may be derived from error, must be, like its original, fallacious and fugitive.—I am, dear, dear sir, your most humble servant, 'SAM. JOHNSON.

'Sept. 21, 1758.'

In 1759, in the month of January, his mother died, at the great age of ninety, an event which deeply affected him; not that 'his mind had acquired no firmness by the contemplation of mortality;1 but that his reverential affection for her was not abated by years, as indeed he retained all his tender feelings even to the latest period of his life. I have been told that he regretted much his not having gone to visit his mother for several years previous to her death. But he was constantly engaged in literary labours which confined him to London; and though he had not the comfort of seeing his aged parent, he contributed liberally to her support.

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'HONOURED MADAM,-The account which Miss [Porter] gives me of your health, pierces my heart. God comfort and preserve you, and save you, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

'I would have Miss read to you from time to time the Passion of our Saviour, and sometimes the sentences in the communion service, beginning-Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

'I have just now read a physical book, which inclines me to think that a strong infusion of the bark would do you good. Do, dear mother, try it.

Pray send me your blessing, and forgive all that I have

1 Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 395.

2 [Since the publication of the third edition of this work, the following letters of Dr. Johnson, occasioned by the last illness of his mother, were obligingly communicated to Mr. Malone by the Rev. Dr. Vyse. They are placed here agreeably to the chronological order almost uniformly observed by the author; and so strongly evince Dr. Johnson's piety and tenderness of heart, that every reader must be gratified by their insertion.-M.]

done amiss to you. And whatever you would have done, and what debts you would have paid first, or anything else that you would direct, let Miss put it down; I shall endeavour to obey you.

'I have got twelve guineas1 to send you, but unhappily am at a loss how to send it to-night. If I cannot send it to-night, it will come by the next post.

'Pray, do not admit anything mentioned in this letter. God bless you for ever and ever. I am, your dutiful son, 'SAM. JOHNSON.

'Jan. 13, 1758.'*

TO MISS PORTER, AT MRS. JOHNSON'S, IN LICHFIELD 'MY DEAR MISS,-I think myself obliged to you beyond all expression of gratitude for your care of my dear mother. God grant it may not be without success. Tell Kitty that I shall never forget her tenderness for her mistress. Whatever you can do, continue to do. My heart is very full.


'I hope you received twelve guineas on Monday. I found a way of sending them by means of the postmaster, after I had written my letter, and hope they came safe. I will send you more in a few days. God bless you all.-I am, my dear, your most obliged and most humble servant,

'Jan. 16, 1759.

'Over the leaf is a letter to my mother.'


'DEAR HONOURED MOTHER,-Your weakness afflicts me beyond what I am willing to communicate to you. I do not

1 [Six of these twelve guineas Johnson appears to have borrowed from Mr. Allen, the printer. See Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 266, n. -M.]

2 [Written by mistake for 1759, as the subsequent letters show. In the next letter, he had inadvertently fallen into the same error, but corrected it. On the outside of the letter of the 13th was written by another hand-'Pray acknowledge the receipt of this by return of post without fail.'- M.]

[Catharine Chambers, Mrs. Johnson's maid-servant. She died in October 1767. See Dr. Johnson's Prayers and Meditations: 'Sunday, Oct. 18, 1767. Yesterday, Oct. 17, I took my leave for ever of my dear old friend, Catharine Chambers, who came to live with my mother about 1724, and has been but little parted from us since. She buried my father, my brother, and my mother. She is now fifty-eight years old.'-M.]

think you unfit to face death, but I know not how to bear the thought of losing you. Endeavour to do all you [can] for yourself. Eat as much as you can.

'I pray often for you; do you pray for me.—I have nothing to add to my last letter.-I am, dear, dear mother, your dutiful son, SAM JOHNSON.

'Jan. 16, 1759.'


'DEAR HONOURED MOTHER,-I fear you are too ill for long letters; therefore I will only tell you, you have from me all the regard that can possibly subsist in the heart. I pray God to bless you for evermore, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 'Let Miss write to me every post, however short.—I am, dear mother, your dutiful son, SAM. JOHNSON.

'Jan. 18, 1759.'

TO MISS PORTER, AT MRS. JOHNSON'S, IN LICHFIELD 'DEAR MISS,-I will, if it be possible, come down to you. God grant I may yet [find] my dear mother breathing and sensible. Do not tell her, lest I disappoint her. If I miss to write next post, I am on the road.-I am, my dearest Miss, your most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON.

'Jan. 20, 1759.

On the other side.

'DEAR HONOURED MOTHER,1-Neither your condition nor your character make it fit for me to say much. You have been the best mother, and I believe the best woman in the world. I thank you for your indulgence to me, and beg forgiveness of all that I have done ill, and all that I have omitted to do well. God grant you his Holy Spirit, and

1 [This letter was written on the second leaf of the preceding, addressed to Miss Porter.-M.]

2 [So, in the prayer which he composed on this occasion: 'Almighty God, merciful Father, in whose hands are life and death, sanctify unto me the sorrow which I now feel. Forgive me whatever I have done unkindly to my mother, and whatever I have omitted to do kindly. Make me to remember her good precepts and good example, and to reform my life according to thy holy word,' etc.-Prayers and Medita tions.-M.]

receive you to everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. Lord Jesus receive your spirit. Amen.-I am, dear, dear mother, your dutiful son, SAM. JOHNSON.

'Jan. 20, 1759.'


'You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best mother. If she were to live again, surely I should behave better to her. But she is happy, and what is past is nothing to her; and for me, since I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will efface them. I return you and all those that have been good to her my sincerest thanks, and pray God to repay you all with infinite advantage. Write to me, and comfort me, dear child. I shall be glad likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of £20 in a few days, which I thought to have brought to my mother; but God suffered it not. I have not power or composure to say much more. God bless you, and bless us all.-I am, dear Miss, your affectionate humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON. 'Jan. 23, 1759.'1

Soon after this event he wrote his Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia; concerning the publication of which Sir John Hawkins guesses vaguely and idly, instead of having taken the trouble to inform himself with authentic precision. Not to trouble my readers with a repetition of the Knight's reveries, I have to mention that the late Mr. Strahan the printer told me, that Johnson wrote it, that with the profits he might defray the expense of his mother's funeral, and pay some little debts which she had left. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds that he composed it in the evenings of one week,2 sent it to the press in portions as it was

1 [Mrs. Johnson probably died on the 20th or 21st of January, and was buried on the day this letter was written.-M.]

2 Rasselas was published in two duodecimo volumes, price five shillings. The title was got of Lobo (p. 102). Ras means head or chief.-A. B.]

written, and had never since read it over.1 Mr. Strahan, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Dodsley, purchased it for £100, but afterwards paid him £25 more, when it came to a second edition.

Considering the large sums which have been received for compilations, and works requiring not much more genius than compilations, we cannot but wonder at the very low price which he was content to receive for this admirable performance; which, though he had written nothing else, would have rendered his name immortal in the world of literature. None of his writings has been so extensively diffused over Europe; for it has been translated into most, if not all, of the modern languages. This tale, with all the charms of oriental imagery, and all the force and beauty of which the English language is capable, leads us through the most important scenes of human life, and shows us that this stage of our being is full of vanity and vexation of spirit.' To those who look no further than the present life, or who maintain that human nature has not fallen from the state in which it was created, the instruction of this sublime story will be of no avail. But they who think justly, and feel with strong sensibility, will listen with eagerness and admiration to its truth and wisdom. Voltaire's Candide, written to refute the system of Optimism, which it has accomplished with brilliant success, is wonderfully similar in its plan and conduct to Johnson's Rasselas; insomuch, that I have heard Johnson say, that if they had not been published so closely one after the other

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1 [See vol. iv. under June 2, 1781. Finding it then accidentally in a chaise with Mr. Boswell, he read it eagerly. This was doubtless long after his declaration to Sir Joshua Reynolds.-M.]

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