Page images
PDF
EPUB

society, but otherwise of less convenience. When I am settled, I shall write again. Of the hot weather that you mentioned, we have [not] had in Derbyshire very much ; and for myself I seldom feel heat, and suppose that my frigidity is the effect of my distemper-a supposition which naturally leads me to hope that a hotter climate may be useful. But I hope to stand another English winter."

“ Lichfield, 29th September. “On one day I had three letters about the air-balloon': yours was far the best, and has enabled me to impart to my friends in the country an idea of this species of amusement. In amusement, mere amusement, I am afraid it must end, for I do not find that its course can be directed so as that it should serve any purposes of communication; and it can give no new intelligence of the state of the air at different heights, till they have ascended above the height of mountains, which they seem never likely to do. I came hither on the 27th.

How long I shall stay, I have not determined. My dropsy is gone, and my asthma much remitted, but I have felt myself a little declining these two days, or at least to-day; but such vicissitudes must be expected. One day may be worse than another; but this last month is far better than the former: if the next should be as much better than this, I shall run about the town on my own legs.”

“6th October. « The fate of the balloon I do not much lament: to make new balloons is to repeat the jest again. We now know a method of mounting into the air, and, I think, are not likely to know

The vehicles can serve no use till we can guide them; and they can gratify no curiosity till we mount with them to greater heights than we can reach without; till we rise above the tops of the highest mountains, which we have yet not done. We know the state of the air in all its regions, to the top of Teneriffe, and therefore learn nothing from those who navigate a balloon below the clouds. The first experiment, however, was bold, and deserved applause and reward: but since it has been performed, and its event is known, I had rather now find a medicine that can ease an asthma.”

more.

[Lunardi had ascended from the Artillery Ground on the 15th of this month, and as this was the first ascent in a balloon which had been witnessed in Eng. land, it is not surprising that very general interest was excited by the spectacle, and that so many allusions should be made to it by Johnson and his correspondents.-MARKLAND.] VOL. V.

T

66 25th October. “ You write to me with a zeal that animates and a tenderness that melts me. I am not afraid either of a journey to London, or a residence in it. I came down with little fatigue, and am now not weaker. In the smoky atmosphere I was delivered from the dropsy, which I consider as the original and radical disease. The town is

my

element': there friends, there are my books, to which I have not yet bid farewell, and there are my amusements. Sir Joshua told me long ago, that my vocation was to publick life; and I hope still to keep my station, till God shall bid me Go in peace.

are my

grow not

"TO MR. HOOLE.

“ Ashbourne, 7th August. “Since I was here, I have two little letters from you, and have not had the gratitude to write. But every man is most free with his best friends, because he does not suppose that they can suspect him of intentional incivility. One reason for my omission is, that being in a place to which you are wholly a stranger, I have no topicks of correspondence. If you had any knowledge of Ashbourne, I could tell you of two Ashbourne men, who, being last week condemned at Derby to be hanged for robbery, went and hanged themselves in their cell. But this, however it may supply us with talk, is nothing to you. Your kindness, I know, would make you glad to hear some. good of me, but I have not much good to tell : if I worse, it is all that I can say. I hope Mrs. Hoole receives more help from her migration. Make her my compliments, and write again to, dear sir, your affectionate servant.”

6. 13th August. “I thank you for your affectionate letter. I hope we shall both be the better for each other's friendship, and I hope we shall not very quickly be parted. Tell Mr. Nichols that I shall be glad of his correspondence when his business allows him a little remission; though to wish him less business, that I may have more pleasure, would be too selfish. To pay for seats at

· His love of London continually appears. In a letter from him to Mrs. Smart, wife of his friend the poet, which is published in a well-written life of him, prefixed to an edition of his poems, in 1791, there is the following sentence: " To one that has passed so many years in the pleasures and opulence of London, there are few places that can give much delight.

Once, upon reading that line in the curious epitaph quoted in “ The Spectator,”

“ Born in New-England, did in London die,” he laughed and said, " I do not wonder at this. It would have been strange, if, born in London, he had died in New-England."-BosWELL.

the balloon is not very necessary, because in less than a minute they who gaze at a mile's distance will see all that can be seen. About the wings, I am of your mind: they cannot at all assist it, nor I think regulate its motion. I am now grown somewhat easier in my body, but my mind is sometimes depressed. About the Club I am in no great pain. The forfeitures go on, and the house, I hear, is improved for our future meetings. I hope we shall meet often and sit long."

“ 4th September. “ Your letter was indeed long in coming, but it was very welcome. Our acquaintance has now subsisted long, and our recollection of each other involves a great space, and many little occurrences which melt the thoughts to tenderness. Write to me, therefore, as frequently as you can.

I hear from Dr. Brocklesby and Mr Ryland 1 that the Club is not crowded. I hope we shall enliven it when winter brings us together.”

" TO DR. BURNEY.

66 2nd August. “ The weather, you know, has not been balmy. I am now reduced to think, and am at least content to talk, of the weather. Pride must have a fall %. I have lost dear Mr. Allen; and wherever I turn, the dead or the dying meet my notice, and force my attention upon misery and mortality. Mrs. Burney's escape from so much danger, and her ease after so much pain, throws, however, some radiance of hope upon the gloomy prospect. May her recovery be perfect, and her continuance long! I struggle hard for life. I take physick and take air: my friend's chariot is always ready. We have run this morning twenty-four miles, and could run forty-eight more. Bul who can run the race with death ?

" 4th September. [Concerning a private transaction, in which his opinion was asked, and after giving it, he makes the following reflections,

[See ante, vol. i. p. 163, and vol. v. p. 143. Mr. Ryland died 24th July, 1798, æt. 81.--Ed.]

% There was no information for which Dr. Johnson was less grateful than for that which concerned the weather. It was in allusion to his impatience with those who were reduced to keep conversation alive by observations on the weather, that he applied the old proverb to himself. If any one of his intimate acquaintance told him it was hot or cold, wet or dry, windy or calm, he would stop them by saying, “ Poh! poh! you are telling us that of which none but men in a mine or a dungeon can be ignorant. Let us bear with patience, or enjoy in quiet, elementary changes, whether for the better or the worse, as they are never secrets."-BURNEY. (He says “ pride must have a fall,” in allusion to his own former assertions, that the weather had no effect on human health. See Idler, No. 11, and ante, vol. i. p. 318 and 453.Ep.]

which are applicable on other occasions.] “Nothing deserves more compassion than wrong conduct with good meaning; than loss or obloquy suffered by one who, as he is conscious only of good intentions, wonders why he loses that kindness which he wishes to preserve; and not knowing his own faultif, as may sometimes happen, nobody will tell him-goes on to offend by his endeavours to please. I am delighted by finding that our opinions are the same. You will do me a real kindness by continuing to write. A post-day has now been long a day of recreation."

“ 1st November. “Our correspondence paused for want of topicks. I had said what I had to say on the matter proposed to my consideration, and nothing remained but to tell you that I waked or slept, that I was more or less sick. I drew my thoughts in upon myself, and supposed yours employed upon your book. That your book has been delayed I am glad, since you have gained an opportunity of being more exact. Of the caution necessary in adjusting narratives there is no end. Some tell what they do not know, that they may not seem ignorant, and others from mere indifference about truth. All truth is not, indeed, of equal importance; but, if little violations are allowed, every violation will in time be thought little; and a writer should keep himself vigilantly on his guard against the first temptations to negligence or supineness. I had ceased to write, because respecting you I had no more to say, and respecting myself could say little good. I cannot boast of advancement, and in case of convalescence it may be said, with few exceptions, Non progredi est regredi. I hope I may be excepted. My great difficulty was with my sweet Fanny', who, by her artifice of inserting her letter in yours, had given me a precept of frugality which I was not at liberty to neglect; and I know not who were in town under whose cover I could send my letter. I rejoice to hear that you are so well, and have a delight particularly sympathetick in the recovery of Mrs. Burney." “ TO MR. LANGTON.

- 25th August. “ The kindness of your last letter, and my omission to answer it, begins to give you, even in my opinion, a right to recriminate, and to charge me with forgetfulness for the absent. I will therefore delay no longer to give an account of myself, and wish I could relate what would please either myself or my

· The celebrated Miss Fanny Burney.-BOSWELL.

friend. On July 13 I left London, partly in hope of help from new air and change of place, and partly excited by the sick man's impatience of the present. I got to Lichfield in a stage vehicle, with very little fatigue, in two days, and had the consolation' to find that since my last visit my three old acquaintances are all dead. July 20 I went to Ashbourne, where I have been till now. The house in which we live is repairing. I live in too much solitude, and am often deeply dejected. I wish we were nearer, and rejoice in your removal to London. A friend at once cheerful and serious is a great acquisition. Let us not neglect one another for the little time which Providence allows us to hope. Of my health I cannot tell you, what

my wishes persuaded me to expect, that it is much improved by the season or by remedies. I am sleepless; my legs grow weary with a very few steps, and the water breaks its boundaries in some degree. The asthma, however, has remitted: my breath is still much obstructed, but is more free than it was. Nights of watchfulness produce torpid days. I read very little, though I am alone; for I am tempted to supply in the day what I lost in bed. This is my history; like all other histories, a narrative of misery. Yet I am so much better than in the beginning of the year, that I ought to be ashamed of complaining. I now sit and write with very

little sensibility of pain or weakness; but when I rise, I shall find my legs betraying me. Of the

money
which

you

mentioned I have no immediate need: keep it, however, for me, unless some exigence requires it. Your papers I will show you certainly when you would see them; but I am a little angry at you for not keeping minutes of your own acceptum et expensum, and think a little time might be spared from Aristophanes for the res familiares. Forgive me, for I mean well. I hope, dear sir, that you and Lady Rothes and all the young people, too many to enumerate, are well and happy. God bless

you

all.”

6 TO MR. WINDHAM.

August. “ The tenderness with which you have been pleased to treat me through my long illness, neither health nor sickness can, I hope, make me forget; and you are not to suppose that after

1 Probably some word has been here omitted before consolationperhaps sad or miserable; or the word consolation has been printed by mistake, instead of mortification : but the original letter not being now (1798] in Mr. Langton's hands, the errour (if it be one) cannot be corrected.- ALONE.

« PreviousContinue »