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In the end of this year he was seized with a spasmodic asthma of such violence, that he was confined to the house in great pain, being sometimes obliged to sit all night in his chair, a recumbent posture being so hurtful to his respiration, that he could not endure lying in bed; and there came upon him, at the same time, that oppressive and fatal disease, a dropsy. It was a very severe winter, which probably aggravated his complaints; and the solitude in which Mr. Levett and Mrs. Williams had left him, rendered his life very gloomy. Mrs. Desmoulins, who still lived, was herself so very ill, that she could contribute very little to his relief. He, however, had none of that unsocial shyness which we commonly see in people afflicted with sickness. He did not hide his head from the world, in solitary abstraction; he did not deny himself to the visits of his friends and acquaintances; but at all times, when he was not overcome by sleep, was ready for conversation as in his best days.
"TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD.
London, Nov. 29, 1783.
"You may, perhaps, think me negligent that I have not written to you again upon the loss of your brother; but condolences and consolations are such common and such useless things, that the omission of them is no great crime: and my own diseases occupy my mind, and engage my care. My nights are miserably restless, and my days, therefore, are heavy. I try, however, to hold up my head as high as I can.
"I am sorry that your health is impaired; perhaps the spring and the sunimer may, in some degree, restore it; but if not, we must submit to the inconveniences of time, as to the other dispensations of Eternal Goodness. Pray for me, and write to me, or let Mr. Pearson write for you.
"I am, &c.,
recommending him, shall stand in the Club-room three nights. On the fourtn he may be chosen by ballot; six members at least being present, and two-thirds of the ballot being in his favour; or the majority, should the numbers not be divisible by three.
"The master of the house shall give notice, six days before, to cach of those members whose turn of necessary attendance is come.
"The notice may be in these words:- Sir, On, the ——————————— of -, wil be your turn of presiding at the Essex Head. Your company is therefore earnestly re quested.'
"One penny shall be left by eacn member for the waiter."
Johnson's definition of a Club in this sense, in his Dictionary, is "An assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions."-BOSWELL.
THE LAST YEAR OF JOHNSON'S LIFE-" BURTON's Books"-THE ESSEX HEAD-
ND now I am arrived at the last year of the life of SAMUEL JOHNSON; a year in which, although passed in severe indisposition, he nevertheless gave many evidences of the continuance of those wondrous powers of mind, which raised him so high in the intellectual world. His conversation and his letters of this year were in no respect inferior to those of former years.
The following is a remarkable proof of his being alive to the most minute curiosities of literature.
"TO MR. DILLY, BOOKSELLER, IN THE POULTRY.
Jan. 6, 1784.
"There is in the world a set of books which used to be sold by the bocksellers on the bridge, and which I must entreat you to procure me. They are called Burton's Books ;'1 the title of one is 'Admirable Curiosities,' Rarities,' and Wonders in England.' I believe there are about five or six of them; they seem very proper to allure backward readers: be so kind as to get them for me, and send me them with the best printed edition of 'Baxter's Call to the Unconverted.'
"TO MR. PERKINS.
Jan. 21, 1784.
"I was very sorry not to see you when you were so kind as to call on me; but to disappoint friends, and if they are not very good-natured, to disoblige them, is one of the evils of sickness. If you will please to let me know which of the afternoons in this week I shall be favoured with another visit by you and Mrs. Perkins, and the young people, I will take all the measures that I can to be pretty well at that time. I am, dear Sir,
"I am, &c.,
2. Wars in England, Scotland, and Ireland...
3. Wonderful Prodigies
"Your most humble servant,
His attention to the Essex Head Club appears from the following etter to Mr. Alderman Clark, a gentleman for whom he deservedly entertained a great regard.
4. English Empire in America..
5. Surprising Miracles of Nature and Art
6. History of Scotland and Ireland..
7. Nine Worthies of the World
"TO RICHARD CLARK, ESQ.
Jan. 27, 1784.
"You will receive a requisition, according to the rules of the Club, to be at the house as president of the night. This turn comes once a month, and the member is obliged to attend, or send another in his place. You were enrolled in the Club by my invitation, and I ought to introduce you; but as I am hindered by sickness, Mr. Hoole will very properly supply my place as introductor, or yours as president. I hope in milder weather to be a very constant attendant.
"I am, Sir, &c.
The following list comprises several of these books; but probably is incomplete :1. Historical Remarks on London and Westminster.....
8. The English Hero, or Sir Francis Drake
9. Memorable Accidents, and unheard-of Transactions 10. History of Oliver Cromwell 11. Unparalleled Varieties
"You ought to be informed that the forfeits began with the year, and that every night of non-attendance incurs the mulct of threepence; that is, ninepence a week."
On the 8th of January I wrote to him, anxiously inquiring as to his health, and enclosing my "Letter to the People of Scotland on the present State of the Nation."
“I trust,” said I, "that you will be liberal enough to make allowance for my differing from you on two points (the Middlesex election and the American War), when my general principles of government are according to your own heart, and when, at a crisis of doubtful event, I stand forth with honest zeal as an ancient and faithful Briton. My reason for introducing those two points was, that as my opinions with regard to them had been declared at the periods when they were least favourable, I might have the credit of a man who is not a worshipper of ministerial power."
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Feb. 11, 1784.
"I hear of many inquiries which your kindness has disposed you to make after me. I have long intended you a long letter, which perhaps the imagination of its length hindered me from beginning. I will, therefore, content myself with a shorter.
'Having promoted the institution of a new Club in the neighbourhood, at the house of an old servant of Thrale's, I went thither to meet the company, and was seized with a spasmodic asthma, so violent, that with difficulty I got to my own house, in which I have been confined eight or nine weeks, and from which I know not when I shall be able to go even to church. The asthma, however, is not the worst. A dropsy gains ground upon me; my legs and thighs are very much swollen with water, which I should be content if I could keep there, but I am afraid that it will soon be higher. My nights are very sleepless and very tedious. And yet I am extremely afraid of dying.
My physicians try to make me hope, that much of my malady is the effect of cold, and that some degree at least of recovery is to be expected from vernal breezes and summer suns. If my life is prolonged to autumn, I should be glad to try a warmer climate; though how to travel with a diseased body, without a companion to conduct me, and with very little money, I do not well see. Ramsay has recovered his limbs in Italy; and Fielding was sent to Lisbon, where, indeed, he died; but he was, I believe, past hope when he went. Think for me what I can do.
"I received your pamphlet, and when I write again may perhaps tell you some opinion about it; but you will forgive a man struggling with disease his neglect of disputes, politics, and pamphlets. Let me have your prayers. My compliments to your lady, and young ones. Ask your physicians about my case: and desire Sir Alexander Dick to write me his opinion.
"I am, dear Sir, &c.,
66 TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD.
"MY DEAREST LOVE,
Feb. 23, 1784.
"I have been extremely ill of an asthma and dropsy, but received, by the mercy of GOD, sudden and unexpected relief last Thursday, by the discharge of twenty pints of water. Whether I shall continue free, or shall fill again, cannot be told. Pray for me.
"Death, my dear, is very dreadful; let us think nothing worth our care but how to prepare for it; what we know amiss in ourselves let us make haste to amend, and put our trust in the mercy of GOD, and the intercession of our SAVIOUR. I am, dear Madam, your most humble servant,
66 'SAM. JOHNSON."
"TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
London, Feb. 27, 1784,
"I have just advanced so far towards recovery as to read a pamphlet; and you may reasonably suppose that the first pamphlet which I read was yours. I am very much of your opinion, and, like you, feel great indignation at the indecency with which the King is every day treated. Your paper contains very consi derable knowledge of history and of the constitution, very properly produced and applied. It will certainly raise your character,1 though perhaps it may not make you a Minister of State.
"I desire you to see Mrs. Stewart once again, and tell her, that in the letter case was a letter relating to me, for which I will give her, if she is willing to give it me, another guinea. The letter is of consequence only to me.
"I am, dear Sir, &c.,
In consequence of Johnson's request that I should ask our physicians about his case, and desire Sir Alexander Dick to send his opinion, 1 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
I sent it to Mr. Pitt, with a letter, in which I thus expressed myself: "My principles may appear to you too monarchical: but I know and am persuaded, they are not incon sistent with the true principles of liberty. Be this as it may, you, Sir, are now the Prime Minister, called by the Sovereign to maintain the rights of the crown, as well as those of the people, against a violent faction. As such, you are entitled to the warmest support of every good subject in every department." He answered, "I am extremely obliged to you for the sentiments you do me the honour to express, and have observed with great pleasure the zealous and able support given to the cause of the public in the work you were so good to transmit me."-BOSWELL.