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I would endeavour to retain Levett about me; in the morning my servant brought me word that Levett was called to another state, a state for which, I think, he was not unprepared, for he was very useful to the poor. How much soever I valued him, I now wish that I had valued him more.
“ I have myself been ill more than eight weeks of a disorder, from which at the expence of about fifty ounces of blood, I hope I am now recovering.
“ You, dear Sir, have, I hope, a more cheerful scene; you see George fond of his book, and the pretty misses airy and lively, with my own little Jenny equal to the best; and in whatever can contribute to your quiet or pleasure, you have Lady Rothes ready to concur. May whatever you enjoy of good be encreased, and whatever you suffer of evil be diminished.
“ I am, dear Sir, your humble servant, “ Bolt-court, Fleet-street,
SAM. JOHNSON." March 20, 1782
To Mr. HECTOR, in Birmingham 4. " DEAR SIR,
“ I hope I do not very grossly flatter myself to imagine that you and dear Mrs. Careless will be glad to hear some account of me. formed the journey to London with very little inconvenience, and came safe to my habitation, where I found nothing but ill health, and, of consequence, very little cheerfulness. I then went to visit a little way into the country, where I got a complaint by a cold which has hung eight weeks upon me, and from which I am, at the expence of fifty ounces of blood, not yet free. I am afraid I must once more owe my recovery to warm weather, which seems to make the advances towards us.
“ Such is my health, which will, I hope, soon grow better. In other respects I have no reason to complain. I know not that I have written any thing more generally commended than the Lives of the Poets; and have found the world willing enough to caress me, if my health had invited me to be in much company: but this feason I have been almoft wholly employed in nursing myself. “ When summer comes I hope to see you again, and will not put
my visit to the end of the year. I have lived so long in London, that I did not remember the difference of seasons.
* A part of this letter having been torn off, I have, from the evident meaning, supplied a few words and half words at the ends and beginnings of lincs.
« Your 3
« Your health, when I saw you, was much improved. You will be 1782. prudent enough not to put it in danger. I hope, when we meet again, we Ætat. 3. shall all congratulate each other upon fair prospects of longer life; though what are the pleasures of the longest life, when placed in comparison with a happy death? I am, dear Sir, yours most affectionately, “ London, March 21, 1781.
To the same.
« DEAR SIR,
[Without a date, but fupposed to be about this time.] “ THAT you and dear Mrs. Careless should have care or curiosity about my health, gives me that pleasure which every man feels from finding himself not forgotten. In age we feel again that love of our native place and our early friends, which, in the bustle or amusements of middle life, were overborn and suspended. You and I should now naturally cling to one another: we have outlived most of those who could pretend to rival us in each other's kindness. In our walk through life we have dropped our companions, and are now to pick up such as chance may offer us, or to travel on alone, You, indeed, have a sister, with whom you can divide the day: I have no natural friend left; but Providence has been pleased to preserve me from neglect; I have not wanted such alleviations of life as friendship could supply. My health has been, from my twentieth year, such as has seldom afforded me a single day of ease; but it is at least not worse: and I sometimes make myself believe that it is better. My disorders are, however, still sufficiently oppressive.
“ I think of seeing Staffordshire again this autumn, and intend to find my way through Birmingham, where I hope to see you and dear Mrs. Careless well. I am, Sir, your affectionate friend,
“ SAM. Johnson.”
I wrote to him at different dates; regretted that I could not come to London this spring, but hoped we should meet somewhere in the summer; mentioned the state of my affairs, and suggested hopes of some preferment; informed him, that as “ The Beauties of Johnson” had been published in London, some obscure scribbler had published at Edinburgh, what he called " Deformities of Johnson.”.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. « DEAR Sir,
" THE pleasure which we used to receive from each other on GoodFriday and Easter-day, we must be this year content to miss. however, pray for each other, and hope to see one another yet from time to time with mutual delight. My disorder has been a cold, which impeded the organs of respiration, and kept me many weeks in a state of great uneasiness, but by repeated phlebotomy it is now relieved; and next to the recovery of Mrs. Boswell, I fatter myself, that you will rejoice at mine.
" What we shall do in the summer it is yet too early to consider. You want to know what you shall do now; I do not think this time of bustle and confusion likely to produce any advantage to you. Every man has those to reward and gratify who have contributed to his advancement.
To come hither with fuch expectations at the expence of borrowed money, which, I find, you know not where to borrow, can hardly be considered as prudent. I am sorry to find, what your follicitation seems to imply, that you have already gone the whole length of your credit. This is to set the quiet of your
whole life at hazard. If you anticipate your inheritance, you can at last inherit nothing; all that you receive must pay for the past. You must get a place, or pine in penury, with the empty name of a great estate. Poverty, my dear friend, is so great an evil, and pregnant with so much temptation, and so much misery, that I cannot but earnestly enjoin you to avoid it. Live on what you have, live if you can on less; do not borrow either for vanity or pleasure ; the vanity will end in shame, and the pleasure in regret; stay therefore at home, till you have saved money for your journey hither.
“ The Beauties of Johnson' are said to have got money to the collector ;
and to the young people, whom I never have offended.
“ I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate
Notwithstanding his afflicted state of body and mind this year, the following correspondence affords a proof not only of his benevolence and conscientious readiness to relieve a good man from errour, but by his clothing
one of the sentiments in his “ Rambler” in different language, not inferiour 1782. to that of the original, shews his extraordinary command of clear and forcible Ætat. 73. expression.
A clergyman at Bath wrote to him, that in “ The Morning Chronicle,” a passage in “ The Beauties of Johnson,” article Death, had been pointed out as supposed by some readers to recommend suicide, the words being, “ To die is the fate of man; but to die with lingering anguish is generally his folly;” and respectfully suggesting to him, that such an erroneous notion of any sentence in the writings of an acknowledged friend of religion and virtue, should not pass uncontradicted.
Johnson thus answered the clergyman's letter:
“ BEING now in the country in a state of recovery, as I hope, from a very oppressive disorder, I cannot neglect the acknowledgement 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 fome 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 news-papers ; 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 shewn in its true ftates. If I could find the passage, I would direct you to it. I 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 sufpended in tedious torture between life and death, are commonly the effect of
s What follows appeared in the Morning Chronicle of May 29, 1782.-" A correspondent having mentioned, in the Morning Chronicle of December 12, the laft 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 diffolution 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."
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 you favour this with any answer, it will be a comfort to me to know that I have your prayers.
~ I am, &c. “ May 15, 1782.
This letter, as might be expected, had its full effect, and the clergyman acknowledged it in grateful and pious terms.
The following letters require no extracts from mine to introduce them.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. « DEAR SIR,
« THE earnestness and tenderness of your letter is such, that I cannot think myself shewing it more respect than it claims by sitting down to answer it the day on which I received it.
" This year has amicted me with a very irksome and severe disorder. My refpiration has been much impeded, and much blood has been taken away. I am now harrassed 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 loft much by missing my company; I have scarcely been well for a single week. I might have received comfort from your kindness; but you would have seen me afflicted, and, perhaps, found me peevill. 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 debts 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 good can he do? or what evil can he prevent? That he cannot help the needy is evident, he has nothing ro spare. But, perhaps, his advice or admonition may be useful. His
poverty will destroy his influence : many more can find that he is peor,
6 The Correspondence may be seen at length in the Gentleman's Mi. azine, Feb. 1786.