [“ DR. JOHNSON TO MISS REYNOLDS.
« 27th November, 1783. “DEAR MADAM,—I beg that you will let me know by this messenger
you will do me the honour of dining with 1 In his will Dr. Johnson left her a book “at her election, to keep as a token of remembrance." -MALONE. [See ante, vol. i. p. 225. She died in 1789, æt. 74.Ed.) : [ Ante, vol. i.
me, and, if you will, whether we shall eat our dinner by our own selves, or call Mrs. Desmoulins. I am, dearest dear, your most humble servant,
The Earl of Carlisle having written a tragedy, entitled “ The Father's Revenge," some of his lordship's friends applied to Mrs. Chapone', to prevail on Dr. Johnson to read and give his opinion of it, which he accordingly did, in a letter to that lady. Sir Joshua Reynolds having informed me that this letter was in Lord Carlisle's possession, though I was not fortunate enough to have the honour of being known to his lordship, trusting to the general courtesy of literature, I wrote to him, requesting the favour of a copy of it, and to be permitted to insert it in my Life of Dr. Johnson. His lordship was so good as to comply with my request, and has thus enabled me to enrich my work with a very fine piece of writing, which displays both the critical skill and politeness of my illustrious friend; and perhaps the curiosity which it will excite may induce the noble and elegant authour to gratify the world by the publication of a performance of which Dr. Johnson has spoken in such terms.
“TO MRS. CHAPONE.
" 28th November, 1783. “Madam,-By sending the tragedy to me a second time", I think that a very honourable distinction has been shown me; and I did not delay the perusal, of which I am now to tell the effect.
« The construction of the play is not completely regular: the stage is too often vacant, and the scenes are not sufficiently connected. This, however, would be called by Dryden only
[Miss Mulso. See ante, vol. iv. p.
325.-ED.] ? A few copies only of this tragedy have been printed, and given to the authour's friends.-BOSWELL.
3 Dr. Johnson having been very ill when the tragedy was first sent to him had declined the consideration of it. -BoswELL.
mechanical defect; which takes away little from the power
of the poem, and which is seen rather than felt.
“A rigid examiner of the diction might, perhaps, wish some words changed, and some lines more vigorously terminated. But from such petty imperfections what writer was ever free?
“The general form and force of the dialogue is of more importance. It seems to want that quickness of reciprocation which characterises the English drama, and is not always sufficiently fervid or animated.
“ Of the sentiments, I remember not one that I wished omitted. In the imagery I cannot forbear to distinguish the comparison of joy succeeding grief to light rushing on the eye accustomed to darkness. It seems to have all that can be desired to make it please. It is new, just, and delightful.
“ With the characters, either as conceived or preserved, I have no fault to find; but was much inclined to congratulate a writer who, in defiance of prejudice and fashion, made the archbishop a good man, and scorned all thoughtless applause, which a vicious churchman would have brought him.
“ The catastrophe is affecting. The father and daughter both culpable, both wretched, and both penitent, divide between them our pity and our sorrow.
“ Thus, madam, I have performed what I did not willingly undertake, and could not decently refuse. The noble writer will be pleased to remember that sincere criticism ought to raise no resentment, because judgment is not under the control of will; but involuntary criticism, as it has still less of choice, ought to be more remote from possibility of offence. I
- SAM. JOHNSON.”
“ TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD.
“ London, 29th Nov. 1783. “DEAR MADAM,– You may perhaps think me negligent that I have not written to you again upon the loss of your brother; but condolences and consolations are such common and such useless things, that the omission of them is no great crime; and my own diseases occupy my mind and engage my care. My nights are miserably restless, and my days, therefore, are heavy. I try, however, to hold up my head as high as I can.
1“ I could have borne my woes; that stranger Joy
Wounds while it smiles :—the long-imprison'd wretch,