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power or composure to say much more.
and bless us all. I am, dear Miss, your affectionate
God bless you,
LETTER 68. TO MISS LUCY PORTER. (1)
"Jan. 25. 1759. (2)
[The beginning of the writing torn and lost.]
"You will forgive me if I am not yet so composed as to give any directions about any thing. But you are wiser and better than I, and I shall be pleased with all that you shall do. It is not of any use for me now to come down (3); nor can I bear the place. you want any directions, Mr. Howard (4) will advise The twenty pounds I could not get a bill for tonight, but will send it on Saturday. I am, my dear, your affectionate servant,
LETTER 69. TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.
"Feb. 6. 1759.
"DEAR MISS,-I have no reason to forbear writing, but that it makes my heart heavy, and I had nothing
(1) No. 41. of the Idler (Jan. 27.), though it takes the character of a letter to the author, was written by Johnson himself on his mother's death, and may be supposed to describe as truly as pathetically his sentiments on the separation of friends and relations. HAWKINS.
(2) [This and the two following letters are from the Pearson MSS., first communicated to Mr. Croker.]
(3) Mr. Murphy states: "With this supply (the price of Rasselas) Johnson set out for Lichfield; but did not arrive in time to close the eyes of a parent whom he loved. He attended the funeral." It is clear, from all these letters, that he did not attend on that occasion. Rasselas was not written, nor of course, it may be presumed, sold, till two months later.. C. (4) Mr. Howard was in the law, and resided in the Close. HARWOOD.
particular to say which might not be delayed to the next post; but had no thoughts of ceasing to correspond with my dear Lucy, the only person now left in the world with whom I think myself connected. There needed not my dear mother's desire, for every heart must lean to somebody, and I have nobody but you; in whom I put all my little affairs with too much confidence to desire you to keep receipts, as you prudently proposed.
"If you and Kitty will keep the house, I think I shall like it best. Kitty may carry on the trade for herself, keeping her own stock apart, and laying aside any money that she receives for any of the goods which her good mistress has left behind her. I do not see, if this scheme be followed, any need of appraising the books. My mother's debts, dear mother, I suppose I may pay with little difficulty; and the little trade may go silently forward. I fancy Kitty can do nothing better and I shall not want to put her out of a house, where she has lived so long, and with so much virtue. I am very sorry that she is ill, and earnestly hope that she will soon recover; let her know that I have the highest value for her, and would do any thing for her advantage. Let her think of this proposal. I do not see any likelier method by which she may pass the remaining part of her life in quietness and competence.
"You must have what part of the house you please, while you are inclined to stay in it; but I flatter myself with the hope that you and I shall some time pass our days together. I am very solitary and comfortless, but will not invite you to come hither till I can have hope of making you live here so as not to dislike your situation.
Pray, my dearest, write to me as often as you can. I am, dear madam, your affectionate humble servant, "SAM. JOHNSON.
LETTER 70. TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.
"March 1. 1759.
"DEAR MADAM,-I thought your last letter long in coming; and did not require or expect such an inventory of little things as you have sent me. I could have taken your word for a matter of much greater value. I am glad that Kitty is better; let her be paid first, as my dear, dear mother ordered, and then let me know at once the sum necessary to discharge her other debts, and I will find it you very soon.
"I beg, my dear, that you would act for me without the least scruple; for I can repose myself very confidently upon your prudence, and hope we shall never have reason to love each other less. I shall take it very kindly if you make it a rule to write to me once at least every week; for I am now very desolate, and am loth to be universally forgotten. I am, dear sweet, your affectionate servant,
Soon after this event, he wrote his "RASSELas, PRINCE OF ABYSSINIA (');" concerning the publication of which Sir John Hawkins guesses vaguely
(1) Rasselas was published in April 1759. [Does not Johnson express his own feelings, when he so beautifully describes the dejection of the Princess at the loss of Pekuah?. "She sunk into silent pensiveness and gloomy tranquillity. She sat from morning to evening, recollecting all that had been done or said by her Pekuah, treasured up, with care, every trifle on which Pekuah had set an accidental value, and which might recall to mind any little incident or careless conversation. The sentiments of her, whom she now expected to see no more, were treasured in her memory as rules of life, and she deliberated to no other end, than to conjecture, on any occasion, what would have been the opinion and counsel of Pekuah." Chap. 35. Again, in chap. 45. Johnson pathetically remarks, in the character of the sage, "I have neither mother to be delighted with the reputation of her son, nor wife to partake the honours of her husband.". MARKLAND.]
and idly, instead of having taken the trouble to inform himself with authentic precision. Not to trouble my readers with a repetition of the knight's reveries, I have to mention, that the late Mr. Strahan the printer told me, that Johnson wrote it, that with the profits he might defray the expense of his mother's funeral, and pay some little debts which she had left. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that he composed it in the evenings of one week; sent it to the press in portions as it was written, and had never since read it over. (1) Mr. Strahan, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley, purchased it for a hundred pounds; but afterwards paid him twenty-five pounds more, when it came to a second edition.
Considering the large sums which have been received for compilations, and works requiring not much more genius than compilations, we cannot but wonder at the very low price which he was content to receive for this admirable performance; which, though he had written nothing else, would have rendered his name immortal in the world of literature. None of his writings has been so extensively diffused over Europe; for it has been translated into most, if not all, of the modern languages. This Tale, with all the charms of Oriental imagery, and all the force and beauty of which the English language is capable, leads us through the most important scenes of human life, and shows us that this stage of our
(1) See under June 2. 1781. Finding it then accidentally in a chaise with Mr. Boswell, he read it eagerly. This was, doubtless long after his declaration to Sir Joshua Reynolds. M.
being is full of "vanity and vexation of spirit." To those who look no further than the present life, or who maintain that human nature has not fallen from the state in which it was created, the instruction of this sublime story will be of no avail. But they who think justly, and feel with strong sensibility, will listen with eagerness and admiration to its truth and wisdom. Voltaire's CANDIDE, written to refute the system of Optimism, which it has accomplished with brilliant success, is wonderfully similar in its plan and conduct to Johnson's RASSELAS; insomuch, that I have heard Johnson say, that if they had not been published so closely one after the other that there was not time for imitation, it would have been in vain to deny that the scheme of that which came latest was taken from the other. Though the proposition illustrated by both these works was the same, namely, that in our present state there is more evil than good, the intention of the writers was very different. Voltaire, I am afraid, meant only by wanton profaneness to obtain a sportive victory over religion, and to discredit the belief of a superintending Providence: Johnson meant, by showing the unsatisfactory nature of things temporal, to direct the hopes of man to things eternal. "Rasselas," as was observed to me by a very accomplished lady, may be considered as a more enlarged and more deeply philosophical discourse in prose, upon the interesting truth, which in his "Vanity of Human Wishes" he had so successfully enforced in verse.
The fund of thinking which this work contains is such, that almost every sentence of it may furnish a