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LETTER 308. TO MRS. GASTREL. (1)
“ Bolt Court, Dec. 23. 1777. DEAR MADAM, Your long silence portended no good ; yet I hope the danger is not so near as our anxiety sometimes makes us fear. Winter is indeed to all those that any distemper has enfeebled a very troublesome time ; but care and caution may pass safely through it, and from spring and summer some relief is always to be hoped. When I came hither I fell to taking care of myself, and by physic and opium had the constriction that obstructed my breath very suddenly removed. My nights still continue very laborious and tedious, but they do not grow worse.
“ I do not ask you, dear madam, to take care of Mrs. Aston ; I know how little you want any such exhortations ; but I earnestly entreat her to take care of herself. Many lives are prolonged by a diligent attention to little things, and I am far from thinking it unlikely that she may grow better by degrees. However, it is her duty to try, and when we do our duty we have reason to hope. I am, dear Madam, &c. SAM. JOHNSON.”
LETTER 309. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ Dec. 27. 1777. 66 DEAR SIR,
- This is the time of the year in which all express their good wishes to their friends, and I send mine to you and your family. May your lives be long, happy, and good. I have been much out of order, but, I hope, do not grow worse.
“The crime of the schoolmaster whom you are engaged to prosecute is very great, and may
suspected to be too common. In our law it would be a breach of
(1) See antè, Vol. VI. p. 105. — C.
the peace and a misdemeanour: that is, a kind of indefinite crime, not capital, but punishable at the discretion of the court. You cannot want matter : all that needs to be said will easily occur.
"Mr. Shaw, the author of the Gaelic Grammar, desires me to make a request for him to Lord Eglintoune, that he may be appointed chaplain to one of the new-raised regiments.
“ All our friends are as they were ; little has happened to them of either good or bad. Mrs. Thrale ran a great black hair-dressing pin into her eye ; but by great evacuation she kept it from inflaming, and it is almost well. Miss Reynolds has been out of order, but is better. Mrs. Williams is in a very poor state of health.
“If I should write on, I should, perhaps, write only complaints, and therefore I will content myself with telling you, that I love to think on you, and to hear from you; and that I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,
“ SAM, JOHNSON."
LETTER 310. FROM MR, BOSWELL.
“ Edinburgh, Jan. 8. 1778. " DEAR SIR, - Your congratulations upon a new year are mixed with complaint : mine must be so too. My wife has for some time been ill, having been confined to the house these three months by a severe cold, attended with alarming symptoms."
(Here I gave a particular account of the distress which the person, upon every account most dear to me, suffered ; and of the dismal state of apprehension in which I now was : adding, that I never stood more in need of his consoling philosophy.)
“ Did you ever look at a book written by Wilson, a Scotchman, under the Latin name of Volusenus, according to the custom of literary men at a certain period ? It is entitled " De Animi Tranquillitate.” (") I earnestly desire tranquillity. Bona res quies ; but I fear I shall never attain it: for, when unoccupied, I grow gloomy, and occupation agitates me to feverishness. I am, dear Sir, &c.
LETTER 311. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
" Jan. 24. 1778. “ DEAR SIR, - To a letter so interesting as your last, it is proper to return some answer, however little I may be disposed to write.
Your alarm at your lady's illness was reasonable, and not disproportionate to the appearance of the disorder. I hope your physical friend's conjecture is now verified, and all fear of a consumption at an end : a little care and exercise will then restore her. London is a good air for ladies ; and if you bring her hither, I will do for her what she did for me
I will retire from my apartments for her accommodation. Behave kindly to her, and keep her cheerful.
“ You always seem to call for tenderness. Know then, that in the first month of the present year I very highly esteem and very cordially love you. I hope to tell you this at the beginning of every year as long as we live ; and why should we trouble ourselves to tell or hear it oftener? Tell Veronica, Euphemia, and Alexander, that I wish them, as well as their parents, many happy years.
“ You have ended the negro's cause much to my mind. Lord Auchinleck and dear Lord Hailes were on the side of liberty. Lord Hailes's name reproaches me; but if he saw my languid neglect of my own affairs, he would rather pity than resent my neglect of
(1) Florence Wilson, born at Elgin, died near Lyons in 1547. Besides the dialogue “ De Animi Tranquillitate,” he wrote one or two other works of no note. -C.
his. I hope to mend, ut et mihi vivam et amicis. I am, dear Sir, yours affectionately, SAM. JOHNSON.
“My service to my fellow-traveller, Joseph.”
Johnson maintained a long and intimate friendship with Mr. Welch, who succeeded the celebrated Henry Fielding as one of his majesty's justices of the peace for Westminster ; kept a regular office for the police of that great district; and discharged his important trust, for many years, faithfully and ably. Johnson, who had an eager and unceasing curiosity to know human life in all its variety, told me, that he attended Mr. Welch in his office for a whole nter, to hear the examinations of the culprits; but that he found an almost uniform tenor of misfortune, wretchedness, and profligacy. Mr. Welch's health being impaired, he was advised to try the effect of a warm climate ; and Johnson, by his interest with Mr. Chamier, procured him leave of absence to go to Italy, and a promise that the pension or salary of two hundred pounds a year, which government allowed him, should not be discontinued. Mr. Welch accordingly went abroad, accompanied by his daughter Anne, a young lady of uncommon talents and literature.
LETTER 312. TO SAUNDERS WELCH, ESQ.
AT THE ENGLISH COFFEE-HOUSE, ROME
“ Feb. 3. 1778. “ DEAR SIR,
To have suffered one of my best and dearest friends to pass almost two years in foreign
countries without a letter, has a very shameful appearance of inattention. But the truth is, that there was no particular time, in which I had any thing particular to say; and general expressions of good will, I hope, our long friendship is grown too solid to want.
“Of public affairs you have information from the newspapers wherever you go, for the English keep no secret ; and of other things Mrs. Nollekens informs you. My intelligence could, therefore, be of no use ; and Miss Nancy's letters made it unnecessary to write to you for information ; I was likewise for some time out of humour, to find that motion and nearer approaches to the sun did not restore your health so fast as I expected. Of your health the accounts have lately been more pleasing ; and I have the gratification of imagining to myself a length of years which I hope you have gained, and of which the enjoyment will be improved by a vast accession of images and observations which your journeys and various residence have enabled you to make and accumulate. You have travelled with this felicity, almost peculiar to yourself, that your companion is not to part from you at your journey's end; but you are to live on together, to help each other's recollections, and to supply each other's omissions. The world has few greater pleasures than that which two friends enjoy, in tracing back, at some distant time, those transactions and events through which they have passed together. One of the old man's miseries is, that he cannot easily find a companion able to partake with him of the past. You and your fellowtraveller have this comfort in store, that your conversation will be not easily exhausted ; one will always be glad to say what the other will always be willing to hear.
“ That you may enjoy this pleasure long, your health must have your constant attention. I suppose you propose to return this year. There is no need of