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world passes away, and we are passing with it; but there is, doubtless, another world, which will endure for ever. Let us all fit ourselves for it. I am, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON." Such was the general vigour of his constitution, that he recovered from this alarming and severe attack with wonderful quickness ; so that in July he was able to make a visit to Mr. Langton at Rochester, where he passed about a fortnight, and made little excursions as easily as at any time of his life. (1)
(1) In his letters to Mrs. Thrale we find the following melancholy paragraphs: —
“ Aug. 13,- I am now broken with disease, without the alleviation of familiar friendship or domestic society; I have no middle state between clamour and silence, between general conversation and self-tormenting solitude. Levett is dead, and poor Williams is making haste to die: I know not if she will ever come out of her chamber.”
“Aug. 20. - This has been a day of great emotion; the office of the communion for the sick has been performed in poor Mrs. Williams's chamber. At home I see almost all my companions dead or dying. At Oxford I have just left Wheeler, the man with whom I most delighted to converse. The sense of my own diseases, and the sight of the world sinking round me, oppress me perhaps too much. I hope that all these admonitions will not be vain, and that I shall learn to die as dear Williams is dying, who was very cheerful before and after this awful solemnity, and seems to resign herself with calmness and hope upon eternal mercy. I read your last kind letter with great delight; but when I came to love and honour, what sprung in my mind? - How loved, how honoured once, avails thee not.'- I sat to Mrs. Reynolds yesterday for my picture, per haps the tenth time; and I sat for three hours with the patience of mortal born to bear."
“ Aug. 26. - Mrs. Williams fancies now and then that she grows better, but her vital powers appear to be slowly burning out. Nobody thinks, however, that she will very soon be quite wasted ; and as she suffers me to be of very little use to her, I have determined to pass some time with Mr. Bowles, near Salisbury, and have taken a place for Thursday. Some benefit may be perhaps received from change of air, some from change of company, and some from mere change of place. It is not easy to grow well in a chamber where one has long been sick, and where every thing seen, and every person speaking, revives and impresses images of pain. Though it be true that no man can run away from himself, yet he may escape from many causes of useless uneasiness. That the mind is its own place is the boast of a fallen angel that had learned to lie. External locality has great effects, at least upon all embodied beings. I hope this little journey will afford me at least some suspense of melancholy." - M.
Death of Mrs. Williams. — Conversation. — French
Literature. — Dr. Priestley. -- Candour. – Mrs. Siddons. - Mrs. Porter. – Kitty Clive. — Mrs. Pritchard. - John Philip Kemble. — George Anne Bellamy. — Lord Carlisle's Tragedy. — Unconstitutional Influence of the Scotch Peers. — Old Horses. - Mickle's “ Lusiad.” — Ossian. — Rules for the Essex Head Club.
In August he went as far as the neighbourhood of Salisbury, to Heale, the seat of William Bowles, Esq., a gentleman whom I have heard him praise for exemplary religious order in his family. In his diary I find a short but honourable mention of this visit:-“ August 28., I came to Heale without fatigue. 30. I am entertained quite to my mind.”
LETTER 441. TO DR. BROCKLESBY.
“ Heale, near Salisbury, Aug. 29. 1788. “ DEAR SIR, — Without appearing to want a just sense of your kind attention, I cannot omit to give an account of the day which seemed to appear in some sort perilous. I rose at five, and went out at six; and having reached Salisbury about nine, went forward a few miles in my friend's chariot. I was no more wearied with the journey, though it was a high-hung, rough coach, than I should have been forty years ago. We shall now see what air will do. The country is all a plain ; and the house in which I am, so far as I can judge from my window, for I write before I have left my chamber, is sufficiently pleasant.
Be so kind as to continue your attention to Mrs. Williams. It is great consolation to the well, and still greater to the sick, that they find themselves not neglected ; and I know that you will be desirous of giving comfort, even where you have no great hope of giving help.
“ Since I wrote the former part of the letter, I find that by the course of the post I cannot send it before the thirty-first. I am, &c. Sam. Johnson.”
While he was here, he had a letter from Dr. Brocklesby, acquainting him of the death of Mrs. Williams, which affected him a good deal. Though for several years her temper had not been complacent, she had valuable qualities, and her departure left a blank in his house. Upon this occasion (1) he, according to his habitual course of piety, composed a prayer. (?)
I shall here insert a few particulars concerning
(1) Prayers and Meditations, p. 226.
(2) In his letter to Miss Susannah Thrale, Sept. 9., he thus writes : —
" Pray shew mamma this passage of a letter from Dr. Brocklesby':* Mrs. Williams, from mere inanition, has at length paid the great debt to nature, about three o'clock this morning (Sept. 6.). She died without a struggle, retaining her faculties entire to the very last ; and, as she expressed it, having set her house in order, was prepared to leave it at the last summons of nature."
In his letter to Mrs. Thrale, Sept. 22., he adds : “ Poor Williams has, I hope, seen the end of her afflictions. She acted with prudence, and she bore with fortitude. She has left me.
Thou thy weary task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.' Had she had good humour and prompt elocution, her universal curiosity and comprehensive knowledge would have made her the delight of all that knew her. She left her little to your charity-school." - M.
him, with which I have been favoured by one of his friends.
“ He had once conceived the design of writing the Life of Oliver Cromwell, saying, that he thought it must be highly curious to trace his extraordinary rise to the supreme power from so obscure a beginning. He at length laid aside his scheme, on discovering that all that can be told of him is already in print; and that it is impracticable to procure any authentic information in addition to what the world is already in possession of. (1)”
" He had likewise projected, but at what part of his life is not known, a work to show how small a quantity of REAL FICTION there is in the world ; and that the same images, with very little variation, have served all the authors who have ever written.”
- His thoughts in the latter part of his life were frequently employed on his deceased friends. He often muttered these or such like sentences : Poor man! and then he died.'"
“ Speaking of a certain literary friend, 'He is a very pompous puzzling fellow,' said he: 'he lent me a letter once that somebody had written to him, no matter what it was about; but he wanted to have the letter back, and expressed a mighty value for it: he hoped it was to be met with again; he would not lose it for a thousand pounds. I laid iny hand upon it soon afterwards, and gave it him. I believe I said I was very glad to have met with it. O, then he did not know that it signified any thing. So you see, when the letter was lost it was
(1) 'Mr. Malone observes, « This, however, was entirely a mistake, as appears from the Memoirs published by Mr. Noble. Had Johnson been furnished with the materials which the industry of that gentleman has procured, and with others which it is believed are yet preserved in manuscript, he would, without doubt, have produced a most valuable and curious history of Cromwell's life.”
worth a thousand pounds, and when it was found it was not worth a farthing.'”
“ The style and character of his conversation is pretty generally known: it was certainly conducted in con. formity with a precept of Lord Bacon, but it is not clear, I apprehend, that this conformity was either perceived or intended by Johnson. The precept alluded to is as follows: 'In all kinds of speech, either pleasant, grave, severe, or ordinary, it is convenient to speak leisurely, and rather drawlingly than hastily: because hasty speech confounds the memory, and oftentimes, besides the unseemliness, drives a man either to stammering, a non-plus, or harping on that which should follow; whereas a slow speech confirmeth the memory, addeth a conceit of wisdom to the hearers, besides a seemliness of speech and countenance.' (1) Dr. Johnson's method of conversation was certainly calculated to excite attention, and to amuse and instruct (as it happened), without wearying or confusing his company. He was always most perfectly clear and perspicuous; and his language was so accurate, and his sentences so neatly constructed, that his conversation might have been all printed without any correction. At the same time, it was easy and natural; the accuracy of it had no appearance of labour, constraint, or stiffness : he seemed more correct than others by the force of habit, and the customary exercises of his powerful mind.”
" He spoke often in praise of French literature. The French are excellent in this,' he would say,
they have a book on every subject. From what he had seen of them he denied them the praise of superior politeness, and mentioned, with very visible disgust, the custom they have of spitting on the floors of their apartments. This,' said the doctor, 'is as gross a thing as can well be done ; and one wonders how any
(1) Hints for Civil Conversation.-Bacon's Works, 4to. vol. i. p. 571. — M.