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“Feb. 27, 1782. “Sir, I have for many weeks been so much out of order, that I have gone out only in a coach to Mrs. Thrale's, where I can use all the freedom that sickness requires. Do not, therefore, take it amiss, that I am not with you and Dr. Farmer. I hope hereafter to see you often. I am, Sir, etc.
“ March 2, 1782. “DEAR SIR, I hope I grow better, and shall soon be able to enjoy the kindness of my friends. I think this wild adherence to Chatterton' more unaccountable than the obstinate defence of Ossian. In Ossian there is a national pride, which may be forgiven, though it cannot be applauded. In Chatterton there is nothing but the resolution to say again what has once been waid. I am, Sir, etc.
These short letters show the regard which Dr. Johnson entertained for Mr. Malone, who the more he is known is the more highly valued. It is much to be regretted that Johnson was prevented from sharing the elegant hospitality of that gentleman's table, at which he would in every respect have been fully gratified. Mr. Malone, who has so ably succeeded him as an editor of Shakspeare, has, in his Preface, done great and just honour to Johnson's memory.
“ London, March 2, 1782. “DEAR MADAM, I went away from Lichfield ill, and have had a troublesome time with my breath. For some weeks I have been disordered by a cold, of which I could not get the violence abated till I had been let blood three times. I have not, however, been so bad but that I could have written, and am sorry that I neglected it.
1 This note was in answer to one which accompanied one of the earliest pamphlets on the subject of Chatterton's forgery, entitled “ Cursory Observations on the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley," &c. Mr. Thomas Warton's very able “Inquiry" appeared about three months afterwards ; and Mr. Tyrwhitt's admirable “ Vindication of his Appendix," in the summer of the same year, left the believers in this daring imposture nothing but “the resolution to say again what had been said before.” Daring, however, as this fiction was, and wild as was the adherence to Chatterton, both were greatly exceeded in 1795 and the following year, by a still more audacious imposture, and the pertinacity of one of its adherents, who has immortalised his name by publishing a bulky volume, of which the direct and manifest object was, to prove the authenticity of certain papers attributed to Shakspeare, after the fabricator of the spurious trash had publicly acknowledged the imposture.-M.
“My dwelling is but melancholy. Both Williams, and Desmoulins, and myself, are very sickly ; Frank is not well; and poor Levett died in his bed the other day by a sudden stroke. I suppose not one minute passed between health and death. So uncertain are human things.
“Such is the appearance of the world about me; I hope your scenes are more cheerful. But whatever befalls us, though it is wise to be serious, it is useless and foolish, and perhaps sinful, to be gloomy. Let us, therefore, keep ourselves as easy as we can; though the loss of friends will be felt and poor Levett had been a faithful adherent for thirty years.
“ Forgive me, my dear love, the omission of writing ; I hope to mend that and my other faults. Let me have your prayers. Make my compliments to Mrs. Cobb, and Miss Adey, and Mr. Pearson, and the whole company of my friends. I am, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
TO THE SAME.
“Bolt Court, March 19, 1782. “DEAR MADAM,-My last was but a dull letter, and I know not that this will be much more cheerful: I am, however, willing to write, because you are desirous to hear from me. My disorder has now begun its ninth week, for it is not yet over. I was last Thursday blooded for the fourth time, and have since found myself much relieved, but I am very tender and easily hurt; 80 that since we parted I have had but little comfort. But I hope that the spring will recover me, and that in the summer I shall see Lichfield again, for I will not delay my visit another year to the end of autumn.
“I have, by advertising, found poor Mr. Levett's brothers, in Yorkshire, who will take the little he has left: it is but little, yet it will be welcome, for I believe they are of very low condition.
“ To be sick, and to see nothing but sickness and death, is but a gloomy state : but hope better times, even in this world, will come, and whatever this world may withhold or give, we shall be happy in a better state. Pray for me, my dear Lucy. Make my compliments to Mrs Cobb, and Miss Adey, and my old friend, Hetty Bailey, and to all the Lichfield ladies. I am, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
On the day on which this letter was written, he thus feelingly mentions his respected friend and physician, Dr. Lawrence :-“Poor Lawrence has almost lost the sense of hearing ; and I have lost the conversation of a learned, intelligent, and communicative companion, and a friend whom long familiarity has much endeared. Lawrence is one of the best men whom I have known.-Nostrum omnium miserere Deus.” (Pr. and Med. p. 203.)
It was Dr. Johnson's custom, when he wrote to Dr. Lawrence
concerning his own health, to use the Latin language. I have been favoured by Miss Lawrence with one of these letters as a specimen :
“Maiis Calendis, 1782. “Novum frigus, nova tussis, nova spirandi difficultas, novam sanguinis missionem suadent, quam tamen te inconsulto nolim fieri. Ad te venire vix possum, nec est cur ad me venias. Licere vel non licere uno verbo dicendum est; cætera mihi et Holdero' reliqueris. Si per te licet, imperatur nuncio Holderum ad me deducere. Postquam tu discesseris quò me vertam ?" 2
TO CAPTAIN LANGTON,
“Bolt Court, March 20, 1782. “DEAR SIR, -It is now long since we saw one another; and, whatever has been the reason, neither you have written to me, nor I to you. To let friend
1 Mr. Holder, in the Strand, Dr. Johnson's apothecary.
3 “May, 1782. Fresh cold, renewed cough, and an increased difficulty of breathing; all suggest a further letting of blood, which, however, I do not choose to have done without your advice. I cannot well come to you, nor is there any occasion for your coming to me. You may say,
in one word, yes or no, and leave the rest to Holder and me. If you consent, the messenger will bring Holder to me. When you shall be gone, whither shall I turn myself?”—C.
Soon after the above letter, Dr. Lawrence left London, but not before the palsy had made so great a progress as to render him unable to write for himself. The following are extracts from letters addressed by Dr. Johnson to one of his daughters :
“You will easily believe with what gladness I read that you had heard once again that voice to which we have all so often delighted to attend. May you often hear it. If we had his mind, and his tongue, we could spare the rest.
“I am not vigorous, but much better than when dear Dr. Lawrence held my pulse the last time. Be so kind as to let me know, from one little interval to another, the state of his body. I am pleased that he remembers me, and hope that it can never be possible for me to forget him, July 22d, 1782.
“I am much delighted even with the small advances which dear Dr. Lawrence makes towards recovery. If we could have again but his mind, and his tongue in his mind, and his right hand, we should not much lament the rest. I should not despair of helping the swelled hand by electricity, if it were frequently and diligently supplied.
“Let me know from time to time whatever happens; and I hope I need not tell you how much I am interested in every change. Aug. 26, 1782.
“Though the account with which you favoured me in your last letter could not give me the pleasure that I wished, yet I was glad to receive it; for my affection to my dear friend makes me desirous of knowing his state, whatever it be. I beg, therefore, that you continue to let me know, from time to time, all that you observe.
“Many fits of severe illness have, for about three months past, forced my kind physician often upon my mind. I am now better; and hope gratitude, as well as distress, can be a motive to remembrance. Bolt-court, Fleet-street, February 4, 1783.”
3 Mr. Langton being at this time on duty at Rochester, he is addressed by his military title.
ship die away by negligence and silence, is certainly not wise. It is voluntarily to throw away one of the greatest comforts of this weary pilgrimage, of which when it is, as it must be, taken finally away, he that travels on alone will wonder how his esteem could be so little. Do not forget me; you see that I do not forget you. It is pleasing in the silence of solitude to think, that there is one at least, however distant, of whose benevolence there is little doubt, and whom there is yet hope of seeing again.
“Of my life, from the time we parted, the history is mournful. The spring of last year deprived me of Thrale, a man whose eye for fifteen years had scarcely been turned upon me but with respect or tenderness; for such another friend, the general course of human things will not suffer man to hope. I passed the summer at Streatham, but there was no Thrale; and having idled away the summer with a weakly body and neglected mind, I made a journey to Staffordshire on the edge of winter. The season was dreary, I was sickly, and found the friends sickly whom I went to see. After a sorrowful sojourn, I returned to a habitation possessed for the present by two sick women, where my dear old friend, Mr. Levett, to whom, as he used to tell me, I owe your acquaintance, died a few weeks ago, suddenly in his bed; there passed not, I believe, a minute between health and death. At night, at Mrs. Thrale's, as I was musing in my chamber, I thought with uncommon earnestness, that, however I might alter my mode of life, or whithersoever I might remove, I would endeavour to retain Levett about me: in the morning my servant brought me word that Levett was called to another state, a state for which, I think, he was not unprepared, for he was very useful to the poor. How much soever I valued him, I now wish that I had valued him more.'
“I have myself been ill more than eight weeks of a disorder, from which, at the expense of about fifty ounces of blood, I hope I am now recovering.
“You, dear Sir, have, I hope, a more cheerful scene; you see George fond of his book, and the pretty Misses airy and lively, with my own little Jenny equal to the best; and in whatever can contribute to your quiet and pleasure, you have Lady Rothes ready to concur. May whatever you enjoy of good be increased, and whatever you suffer of evil be diminished. I am, dear Sir, &c.
" Sam. JOHNSON." LETTER 414.
TO MR. HECTOR,
“London, March 21, 1782. “ DEAR SIR-I hope I do not very grossly flatter myself to imagine that
1 Johnson has here expressed a sentiment similar to that contained in one of Shenstone's stanzas, to which, in his life of that poet, he has given high praise :
“I prized every hour that went by,
Beyond all that had pleased me before;
And I grieve that I prized them no more."-J. BOSWELL, Jun. 3 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.
you and dear Mrs. Careless 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 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 any thing 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
company; 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 prospects of longer life; though what are the pleasures of the longest life, when placed in comparison with a happy death ? &c.
[Without a date, but supposed to be about this time.] “ DEAR SIR, -That you and dear Mrs. Careless should have care or curi. osity about my health gives me that pleasure which every man feels from find. ing 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 me from neglect; I have not wanted such alleviations of life as friendship could supply. My health has been, from my twentieth year, such as had seldom afforded me a single day of ease; but it is at least not worse ; and I sometimes make my. self believe that it is better. My disorders are, however, still sufficiently op. pressive.
“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, &c.