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long is it that I have lived almost in your neighbourhood without the least notice.—I do not, however, consider this neglect as particularly shown to me; I hear two of your most valuable friends make the same complaint. But why are all thus overlooked? You are not oppressed by sickness; you are not distracted by business ; if you are sick, you are sick of leisure :-And allow yourself to be told, that no disease is more to be dreaded or avoided. Rather to do nothing than to do good, is the lowest state of a degraded mind. Boileau says to his pupil,
*Que les vers ne soient pas votre éternel emploi,
Cultivez vos amis.'That voluntary debility, which modern language is content to term indolence, will, if it is not counteracted by resolution, render in time the strongest faculties lifeless, and turn the flame to the smoke of virtue.--I do not expect nor desire to see you, because I am much pleased to find that your mother stays so long with you, and I should think you neither elegant nor grateful, if you did not study her gratification.—You will pay my respects to both the ladies, and to all the young people.—I am going northward for a while, to try what help the country can give me; but if you will write, the letter will come after me.”
Next day he set out on a jaunt to Staffordshire and Derbyshire, flattering himself that he might be in some degree relieved.
During his absence from London he kept up a correspondence with several of his friends, from which I shall select what appears to me proper for publication, without attending nicely to chronological order. To Dr. Brocklesby he writes :
“ Ashbourne, July 20. “ The kind attention which you have so long shown to my health and happiness makes it as much a debt of gratitude as a call of interest, to give you an account of what befalls me, when accident recovers' me from your immediate care.—The journey of the first day was performed with very little sense of fatigue; the second day brought me to Lichfield, without much lassitude; but I am afraid that I could not have bore such violent agitation for many days together. Tell Dr. Heberden, that in the coach I read Ciceronianus,' which I concluded as I entered Lichfield. My affection and understanding went along with Erasmus, except that once or twice he somewhat unskilfully entangles Cicero's civil or moral, with his rhetorical character. I stayed five days at Lichfield, but, being unable to walk, had no great pleasure, and yesterday (19th) I came hither, where I am to try what air and attention can perform.—Of any improvement in my health I cannot yet please myself with the perception. -The asthma has no abatement, Opiates stop the fit, so as that I can sit and sometimes lie easy, but they do not now procure me the power of motion ; and I am afraid that my general strength of body does not increase. The weather indeed is not benign; but how low is he sunk whose strength depends upon the weather !-I am now looking into Floyer, who lived with his asthma to almost his ninetieth year. His book by want of order is obscure; and his asthma, I think, not of the same kind with mine. Something however I may perhaps
* This is probably an error either of the transcript or the press. Removes seems to 've the word intended.-MALONE.
learn. --My appetite still continues keen enough; and, what I consider as a symptom of radical health, I have a voracious delight in raw summer fruit, of which I was less eager a few years ago. You will be pleased to communicate this account to Dr. Heberden, and if anything is to be done, let me have your joint opinion.Now-abite, cure! let me inquire after the Club."'1
“ July 31. Not recollecting that Dr. Heberden might be at Windsor, I thought your letter long in coming. But, you know, nocitura petuntur, the letter which I so much desired tells me that I have lost one of my best and tenderest friends.2 My comfort is, that he appeared to live like a man that had always before his eyes the fragility of our present existence, and was therefore, I hope, not anprepared to meet his Judge. —Your attention, dear Sir, and that of Dr. Heberden, to my health, is extremely kind. I am loth to think that I grow worse; and cannot fairly prove, even to my own partiality, that I grow much better."
" August 5. I return you thanks, dear Sir, for your unwearied attention, both medicinal and friendly, and hope to prove the effect of your care by living to acknowledge it.”
“ August 12. Pray be so kind as to have me in your thoughts, and mention my case to others as you have opportunity. I seem to myself neither to gain nor lose strength. I have lately tried milk, but have yet found no advantage, and I am afraid of it merely as a liquid. My appetite is still good, which I know is dear Dr. Heberden's criterion of the vis vitæ.--As we cannot now see each other, do not omit to write; for you cannot think with what warmth of expectation I reckon the hours of a post-day."
“August 14. I have hitherto sent you only melancholy letters ; you will be glad to hear some better account. Yesterday the asthma remitted, perceptibly remitted, and I moved with more ease than I have enjoyed for many weeks. May GOD continue his mercy. This account I would not delay, because I am not a lover of complaints, or complainers, and yet I have, since we parted, uttered nothing till now but terror and sorrow.
Write to me, dear Sir,"
“August 16. Better, I hope, and better. My respiration gets more and more ease and liberty. I went to church yesterday, after a very liberal dinner, without any inconvenience; it is indeed no long walk, but I never walked it without difficulty, since I came, before.
* The intention was only to overpower the seeming vis inertia of the pectoral and pulmonary muscles. I am favoured with a degree of ease that very much delights me, and do not despair of another race upon the stairs of the Acaderny.-If I were, however, of a humour to see, or to show the state of my body, on the dark side, I might say,
• Quid te exempta juvat spinis de pluribus una ?" s The nights are still sleepless, and the water rises, though it does not rise very fast. Let us, however, rejoice in all the good that we have. The remission of one disease will enable nature to combat the rest. The squills I have not neglected; for I have taken more than a hundred drops a day, and one day took
At the Essex Head, Essex-street.-BOSWELL:
two hundred and fifty, which, according to the popular equivalent of a drop to a grain, is more than half an ounce.— I thank you, dear Sir, for your attention in ordering the medicines; your attention to me has never failed. If the virtue of medicines could be enforced by the benevolence of the prescriber, how soon should I be well!”
August 19. The relaxation of the asthma still continues, yet I do not trust it wholly
to itself, but soothe it now and then with an opiate. I not only perform the perpetual act of respiration with less labour, but I can walk with fewer intervals of rest and with greater freedom of motion. I never thought well of Dr. James's compounded medicines ; his ingredients appear to me sometimes inefficacious and trifling, and sometimes heterogeneous and destructive of each other. This • prescription exhibits a composition of about three hundred and thirty grains, in which there are four grains of emetic tartar, and six drops [of] thebaic tincture. He that writes thus, surely writes for show. The basis of his medicine is the gum ammoniacum, which dear Dr. Lawrence used to give, but of which I never saw any effect. We will, if you please, let this medicine alone. The squills have every suffrage, and in the squills, we will rest for the present.”
August 21. The kindness which you show, by having me in your thoughts upon all occasions, will, I hope, always fill my heart with gratitude. Be pleased to return my thanks to Sir George Baker, for the consideration which he has bestowed upon me. - Is this the balloon that has been so long expected, this balloon to which I subscribed, but without payment? It is pity that philosophers have been disappointed, and shame that they have been cheated; but I know not well how to prevent either. Of this experiment I have read nothing. Where was it exhibited ? and who was the man that ran away with so much money? Continue, dear Sir, to write often and more at a time, for none of your prescriptions operate to their proper uses more certainly than your letters operate as cordials."
“August 26. I suffered you to escape last post without a letter : but you are not to expect such indulgence very often ; for I write not so much because I have anything to say, as because I hope for an answer; and the vacancy of my life here makes a letter of great value.--I have here little company and little amusement, and thus abandoned to the contemplation of my own miseries, I am something gloomy and depressed ; this too I resist as I can, and find opium, I think, useful; but I seldom take more than one grain.-Is not this strange weather? Winter absorbed the spring, and now autumn is come before we have had summer. But let not our kindness for each other imitate the inconstancy of the seasons."
· Sept. 2. Mr. Windham has been here to see me; he came, I think, forty miles out of his way, and stayed about a day and a half; perhaps I make the time shorter than it was. Such conversation I shall not have again till I come back to the regions of literature; and there Windham is, inter stellasė Lunu minores." He then mentions the effects of certain medicines, as taken ; that “Nature is recovering its original powers, and the functions returning to their proper state. God continue his mercies, and grant me to use them rightly.'
“Sept. 9. Do you know the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire? And have
1 It is remarkable that so good a Latin scholar as Johnson should have been so in. attentive to the metre, as by mistake to have written stellas instead of ignes.-Boswell.
you ever seen Chatsworth? I was at Chatsworth on Monday; I had seen it before, but never when its owners were at home: I was very kindly received, and honestly pressed to stay ; but I told them that a sick man is not a fit inmate of a great house. But I hope to go again some time.”
“Sept: 11. I think nothing grows worse, but all rather better, except sleep, and that of late has been at its old pranks. Last evening I felt, what I had not known for a long time, an inclination to walk for amusement; I took a short walk, and came back again neither breathless nor fatigued. This has been a gloomy, frigid, ungenial summer ; but of late it seems to mend. I hear the heat sometimes mentioned, but I do not feel it :
*Præterea minimus gelido jam in corpore sanguis
Febre calet sola.' 1 I hope, however, with good help, to find means of supporting a winter at home, and to hear and tell at the Club what is doing, and what ought to be doing in the world. I have no company here, and shall naturally come home hungry for conversation. To wish you, dear Sir, more leisure, would not be kind; but what leisure you have, you must bestow upon me.”
“Sept. 16. I have now let you alone for a long time, having indeed little to say. You charge me somewhat unjustly with luxury. At Chatsworth, you should remember that I have eaten but once; and the doctor, with whom I
live, follows a milk diet. I grow no fatter, though my stomach, if it be not disturbed by physic, never fails me. I now grow weary of solitude, and think of removing next week to Lichfield-a place of more society, but otherwise of less convenience. When I am settled, I shall write again. Of the hot weather that you mentioned, we have [not] had in Derbyshire very much, and for myself I seldom feel heat, and suppose that my frigidity is the effect of my distemper ; a supposition which naturally leads me to hope that a hotter climate may be useful. But I hope to stand another English winter.”
“Lichfield, Sept. 29. On one day I had three letters about the air balloon : yours was far the best, and has enabled me to impart to my friends in the country an idea of this species of amusement. In amusement, mere amusement, I am afraid it must end; for I do not find that its course can be directed so as that it should serve any purposes of communication : and it can give no new intelligence of the state of the air at different heights, till they have ascended above the height of mountains, which they seem never likely to do. I came hither on the 27th. How long I shall stay, I have not determined. My dropsy is gone, and my asthma much remitted ; but I have felt myself a little declining these two days, or at ast to-day ; but such vicissitudes must expected. One day may be worse than another; but this last month is far better than the former : if the next should be as much better than this, I shall run about the town on my own legs."
“October 6. The fate of the balloon I do not much lament; to make new balloons, is to repeat the jest again. We now know a method of mounting into the air, and, I think, are not likely to know more. The vehicles can serve no use till we can guide them; and they can gratify no curiosity till we mount with them to greater heights than we can reach without; till we rise above the tops of the highest mountains, which we have yet not done. We know the state of the air in all its regions, to the top of Teneriffe, and therefore, learn nothing from those who navigate a balloon below the clouds. The first experiment, however, was bold, and deserved applause and reward. But since it has been performed, and its event is known, I had rather now find a medicine that can ease an asthma.”
“October 25. You write to me with a zeal that animates, and a tenderness that melts me.
I am not afraid either of a journey to London, or a residence in it. I came down with little fatigue, and am now not weaker. In the smoky atmosphere I was delivered from the dropsy, which I consider as the original and radical disease. The town is my element; - there are my friends, there are my books, to which I have not yet bid farewell, and there are my amusements. Sir Joshua told me long ago, that my vocation was to public life, and I hope still to keep my station, till GoD shall bid me Go in peace.”
· His love of London continually appears. In a letter from him to Mrs. Smart, wife of his friend the poet, which is published in a well written life of him, prefixed to an edition of his Poems, in 1791, there is the following sentence:-“To one that has passed 80 many years in the pleasures and opulence of London, there are few places that can give much delight." Once, upon reading that line in the curious epitaph quoted in “The Spectator,"
“ Born in New England, did in London die," he laughed, and said, “I do not wonder at this. It would have been strange, if born in London, he had died in New England."—BOSWELL.