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DR. JOHNSON TO MISS REYNOLDS.
“ Ist October, 1783. “ DEAR MADAM,—I am very ill indeed, and to my former illness is superadded the gout. I am now without shoes, and I have been lately almost motionless.
other afflictions is added solitude. Mrs. Williams, a companion of thirty years, is gone. It is a comfort to me to have you near me. I am, madam, your most humble servant,
- SAM. JOHNSON.”
Letters, vol. ii.
" TO MRS. THRALE.
“ London, 6th October, 1783. “ I yet sit without shoes, with my foot upon a pillow, but my pain and weakness are much abated, and I am no longer crawling upon two sticks. To the gout my mind is reconciled by another letter from Mr. Mudge, in which he vehemently urges the excision, and tells me that the gout will secure me from every thing paralytick: if this be true, I am ready to say to the arthritick pains, Deh! venite ogne di, durate un anno!,
My physician in ordinary is Dr. Brocklesby, who comes almost every day; my surgeon, in Mr. Pott's absence, is Mr. Cruikshank, the present reader in Dr. Hunter's school. Neither of them, however, do much more than look and talk. The general health of my body is as good as you have ever known it-almost as good as I can remember.
“ The carriage which you supposed made rough by my weakness was the common Salisbury stage, high hung, and driven to Salisbury in a day. I was not fatigued.
- Mr. Pott has been out of town, but I expect to see him soon, and will then tell you something of the main affair, of which there seems now to be a better prospect.
“ This afternoon I have given [tea] to Mrs. Cholmondeley, Mrs. Way, Lady Sheffield's relation, Mr. Kindersley, the describer of Indian manners, and another anonymous lady.
“ As Mrs. Williams received a pension from Mrs. Montagu, it was fit to notify her death. The account has brought me a letter not only civil but tender; so I hope peace is proclair.ed."
“ London, 9th October, 1783. “Two nights ago Mr. Burke sat with me a long time. He seems much pleased with his journey. We had both seen Stone
henge this summer for the first time. I told him that the view Letters, had enabled me to confute two opinions which have been ad- vol. ii. vanced about it. One, that the materials are not natural stones, but an artificial composition hardened by time. This notion is as old as Camden's time; and has this strong argument to support it, that stone of that species is nowhere to be found. The other opinion, advanced by Dr. Charlton, is, that it was erected by the Danes.
“ Mr. Bowles made me observe, that the transverse stones were fixed on the perpendicular supporters by a knob formed on the top of the upright stone, which entered into a hollow cut in the crossing stone. This is a proof that the enormous edifice was raised by a people who had not yet the knowledge of mortar'; which cannot be supposed of the Danes, who came hither in ships, and were not ignorant certainly of the arts of life. This proves also the stones not to be factitious; for they that could mould such durable masses could do much more than make mortar, and could have continued the transverse from the upright part with the same paste. “ You have doubtless seen Stonehenge; and if you
have not, I should think it a hard task to make an adequate description.
“ It is in my opinion to be referred to the earliest habitation of the island, as a druidical monument of, at least, two thousand years; probably the most ancient work of man upon the island. Salisbury cathedral and its neighbour Stonehenge are two eminent monuments of art and rudeness, and may show the first essay and the last perfection in architecture.”
" DR. JOHNSON TO MISS REYNOLDS.
Reynr. 66 230 October, 1783.
MS. “DEAK MADAM,-Instead of having me at your table, which cannot, I fear, quickly happen, come, if you can, to dine this day with me. It will give pleasure to a sick friend.
“ Let me know whether you can come. I am, madam, yours affectionately,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
“ DR. JOHNSON TO MISS REYNOLDS.
“ London, 27th October, 1783. “MY DEAREST DEAR, -I am able enough to write, for I have now neither sickness nor pain; only the gout has left
my ankles somewhat weak.
· [Surely not. We who have the use of mortar use what are called mortices; similar in principle at least to the knols and hollows of Stonehenge. -ED.) VOL. V.
“While the weather favours you, and the air does you good, stay in the country: when you come home, I hope we shall often see one another, and enjoy that friendship to which no time is likely to put an end on the part of, madam, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”]
He this autumn received a visit from the celebrated Mrs. Siddons. He gives this account of it in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale.
“ 27th October. “ Mrs. Siddons, in her visit to me, behaved with great modesty and propriety, and left nothing behind her to be censured or despised. Neither praise nor money, the two powerful corruptors of mankind, seem to have depraved her. I shall be glad to see her again. Her brother Kemble calls on me, and pleases me very well. Mrs. Siddons and I talked of plays; and she told me her intention of exhibiting this winter the characters of Constance, Catharine, and Isabella?, in Shak speare."
Mr. Kemble has favoured me with the following minute of what passed at this visit:
“ When Mrs. Siddons came into the room, there happened to be no chair ready for her, which he observing said, with a smile, Madam, you who so often occasion a want of seats to other people will the more easily excuse the want of one yourself.'
Having placed himself by her, he, with great good-humour, entered upon a consideration of the English drama; and, among other inquiries, particularly asked her which of Shakspeare's characters she was most pleased with. Upon her answering that she thought the character of Queen Catharine,
[This great actor and amiable and accomplished man left the stage in 18 and died 26th February, 1823, at Lausanne. In his own day he had no competitor in any walk of tragedy; and those who remembered Barry, Mossop, Henderson, and Garrick admitted, that in characters of high tragic dignity, such as Hamlet, Coriolanus, Alexander, Cato, he excelled all his predecessors, almost as much as his sister did all actresses in the female characters of the same heroic class.-Ed.]
2 [Isabella in Shakspeare's Measure for Measure. Mrs. Siddons had made her first appearance in Isabella in The Fatal Marriage. -ED.]
in Henry the Eighth, the most natural: 'I think so too, madam,' said he; and whenever you perform it, I will once more hobble out to the theatre myself.” Mrs. Siddons promised she would do herself the honour of acting his favourite part for him ; but many circumstances happened to prevent the representation of King Henry the Eighth during the doctor's life 1.
“In the course of the evening he thus gave his opinion upon the merits of some of the principal performers whom he remembered to have seen upon the stage. “Mrs. Porter in the vehemence of rage, and Mrs. Clive in the sprightliness of humour, I have never seen equalled. What Clive did best, she did better than Garrick ; but could not do half so many things well : she was a better romp than any I ever saw in nature. Pritchard, in common life, was a vulgar idiot; she would talk of her gownd: but, when she appeared upon the stage, seemed to be inspired by gentility and understanding. I once talked with Colley Cibber, and thought him ignorant of the principles of his art. Garrick, inadam, was no declaimer; there was not one of his own scene-shifters who could not have spoken To be or not to be better than he did : yet he was the only actor I ever saw, whom I could call a master both in tragedy and comedy; though I liked him best in comedy. A true conception of character, and natural expression of it, were his distinguished excellences. Having expatiated, with his usual force and eloquence, on Mr. Garrick's extraordinary eminence as an actor, he concluded with this compliment to his social talents :
+ [It was played many years after with critical attention to historical accuracy, and with great success.
Mrs. Siddons played Catharine; Mr. Kemble, Wolsey; Mr. Charles Kemble, Cromwell. There is a very interesting picture, by Harlow (since engraved), of the trial-scene, with portraits of all the performers. --Ed.]
* And after all, madam, I thought him less to be envied on the stage than at the head of a table.”
Johnson, indeed, had thought more upon the subject of acting than might be generally supposed. Talking of it one day to Mr. Kemble, he said, “ Are you, sir, one of those enthusiasts who believe yourself transformed into the very character you represent?” Upon Mr. Kemble's answering, that he had never felt so strong a persuasion himself; “ To be sure not, sir,” said Johnson; “the thing is impossible. And if Garrick really believed himself to be that monster, Richard the Third, he deserved to be hanged every time he performed it.”
My worthy friend, Mr. John Nichols, was present when Mr. Henderson, the actor, paid a visit to Dr. Johnson, and was received in a very courteous manner?.
I found among Dr. Johnson's papers the following letter to him, from the celebrated Mrs. Bellamy:
" TO DR. JOHNSON.
“ No. 10, Duke-street, St. James's, 11th May, 1783. “Sir,-- The flattering remembrance of the partiality you honoured me with some years ago, as well as the humanity you are known to possess, has encouraged me to solicit your patronage at my benefit
“By a long chancery suit, and a complicated train of unfortunate events, I am reduced to the greatest distress; which obliges me, once more, to request the indulgence of the publick.
- Give me leave to solicit the honour of your company, and to assure you, if you grant my request, the gratification I shall feel from being patronized by Dr. Johnson will be infinitely superiour to any advantage that may arise from the benefit; as I am, with the profoundest respect, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
- G. A. BELLAMY.”
[Mr. Kemble told the Editor that the occasion on which he had felt himself the most affected—the most personally touched-was in playing the last scene of The Stranger with Mrs. Siddons. Her pathos, he said, in that part always overcame him. --Ed.]
? See Gentleman's Magazine, June, 1791.-BOSWELL.