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1781. Johnson. But finding nothing better to his purpose,
re he cut some bristles off his hearth-broom, and enÆtat, 72
'closed them in a letter to his country enthusiast, who received them with due reverence. The Doctor was so sensible of the honour done him by a man of genius and science, to whom he was an utter stranger, that he said to Dr. Burney, “Sir, there is no man possessed of the smallest portion of modesty, but must be flattered with the admiration of such a man. I'll give him a set of my Lives, if he will do me the honour to accept of them. In this he kept his word ; and Dr. Burney had not only the pleasure of gratifying his friend with a present more worthy of his acceptance than the segment from the hearth broom, but soon after introducing him to Dr. Johnson himself in Bolt-court, with whom he had the satisfaction of conversing a considerable time, not a fortnight before his death ; which happened in St. Martin's-street, during his visit to Dr. Burney, in the house where the great Sir Isaac Newton had lived and died before.”
In one of his little memorandum books is the following minute ;
“ August 9, 3 P. M. ætat. 72, in the summerhouse at Streatham.
- After innumerable resolutions formed and neglected, I have retired hither, to plan a life of greater diligence, in hope that I may yet be useful, and be daily better prepared to appear before my Creator and my Judge, from whose infinite mercy I humbly call for assistance and support.
“ My purpose is,
“ To pass eight hours every day in some serious employment.
.“ Having prayed, I purpose to employ the next 1781., six weeks upon the Italian language, for my settled 7 study.”
How venerably pious does he appear in these mo. ments of solitude, and how spirited are his resolu. tions for the improvement of his mind, even in elegant literature, at a very advanced period of life, and when afflicted with many complaints,
In autumn he went to Oxford, Birmingham, Lichfield, and Ashbourne, for which very good reasons · might be given in the conjectural yet positive manner of writers, who are proud to account for every event which they relate. He himself, however, says, “ The motives of my journey I hardly know; I omitted it last year, and am not willing to miss it again.”' But some good considerations arise, amongst which is the kindly recollection of Mr. Hector, surgeon of Birmingham. “ Hector is likewise an old friend, the only companion of my childhood that passed through the school with me. We have always loved one another; perhaps we may be made better by some serious conversation, of which however I have no distinct hope.”
He says too, “ At Lichfield, my native place, I hope to shew a good example by frequent attendance on public worship.”
My correspondence with him during the rest of this year was, I know not why, very scanty, and all on my side. I wrote him one letter to introduce Mr. Sinclair (now Sir John) the member for Caithness, to his acquaintance; and informed him in another,
that my wife had again been affected with alarming
1782. In 1782, his complaints increased, and the history Ætat.78. of his life this year, is little more than a mournful re
cital of the variations of his illness, in the midst of
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
· - DEAR SIR,
“I sit down to answer your letter on the same
“My journey to Ashbourne and Staffordshire was. not pleasant; for what enjoyment has a sick man visiting the sick ?--Shall we ever have another frolick like our journey to the Hebrides?
“I hope that dear Mrs. Boswell will surmount her complants; in losing her you will lose your anchor, and be tost, without stability, by the waves of life. I wish both her and you very many years, and very happy.
The truth of this has been proved by sad experience. (Mrs. Boswell died June 4, 1789. M.)
« For some months past I have been so with drawn from the world, that I can send you nothing particular. All your friends, however, are well, and will be glad of your return to London. I am, dear Sir,
66 Your's most affectionately, :.65 January 5, 1782.
At a time when he was less able than he had once been to sustain a shock, he was suddenly deprived of Mr. Levett, which event he thus communicated to Dr. Lawrence.
“Our old friend, Mr. Levett, who was last night eminently cheerful, died this morning. The man who lay in the same room, hearing an uncommon noise, got up and tried to make him speak, but without effect. He then called Mr. Holder, the apothecary, who, though when he came he thought him dead, opened a vein, but could draw no blood. So has ended the long life of a very useful and very . blameless man. . I am, Sir,
- Your most humble servant, “ Jan. 17, 1778.
- Sam. JOHNSON.
In one of his memorandum-books in my posses sion, is the following entry : “ January 20, Sunday. Robert Levett swas buried in the church-yard of Bridewell, between one and two in the afternoon. He died on Thursday 17, about seven in the morning, by an instantaneous death. He was an old and
1782. faithful friend; I have known him from about 46. T. 78. Commendavi. May God have mercy on him. May
he have mercy on me.”
Such was Johnson's affectionate regard for Levett, that he honoured his memory with the following pathetick verses ;
“ CONDEMN'D to Hope's delusive mine,
“ As on we toil from day to day,
- Well try'd through many a varying year,
« See LEVETT to the grave descend; 6 Officious, innocent, sincere,
« Of every friendless name the friend.
“ Yet still he fills affection's eye,
“ Obscurely wise, and coarsely kind, “ Nor, letter'd arrogance, deny
" Thy praise to merit unrefin'd.
“ When fainting Nature call'd for aid,
" And hov’ring Death prepar'd the blow, “ His vigorous remedy display'd
“ The power of art without the show.
66 In Misery's darkest caverns known,
" His ready help was ever nigh,
" And lonely Want retir'd to die.*
2 See an account of him in “ The Gentleman's Magazine,'.. Feb. 1785.
In both editions of Sir John Hawkins's Life of Dr. Johnson, " letter'd ignorance,” is printed.
4 Johnson repeated this line to me thus :