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TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. Ætat. 74.
“ Your anxiety about my health is very friendly, and very agreeable with your general kindness. I have, indeed, had a very frightful blow. On the 17th of last month, about three in the morning, as near as I can guess, I perceived myself almost totally deprived of speech. I had no pain. My organs were so obstructed that I could say no, but could scarcely say yes. I wrote the necessary directions, for it pleased God to spare my hand, and sent for Dr. Heberden and Dr. Brocklesby. Between the time in which I discovered my own disorder, and that in which I sent for the doctors, I had, I believe, in spite of my surprize and solicitude, a little sleep, and Nature began to renew its operations. They came and gave the directions which the disease required, and from that time I have been continually improving in articulation. I can now speak, but the nerves are weak, and I cannot continue discourse long; but strength, I hope, will return. The physicians consider me as cured. I was last Sunday at church. On Tuesday I took an airing to Hampstead, and dined with THE CLUB, where Lord Palmerston was proposed, and, against my opinion, was rejected. I designed to go next week with Mr. Langton to Rochester, where I purpose to stay about ten days, and then try some other air. I have many kind invitations. Your brother has very frequently enquired after me. Most of my friends have, in
· His Lordship was soon after chosen, and is now a member of THE CLUB.
deed, been very attentive. Thank dear Lord Hailės 1783. . for his present.
Ætat. 74. “ I hope you found at your return every thing gay and prosperous, and your lady, in particular, quite recovered and confirmed. Pay her my respects. I am, dear Sir,
“ Your most humble servant, “ London, July 3, 1783.
" SAM. JOHNSON."
TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD.
“ The account which you give of is but melancholy. May it please God to restore you. My disease affected my speech, and still continues, in some degree, to obstruct my utterance; my voice is distinct enough for a while ; but the organs being still weak are quickly weary: but in other respects I am, I think, rather better than I have lately been ; and can let you know my state without the help of any other hand.
“ In the opinion of my friends, and in my own, I am gradually mending. The physicians consider me as cured, and I had leave four days ago, to wash the cantharides from my head. Last Tuesday I dined at THE CLUB.
“ I am going next week into Kent, and purpose to change the air frequently this summer ; whether I shall wander so far as Staffordshire I cannot tell. I should be glad to come. Return my thanks to Mrs. Cobb, and Mr. Pearson, and all that have shewn attention to me.
“ Let us, my dear, pray for one another, and con
1783. sider our sufferings as notices mercifully given us to Ætat. 74. prepare ourselves for another state.
« I live now but in a melancholy way. My old friend Mr. Levett is dead, who lived with me in the house, and was useful and companionable; Mrs. Desmoulins is gone away; and Mrs. Williams is so much decayed, that she can add little to another's gratifications. The world passes away, and we are passing with it; but there is, doubtless, another world, which will endure for ever. Let us all fit ourselves for it. I am, &c. " London, July 5, 1783.
Such was the general vigour of his constitution, that he recovered from this alarming and severe attack with wonderful quickness; so that in July he was able to make a visit to Mr. Langton at Rochester, where he passed about a fortnight, and made little excursions as easily as at any time of his life. In August he went as far as the neighbourhood of Salisbury, to Heale, the seat of William Bowles, Esq. a gentleman whom I have heard him praise for exemplary religious order in his family. In his diary I find a short but honourable mention of this visit:“ August 28, I came to Heale without fatigue. 30. I am entertained quite to my mind."?
? [In his letter to Mrs. Thrale, written on the 13th of August, we find the following melancholy paragraph:
“I am now broken with disease, without the alleviation of familiar friendship or domestick society : I have no middle state between clamour and silence, between general conversation and felf-tormenting solitude. Levett is dead, and poor Williams is making haste to die : I know not if she will ever more coine out of her chamber."
In a subsequent letter (August 26) he adds, “Mrs. Williams
TO DR. BROCKLESBY.
“ Heale, near Salisbury, Aug. 29, 1783. Ætat. 74. “ WITHOUT appearing to want a just sense of your kind attention, I cannot omit to give an account of the day which seemed to appear in some sort perilous. I rose at five, and went out at six; and having reached Salisbury about nine, went forward a few miles in my friend's chariot. I was no more wearied with the journey, though it was a highhung, rough coach, than I should have been forty years ago.
We shall now see what air will do. The country is all a plain ; and the house in which I am, so far as I can judge from my window, for I write be- ; fore I have left my chamber, is sufficiently pleasant.
65 Be so kind as to continue your attention to Mrs. Williains; it is great consolation to the well, and still greater to the sick, that they find themselves not neglected; and I know that you will be
fancies now and then that she grows better, but her 'vital powers appear to be slowly burning out. Nobody thinks, however, that she will very soon be quite wasted, and as she suffers me to be of very little use to her, I have determined to pass some time with Mr. Bowles near Salisbury, and have taken a place for Thursday.
“ Some benefit may be perhaps received from change of air, some from change of company, and some from mere change of place. It is not easy to grow well in a chamber where one has long been sick, and where every thing seen, and every person speaking, revives and impresses images of pain. Though it be true, that no man can run away from himself, yet he may escape from many causes of useless uneasiness. That the mind is its own place, is the boast of a fallen angel that had learned to lie. External locality has great effects, at least upon all embodied beings. I hope this little journey will afford me at least some suspense of
ho melancholy.” M.]
1783. desirous of giving comfort, even where you Ætat. 74. great hope of giving help.
“ Since I wrote the former part of the letter, I find that by the course of the post I cannot send it before the thirty-first. I am, &c.
" SAM. JOHNSON."
While he was here, he had a letter from Dr. Brocklesby, acquainting him of the death of Mrs. Williams, which affected him a good deal. Though for several years her temper had not been complacent, she had valuable qualities, and her departure left a blank in his house. Upon this occasion he, according to his habitual course of piety, composed à prayer.
I shall here insert a few particulars concerning him, with which I have been favoured by one of his friends.
writes : «
* [In his letter to Miss Susanna Thrale, Sept. 9, 1783, he thus
Pray shew Mamma this passage of a letter from Dr. Brocklesby. 'Mrs. Williams, from mere inanition, has at length paid the great debt to nature about three o'clock this morning (Sept. 6.) She died without a struggle, retaining her faculties to the very last, and, as she expressed it, having set her house in order, was prepared to leave it, at the last summons of nature.”
In his letter to Mrs. Thrale, Sept, 22, he adds, “ Poor Williams bas, I hope, seen the end of her afflictions. She acted with prudence and she bore with fortitude. She has left me.
“ Thou thy weary task has done,
Had she had good humour and prompt elocution, her universal curiosity and comprehensive knowledge would have made her the delight of all that knew her. She has left her little to your charity-school.” M.]
• Prayers and Meditations, p. 226.