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TALK AT THE CLUB
Saunders Welch-Boswell's Negro's Cause-Boswell's Correspondence-His Arrival in London,
Johnson's Pensioners—His Liberality-Wilkes and Lee, Johnson at Streatham-Luxury-Thomas å Kempis—Dr. Hurd-Lord Trimlestown—Sir Robert Sibbald's Life—Truth-Warton's “ Essay on Pope”—Ghosts—Wesley's Talk—Conversation at the Club—Alcibiades' Dog and the Florentine Boar-Emigration-Burke's Speeches—The Irish Language—Thicknesse's Travels—How to Deal with Robbers—Contentment-Johnson's Amusements—Mrs. Montagu-Wine-drinking-Life in London-Goldsmith, Johnson's Gift to Mrs. Thrale's Servant—Lord Kames's "History of Man"Sermons—Thomas Davies—Delany's “ Swift." “ TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, Jan. 8, 1778. “ DEAR SIR, –
“ Your congratulations upon a new year are mixed with complaint : mine must be so too. My wife has for some time been very ill, having been confined to the house these three months by a severe cold, attended with alarming symptoms.
[Here I gave a particular account of the distress which the person upon every account most dear to me suffered ; and of the dismal state of apprehension in which I now was : adding that I never stood more in need of his consoling philosophy.]
“ Did you ever look at a book written by Wilson, a Scotchman, under the Latin name of Volusenus, according to the custom of literary men at a certain period. It is entitled 'De Animi Tranquillitate.' I earnestly desire tranquillity. Bona res quies ; but I fear I shall never attain it : for, when unoccupied, I grow gloomy; and occupation agitates me to feverishness.
"TO JAMES BOSWELL,
ESQ. "DEAR SIR,
“ To a letter so interesting as your last, it is proper to return some answer, however little I may be disposed to write.
"Your alarm at your lady's illness was reasonable, and not disproportionate to the appearance of the disorder.
I hope your physical friend's conjecture is now verified, and all fear of a con
From an engraving after a drawing by W. H. Pyne
Mrs. Thrale Boswell
THE DRAWING-ROOM AT THRALE PLACE will then restore her. London is a good air for ladies ; and if you bring her hither, I will do for her what she did for me I will retire from my apartments for her accommodation. Behave kindly to her, and keep her cheerful.
"You always seem to call for tenderness. Know, then, that in the first month of the present year I very highly esteem and very cordially love you. I hope to tell you this at the beginning of every year as long as we live ; and why should we trouble ourselves to tell or hear it oftener ?
“ Tell Veronica, Euphemia, and Alexander, that I wish them, as well as their parents, many happy years.
“You have ended the negro's cause much to my mind. Lord Auchinleck and dear Lord Hailes were on the side of liberty. Lord Hailes's name reproaches me; but if he saw my languid neglect of my own affairs, he would rather pity than resent my neglect of his. I hope to mend, ut et mihi vivam et amicis. “I am, dear Sir, yours affectionately,
“SAM. Johnson. “ January 24, 1778. “My service to my fellow-traveller, Joseph.”
Johnson maintained a long and intimate friendship with Mr. Welch, who succeeded the celebrated Henry Fielding as one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for Westminster ; kept a regular office for the police of that great district; and discharged his important trust, for many years, faithfully and ably. Johnson, who had an eager and unceasing curiosity to know human life in all its variety, told me that he attended Mr. Welch in his office for a whole winter, to hear the examinations of the culprits; but that he found an almost uniform tenor of misfortune, wretchedness, and profligacy. Mr. Welch's health being impaired, he was advised to try the effect of a warm climate ; and Johnson, by his interest with Mr. Chamier,
procured him leave of absence to go to Italy, and a promise that the pension or salary of two hundred pounds a year, which Government allowed him, should not be discontinued. Mr. Welch accordingly went abroad, accompanied by his daughter Anne, a young lady of uncommon talents and literature.
" TO SAUNDERS WELCH, ESQ., AT THE ENGLISH COFFEE-HOUSE, ROME. “Dear Sir,
“To have suffered one of my best and dearest friends to pass almost two years in foreign countries without a letter, has a very shameful appearance of inattention. But the truth is that there was no particular time in which I had anything particular to say; and general expressions of goodwill, I hope, our long friendship is grown too solid to want.
“Of public affairs you have information from the newspapers wherever you go, for the English keep no secret ; and of other things, Mrs. Nollekens informs you. My intelligence could therefore be of no use; and Miss Nancy's letters made it unnecessary to write to you for information : I was likewise for some time out of humour, to find that motion, and nearer approaches to the sun, did not restore your health so fast as I expected. Of your health, the accounts have lately been more pleasing; and I have the gratification of imagining to myself a length of years which I hope you have gained, and of which the enjoyment will be improved by a vast accession of images and observations which your journeys and various residence have enabled you to make and accumulate. You have travelled with this felicity, almost peculiar to yourself, that your companion is not to part from you at your journey's end ; but you are to live on together, to help each other's recollection, and to supply each other's omissions. The world has few greater pleasures than that which two friends enjoy, in tracing back, at some distant time, those transactions and events through which they have passed together. One of the old man's miseries is that he cannot easily find a companion able to partake with him of the past. You and your fellow-traveller have this comfort in store, that your conversation will be not easily exhausted ; one will always be glad to say what the other will always be willing to hear.
“ That you may enjoy this pleasure long, your health must have your constant attention. I suppose you propose to return this year. There is no need of haste : do not come hither before the height of summer, that you may fall gradually into the inconveniences of your native clime. July seems to be the proper month. August and September will prepare you for the winter. After having travelled so far to find health, you must take care not to lose it at home; and I hope a little care will effectually preserve it.
“ Miss Nancy has doubtless kept a constant and copious journal. She must not expect to be welcome when she returns, without a great mass of information. Let her review her journal often, and set down what she finds herself to have omitted, that she may trust to memory as little as possible, for memory is soon confused by a quick succession of things ; and she will grow every day less confident of the truth of her own narratives, unless she can recur to some written memorials. If she has satisfied herself with hints, instead of full representations, let her supply the deficiencies now while her memory is yet fresh, and while her father's memory may help her. If she observes this direction, she will not have travelled in vain : for she will bring home a book with which she may entertain herself to the end of life. If it were not now too late, I would advise her to note the impression which the first
sight of anything new and wonderful made upon her mind. Let her now set her thoughts down as she can recollect them; for, faint as they may already be, they will grow every day fainter.
"Perhaps I do not flatter myself unreasonably when I imagine that you may wish to know something of me. I can gratify your benevolence with no account of health. The hand of time or of disease is very heavy upon me. I pass restless and uneasy nights, harassed with convulsions of my breast, and flatulences at my stomach ; and restless nights make heavy days. But nothing will be mended by complaints, and therefore I will make an end. When we meet, we will try to forget our cares and our maladies, and contribute, as we can, to the cheerfulness of each other. If I had gone with you, I believe I should have been better ; but I do not know that it was in my power.
“I am, dear Sir,
“SAM. JOHNSON. Feb. 3, 1778."
This letter, while it gives admirable advice how to travel to the best advantage, and will therefore be of very general use, is another eminent proof of Johnson's warm and affectionate heart.*
TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON
Edinburgh, Feb. 26, 1778. “MY DEAR SIR, –
“Why I have delayed, for near a month, to thank you for your last affectionate letter, I cannot say; for my mind has been in better health these three weeks than for some years past. I believe I have evaded till I could send you a copy of Lord Hailes's opinion on the negro's cause, which he wishes you to read, and correct any errors that there may be in the language ; for (says he), we live in a critical, though not a learned age; and I seek to screen myself under the shield of Ajax. I communicated to him your apology for keeping the sheets of his ‘Annals so long. He says, 'I am sorry to see that Dr. Johnson is in a state of languor. Why should a sober Christian, neither an enthusiast nor a fanatic, be very merry or very sad ?' I envy his Lordship's comfortable constitution ; but well do I know that languor and dejection will afflict the best, however excellent their principles. I am in possession of Lord Hailes's opinion in his own handwriting, and have had it for some time. My excuse then for procrastination must be, that I wanted to have it copied ; and I have now put that off so long, that it will be better to bring it with me than send it, as I shall probably get you to look at it sooner, when I solicit you in person.
“My wife, who is, thank God, a good deal better, is much obliged to you for your very polite and courteous offer of your apartment: but, if she goes to London, it will be best for her to have lodgings in the more airy vicinity of Hyde Park. I, however, doubt much if I shall be able to prevail with her to accompany me to the metropolis ; for she is so different from you and me that she dislikes travelling; and she is so anxious about her children, that she thinks she should be unhappy if at a
* The friendship between Mr. Welch and him was unbroken. Mr. Welch died not many months before him, and bequeathed him five guineas for a ring, which Johnson received with tenderness, as a kind memorial. His regard was constant for his friend Mr. Welch's daughters ; of whom, Jane is married to Mr. Nollekens the statuary, whose merit is too well known to require any praise from me.