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Johnson thus answered this clergyman's letter :
TO THE REVEREND MR.
6. 15th May, 1782. SIR,—Being now in the country in a state of recovery, as I hope, from a very oppressive disorder, I cannot neglect the acknowledgment of your Christian letter. The book called • The Beauties of Johnson' is the production of I know not whom ; I never saw it but by casual inspection, and considered myself as utterly disengaged from its consequences. Of the passage you mention, I remember some notice in some paper; but knowing that it must be misrepresented, I thought of it no more, nor do I know where to find it in my own books. I am accustomed to think little of newspapers ; but an opinion so weighty and serious as yours has determined me to do, what I should without your seasonable admonition have omitted: and I will direct my thought to be shown in its true state'. If I could find the passage I would direct
suppose the tenour is this :- Acute diseases are the immediate and inevitable strokes of Heaven; but of them the pain is short, and the conclusion speedy; chronical disorders, by which we are suspended in tedious torture between life and death, are commonly the effect of our own misconduct and intemperance. To die, &c.'—This, sir, you see is all true and all blameless. I hope some time in the next week to have all rectified. My health has been lately much shaken; if
favour me with any answer, it will be a comfort to me to know that I have your prayers. I am, &c.
- SAM. JOHNSON.” This letter, as might be expected, had its full effect, and the clergyman acknowledged it in grateful and pious terms
1 What follows appeared in the Morning Chronicle of May 29, 1782.-"
“A correspondent having mentioned in the Morning Chronicle of December 12, the last clause of the following paragraph, as seeming to favour suicide; we are requested to print the whole passage, that its true meaning may appear, which is not to recommend suicide but exercise. Exercise cannot secure us from that dissolution to which we are decreed; but while the soul and body continue united, it can make the association pleasing, and give probable hopes that they shall be disjoined by an easy separation. It was a principle among the ancients, that acute diseases are from Heaven, and chronical from ourselves; the dart of death, indeed, falls from Heaven, but we poison it by our own misconduct: to die is the fate of man; but to die with lingering anguish is generally his folly.”-BOSWELL.
2 The correspondence may be seen at length in the Gentleman's Magazine, Feb. 1786...BOSWELL.
The following letters require no extracts from mine to introduce them.
66 TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ London, 3d June, 1782. “ DEAR SIR,—The earnestness and tenderness of your letter is such, that I cannot think myself showing it more respect than it claims, by sitting down to answer it the day on which I received it. - This
has afflicted me with a very irksome and severe disorder. My respiration has been much impeded, and much blood has been taken away. I am now harassed by a catarrhous cough, from which my purpose is to seek relief by change of air; and I am, therefore, preparing to go to Oxford.
“ Whether I did right in dissuading you from coming to London this spring, I will not determine. You have not lost much by missing my company; I have scarcely been well for a single week. I might have received comfort from your kindness ;
you would have seen me afflicted, and, perhaps, found me peevish. Whatever might have been your pleasure or mine, I know not how I could have honestly advised you to come hither with borrowed money. Do not accustom yourself to consider debt only as an inconvenience; you will find it a calamity. Poverty takes away so many means of doing good, and produces so much inability to resist evil, both natural and moral, that it is by all virtuous means to be avoided. Consider a man whose fortune is very narrow; whatever be his rank by birth, or whatever his reputation by intellectual excellence, what can he do? or what evil can he prevent? That he cannot help the needy is evident; he has nothing to spare. But, perhaps, his advice or admonition may be useful. His poverty will destroy his influence; many more can find that he is poor, than that he is wise; and few will reverence the understanding that is of so little advantage to its owner. I say nothing of the personal wretchedness of a debtor, which, however, has passed into a proverb. Of riches it is not necessary to write the praise. Let it, however, be remembered, that he who has money to spare, has it always in his power to benefit others; and of such power a good man must always be desirous.
“I am pleased with your account of Easter'. We shall meet,
1 Which I celebrated in the Church of England chapel at Edinburgh, founded by Lord Chief Baron Smith, of respectable and pious memory.-Boswell.
I hope, in autumn, both well and both cheerful; and part each the better for the other's company.
“Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and to the young charmers. I am, &c.
" Sam. JOHNSON.”
Letters, vol. ii.
[“ TO MRS. THRALE.
“ London, 4th June, 1782. Wisely was it said by him who said it first, that this world is all ups and downs. You know, dearest lady, that when I pressed your hand at parting, I was rather down. When I came hither, I ate my dinner well, but was so harassed by the cough, that Mr. Strahan said, it was an extremity which he could not have believed without the sensible and true avouch' of his own observation. I was indeed almost sinking under it, when Mrs. Williams happened to cry out that such a cough should be stilled by opium or any means. I took yesterday half an ounce of bark, and knew not whether opium would counteract it, but remembering no prohibition in the medical books, and knowing that to quiet the cough with opium was one of Lawrence's last orders, I took two grains, which gave me not sleep indeed, but rest, and that rest has given me strength and courage.
“This morning to my bed-side came dear Sir Richard (Jebb]. I told him of the opium, and he approved it, and told me, if I went to Oxford, which he rather advised that I should strengthen the constitution by the bark, tame the cough with opium, keep the body open, and support myself by liberal nutriment.
“ As to the journey I know not that it will be necessarydesine mollium tandem querularum.”
“Sunday, 8th June', 1782. “I have this day taken a passage to Oxford for Mondaynot to frisk, as you express it with very unfeeling irony, but to catch at the hopes of better health. The change of place may do something. To leave the house where so much has been suffered affords some pleasure.”
Oxford, 12th June, 1782. “I find no particular salubrity in this air; my respiration is very laborious; my appetite is good, and my sleep commonly long and quiet ; but a very little motion disables me.
“I dine to-day with Dr. Adams, and to-morrow with Dr. Wetherel 2. Yesterday Dr. Edwards 3 invited some men from
[Mrs. Piozzi had misdated this letter 8th July, and consequently misplaced it-ED.]
(Master of University College. See ante, vol. iii. p. 232.-Ed.] 3 (See ante, vol. iv. p. 234. Ed.]
Exeter college, whom I liked very well. These variations of Letters, company help the mind, though they cannot do much for the vol. ii, body. But the body receives some help from a cheerful mind.”
“ Oxford, 17th June, 1782. “ Oxford has done, I think, what for the present it can do, and I am going slyly to take a place in the coach for Wednesday, and you or my sweet Queeney will fetch me on Thursday, and see what you can make of me.
* To-day I am going to dine with Dr. Wheeler, and tomorrow Dr. Edwards has invited Miss Adams and Miss More. Yesterday I went with Dr. Edwards to his living. He has really done all that he could do for
relief or entertainment, and really drives me away by doing too much."]
66 TO MR. PERKINS.
66 28th July, 1782. “DEAR SIR,~I am much pleased that you are going a very long journey, which may by proper conduct restore your health and prolong your life.
“ Observe these rules :
“]. Turn all care out of your head as soon as you mount the chaise.
“ 2. Do not think about frugality; your health is worth more than it can cost.
“3. Do not continue any day's journey to fatigue.
“ This last direction is the principal; with an unquiet mind, neither exercise, nor diet, nor physick, can be of much use.
“I wish you, dear sir, a prosperous journey, and a happy recovery. I am, dear sir, your most affectionate, humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
- TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ 24th August, 1782. “DEAR SIR,—Being uncertain whether I should have any call this autumn into the country, I did not immediately answer your
kind letter. I have no call ; but if you desire to meet me at Ashbourne, I believe I can come thither; if you had rather come to London, I can stay at Streatham : take your choice.
“ This year has been very heavy. From the middle of January to the middle of June, I was battered by one disorder
after another! I am now very much recovered, and hope still to be better. What happiness it is that Mrs. Boswell has escaped.
My Lives are reprinting, and I have forgotten the authour of Gray's character ' : write immediately, and it may be perhaps yet inserted.
“Of London or Ashbourne you have your free choice; at any place I shall be glad to see you. I am, dear sir, yours, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
On the 30th August, I informed him that my honoured father had died that morning; a complaint under which he had long laboured having suddenly come to a crisis, while I was upon a visit at the seat of Sir Charles Preston, from whence I had hastened the day before, upon receiving a letter by express.
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
" London, 7th Sept. 1782. “ DEAR SIR-I have struggled through this year with so much infirmity of body, and such strong impressions of the fragility of life, that death, whenever it appears, fills me with melancholy; and I cannot hear without emotion of the removal of any one, whom I have known, into another state.
“ Your father's death had every circumstance that could enable you to bear it; it was at a mature age, and it was expected; and as his general life had been pious, his thoughts had doubtless for many years past been turned upon eternity. That you
did not find him sensible must doubtless grieve you ; his disposition towards you was undoubtedly that of a kind, though not of a fond father. Kindness, at least actual, is in our power, but fondness is not; and if by negligence or imprudence you had extinguished his fondness, he could not at will rekindle it. Nothing then remained between you tual forgiveness of each other's faults, and mutual desire of each other's happiness.
“ I shall long to know his final disposition of his fortune.
“ You, dear sir, have now a new station, and have therefore new cares, and new employments. Life, as Cowley seems to say, ought to resemble a well-ordered poem ; of which one rule generally received is, that the exordium should be simple, and
1 The Rev. Mr. Temple, vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall.-BOSWELL.