« PreviousContinue »
How Johnson was affected upon the occasion will appear from what he wrote to Sir Joshua Reynolds :
“ Ashbourn, 9th September. Many words I hope are not necessary between you and me, to convince you what gratitude is excited in my heart by the chancellor's liberality, and your kind offices.
“I have enclosed a letter to the chancellor, which, when you have read it, you will be pleased to seal with a head, or any other general seal, and convey it to him: had I sent it directly to him, I should have seemed to overlook the favour of
“ TO THE LORD HIGH CHANCELLOR".
September, 1784. “MY LORD,--After a long and not inattentive observation of mankind, the generosity of your lordship’s offer raises in me not less wonder than gratitude. Bounty, so liberally bestowed, I should gladly receive, if my condition made it necessary ; for, to such a mind, who would not be proud to own his obligations ? But it has pleased God to restore me to so great a measure of health, that if I should now appropriate so much of a fortune destined to do good, I could not escape from myself the charge of advancing a false claim. My journey to the continent, though I once thought it necessary, was never much encouraged by my physicians; and I was very desirous that your lordship should be told of it by Sir Joshua Reynolds as an event very uncertain; for if I grew much better, I should not be willing, if much worse, not able, to migrate. Your lordship was first solicited without my knowledge; but, when I was told that you were pleased to honour me with your patronage, I did not expect to hear of a refusal ; yet, I have had no long time to brood hope, and have not rioted in imaginary opulence, this cold reception has been scarce a disappointment; and, from your lordship’s kindness, I have received a benefit, which only men like you are able to bestow. I shall now live mihi carior, with a higher opinion of my own merit. I am, my lord, your lordship’s most obliged, most grateful, and most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
1 Sir Joshua Reynolds, on account of the excellence both of the sentiment and expression of this letter, took a copy of it, which he showed to some of his friends : one of whom [Lady Lucan, it is said], who admired it, being allowed to peruse it leisurely at home, a copy was made, and found its way into the newspapers and magazines. It was transcribed with some inaccuracies. I print it from the original draft in Johnson's own hand-writing.--BOSWELL.
Hawk. p. 572, 573.
[An incorrect copy of the above letter, though of a private nature, found its way into the public papers in this manner. It was given to Sir Joshua Reynolds, unsealed, to be delivered to Lord Thurlow. Sir Joshua, looking upon it as a handsome testimony of gratitude, and as it related to a transaction in which he had concerned himself, took a copy of it, and showed it to a few of his friends. Among these was a lady of quality, who, having heard it read, the next day desired to be gratified with the perusal of it at home: the use she made of this favour was, the copying and sending it to one of the newspapers, whence it was taken and inserted in others, as also in the Gentleman's and many other magazines. Johnson, upon being told that it was in print, exclaimed in my hearing—“ I am betrayed ;” but soon after forgot, as he was ever ready to do all real or supposed injuries, the error that made the publication possible.]
Upon this unexpected failure I abstain from presuming to make any remarks, or to offer any conjectures
[This affair soon became a topic of conversation, and it was stated that the cause of the failure was the refusal of the king himself; but from the following letter it appears that the matter was never mentioned to his majesty; that, as time pressed, his lordship proposed the beforementioned arrangement as from himself, running the risk of obtaining the king's subsequent approbation when he should have an opportunity of mentioning it to his majesty. This
[It is rather singular that Mr. Boswell, who was so angry that Sir J. Hawkins did not inquire from Sir Joshua about the beginning of this negotiation, should himself have been so much more negligent as not to inquire about its end. If he had done so, Sir Joshua would no doubt have communicated to him Lord Thurlow's letter of the 18th Nov., and thus saved Mr. Boswell the pain which it is clear he felt at supposing that the king himself had rejected his lordship’s humane proposition. It seems somewhat odd that Sir Joshua, after the appearance of the above passage in Mr. Boswell's first edition, did not explain the true state of the case to him. See the following note.Ed.]
affords some, and yet not a satisfactory, explanation Ed. of the device suggested by Lord Thurlow of Johnson's giving him a mortgage on his pension.]
[“ LORD THURLOW TO SIR J. REYNOLDS.
MSS. “ Thursday, 18th November, 1784. , “DEAR SIR,—My choice, if that had been left me, would certainly have been that the matter should not have been talked of at all. The only object I regarded was my own pleasure, in contributing to the health and comfort of a man whom I venerate sincerely and highly for every part, without exception, of his exalted character. This
you know I proposed to do, as it might be without any expense, in all events at a rate infinitely below the satisfaction I proposed to myself. It would have suited the purpose better if nobody had heard of it, except Dr. Johnson, you,
and J. Boswell ". But the chief objection to the rumour is that his majesty is supposed to have refused it. Had that been so, I should not have communicated the circumstance. It was impossible for me to take the king's pleasure on the suggestion I presumed to move. I am an untoward solicitor. The time seemed to press, and I chose rather to take on myself the risk of his majesty's concurrence than delay a journey which might conduce to Dr. Johnson's health and comfort.
“ But these are all trifles, and scarce deserve even this cursory explanation. The only question of any worth is whether Dr. Johnson has any wish to go abroad, or other occasion for my assistance. Indeed he should give me credit for perfect simplicity, when I treat this as merely a pleasure afforded me, and accept it accordingly: any reluctance, if he examines himself thoroughly, will certainly be found to rest, in some part or other, upon a doubt of the disposition with which I offer it. I am, dear sir, with great regard, your most faithful and obedient servant,
Having, after repeated reasonings, brought Dr. Johnson to agree to my removing to London, and even to furnish me with arguments in favour of what he had opposed; I wrote to him, requesting he would
[That this letter was designedly kept from Mr. Boswell's knowledge is ren. dered probable by the following curious circumstance. On the face of the ori. ginal letter his name has been obliterated with so much care that but for the different colour of the ink and some other small circumstances, it would not have been discoverable; it is artfully done, and appears to run except Dr. Johnson, you, and I”—“Boswell” being erased. -ED.)
write them for me; he was so good as to comply, and I shall extract that part of his letter to me of June 11, as a proof how well he could exhibit a cautious yet encouraging view of it:
“ I remember, and entreat you to remember, that virtus est vitium fugere ; the first approach to riches is security from poverty. The condition upon which you have my consent to settle in London is, that your expense never exceeds your annual income. Fixing this basis of security, you cannot be hurt, and you may be very much advanced.
The loss of your Scottish business, which is all that you can lose, is not to be reckoned as any equivalent to the hopes and possibilities that open here upon you. succeed, the question of prudence is at an end ; every body will think that done right which ends happily; and though your expectations, of which I would not advise you to talk too much, should not be totally answered, you can hardly fail to get friends who will do for you all that your present situation allows you to hope; and if, after a few years, you should return to Scotland, you will return with a mind supplied by various conversation, and many opportunities of inquiry, with much knowledge, and materials for reflection and instruction."
[“ DR. JOIINSON TO DR. ADAMS.
“ London, 11th June (July), 1784. “ DEAR SIR,-I am going into Staffordshire and Derbyshire in quest of some relief, of which my need is not less than when I was treated at your house with so much tenderness.
“I have now received the Collations for Xenophon, which I have sent you with the letters that relate to them. I cannot at present take any part in the work, but I would rather
for a Collation of Oppian than see it neglected; for the Frenchmen act with great liberality. Let us not fall below them.
“ I know not in what state Dr. Edwards left his book 1. Some of his emendations seemed to me to (be) irrefragably
[See ante, vol. iv. p. 234.-ED.)
certain, and such, therefore, as ought not to be lost. His rule was not (to) change the text; and, therefore, I suppose he has left notes to be subjoined. As the book is posthumous, some account of the editor ought to be given.
“You have now the whole process of the correspondence before you. When the Prior is answered, let some apology be made for me.
“I was forced to divide the Collation, but as it is paged you will easily put every part in its proper place.
“ Be pleased to convey my respects to Mrs. and Miss Adams. I am, sir, your most humble servant, “ SAM. JOHNSON."]
Let us now contemplate Johnson thirty years after the death of his wife, still retaining for her all the tenderness of affection! " TO THE REV, MR. BAGSHAW, AT BROMLEY?.
“ 12th July, 1784. “Sir,-Perhaps you may remember, that in the year 1753 you committed to the ground my dear wife. I now entreat your permission to lay a stone upon her; and have sent the inscription, that, if you find it proper, you may signify your allowance.
“You will do me a great favour by showing the place where she lies, that the stone may protect her remains.
“Mr. Ryland will wait on you for the inscription, and procure it to be engraved. You will easily believe that I shrink from this mournful office. When it is done, if I have strength remaining, I will visit Bromley once again, and pay you part of the respect to which you have a right from, reverend sir, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.” On the same day he wrote to Mr. Langton:
“ I cannot but think that in my languid and anxious state, I have some reason to complain that I receive from you neither inquiry nor consolation. You know how much I value your friendship, and with what confidence I expect your kindness, if I wanted any act of tenderness that you could perform ; at least if you do not know it, I think your ignorance is your own fault.
[If Sir J. Hawkins and Mrs. Piozzi sometimes took an unfavourable impression of Dr. Johnson's conduct, Mr. Boswell occasionally runs into the other extreme. Surely it is no such exemplary proof of “ tenderness of affection" that he, for thirty-one years, had neglected one of the first offices not merely of affection, but of common regard, and seems to have been awakened at last to the melancholy recollection only by the near prospect of needing, himself, a similar memorial. Mr. Boswell's injudicious panegyric forces our thoughts into a contrary direction.-Ev.]
2 See vol. ii. p. 246.--BoswELL. 3 Printed in his Works.--BOSWELL.