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In consequence of Johnson's request that I should 1784. ask our physicians about his case, and desire Sir
Ætat 75. Alexander Dick to send his opinion, I transmitted him a letter from that very amiable Baronet, then in his eighty-first year, with his faculties as entire as ever: and mentioned his expressions to me in the note accompanying it,-“With my most affectionate wishes for Dr. Johnson's recovery, in which his friends, his country, and all mankind have so deep a stake ;” and at the same time a full opinion upon his case by Dr. Gillespie, who, like Dr. Cullen, had the advantage of having passed through the gradations of surgery and pharmacy, and by study and practice had attained to such skill, that my father settled on him two hundred pounds a year for five years, and fifty pounds a year during his life, as an honorarium to secure his particular attendance. The opinion was conveyed in a letter to me, beginning, “ I am sincerely sorry for the bad state of health your very learned and illustrious friend, Dr. Johnson, labours under at present.”
56 DEAR SIR,
« PRESENTLY after I had sent away my last letter, I received your kind medical packet. I am very much obliged both to you and to your physicians for your kind attention to my disease.
Dr. Gillespie has sent me an excellent consilium medicum, all solid practical experimental knowledge. I am at present in the opinion of my physicians, (Dr. Heberden and Dr. Brocklesby,) as well as my own, going on very
1784. hopefully. I have just begun to take vinegar of
squills. The powder hurt my stomach so much, Atat. 75.
that it could not be continued.
sincere thanks for his kind letter ; and bring with
the rhubarb which he so tenderly offers me.
“ I hope dear Mrs. Boswell is now quite well, and that no evil, either real or imaginary, now disturbs you.
" I am, &c. London, March 2, 1786.
« SAM. JOHNSON."
I also applied to three of the eminent physicians who had chairs in our celebrated school of medicine at Edinburgh, Doctors Cullen, Hope, and Munro, to each of whom I sent the following letter :
“ Dr. Johnson has been very ill for some time; and in a letter of anxious apprehension he writes to me,
( Ask your physicians about my case.' “ This, you see, is not authority for a regular consultation : but I have no doubt of your readiness to give your advice to a man so eminent, and who, in his Life of Garth, has paid your profession a just and elegant compliment: “ I believe every man has found in physicians great liberality and dignity of sentiment, very prompt effusions of beneficence, and willingness to exert a lucrative art, where there is no hope of lucre.”
| From his garden at Prestonfield, where he cultivated that plant with such success, that he was presented with a gold medal by the Society of London for the Encouragement of Arts, Manuactures and Commerce.
“ Dr. Johnson is aged seventy-four. Last sum- 1784. mer he had a stroke of the palsy, from which he
Etat. 75. recovered almost entirely. He had, before that, been troubled with a catarrhous cough. This winter he was seized with a spasmodick asthma, by which he has been confined to his house for about three months. Dr. Brocklesby writes to me, that upon the least admission of cold, there is such a constriction upon his breast, that he cannot lie down in his bed, but is obliged to sit up all night, and gets rest and sometimes sleep, only by means of laudanum and syrup of poppies; and that there are ædematous tumours in his legs and thighs. Dr. Brocklesby trusts a good deal to the return of mild weather. Dr. Johnson says, that a dropsy gains ground upon him ; and he seems to think that a warmer climate would do him good. I understand he is now rather better, and is using vinegar of squills. I am, with great esteem, dear Sir,
“ Your most obedient humble servant, “ March 7, 1787.
All of them paid the most polite attention to my letter, and its venerable object. Dr. Cullen's words concerning him were, “ It would give me the greatest pleasure to be of any service to a man whoin the publick properly esteem, and whom I esteem and respect as much as I do Dr. Johnson." Dr. Hope's, “ Few people have a better claim on me than your friend, as hardly a day passes that I do not ask his opinion about this or that word.” Dr. Munro's, “ I most sincerely join you in sympathising with that very worthy and ingenious character, from whom
1784. his country has derived much instruction and entera
tainment.” Ætat. 75.
Dr. Hope corresponded with his friend Dr. Blocklesby. Doctors Cullen and Munro wrote their opinions and prescriptions to me, which I afterwards carried with me to London, and, so far as they were encouraging, communicated to Johnson. The liberality on one hand, and grateful sense of it on the other, I have great satisfaction in recording.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esá.
“I am too much pleased with the attention which
dear lady? show to my welfare, not to be diligent in letting you know the progress which I make towards health. The dropsy, by God's blessing, has now run almost totally away by natural evacuation : and the asthma, if not irritated by cold, gives me little trouble. While I am writing this, I have not any sensation of debility or disease. But I do not yet venture out, having been confined to the house from the thirteenth of December, now a quarter of a year.
“ When it will be fit for me to travel as far as Auchinleck, I am not able to guess ; but such a letter as Mrs. Boswell's might draw any man, not wholly motionless, a great way. Pray tell the dear lady how much her civility and kindness have touched and gratified me.
“ Our parliamentary tumults have now begun to subside, and the King's authority is in some measure
? Who had wri:ten him a very kind letter.
re-established. Mr. Pitt will have great power ; but 1784.
A new minister can sacrifice little to esteem or friendship; he must, till he is settled, think only of extending his interest.
“ If you come hither through Edinburgh, send for Mrs. Stewart, and give from me another guinea for the letter in the old case, to which I shall not be satisfied with my claim, till she gives it me.
“ Please to bring with you Baxter's Anacreon ; and if you procure heads of Hector Boece, the historian, and Arthur Johnston, the poet, I will put them in my room; or any other of the fathers of Scottish literature.
“I wish you an easy and happy journey, and hope I need not tell you that you will be welcome to, dear Sir,
Your most affectionate humble servant, " London, March 18, 1781.
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
I wrote to him, March 28, from York, informing him that I had a high gratification in the triumph of monarchical principles over aristocratical influence, in that great county, in an address to the King ; that I was thus far on my way to him, but that news of the dissolution of Parliament having arrived, I was to hasten back to my own county, where I had carried an Address to his Majesty by a great majority, and had some intention of being a candidate to represent the county in Parliament,