« ElőzőTovább »
offers me. I hope dear Mrs. Boswell is now quite well, and that no evil, either real or imaginary, now disturbs you. I am, &c.,
“Sam. Johnson.” I also applied to three of the eminent physicians who had chairs in our celebrated school of medicine at Edinburgh, Doctors Cullen, Hope, and Munro, to each of whom I sent the following letter :
“ March 7, 1784. “ DEAR SIR,
“Dr. Johnson has been very ill for some time; and in a letter of anxious apprehension he writes to me, “Ask your physicians about my case.'
" This, you see, is not authority for a regular consultation: but I have no doubt of your readiness to give your advice to a man so eminent, and who in his Life of Garth, has paid your profession a just and elegant compliment: 'I believe every man has found in physicians great liberality and dignity of sentiment, very prompt effusions of beneficence, and willingness to exert a lucrative art where there is no bope of lucre.'
“Dr. Johnson is aged seventy-four. Last summer he had a stroke of the palsy, from which he recovered almost entirely. He had, before that, been troubled with a catarrhous cough. This winter he was seized with a spasmodic asthma, by which be has been confined to his house for about three months. Dr. Brocklesby writes to me, that upon the least admission of cold, there is such a constriction upon his breast, that he cannot lie down in his bed, but is obliged to sit up all night, and gets rest, and sometimes sleep, only by means of laudanum and syrup of poppies ; and that there are ædematous tumours in his legs and thighs. Dr. Brocklesby trusts a good deal to the return of mild weather. Dr. Johnson says that a dropsy gains ground upon him; and he seems to think that a warmer climate would do him good. I understand he is now rather better, and is using vinegar of squills. I am, &c.,
“JAMES BOSWELL." All of them paid the most polite attention to my letter ard its venerable object. Dr. Cullen's words concerning him were, “ It would give me the greatest pleasure to be of any service to a man whom the public properly esteem, and of London for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Com. whom I esteem and respect as much as I do Dr. Johnson.” Dr. Hope's, “ Few people have a better claim on me than your friend, as hardly a day passes that I do not ask his opinion about this or that word.” Dr. Munro's, “I most sincerely join you in sympathising with that very worthy and ingenious character, from whom his country has derived much instruction and entertainment."
Dr. Hope corresponded with his friend Dr. Brocklesby. Doctors Cullen and Munro wrote their opinions and prescriptions to me, which I afterwards carried with me to London, and, so far as they were encouraging, communi. cated to Johnson. The liberality on one hand, and grateful sense of it on the other, I have great satisfaction in recording.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ London, March 18, 1784. “ DEAR SUB,
“I am too much pleased with the attention which you and your dear lady show to my welfare, not to be diligent in letting you know the progress which I make towards health. The dropsy, by God's blessing, has now run almost totally away by natural evacuation : and the asthma, if not irritated by cold, gives me little trouble. While I am writing this I have not any sensation of debility or disease. But I do not yet venture out, having been confined to the house from the 13th of December, now a quarter of a year.
“When it will be fit for me to travel as far as Auchinleck I am not able to guess; but such a letter as Mrs. Boswell's might draw any man not wholly motionless a great way. Pray tell the dear lady how much her civility and kindness have touched and gratified me.
“Our parliamentary tumults have now begun to subside, and the king's authority is in some measure re-established. Mr. Pitt will have great power, but you must remember that what he has to give must, at least for some time, be given to those who gave, and those who preserve his power. A new ininister can sacrifice little to esteem or friendship: he must, till he is settled, think only of extending his interest.
Who had written him a very kind letter.
“If you come hither through Edinburgh, send for Mrs. Stewart, and give from me another guinea for the letter in the old case, to which I shall not be satisfied with my claim till she gives it me. Please to bring with you Baxter's Anacreon ; and if you procure heads of Hector Boece, the historian, and Arthur Johnston, the poet, I will put them in my room; or any other of the fathers of Scottish literature.
“I wish you an easy and happy journey, and hope I need not tell you that you will be welcome to, dear Sir, your, &c.,
I wrote to him, March 28, from York, informing him that I had a high gratification in the triumph of monarchical principles over aristocratical influence, in that great oounty, in an address to the king; that I was thus far on my way to him, but that news of the dissolution of parliament having arrived, I was to hasten back to my own county, where I had carried an address to his majesty by a great majority, and had some intention of being a candidate to represent the county in parliament.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“London, March 30, 1784. “Dear Sir,
“You could do nothing so proper as to hasten back when you found the parliament dissolved. With the influence which your address must have gained you, it may reasonably be expected that your presence will be of importance, and your activity of effect.
“Your solicitude for me gives me that pleasure which every man feels from the kindness of such a friend ; and it is with delight I relieve it by telling that Dr. Brocklesby's account is true, and that I am, by the blessing of God, wonderfully relieved.
“You are entering upon a transaction which requires much prudence. You must endeavour to oppose without exasperating; to practise temporary hostility, without producing enemies for life. This is, perhaps, hard to be done ; yet it has been done by many, and seems most likely to be effected by opposing merely upon general principles, without descending to personal
or particular censures or objections. One thing I must enjoin you, which is seldom observed in the conduct of elections; I must entreat you to be scrupulous in the use of strong liquors. One night's drunkenness may defeat the labours of forty days well employed. Be firm, but not clamorous; be active, but not malicious; and you may form such an interest, as may not only exalt yourself, but dignify your family.
“We are, as you may suppose, all busy here. Mr. Fox resolutely stands for Westminster, and his friends say will carry the election. However that be, he will certainly have a seat. Mr. Hoole has just told me, that the city leans towards the king.
“Let me hear, from time to time, how you are employed, and what progress you make. Make dear Mrs. Boswell, and all the young Boswells, the sincere compliments of, Sir, your affectionate humble servant, &c.,
To Mr. Langton he wrote with that cordiality which was suitable to the long friendship which had subsisted between him and that gentleman.
“ March 27. Since you left me I have continued, in my own opinion, and in Dr. Brocklesby's, to grow better, with respect to all my formidable and dangerous distempers; though, to a body battered and shaken as mine has lately been, it is to be feared that weak attacks may be sometimes mischievous. I bave, indeed, by standing carelessly at an open window, got a very troublesome cough, which it has been necessary to appease by opium, in larger quantities than I like to take, and I have not found it give way so readily as I expected; its obstinacy, however, seems at last disposed to submit to the remedy, and I know not whether I should then have a right to complain of any morbid sensation. My asthma is, I am afraid, constitutional and incurable ; but it is only occasional, and, unless it be excited by labour or by cold, gives me no molestation, nor does it lay very close siege to life ; for Sir John Floyer, whom the physical race consider as author of one of the best books upon it, panted on to ninety, as was supposed. And why were we content with supposing a fact so interesting of a man so conspicuous ? Because he corrupted, at perhaps seventy or eighty, the register, that he
1 Mr. Fox was returned for Westminster, after a sharp election and a tedious scrutiny.--Croker.
might pass for younger than he was. He was not much less than eighty, when to a man of rank, who modestly asked his age, he answered, 'Go look ;' though he was in general a man of civility and elegance. The ladies, I find, are at your house all well, except Miss Langton, who will probably soon recover her health by light suppers. Let her eat at dinner as she will, but not take a full stomach to bed. Pay my sincere respects to dear Miss Langton in Lincolnshire ; let her know that I mean not to break our league of friendship, and that I have a set of Lives for her, when I have the means of sending it."
“ April 8. I am still disturbed by my cough; but what thanks have I not to pay, when my cough is the most painful sensation that I feel ? and from that I expect hardly to be released, while winter continues to gripe us with so much pertinacity. The year has now advanced eighteen days beyond the equinox, and still there is very little remission of the cold. When warm weather comes, which surely must come at last, I hope it will help both me and your young lady.
“ The man so busy about addresses is neither more nor less than our own Boswell, who had come as far as York towards London, but turned back on the dissolution, and is said now to stand for some place. Whether to wish him success his best friends hesitate.
“Let me have your prayers for the completion of my recovery. I am now better than I ever expected to have been. May God add to his mercies the grace that may enable me to use them according to his will. My compliments to all."
“April 13. I had this evening a note from Lord Portmore! desiring that I would give you an account of my health. You might have had it with less circumduction. I am, by God's blessing, I believe, free from all morbid sensations, except a cough, which is only troublesome. But I am still weak, and can have no great hope of strength till the weather shall be softer. The summer, if it be kindly, will, I hope, enable me to support the winter. God, who has so wonderfully restored me, can preserve me in all seasons.
“Let me inquire in my turn after the state of your family,
1 To wbich Johnson returned this answer :
“ Dr. Johnson acknowledges with great respect the honour of lord Portmore's notice. He is better than he was; and will, as his Lordship directs, write to Mr. Langton.”