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1783. inconvenience, but threatened him with a chirurgical
operation, from which most men would shrink. The 'complaint was a sarcocele, which Johnson bore with uncommon firmness, and was not at all frightened while he looked forward to amputation. He was attended by Mr. Pott and Mr. Cruikshank. I have before me a letter of the 30th of July this year, to Mr. Cruikshank, in which he says, “I am going to put myself into your hands :" and another, accompanying a set of his " Lives of the Poets,” in which
“ I beg your acceptance of these volumes, as an acknowledgement of the great favours which you have bestowed on, Sir, your most obliged and most humble servant." I have in my possession several more letters from him to Mr. Cruikshank, and also to Dr. Mudge at Plymouth, which it would be improper to insert, as they are filled with unpleasing technical details. I shall, however, extract from his letters to Dr. Mudge such passages as shew either a felicity of expression or the undaunted state of his mind.
“ My conyiction of your skill, and my belief of your friendship, determine me to intreat your opinion and advice."--" In this state I with great earnestness desire you to tell me what is to be done. Excision is doubtless necessary to the cure, and I know not any means of palliation. The operation is doubtless painful; but is it dangerous? The pain I hope to endure with decency; but I am loth to put life into much hazard.”—“By representing the gout as an antagonist to the pally, you have said enough to make it welcome. This is not strictly the Srst fit, but I hope it is as good as the first; for it is the second that ever confined me; and the first was ten
years ago, much less fierce and fiery than this."- 1783. “ Write, dear Sir, what you can to inform or en
Ætat. 74. courage me. The operation is not delayed by any fears or objections of mine."
TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ.
OG DEAR SIR,
“ You may very reasonably charge me with insensibility of your kindness, and that of lady Rothes, since I have suffered so much time to pass without paying any acknowledgement. I now, at last, return my thanks; and why I did it not sooner I ought to tell you. I went into Wiltshire as soon as I well could, and was there much employed in palliating my own malady. Disease produces much selfishness. A man in pain is looking afte: ease; and lets most other things go as chance shall dispose of them. In the mean time I have lost a companion, to whom I have had recourse for domestick amusement for thirty years, and whose variety of knowledge never was exhausted ; and now return to a habitation vacant and desolate. I carry about a very troublesome and dangerous complaint, which admits no cure but by the chirurgical knife. Let me have your prayers. I am, &c. “ London. Sept, 29, 1783.
" SAM. JOHNSON."
Happily the complaint abated without his being put to the torture of amputation. But we must surely admire the manly resolution which he discovered, while it hung over him.
8 Mrs. Anna Williams.
In a letter to the same gentleman he writes, “ The Ætat. 74. gout has within these four days come upon me with
a violence which I never experienced before. It made me helpless as an infant.”-And in another, having mentioned Mrs. Williams, he says," whose death following that of Levett, has now made my house a solitude. She left her little substance to a charity-school. She is, I hope, where there is nei. ther darkness, nor want, nor sorrow.”
I wrote to him, begging to know the state of his health, and mentioned that “ Baxter's Anacreon, which is in the library at Auchinleck, was, I find, collated by my father in 1727, with the MS. belonging to the University of Leyden, and he has made a number of Notes upon it. Would vise me to publish a new edition of it?”
His answer was dated September 30.-" You should not make your letters such rarities, when you know, or might know, the uniform state of my health. It is very long since I heard from you; and that I have not answered is a very insufficient reason for the silence of a friend.—Your Anacreon is a very uncommon book; neither London nor Cambridge can supply a copy of that edition. Whether it should be reprinted, you cannot do better than consult Lord Hailes. Besides my constant and radical disease, I have been for these ten days much harassed with the gout; but that has now remitted. I hope God will yet grant me a little longer life, and make me less unfit to appear before him."
He this autumn received a visit from the cele. brated Mrs. Siddons. He gives this account of it in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale [October 27] “ Mrs. Siddons, in her visit to me, behaved with
great modesty and propriety, and left nothing behind 1783. her to be censured or despised. Neither praise nor
Ætat. 74. money, the two powerful corrupters of inankind, seem to have depraved her. I shall be glad to see her again. Her brother Kemble calls on me, and pleases me very well. Mrs. Siddons and i talked of plays; and she told me her intention of exhibiting this winter the characters of Constance, Catharine, and Isabella, in Shakspeare.”
Mr. Kemble has favoured me with the following minute of what passed at this visit.
" When Mrs. Siddons came into the room, there happened to be no chair ready for her, which he observing, said with a smile, Madam, you who so often occasion a want of seats to other people, will the more easily excuse the want of one yourself.'
“ Having placed himself by her, he with great good humour entered upon a consideration of the English drama; and, among other enquiries, particularly asked her which of Shakspeare's characters she was most pleased with. Upon her answering that she thought the character of Queen Catharine, in Henry the Eighth, the most natural :-'I think so too, Madam, (said he;) and whenever you perform it, I will once more hobble out to the theatre myself.' Mrs. Siddons promised she would do herself the honour of acting his favourite part for him ; but many circumstances happened to prevent the representation of King Henry the Eighth during the Doctor's life.
• In the course of the evening he thus gave his opinion upon the merits of some of the principal performers whom he remembered to have seen upon the stage. “Mrs. Porter, in the vehemence of rage, and Mrs. Clive in the sprightliness of humour, I have
1783. never seen equalled. What Clive did best, she did
better than Garrick; but could not do half so many Ætat. 74,
things well; she was a better romp than any I ever saw in nature.-Pritchard, in common life was a vulgar
ideot; she would talk of her gownd; but, when she appeared upon the stage, seemed to be inspired by gentility and understanding.-I once talked with Colley Cibber, and thought him ignorant of the principles of his art.-Garrick, Madam, was no declaimer; there was not one of his own scene-shifters who could not have spoken To be, or not to be, better than he did ; yet he was the only actor I ever saw, whom I could call a master both in tragedy and comedy; though I liked him best in comedy. A true conception of character, and natural expression of it, were his distinguished excellencies.' Having expatiated, with his usual force and eloquence, on Mr. Garrick's extraordinary eminence as an actor, he concluded with this compliment to his social talents ; * And after all, Madam, I thought him less to be envied on the stage than at the head of a table.”
Johnson, indeed, had thought more upon the subject of acting than might be generally supposed. Talking of it one day to Mr. Kemble, he said, “ Are you, Sir, one of those enthusiasts who believe yourself transformed into the very character you represent ?" Upon Mr. Kemble's answering—that he had never felt so strong a persuasion himself ; “ To be sure not, Sir, (said Johnson ;) the thing is impossible. And if Garrick really believed himself to be that monster, Richard the Third, he deserved to be hanged every time he performed it.”
9 My worthy friend, Mr. John Nichols, was present when Mr. Henderson, the actor, paid a visit to Dr. Johnson; and was re