« AnteriorContinuar »
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 no 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; and this season I have been almost wholly employed in nursing myself.
“When summer comes I hope to see you again, and will not put off my visit to the end of the year. I have lived so long in London, that I did not remember the difference of seasons.
“Your health, when I saw you, was much improved. You will be prudent enough not to put it in danger. I hope, when we meet again, we shall 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,
“SAM. JOHNSON.” “ London, March 21, 1782."
TO THE SAME.
(Without a date, but supposed to be
about this time.)
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 overborne 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 “The Deformities of Johnson.”
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. DEAR SIR,
“THE pleasure which we used to receive from each other on Good-Friday and Easter-day, we must be this year content to miss. Let us, however, pray for each other, and hope to see one another yet from time to time with mutual delight. 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 flatter 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 1 like to produce any advantage to you. Every man has those to reward and gratify who have contributed to his advancement. To come hither with such expectations at the expence of borrowed money, which, I find, you know not where to borrow, can hardly be considered prudent. I am sorry to find, what your solicitations seem 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
1 [On the preceding day the Ministry had been changed.-M.)
66 The Beauties of Johnson' are said to have got money to the collector; if the Deformities' have the same success, I shall be still a more extensive benefactor.
"Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, who is I hope reconciled to me; and to the young people whom I never have offended.
“You never told me the success of your plea against the Solicitors. I am, dear Sir,
"Your most affectionate,
“SAM. JOHNSON.” “London, March 28, 1782.”
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 cloathing one of the sentiments in his “Rambler” in different language, not inferiour to that of the original, shews his extraordinary command of clear and forcible 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 :
“ TO THE REVEREND MR. AT BATH. “SIR,
“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 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 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 state. 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 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 you favour me with any answer, it will be a comfort to me to know that I have your prayers.
“I am, &c.
“SAM. JOHNSON." 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 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.
1 What follows, appeared in the Morning Chronicle of May 29, 1782.-"A correspond. ent 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.
rcise 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 antients, 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." 2 The correspondence may be seen at length in the Gentleman's Magazine, Feb. 1786
“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; but 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, 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." “London, June 3, 1782.".
" To MR. PERKINS. 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.
1 Which I celebrated in the Church-of-England chapel at Edinburgh, founded by Lord Chief Baron Smith, of respectable and pious memory.