« PreviousContinue »
must have your constant attention. I suppose you purpose to return this year. There is no need of haste: do not come hither before the height of summer, that you may fall gradually into the inconveniencies of your native clime. July seems to be the proper month. August and September will prepare you for the winter. After having travelled so far to find health, you must take care not to lose it at home; and I hope a little care will effectually preserve it.
“Miss Nancy has doubtless kept a constant and copious journal. She must not expect to be welcome when she returns, without a great mass of information. Let her review her journal often, and set down what she finds herself to have omitted, that she may trust to memory as little as possible ; for memory is soon confused by a quick succession of things; and she will grow every day less confident of the truth of her own narratives, unless she can recur to some written memorials. If she has satisfied herself with hints, instead of full representations, let her supply the deficiencies now while her memory is yet fresh, and while her father's memory may help her. If she observes this direction, she will not have travelled in vain; for she will bring home a book with which she may entertain herself to the end of life. If it were not now too late, I would advise her to note the impression which the first sight of any thing new and wonderful made upon her mind. Let her now set her thoughts down as she can recollect them; for faint as they may already be, they will grow every day fainter.
" Perhaps I do not flatter myself unreasonably when I imagine that you may wish to know something of me. I can gratify your benevolence with no account of health. The hand of time, or of disease, is very heavy upon me. I pass restless and uneasy nights, harassed with convulsions of my breast, and flatulencies at my stomach; and restless nights make heavy days. But nothing will be mended by complaints, and therefore I will make an end. When we meet, we will try to forget our cares and our maladies, and contribute, as we can, to the cheerfulness of each other. If I had gone with you, I believe I should have been better; but I do not know that it was in my power.
“ I am, dear sir,
“ Sam. JOHNSON. “ February 3, 1778.”
This letter, while it gives admirable advice how to travel to the best advantage, and will therefore be of very general use, is another eminent proof of Johnson's warm and affectionate heart".
TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON,
“Edinburgh, February 26, 1978. “MY DEAR SIR,— Why I have delayed, for near a month, to thank you for your last affectionate letter, I cannot say; for my mind has been in better health these three weeks than for some years past. I believe I have evaded till I could send you a copy of lord Hailes's opipion on the negro's cause, which he wishes you to read, and correct any errours that there may be in the language; • for,' says he, we live in a critical, though not a learned age; and I seek to screen myself under the shield of Ajax.' I communicated to him your apology for keeping the sheets of his Annals so long. He says, ' I am sorry to see that Dr. Johnson is in a state of languor. Why should a sober christian, neither an enthusiast nor a fanatick, be very merry or very sad ?' I envy bis lordship’s comfortable constitution; but well do I know that languor and dejection will afflict the best, however excellent their prin
" The friendship between Mr. Welch and him was unbroken. Mr. Welch died not many months before him, and bequeathed him five guineas for a ring, which Johnson received with tenderness, as a kind memorial. His regard was constant for his friend Mr. Welch's daughters; of whom Jane is married to Mr. Nollekens the statuary, whose merit is too well known to require any praise from me.--BOSWELL.
ciples. I am in possession of lord Hailes's opinion in his own handwriting, and have had it for some time. My excuse then for procrastination must be, that I wanted to have it copied; and I have now put that off so long, that it will be better to bring it with me than send it, as I shall probably get you to look at it sooner when I solicit you in person.
“My wife, who is, I thank God, a good deal better, is much obliged to you for your very polite and courteous offer of your apartment; but, if she goes to London, it will be best for her to have lodgings in the more airy vicinity of Hyde-park. I, however, doubt much if I shall be able to prevail with her to accompany me to the metropolis ; for she is so different from you and me, that she dislikes travelling; and she is so anxious about her children, that she thinks she should be unhappy if at a distance from them. She therefore wishes rather to go to some country place in Scotland, where she can have them with her.
“I purpose being in London about the 20th of next month, as I think it creditable to appear in the house of lords as one of Douglas's counsel, in the great and last competition between duke Hamilton and him.
“I am sorry poor Mrs. Williams is so ill: though her temper is unpleasant, she has always been polite and obliging to me. I wish many happy years to good Mr. Levet, who, I suppose, holds his usual place at your breakfast table*.
“I ever am, my dear sir,
“ JAMES BOSWELL.”
* Dr. Percy, the bishop of Dromore, humorously observed, that Levet used to breakfast on the crust of a roll, which Johnson, after tearing out the crumb for himself, threw to his humble friend.—BOSWELL.
Perhaps the word threw is here too strong. Dr. Johnson never treated Levet with contempt. It is clear indeed, from various circumstances, that he had
TO THE SAME.
“ Edinburgh, Feb. 28, 1778. “MY DEAR SIR,—You are at present busy amongst the Englisb poets, preparing, for the publick instruction and entertainment, prefaces biographical and critical. It will not, therefore, be out of season to appeal to you for the decision of a controversy which has arisen between a lady and me concerning a passage in Parnell. That poet tells us, that his hermit quitted his cell
to know the world by sight,
I maintain that there is an inconsistency here; for as the hermit's notions of the world were formed from the reports both of books and swains, he could not justly be said to know by swains alone. Be pleased to judge between us, and let us have your reasonsy.
“What do you say to Taxation no Tyranny now, after lord North's declaration, or confession, or whatever else his conciliatory speech should be called? I never differed from you in politicks but upon two points,—the Middlesex election, and the taxation of the Americans by the British houses of representatives. There is a charm in the word parliament, so I avoid it. As I am a steady and a warm tory, I regret that the king does not see it to be better for bim to receive constitutional supplies from his American subjects by the voice of their own assemblies, where his royal person is represented, than through the medium of his British subjects. I am persuaded that the power of the crown, which I wish to increase, would be greater
great kindness for him. I have often seen Johnson at breakfast, accompanied, or rather attended, by Levet, who had always the management of the tea-kettle. -MALONE.
y See this subject discussed in a subsequent page, under May 3rd, 1779.MALONE,
when in contact with all its dominions, than if the rays of regal bounty?' were 'to shine' upon America, through that dense and troubled body, a modern British parliament. But enough of this subject; for your angry voice at Ashbourne upon it, still sounds awful . in my mind's ears.'
“ I ever am, my dear sir,
• JAMES BOSWELL.”
“ Edinburgh, March 12, 1778. “ MY DEAR SIR,—The alarm of your late illness distressed me but a few hours; for on the evening of the day that it reached me, I found it contradicted in the London Chronicle, which I could depend upon as authentick concerning you, Mr. Strahan being the printer of it. I did not see the paper in which the approaching extinction of a bright luminary' was announced. Sir William Forbes told me of it; and he says he saw me so uneasy, that he did not give me the report in such strong terms as he read it. He afterwards sent me a letter from Mr. Langton to him, which relieved me much. I am, however, not quite easy, as I have not heard from you; and now I shall not have that comfort before I see you, for I set out for London to-morrow before the post comes in, I hope to be with you on Wednesday morning; and I ever am, with the highest veneration,
“My dear sir, your most obliged,
.“ JAMES BOSWELL."
On Wednesday, March 18th, I arrived in London, and was informed by good Mr. Francis, that his master was better, and was gone to Mr. Thrale's at Streatham, to
? Alluding to a line in his Vanity of Human Wishes, describing cardinal Wolsey in a state of elevation :
Through him the rays of regal bounty shine. BOSWELL.