페이지 이미지

"If he may attend you in a few of your operations, I hope he will show that the benefit has been properly conferred, both by his proficiency and his gratitude. At least I shall consider you as enlarging your kindness to, Sir,

66 'Your humble servant,

"TO THE REV. DR. TAYLOR, ASHBOURNE, DERBYSHIRE. "DEAR SIR, London, Easter-Monday, April 12, 1784. "What can be the reason that I hear nothing from you? I hope nothing disables you from writing. What I have seen, and what I have felt, gives me reason to fear everything. Do not omit giving me the comfort of knowing, that after all my losses I have yet a friend left.


'I want every comfort. My life is very solitary and very cheerless. Though it has pleased GOD wonderfully to deliver me from the dropsy, I am yet very weak, and. have not passed the door since the 13th of December. I hope for some help from warm weather, which will surely come in time.

"I could not have the consent of the physicians to go to church yesterday : I therefore received the holy sacrament at home, in the room where I communicated with dear Mrs. Williams, a little before her death. O my friend, the approach of death is very dreadful. I am afraid to think on that which I know I cannot avoid. It is vain to look round and round for that help which cannot be had. Yet we hope and hope, and fancy that he who has lived to-day may live to-morrow. But let us learn to derive our hope only from GOD.

"In the mean time, let us be kind to one another. I have no friend now iving but you and Mr. Hector, that was the friend of my youth. Do not neglect, dear Sir, yours affectionately,




London, April 26, 1784.

"I write to you now, to tell you that I am so far recovered, that on the 21st I went to church, to return thanks, after a confinement of more than four long months.

"My recovery is such as neither myself nor the physicians at all expected, and is such as that very few examples have been known of the like. Join with me, my dear love, in returning thanks to GOD.

"Dr. Vyse has been with [me] this evening: he tells me that you likewise have been much disordered, but that you are now better. I hope that we shall some time have a cheerful interview. In the mean time let us pray for one another.

"I am, Madam, your humble servant.


What follows is a beautiful specimen of his gentleness and com placency to a young lady his godchild, one of the daughters of his

This friend of Johnson's youth survived him somewhat more than three years, having died Feb. 19, 1788.-MALONE.

friend Mr. Langton, then I think in her seventh year. He took the trouble to write it in a large round hand, nearly resembling printed characters, that she might have the satisfaction of reading it herself. The original lies before me, but shall be faithfully restored to her; and I dare say will be preserved by her as a jewel, as long as she lives.



May 10, 1784. "I am sorry that your pretty letter has been so long without being answered; but, when I am not pretty well, I do not always write plain enough for young ladies. I am glad, my dear, to see that you write so well, and hope that you mind your pen, your book, and your needle; for they are all necessary. Your books will give you knowledge, and make you respected; and your needle will find you useful employment when you do not care to read. When you are a little older, I hope you will be very diligent in learning arithmetic; and, above all, that through your whole life you will carefully say your prayers, and read your Bible.

"I am, my dear, your most humble servant,


On Wednesday, May 5, I arrived in London, and next morning had the pleasure to find Dr. Johnson greatly recovered. I but just saw him; for a coach was waiting to carry him to Islington, to the house of his friend the Rev. Mr. Strahan, where he went sometimes for the benefit of good air, which, notwithstanding his having formerly laughed at the general opinion upon the subject, he now acknowledged was conducive to health.

One morning afterwards, when I found him alone, he communicated to me with solemn earnestness, a very remarkable circumstance which had happened in the course of his illness, when he was much distressed by the dropsy. He had shut himself up, and employed a day in particular exercises of religion,-fasting, humiliation, and prayer. On a sudden he obtained extraordinary relief, for which he looked up to Heaven with grateful devotion. He made no direct inference from this fact; but from his manner of telling it, I could perceive that it appeared to him as something more that an incident in the common course of events. For my own part, I have no difficulty to avow that cast of thinking, which by many modern pretenders to wisdom is called superstitious. But here I think even men of dry rationality may believe, that there was an intermediate interposition of Divine Providence, and that "the fervent prayer of this righteous man "1 availed.

Upon this subject there is a very fair and judicious remark in the Life of Dr. Abernethy, in the first edition of "The Biographia Britannica," which I should have been glad to see in his Life, which has been written for the second edition of that valuable work. "To deny the exercise of a particular Providence in the Deity's government of the

On Sunday, May 9, I found Colonel Vallancy, the celebrated antiquary and engineer of Ireland, with him. On Monday, the 10th, I dined with him at Mr. Paradise's, where was a large company; Mr. Bryant, Mr. Joddrel, Mr. Hawkins Browne, &c. On Thursday, the 13th, I dined with him at Mr. Joddrel's, with another large company; the Bishop of Exeter, Lord Monboddo,1 Mr. Murphy, &c.


On Saturday, May 15, I dined with him at Dr. Brocklesby's, where were Colonel Vallancy, Mr. Murphy, and that ever-cheerful companion, Mr. Devaynes, apothecary to his Majesty. Of these days, and others on which I saw him, I have no memorials, except the general recollection of his being able and animated in conversation, and appearing to relish society as much as the youngest man. I find only these three small particulars :-When a person was mentioned, who said, "I have lived fifty-one years in this world, without having had ten minutes of uneasiness," he exclaimed, "The man who says so, lies: he attempts to impose on human credulity." The Bishop of Exeter in vain observed, that men were very different. His Lordship's manner was not impressive; and I learnt afterwards, that Johnson did not find out that the person who talked to him was a prelate; if he had, I doubt not that he would have treated him with more respect; for once talking of George Psalmanazar, whom he reverenced for his piety, he said, "I should as soon think of contradicting a BISHOP." One of the company provoked him


world, is certainly impious, yet nothing serves the cause of the scorner more than incautious forward zeal in determining the particular instances of it."

In confirmation of my sentiments, I am also happy to quote that sensible and elegant writer, Mr. Melmoth, in Letter VIII. of his collection, published under the name of Fitzosvorne. "We may safely assert, that the belief of a particular Providence is founded upon such probable reasons as may well justify our assent. It would scarce, therefore, be wise to renounce an opinion which affords so firm a support to the soul, in those seasons wherein she stands in most need of assistance, merely because it is not possible, in questions of this kind, to solve every difficulty which attends them."-Boswell.

I was sorry to observe Lord Monboddo avoid any communication with Dr. Johnson. I flattered myself that I had made them very good friends (see "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," third edition, p. 67), but unhappily his lordship had resumed and cherished a violent prejudice against my illustrious friend, to whom I must do the justice to say, there was on his part not the least anger, but a good-humoured sportiveness. Nay, though he knew of his Lordship's indisposition towards him, he was even kindly; as appeared from his inquiring of me after him, by an abbreviation of his name, "Well, how does Monny?"" -BOSWELL.

* Dr. John Ross.-MALONE.

greatly by doing what he could least of all bear, which was quoting something of his own writing, against what he then maintained. "What, Sir," cried the gentleman, "do you say to

The busy day, the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by?'”1


Johnson finding himself thus presented as giving an instance of a man who had lived without uneasiness, was much offended; for he looked upon such a quotation as unfair. His anger burst out in an unjustifiable retort, insinuating that the gentleman's remark was a sally of ebriety; 'Sir, there is one passion I would advise you to command; when you have drunk out that glass, don't drink another.' Here was exemplified what Goldsmith said of him, with the aid of a very witty image from one of Cibber's comedies: "There is no arguing with Johnson for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt-end of it."


Another was this: when a gentleman of eminence in the literary world was violently censured for attacking people by anonymous paragraphs in newspapers, he, from the spirit of contradiction as I thought, took up his defence, and said, "Come, come, this is not so terrible a crime; he means only to vex them a little. I do not say that I should do it; but there is a great difference between him and me; what is fit for Hephæstion is not fit for Alexander."-Another, when I told him that a young and handsome countess had said to me, "I should think that to be praised by Dr. Johnson would make one a fool all one's life;" and that I answered, “Madam, I shall make him a fool to-day, by repeating this to him ;" he said, "I am too old to be made a fool; but if you say I am made a fool, I shall not deny it. I am much pleased with a compliment, especially from a pretty woman.



On the evening of Saturday, May 15, he was in fine spirits at our Essex Head Club. He told us, I dined yesterday at Mrs. Garrick's with Mrs. Carter, Miss Hannah More, and Miss Fanny Burney. Three such women are not to be found: I know not where I could find a fourth, except Mrs. Lennox, who is superior to them all." BOSWELL: "What! had you them all to yourself, Sir?" JOHNSON: "I had them all, as much as they were had; but it might have been better had there been more company there." BOSWELL: "Might not Mrs. Montagu have been a fourth?" JOHNSON: Sir, Mrs. Montagu does not make a trade of her wit; but Mrs. Montagu is a very extraordinary wonian; she has a constant stream of conversation, and it is always impregnated; it has always meaning." BOSWELL: "Mr. Burke has a constant stream of conversation." JOHNSON: "Yes, Sir; if a man were to go by chance at the same time with Burke under a shed, to shun a


I Verses on the death of Mr. Levett ; vide p. 102 ante.-BOSWELL.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]



shower, he would say 'This is an extraordinary man.' If Burke should go into a stable to see his horse dressed, the ostler would say'We have had an extraordinary man here.' BOSWELL: "Foote was a man who never failed in conversation. If he had gone into a stable—” JOHNSON: "Sir, if he had gone into the stable, the ostler would have said, here has been a comical fellow; but he would not have respected him.' BOSWELL: 66 'And, Sir, the ostler would have answered him, would have given him as good as he brought, as the common saying is." JOHNSON: 66 Yes, Sir; and Foote would have answered the ostler.When Burke does not descend to be merry, his conversation is very superior indeed. There is no proportion between the powers which he shows in serious talk and in jocularity. When he lets himself down to that, he is in the kennel." I have in another place1 opposed, and I hope with success, Dr. Johnson's very singular and erroneous notion as to Mr. Burke's pleasantry. Mr. Windham now said low to me, that he differed from our great friend in this observation; for that Mr. Burke was often very happy in his merriment. It would not have been right for either of us to have contradicted Johnson at this time, in a society all of whom did not know and value Mr. Burke as much as we did. It might have occasioned something more rough, and at any rate would probably have checked the flow of Johnson's good humour. He called to us with a sudden air of exultation, as the thought started into his mind, "Oh! gentlemen, I must tell you a very great thing. The Empress of Russia has ordered 'The Rambler' to be translated into the Russian language: 2 so I shall be read on the banks of the Wolga Horace boasts that his fame would extend as far as the banks of the Rhone; now the Wolga is farther from me than the Rhone was from Horace." BOSWELL: "You must certainly be pleased with this, Sir." JOHNSON: "I am pleased, Sir, to be sure. A man is pleased to find he has succeeded in that which he has endeavoured to do.'


[ocr errors]

One of the company mentioned his having seen a noble person driving in his carriage, and looking exceedingly well, notwithstanding his great age. JOHNSON: "Ah, Sir, that is nothing. Bacon observes, that a stout healthy old man is like a tower undermined."


On Sunday, May 16, I found him alone; he talked of Mrs. Thrale with much concern, saying, Sir, she has done everything wrong, since Thrale's bridle was off her neck;" and was proceeding to mention some circumstances which have since been the subject of public discussion, when he was interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury.

Dr. Douglas, upon this occasion, refuted a mistaken notion which is

I" Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,' third edition, p. 20.-BOSWELL.

2 I have since heard that the report was not well founded; but the elation discovered by Johnson, in the belief that it was true, showed a noble ardour for literary fame.BOSWELL

« 이전계속 »