Page images




am afraid

p. 18.

This letter, on the occasion of the writer's being rejected on his application for the situation of usher to the grammar school at Stourbridge, has recently been printed, for the first time, from the original, by the editor of the Manchester Herald.' - Gentleman's Magazine.

" Lichfield, 30th Oct. 1731. Gent.

“SIR,-I have so long neglected to return you thanks for the Mag. v. favours and assistance I received from you at Stourbridge, that I lxxxiii.

you have now done expecting it. I can indeed make no apology, but by assuring you, that this delay, whatever was the cause of it, proceeded neither from forgetfulness, disrespect, nor ingratitude. Time has not made the sense of obligation less warm, nor the thanks I return less sincere. But while I am acknowledging one favour, I must beg another-that you would excuse the composition of the verses you desired. Be pleased to consider that versifying against one's inclination is the most disagreeable thing in the world; and that one's own disappointment is no inviting subject ; and that though the desire of gratifying you might have prevailed over my dislike of it, yet it proves upon reflection so barren, that to attempt to write upon it, is to undertake to build without materials.

“As I am yet unemployed, I hope you will, if any thing should offer, remember and recommend, sir, your humble servant,




“ 20th April, 1749. “Sir,-I have for a long time intended to answer the letter which you were pleased to send me, and know not why I have delayed it so long, but that I had nothing particular either of inquiry or information to send you; and the same reason might still have the same

(Probably the brother of the lady mentioned ante, v. i. p. 61.-ED.)

(Dr. Johnson was at Stourbridge school, half-scholar, half-usher, in 1726 ; but it has not been stated that after his return from Oxford he attenipted to become an assistant there. This letter, however, proves that he met in the summer of 1731 some disappointment at Stourbridge, and it was probably of the kind above stated. Yet that seems to be a strange subject for Mr. Hickman to have asked to see celebrated in a copy of


The editor can only repeat, that the years 1730 and 1731, during which Mr. Boswell erroneously imagined that Jonnson was at Oxford, are an obscure and unex. plained portion of his life. See unte, vol. i. p. 47.-Ed.]

3 [See ante, vol. i. p. 186.-Ed.]


consequence, but I find in my recluse kind of life that I am not likely to have much more to say at one time than at another, and that therefore I may endanger by an appearance of neglect long continued, the loss of such an acquaintance as I know not where to supply. I therefore write now to assure you how sensible I am of the kindness you have always expressed to me, and how much I desire the cultivation of that benevolence which perhaps nothing but the distance between us has hindered from ripening before this time into friendship. Of myself I have very little to say, and of any body else less; let me however be allowed one thing, and that in my own favourthat I am, dear sir, your most humble servant, - SAM. JOHNSON.”


Rose “6 19th Feb. [1763.]

MISS. “ DEAR GEORGE,-I am glad that you have found the benefit of confidence, and hope you will never want a friend to whom you may safely disclose any painful secret. The state of your mind you had not so concealed but that it was suspected at home, which I mention that if any hint should be given you, it


not be imputed to me, who have told nothing but to yourself, who had told more than you

intended. “ I hope you read more of Nepos, or of some other book, than you construe to Mr. Bright. The more books you look into for your entertainment, with the greater variety of style you will make yourself acquainted. Turner I do not know; but think that if Clark be better, you should change it, for I shall never be willing that you should trouble yourself with more than one book to learn the government of words. What book that one shall be, Mr. Bright must determine. Be but diligent in reading and writing, and doubt not of the

Be pleased to make my compliments to Miss Page and the gentlemen. I am, dear sir, yours affectionately,




66 26th March, 1763. “ DEAR SIR,—You did not very soon answer my letter, and therefore cannot complain that I make no great haste to answer yours. I am well enough satisfied with the proficiency that you make, and hope that you will not relax the vigour of your diligence. I hope you begin now to see that all is possible which was professed. Learning is a wide field, but six years spent in close application are a long time; and I am still of opinion, that if you continue to consider knowledge as the most pleasing and desirable of all acquisitions, and do not suffer your course to be interrupted, you may take your degree not only without deficiency, but with great distinction.


“ You must still continue to write Latin. This is the most difficult part, indeed the only part that is very difficult of your undertaking. If you can exemplify the rules of syntax, I know not whether it will be worth while to trouble yourself with any more translations. You will more increase your number of words, and advance your skill in phraseology, by making a short theme or two every day; and when you have construed properly a stated number of verses, it will be pleasing to go from reading to composition, and from composition to reading. But do not be very particular about method ; any method will do if there be but diligence. Let me know, if you please, once a week what you are doing. I am, dear George, your humble servant,





“ 16th April, 1763. “ Dear sir,-Your account of your proficience is more nearly equal, I find, to my expectations than your own.

You are angry that a theme on which you took so much pains was at last a kind of English Latin; what could you expect more? If at the end of seven years you write good Latin, you will excel most of your contemporaries : Scribendo disces, scribere. It is only by writing ill that you can attain to write well. Be but diligent and constant, and make no doubt of success.

“ I will allow you but six weeks for Tully's Offices. Walker's Particles I would not have you trouble yourself to learn at all by heart, but look in it from time to time and observe his notes and remarks, and see how they are exemplified. The translation from Clark's history will improve you, and I would have you continue it to the end of the book.

“I hope you read by the way at loose hours other books, though you do not mention them; for no time is to be lost; and what can be done with a master is but a small part of the whole. I would have you now and then try at some English verses. When


find that you

have mistaken any thing, review the passage carefully and settle it in your mind.

“Be pleased to make my compliments, and those of Miss Williams, to all our friends. I am, dear sir, yours most affectionately,



6 20th Sept. 1763. “DEAR SIR,-I should have answered your last letter sooner if I could have given you any valuable or useful directions; but I knew not any way by which the composition of Latin verses can be much facilitated. Of the grammatical part which comprises the knowledge

you can

of the measure of the foot, and quantity of the syllables, your gram- Rose

MSS. mar will teach you all that can be taught, and even of that hardly know any thing by rule but the measure of the foot. The quantity of syllables even of those for which rules are given is commonly learned by practice and retained by observation. For the poetical part, which comprises variety of expression, propriety of terms, dexterity in selecting commodious words, and readiness in changing their order, it will all be produced by frequent essays and resolute perseverance. The less help you have the sooner you

will be able to go forward without help.

“I suppose you are now ready for another author. I would not have you dwell longer upon one book than till your familiarity with its style makes it easy to you. Every new book will for a time be difficult. Make it a rule to write something in Latin every day ; and let me know what you are now doing, and what your scheme is to do next. Be pleased to give my compliments to Mr. Bright, Mr. Stevenson, and Miss Page. I am, dear sir, your

affectionate servant, “ SAM, JOHNSON.”


66 14th July, 1763. “ DEAR GEORGE,—To give pain ought always to be painful, and I am sorry that I have been the occasion of any uneasiness to you, to whom I hope never to [do] any thing but for your benefit or your pleasure. Your uneasiness was without any reason on your part, as you had written with sufficient frequency to me, and I had only neglected to answer them, because as nothing new had been proposed to your study, no new direction or incitement could be offered you. But if it had happened that you had omitted what you did not omit, and that I had for an hour, or a week, or a much longer time, thought myself put out of your mind by something to which presence gave that prevalence, which presence will sometimes give even where there is the most prudence and experience, you are not to imagine that my friendship is light enough to be blown away by the first cross blast, or that my regard or kindness hangs by so slender a hair as to be broken off by the unfelt weight of a petty offence. I love you, and hope to love you long. You have hitherto done nothing to diminish my good will, and though you had done much more than you have supposed imputed to you, my good will would not have been diminished.

“I write thus largely on this suspicion, which you have suffered to enter into your mind, because in youth we are apt to be too rigorous in our expectations, and to suppose that the duties of life are to be performed with unfailing exactness and regularity; but in our progress through life we are forced to abate much of our demands,




and to take friends such as we can find them, not as we would make them.

“ These concessions every wise man is more ready to make to others, as he knows that he shall often want them for himself; and when he remembers how often he fails in the observance of a cultivation of his best friends, is willing to suppose that his friends may in their turn neglect him, without any intention to offend him.

“ When therefore it shall happen, as happen it will, that you or I have disappointed the expectation of the other, you are not to suppose

that you have lost me, or that I intended to lose you ; nothing will remain but to repair the fault, and to go on as if it never had been committed. I am, sir, your affectionate servant,




“Oxford, 27ih Oct. (1763.] “ Your letter has scarcely come time enough to make an answer possible. I wish we could talk over the affair. I cannot go now. I must finish my book. I do not know Mr. Collier 1. I have not money beforehand sufficient. How long have you known Collier, that you should put yourself into his hands? I once told


that ladies were timorous and yet not cautious.

“If I might tell my thoughts to one with whom they never had any weight, I should think it best to go through France. The expense is not great; I do not much like obligation, nor think the grossness of a ship very suitable to a lady. Do not go till I see you. I will see you as soon as I can. I am, my dearest, most sincerely yours,

- SAM. Johxson.




“ Johnson's-court, Fleet-street, London, March 4, 1773. “ SIR,_Of all those whom the various accidents of life have brought within my notice, there is scarce any man whose acquaintance I have more desired to cultivate than yours I cannot indeed charge you with neglecting me, yet our mutual inclination could never gratify itself with opportunities. The current of the day

p. 320.

1 Captain Collier, since Sir George, proposed at that time to sail to the Mediterranean with his lady.-Miss REYNOLDS. (And it would seem offered Miss Reynolds a passage; and Miss Reynolds appears to have wished that Johnson might be of the party. Sir Joshua had gone to the Mediterranean in a similar way with Captain Keppel. -Ed.]

2 The late William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut. This gentleman spent several years in England about the middle of the last century. He received the degree of doctor of civil law from the university of Oxford ; and this circumstance, together with the accidental similarity of name, recommended him to the acquaintance of Dr. Samuel Johnson. Several letters passed between them, after the American Dr. Johnson had returned to his native country; of which, however, it is feared that this is the only one remaining.-Gent. Mag.

« PreviousContinue »