« AnteriorContinuar »
had not heard from him for almost four months, though he was two letters in my debt; that I had suffered again from melancholy; hoping that he had been in so much better company (the Poets), that he had not time to think of his distant friends ; for if that were the case, I should have some recompense for my uneasiness; that the state of my affairs did not admit of my coming to London this year, and begging he would return me Goldsmith's two poems, with his lines marked.
His friend Dr. Lawrence, having now suffered the greatest affliction to which a man is liable, and which Johnson himself had felt in the most severe manner, Johnson wrote to him in an admirable strain of sympathy and pious consolation.
" TO DR. LAWRENCE. “DEAR SIR,
January 20, 1780. “At a time when all your friends ought to show their kindness, and with a character which ought to make all that know you your friends, you may wonder that you have yet heard nothing from me.
I have been hindered by a vexatious cough, for which within these ten days I have been bled once, fasted four or five times, taken physic five times, and opiates, I think six. This day it seems to remit.
“ The loss, dear Sir, which you have lately suffered, I felt many years ago, and know, therefore, how much has been taken from you, and how little help can be had from consolation. He that outlives a wife whom he has loved,sees himself disjointed from the only mind that has the same hopes, and fears, and interest; from the only companion with whom he has shared much good or evil; and with whom he could set his mind at liberty, to retrace the past or anticipate the future. The continuity of being is lacerated; the settled course of sentiment and action is stopped : and life stands suspended and motionless, till it is driven by external causes into a new channel. But the time of suspense is dreadful.
“Our first recourse, in this distressed solitude, is, perhaps for want of habitual piety, to a gloomy acquiescence in necessity. Of two mortal beings, one must lose the other; but surely there is a higher and better comfort to be drawn from the consideration of that Providence which watches over all, and a belief that the living and the dead are equally in the hands of God, who will reunite those whom he has separated; or who sees that it is best not to reunite.
“I am, dear Sir,
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “ DEAR SIR,
April 8, 1780. « Well, I had resolved to send you the Chesterfield letter; but I will write once again without it. Never impose tasks upon mortals. To require two things is the way to have them both undone,
“For the difficulties which you mention in your affairs I am sorry; but difficulty is now very general : it is not therefore less grievous, for there is less hope of help. I pretend not to give you advice, not knowing the state of your affairs; and general counsels about prudence and frugality would do you little good. You are, however, in the right not to increase your own perplexity by a journey hither; and I hope that by staying at home you will please your father.
“Poor dear Beauclerk?_nec, ut soles, dabis joca. His wit and his folly, his acuteness and maliciousness, his merriment and reasoning, are now over. Such another will not often be found among mankind. He directed himself to be buried by the side of his mother-an instance of tenderness which I hardly expected. He has left his children to the care of Lady Di, and if she dies, of Mr. Langton, and of Mr. Leicester, his relation, and a man of good character. His library has been offered for sale to the Russian Ambassador.?
“Dr. Percy, notwithstanding all the noise of the newspapers, has had no literary loss.3 Clothes and moveables were burnt to the value of about £100; but his papers, and I think his books, were all preserved.
“Poor Mr. Thrale has been in extreme danger from an apoplectical disorder, and recovered, beyond the expectation of his physicians; he is now at Bath, that his mind may be quiet, and Mrs. Thrale and Miss are with him.
“Having told you what has happened to your friends, let me say something to you of yourself. You are always complaining of melancholy, and I conclude from those complaints that you are fond of it. No man talks of that which he is desirous to conceal, and every man desires to conceal that of which he is ashamed. Do not pretend to deny it; manifestum habemus furem; make it an invariable and obligatory law to yourself, never to mention your own mental diseases; if you are never to speak of them you will think on them but little, and if you think little of them, they will molest you rarely. When you talk of them, it is plain that you want either praise or pity; for praise there is no room, and pity will do you no good; therefore, from this hour speak no more, think no more, about them.
“Your transaction with Mrs. Stewart gave me great satisfaction; I am much obliged to you for your attention. Do not lose sight of her ; your countenance may be of great credit, and of consequence of great advantage to her. The
LADY DIANA BEAUCLERK.
i The Hon. Topham Beauclerk died March 11, 1780.—MALONE.
Mr. Beauclerk's library was sold by public auction in April and May, 1781, for £5011.MALONE.
3 By a fire in Northumberland House, where he had an apartment, in which I have passed many an agreeable hour.-BOSWELL.
memory of her brother is yet fresh in my mind; he was an ingenious and worthy man.
“Please to make my compliments to your lady and to the young ladies. I should like to see them, pretty loves. I am, dear Sir, yours affectionately,
“SAM. JOHNSON." Mrs. Thrale being now at Bath with her husband, the correspondence between Johnson and her was carried on briskly. I shall present my readers with one of her original letters to him at this time, which will amuse them probably more than those well-written but studied epistles which she has inserted in her collection, because it exhibits the easy vivacity of their literary intercourse. It is also of value as a key to Johnson's answer, which she has printed by itself, and of which I shall subjoin extracts.
MRS. THRALE TO DR. JOHNSON.
Bath, Friday, April 28. “I had a very kind letter from you yesterday, dear Sir, with a most circumstantial date. You took trouble with my circulating letter, Mr. Evans writes me word, and I thank you sincerely for so doing : one might do mischief else not being on the spot.
“ Yesterday's evening was passed at Mrs. Montagu's: there was Mr. Melmoth ;' I do not like him though, nor he me; it was expected we should
have pleased each other; he is, however, just Tory enough to hate the Bishop of Peterboroughfor Whiggism, and Whig enough to abhor you for Toryism.
“Mrs. Montagu flattered him finely ; so he had a good afternoon on't. This evening we spend at a concert. Poor Queeney's" sore eyes have just released her; she had a long confinement, and could neither read nor write, so my mastert treated her very good-naturedly with the visits of a young woman in this town, a tailor's daughter, who professes music, and teaches so as to give six lessons a day to ladies, at five and threepence a lesson. Miss Burney says, she is a great performer; and I respect the
wench for getting her living so prettily; she is very modest and pretty-mannered, and not seventeen years old.
Mr. Wm. Melmoth is known in literary history as the translator of the Letters of Cicero and Pliny, and as the author of “Fitzosborne's Letters." He died in 1799, aged 89.-ED.
2 Dr. John Hinchliffe.-BOSWELL.
3 A kind of nick-name given to Mrs. Thrale's eldest daughter, whose name being Esther she might be assimilated to a Queen.-BOSWELL.
* Mr. Thrale.-BOSWELL.
“ You live in a fine whirl indeed; if I did not write regularly you would half forget me, and that would be very wrong, for I felt my regard for you in my ace last night, when the criticisms were going on.
“This morning it was all connoisseurship; we went to see some pictures painted by a gentleman artist, Mr. Taylor, of this place; my master makes one everywhere, and has got a good dawdling companion to ride with him now.
* He looks well enough, but I have no notion of health for a man whose mouth cannot be sewed up. Burney and I and Queeney tease him every meal he eats, and Mrs. Montagu is quite serious with him ; but what can one do?
He will eat, I think, and if he does eat I know he will not live ; it makes me very unhappy, but I must bear it. Let me always have your friendship.
I am, most sincerely, dear Sir,
“H. L. T."
“ DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. THRALE.
* * *
“ DEAREST MADAM,
London, May 1, 1780. “Mr. Thrale never will live abstinently, till he can persuade himself to live by rule.1 *
* Encourage, as you can, the musical girl. “Nothing is more common than mutual dislike, where mutual approbation is particularly expected. There is often on both sides a vigilance not over. benevolent; and as attention is strongly excited, so that nothing drops unheeded, any difference in taste or opinion, and some difference where there is no restraint will commonly appear, immediately generates dislike.
“ Never let criticism operate on your face or your mind; it is very rarely that an author is hurt by his critics. The blaze of reputation cannot be blown out, but it often dies in the socket; a very few names may be considered as perpetual lamps that shine unconsumed. From the author of 'Fitzosborne's Letters' I cannot think myself in much danger. I met him only once about thirty years ago, and in some small dispute reduced him to whistle ; having not seen him since, that is the last impression. Poor Moore, the fabulist, was one of the company.
“Mrs. Montagu's long stay, against her own inclination, is very convenient. You would, by your own confession, want a companion; and she is par pluribus ; conversing with her, you may find variety in one."
On the 2nd of May I wrote to him, and requested that we might have another meeting somewhere in the north of England, in the autumn of
From Mr. Langton I received soon after this time a letter, of which I extract a passage, relative both to Mr. Beauclerk and Dr. Johnson.
“ The melancholy information you have received concerning Mr. Beauclerk's death is true. Had his talents been directed in any sufficient degree as they ought, I have always been strongly of opinion that they were calculated to make an illustrious figure; and that opinion, as it had been in part formed upon Dr.
1 I have taken the liberty to leave out a few lines.—BOSWELL.
Johnson's judgment, receives more and more confirmation by hearing what, since his death, Dr. Johnson has said concerning them: a few evenings ago, he was at Mr. Vesey's, where Lord Althorpe, who was one of a numerous company there, addressed Dr. Johnson on the subject of Mr. Beauclerk's death, saying, “Our CLUB has had a great loss since we met last.' He replied, 'A loss, that perhaps the whole nation could not repair !' The Doctor then went on to speak of his endowments, and particularly extolled the wonderful ease with which he uttered what was highly excellent. He said, that'no man ever was so free when he was going to say a good thing, from a look that expressed that it was coming; or, when he had said it, from a look that expressed that it had come.' At Mr. Thrale's, some days before, when we were talking on the same subject, he said, referring to the same idea of his wonderful facility, Thomas Beauclerk's talents were those which he had felt himself more disposed to envy, than those of any whom he had known.'
“On the evening I have spoken of above, at Mr. Vesey's, you would have been much gratified, as it exhibited an instance of the high importance in which Dr. Johnson's character is held, I think even beyond any I ever before was witness to. The company consisted chiefly of ladies, among whom were the Duchess Dowager of Portland, and the Duchess of Beaufort, whom I suppose, from her rank, I must name before her mother Mrs. Boscawen, and her elder sister Mrs. Lewson, who was likewise there ; Lady Lucan, Lady Clermont, and others of note both for their station and understandings. Among the gentlemen were Lord Althorpe, whom I have before named, Lord Macartney, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Lord Lucan, Mr. Wraxal, whose book you have probably seen, “The Tour to the Northern Parts of Europe ;' a very agreeable ingenious man; Dr. Warren, Mr. Pepys, the Master in Chancery, whom I believe you know, and Dr. Barnard, the Provost of Eton. As soon as Dr. Johnson was come in, and had taken a chair, the company began to collect round him, till they became not less than four, if not five, deep; those behind standing, and listening over the heads of those that were sitting near him. The conversation for some time was chiefly between Dr. Johnson and the Provost of Eton, while the others contri. buted occasionally their remarks. Without attempting to detail the particulars of the conversation, which, perhaps, if I did, I should spin my account to a tedious length, I thought, my dear Sir, this general account of the respect with which our valued friend was attended to, might be acceptable.”
" TO THE REVEREND DR. FARMER. “SIR,
May 25, 1780. “I know your disposition to second any literary attempt, and therefore venture upon the liberty of entreating you to procure from College or University registers, all the dates or other informations which they can supply relating to Ambrose Philips, Broome, and Gray, who were all at Cambridge, and of whose lives I am to give such accounts as I can gather. Be pleased to forgive this trouble from, Şir,
6. Your most humble servant,