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TO MR. HECTOR,1 in Birmingham.
“London, March 21, 1782. “Dear Sir,
“I hope I do not very grossly flatter myself to imagine that you and dear Mrs. Careless 2 will be glad to hear some account of me. I performed 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 expense 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 anything 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 coinpany; but 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 pros. pects 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,
“ Sam. Johnson."
" 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 beginning of lines.
? See vol. ij., p. 43.-Editor.
TO THE SAME. (Without a date, but supposed to be about this time.) “Dear Sir,
“ 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 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 ne 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,
In one of Johnson's registers of this year there occurs the following curious passage: “ March. 20. The ministry is dissolved. I prayed with Francis, and gave thanks.” It has been the subject of discussion whether there are two distinct particulars mentioned here? Or that we are to understand the giving of thanks to be in consequence of the dissolution of the ministry? In support of the last of
See Prayers and Meditations, p. 201. First edition. Mr. Croker here corrects Boswell's mistake in misdating an entry, which is wrongly given (Jan. 20) in the Life, but correctly in the Prayers and Meditations, as above.-Editor.
these conjectures may be urged his mean opinion of that ministry, which has frequently appeared in the course of this work; and it is strongly confirmed by what he said on the subject to Mr. Seward : “I am glad the ministry is removed. Such a bunch of imbecility never disgraced a country. If they sent a messenger into the city to take up a printer, the messenger was taken up instead of the printer, and committed by the sitting alderman. If they sent one army to the relief of another, the first army was defeated and taken before the second arrived. I will not say that what they did was always wrong; but it was always done at a wrong time.”
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.
“London, March 28, 1782. “ 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. 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 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 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
Lord North's administration was superseded by that of Lord Rock. ingham on the 19th of March. - Croker. 3 1782.
expectations at the expense 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 erjoin 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 ; 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, &c.,
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 error, but by his clothing one of the sentiments in his “Rambler," in different language, not inferior to that of the original, shows his extraordinary command of clear and forcible expression.
A clergyman at Bath wrote to him, that in “ The Morn. ing 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 this clergyman's letter :
TO THE REV. MR. —
“May 15, 1782.
“Being now in the country in a state of recovery, as I hope, from a very oppressive disorder, I cannot neglect the acknowledgment 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 ne more, nor do I know where to find it in my own books. I am accustomed to think little of newspapers; 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 shown in its true state. If I could find the passage, I would direct you to it. I suppose the tenor 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."
1 What follows appeared in The Morning Chronicle of May 29, 1782:
“ A correspondent 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, Rambler, No. 85, that its true meaning may appear, which is not to recommend suicide, but exercise.
• Exercise 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 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."