« PreviousContinue »
Yet how long is it that I have lived almost in your neighbourhood without the least notice?—I do not, however, consider this neglect as particularly shown to me; I hear two of your
inost valuable friends make the same complaint. But why are all thus overlooked? You are not oppressed by sickness, you are not distracted by business ; if you are sick, you are sick of leisure:--And allow yourself to be told, that no disease is more to be dreaded or avoided. Rather to do nothing than to do good, is the lowest state of a degraded mind. Boileau says to his pupil,
Que les vers ne soient pas votre eternel emploi,
Cultivez vos amis.'That voluntary debility which modern language is content to term indolence will, if it is not counteracted by resolution, render in time the strongest faculties lifeless, and turn the flame to the smoke of virtue.—I do not expect or desire to see you, because I am much pleased to find that your mother stays so long with you, and I should think you neither elegant nor grateful, if you did not study her gratification. You will pay my respects to both the ladies, and to all the young people. I am going northward for a while, to try what help the country can give me; but if
will write, the letter will come after me.” Next day he set out on a jaunt to Staffordshire and Derbyshire, flattering himself that he might be in some degree relieved.
During his absence from London he kept up a correspondence with several of his friends, from which I shall select what appears to me proper for publication, without attending nicely to chronological order. "DR. JOHNSON TO DR. BROCKLESBY.
“Ashbourn, 20th July. “ The kind attention which you have so long shown to my health and happiness makes it as much a debt of gratitude as a call of interest to give you an account of what befalls me, when accident removes me from your immediate care. The journey of the first day was performed with very little sense of fatigue; the second day brought me to Lichfield without much lassitude ; but I am afraid that I could not have borne such violent agitation for many days together. Tell Dr. Heberden, that in the coach I read · Ciceronianus,' which I concluded as. I entered
· [This, by an error either of the transcript or the press, was printed recovers: Mr. Malone made the correction.-ED.]
Lichfield. My affection and understanding went along with Erasmus, except that once or twice he somewhat unskilfully entangles Cicero's civil or moral with his rhetorical character.— I staid five days at Lichfield, but, being unable to walk, had no great pleasure, and yesterday (19th) I came hither, where I am to try what air and attention can perform.-Of any improvement in my health I cannot yet please myself with the perception. ******.-The asthma has no abatement. Opiates stop the fit, so as that I can sit and sometimes lie
but they do not now procure me the power of motion; and I am afraid that my general strength of body does not increase. The weather indeed is not benign; but how low is he sunk whose strength depends upon the weather! I am now looking into Floyer', who lived with his asthma to almost his ninetieth year. His book, by want of order, is obscure; and his asthma, I think, not of the same kind with mine. Something, however, I may perhaps learn. -My appetite still continues keen enough; and what I consider as a symptom of radical health, I have a voracious delight in raw summer fruit, of which I was less eager a few years ago.—You will be pleased to communicate this account to Dr. Heberden, and if any thing is to be done, let me have your joint opinion. - Now-abite, cure!—let me inquire after the Club ?."
“31st July “Not recollecting that Dr. Heberden might be at Windsor, I thought your letter long in coming. But, you know, nocitura petuntur ; the letter which I so much desired tells me that I have lost one of my
best and tenderest friends 3. My comfort is, that he appeared to live like a man that had always before his eyes the fragility of our present existence, and was therefore, I hope, not unprepared to meet his Judge.— Your attention, dear sir, and that of Dr. Heberden, to my health, is extremely kind. I am loth to think that I grow worse; and cannot fairly prove even to my own partiality that I grow much better.”
665th August. “I return you thanks, dear sir, for your unwearied attention both medicinal and friendly, and hope to prove the effect of your care by living to acknowledge it.”
« 12th August. Pray be so kind as to have me in your thoughts, and mention my case to others as you have opportunity. I seem to myself neither to gain nor lose strength. I have lately tried milk, but have yet found no advantage, and am afraid of it merely as
· [Sir John Floyer, M. D. See ante, vol. i. p. 60.-Ed.]
a liquid. My appetite is still good, which I know is dear Dr. Heberden's criterion of the vis vitæ.-As we cannot now see each other, do not omit to write, for you cannot think with what warmth of expectation I reckon the hours of a post-day."
66 14th August. “I have hitherto sent you only melancholy letters ; you
will be glad to hear some better account. Yesterday the asthma remitted, perceptibly remitted, and I moved with more ease than I have enjoyed for many weeks. May God continue his mercy. This account I would not delay, because I am not a lover of complaints or complainers, and yet I have, since we parted, uttered nothing till now but terrour and sorrow. . Write to me, dear sir."
of 16th August. “Better, I hope, and better. My respiration gets more and more ease and liberty. I went to church yesterday, after a very liberal dinner, without any inconvenience; it is indeed no long walk, but I never walked it without difficulty, since I came, before. ****** the intention was only to overpower the seeming vis inertiæ of the pectoral and pulmonary muscles. I am favoured with a degree of ease that very much delights me, and do not despair of another race up the stairs of the Academy.--If I were, however, of a humour to see, or to show, the state of my body, on the dark side, I might say,
'Quid te exempta juvat spinis de pluribus una ?'
I thank you,
The nights are still sleepless, and the water rises, though it does not rise very fast. Let us, however, rejoice in all the good that
The remission of one disease will enable nature to combat the rest.-- The squills I have not neglected; for I have taken more than a hundred drops a day, and one day took two hundred and fifty, which, according to the popular equivalent of a drop to a grain, is more than half an ounce. dear sir, for your attention in ordering the medicines; your attention to me has never failed. If the virtue of medicines could be enforced by the benevolence of the prescriber, how soon should I be well !”
• 19th August. “ The relaxation of the asthma still continues, yet I do not trust it wholly to itself, but soothe it now and then with an opiate. I not only perform the perpetual act of respiration with less labour, but I can walk with fewer intervals of rest, and with greater freedom of motion. I never thought well of Dr. James's compounded medicines ; his ingredients appear to me sometimes inefficacious and trifling, and sometimes hetero
geneous and destructive of each other. This prescription exhibits a composition of about three hundred and thirty grains, in which there are four grains of emetick tartar,and six drops [of] thebaic tincture. He that writes thus surely writes for show. The basis of his medicine is the gum ammoniacum, which dear Dr. Lawrence used to give, but of which I never saw any effect. We will, if you please, let this medicine alone. The squills have every suffrage, and in the squills we will rest for the present."
“ 21st August. “The kindness which you show by having me in your thoughts upon all occasions will, I hope, always till my heart with gratitude. Be pleased to return my thanks to Sir George Baker', for the consideration which he has bestowed upon me. Is this the balloon that has been so long expected, this balloon? to which I subscribed, but without payment? It is pity that philosophers have been disappointed, and shame that they have been cheated ; but I know not well how to prevent either. Of this experiment I have read nothing : where was it exhibited ? and who was the man that ran away with so much money ? Continue, dear sir, to write often, and more at a time; for none of your prescriptions operate to their proper uses more certainly than
operate as cordials.”
6626th August. “I suffered you to escape last post without a letter, but you are not to expect such indulgence very often; for I write not so much because I have any thing to say, as because I hope for an answer ; and the vacancy
life here makes a letter of great value. I have here little company and little amusement, and, thus abandoned to the contemplation of my own miseries, I am something gloomy and depressed; this too I resist as I can, and find opium, I think, useful; but I seldom take more than one grain. Is not this strange weather? Winter absorbed the spring, and now autumn is come before we have had summer. But let not our kindness for each other imitate the inconstancy of the seasons.”
“ 2d Sept.
“ Mr. Windham has been here to see me: he came, I think,
? [The celebrated physician, created a baronet in 1776, died June 1809, ætat. 88.-ED.]
? [Does Dr. Johnson here allude to the unsuccessful attempt made, in 1784, by De Moret, who was determined to anticipate Lunardi in his first experiment in England ? “ Moret attempted to inflate his halloon with rarified air, but by some accident in the process it sunk upon the fire, and the populace, who regarded the whole as an imposture, rushing in, completely destroyed the machine.”-Brayley's Londiniana, vol. ii. 162, note.-J.H. MARKLAND.]
forty miles out of his way, and staid about a day and a half ; perhaps I make the time shorter than it was. Such conversation I shall not have again till I come back to the regions of literature; and there Windham is inter stellas · Luna minores.” —(He then mentions the effects of certain medicines, as taken; and adds) “Nature is recovering its original powers, and the functions returning to their proper state. God continue his mercies, and grant me to use them rightly.”
“9th September. “Do you know the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire? And have you ever seen Chatsworth ? I was at Chatsworth on Monday: I had seen it before, but never when its owners were at home: I was very kindly received, and honestly pressed to stay; but I told them that a sick man is not a fit inmate of a great house. But I hope to go again some time.”
"11th September. “I think nothing grows worse, but all rather better, except sleep, and that of late has been at its old pranks. Last evening. I felt what I had not known for a long time, an inclination to walk for amusement; I took a short walk, and came back again neither breathless nor fatigued. This has been a gloomy, frigid, ungenial summer ; but of late it seems to mend: I hear the heat sometimes mentioned, but I do not feel it:
• Præterea minimus gelido jam in corpore sanguis
Febre calet solâ.'I hope, however, with good help, to find means of supporting a winter at home, and to hear and tell at the Club what is doing, and what ought to be doing, in the world. I have no company here, and shall naturally come home hungry for conversation. To wish you, dear sir, more leisure, would not be kind; but what leisure you have, you must bestow upon
“ 16th September. “I have now let you alone for a long time, having indeed little to say. You charge me somewhat unjustly with luxury. At Chatsworth, you should remember that I have eaten but once; and the doctor, with whom I live, follows a milk diet. I grow no fatter, though my stomach, if it be not disturbed by physick, never fails me. I now grow weary of solitude, and think of removing next week to Lichfield, a place of more
1 It is remarkable that so good a Latin scholar as Johnson should have been so inattentive to the metre, as by mistake to have written stellas instead of igncs. -BosweLL.