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a man should perish for want of the means to take 1784. care of his health.
Ætat.75. « Your's, &c.
This letter gave me a very high satisfaction ; I next day went and shewed it to Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was exceedingly pleased with it. He thought that I should now communicate the negociation to Dr. Johnson, who might afterwards complain if the attention with which he had been honoured, should be too long concealed from him. I intended to set out for Scotland next morning ; but Sir Joshua cordially insisted that I should stay another day, that Johnson' and I might dine with him, that we three might talk of his Italian Tour, and, as Sir Joshua expressed himself, “ have it all out.” I hastened to Johnson, and was told by him that he was rather better to-day. BOSWELL. “ I am very anxious about you, Sir, and particularly that you should go to Italy for the winter, which I believe is your own wish." JOHNSON. “ It is, Sir.” Boswell. “ You have no objection, I presume, but the money it would require.” JOHNSON. “ Why, no, Sir."~Upon which I gave him a particular account of what had been done, and read to him the Lord Chancellor's letter.
He listened with much attention; then warmly said, “ This is taking prodigious pains about a man.”
" O, Sir, (said I, with most sincere affection) your friends would do every thing for you.” He paused.-grew more and more agitated,—till tears started into his eyes, and he exclaimed with fervent emotion, « God bless you all.” I was so affected
1784. that I also shed tears.--After a short silence, he re
newed and extended his grateful benediction, “ God Atat. 75.
bless you all, for JESUS CHRIST's sake.” We both remained for some time unable to speak.--He rose suddenly and quitted the room, quite melted in tenderness. He staid but a short time, till he had recovered his firmness; soon after he returned I left him, having first engaged him to dine at Sir Joshua Reynolds's next day.-I never was again under that roof which I had so long reverenced.
On Wednesday, June 30, the friendly confidential dinner with Sir Joshua Reynolds took place, no other company being present. Had I known that this was the last time that I should enjoy in this world, the conversation of a friend whom I so much respected, and from whom I derived so much instruction and entertainment, I should have been deeply affected. When I now look back to it, I am vexed that a single word should have been forgotten.
Both Sir Joshua and I were so sanguine in our expectations, that we expatiated with confidence on the liberal provision which we were sure would be made for him, conjecturing whether munificence would be displayed in one large donation, or in an ample increase of his pension. He himself catched so much of our enthusiasm, as to allow himself to suppose it not impossible that our hopes might in one way or other be realised. He said that he would rather have his pension doubled than a grant of a thousand pounds; “ For, (said he,) though probably I may not live to receive as much as a thousand pounds, a man would have the consciousness that he should pass the remainder of his life in splendour, how long soever it might be.”. Considering what à moderate
proportion an income of six hundred pounds a year 1784. bears to innumerable fortunes in this country, it is
Etát. 75. worthy of remark, that a man so truly great should think it splendour. • As an instance of extraordinary liberality of friendsship, he told us, that Dr. Brocklesby had upon this occasion offered him a hundred a year for his life. A grateful tear started into his eye, as he spoke this in a faultering tone. .
Sir Joshua and I endeavoured to flatter his imagination with agreeable prospects of happiness in Italy. " Nay, (said he,) I must not expect much of that; when a man goes to Italy merely to feel how he breathes the air, he can enjoy very little.”
Our conversation turned upon living in the country, which Johnson, whose melancholy mind required the dissipation of quick successive variety, had habituated himself to consider as a kind of mental imprisoninent. “Yet, Sir, (said I,) there are many people who are content to live in the country." JOHNSON. 5 Sir, it is in the intellectual world as in the physical world: we are told by natural philosophers that a body is at rest in the place that is fit for it; they who are content to live in the country, are fit for the country.”
Talking of various enjoyments, I argued that a refinement of taste was a disadvantage, as they who have attained to it must be seldomer pleased than those who have no nice discrimination, and are therefore satisfied with every thing that comes in their way. JOHNSON. “ Nay, Sir; that is a paltry notion. Endeavour to be as perfect as you can in every respect."
I accompanied him in Sir Joshua Reynolds's coach,
1784. to the entry of Bolt-court. He asked me whether I er would not go with him to his house; I declined it,
*from an apprehension that my spirits would sink. We bade adieu to each other affectionately in the carriage. When he had got down upon the footpavement, he called out, “ Fare you well;” and without looking back, sprung away with a kind of pathetick briskness, if I may use that expression, which seemed to indicate a struggle to conceal uneasiness, and impressed me with a foreboding of our long, long separation.
I remained one d'y more in town, to have the chance of talking over my negociation with the Lord Chancellor; but the multiplicity of his Lordship’s important engagements did not allow of it; so I left the management of the business in the hands of Sir Joshua Reynolds. : Soon after this time Dr. Johnson had the mortification of being informed by Mrs. Thrale, that, “ what she supposed he never believed," was true; namely, that she was actually going to marry Signor Piozzi, an Italian musick-master. He endeavoured to prevent it; but in vain. If she would publish the whole of the correspondence that passed between Dr. Johnson and her on the subject, we should have a full view of his real sentiments. As it is, our judgement must be biassed by that characteristick specimen which Sir John Hawkins has given us :“ Poor Thrale, I thought that either her virtue or her vice would have restrained her from such a marriage. She is now become a subject for her enemies to exult over; and for her friends, if she has any left, to forget, or pity."?
1 “ Letters to Mrs. Thrale," Vol. II, page 375.
It must be admitted that Johnson derived a consi. 1784. derable portion of happiness from the comforts and 5. elegancies which he enjoyed in Mr. Thrale's family ; but Mrs. Thrale assures us be was indebted for these to her husband alone, who certainly respected him sincerely; Her words are, Veneration for his virtue, reverence for his talents, delight in his conversation, and habitual endurance of a yoke iny husband first put upon me, and of which he contentedly bore his share for sixteen or seventeen years, made megoon solong with Mr. Johnson; but the perpetual confinement ! will own to have been terrifying in the first years of our friendship, and irksome in the last; nor could I pretend to support it without help, when my coadjutor was no more,"3 Alas ! how different is this from the declarations which I have heard Mrs. Thrale make in his life time, without a single murmur against any peculiarities, or against any one circumstance which attended their intimacy.
As a sincere friend of the great man whose Life I amn writing, I think it necessary to guard my readers against the mistaken notion of Dr. Johnson's character, which this lady's “ Anecdotes", of him suggest; for from the very nature and form of her book, “it lends deception lighter wings to fly.”
os Let it be remernbered, (says an eminent critick, that she has comprised in a small volume all that she could recollect of Dr. Johnson in twenty years, during which period, doubtless, some severe things were said by him; and they who read the book in twahours, naturally enough suppose that his whole con
3“ Anecdotes," p. 293.
Who has been pleased to furnish me with his remarks,