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honour to his descendants. The only reason why we lament a soldier's death, is, that we think he might have lived longer ; yet this cause of grief is common to many other kinds of death, which are not so passionately bewailed. The truth is, that every death is violent which is the effect of accident; every death which is not gradually brought on by the miseries of age, or when life is extinguished for any other reason than that it is burnt out. He that dies before sixty, of a cold or consumption, dies, in reality, by a violent death ; yet his death is borne with patience, only because the cause of his untimely end is silent and invisible.
Let us en. deavour to see things as they are, and then inquire whether we ought to complain. Whether to see life as it is, will give us much consolation, I know not ;
but the consolation which is drawn from truth, if any there be, is solid and durable: that which may be derived from error, must be, like its original, fallacious and fugitive. I am, dear, dear Sir, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
In 1759, in the month of January, his mother died, at the great age of ninety, an event which deeply affected him; not that “his mind had acquired no firmness by the contemplation of mortality(1);” but that his reverential affection for her was not abated by years, as indeed he retained all his tender feelings even to the latest period of his life. I have been told, that he regretted much his not having gone to visit his mother, for several years previous to her death. But he was constantly en
(1) Hawkins, p. 395. Mr. Boswell contradicts Hawkins, for the mere pleasure, as it would seem, of doing so.
The reader must observe that Mr. Boswell's work is full of anecdotes of Johnson's want of firmness in contemplating mortality. - C.
gaged in literary labours, which confined him to London ; and though he had not the comfort of seeing his aged parent, he contributed liberally to her support.
LETTER 61. TO MRS. JOHNSON,
In Lichfield. (1)
“ Jan. 13. 1758.(%) “ HONOURED MADAM, The account which Miss [Porter] gives me of your health, pierces my heart. God comfort, and preserve you, and save you, for the sake of Jesus Christ.
“ I would have Miss read to you from time to time the Passion of our Saviour, and sometimes the sentences in the Communion Service, beginning - Come unto me, all ye that travel and are heavy laden, and I will give
“ I have just now read a physical book, which inclines me to think that a strong infusion of the bark would do you good. Do, dear mother, try it.
Pray, send me your blessing, and forgive all that I have done amiss to you. And whatever you would have done, and what debts you would have paid first, or anything else that you would direct, let Miss put it down ; I shall endeavour to obey you.
(1) Since the publication of the third edition of this work, the following letters of Dr. Johnson, occasioned by the last illness of his mother, were obligingly communicated to Mr. Malone by the Rev. Dr. Vyse. They are placed here agreeably to the chronological order almost uniformly observed by the author; and so strongly evince Dr. Johnson's piety, and tenderness of heart, that every reader must be gratified by their insertion.- M., 1804,
(2) Written by mistake for 1759, as the subsequent letters show. In the next letter, he had inadvertently fallen into the same error, but corrected it. On the outside of the letter of the 13th was written by another hand, - -“ Pray acknowledge the receipt of this by return of post, without fail." - M. VOL. II.
“ I have got twelve guineas (1) to send you, but unhappily am at a loss how to send it to-night. If I cannot send it to-night, it will come by the next post.
Pray do not omit anything mentioned in this letter. God bless you for ever and ever.
I am, your
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
LETTER 62. TO MISS PORTER,
« Jan. 16. 1759.
I hope you received twelve guineas on Monday. I found a way of sending them by means of the postmaster, after I had written my letter, and hope they came safe. I will send you more in a few days. God bless
you all. I am, my dear, your most obliged and most humble servant,
« SAM. JOHNSON.”
“Over the leaf is a letter to my mother.”
(1) I' find in Johnson's diary a note of the payment to Mr. Allen, the printer, of six guineas, which he had borrowed of him, and sent to his dying mother. – HAWKINS, p. 366.
(2) Catharine Chambers, Mrs. Johnson's maid-servant. She died in October, 1767. See Prayers and Meditations, p. 71.:. “ Sunday, Oct. 18. 1767. Yesterday, Oct. 17., I took my leave for ever of my dear old friend, Catharine Chambers, who came to live with my mother about 1724, and has been but little parted from us since. She buried my father, my brother, and my mother. She is now fifty-eight years old.”
LETTER 69 TO MRS. JOHNSON.
" Jan 16. 1759. DEAR HONOURED MOTHER, Your weakness afflicts me beyond what I am willing to communicate to you. I do not think you unfit to face death, but I know not how to bear the thought of losing you. Endeavour to do all you [can] for yourself. Eat as much as you can.
“ I pray often for you ; do you pray for me. I have nothing to add to my last letter. I am, dear, dear mother, your dutiful
LETTER 64. TO MRS. JOHNSON,
« Jan. 18. 1759. “ DEAR HONOURED MOTHER, I fear you are too ill for long letters ; therefore I will only tell you, you have from me all the regard that can possibly subsist in the heart. I pray God to bless you for evermore, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
“ Let Miss write to me every post, however short. I am, dear mother, your dutiful
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
LETTER 65. TO MISS PORTER,
« Jan. 20. 1759. “ DEAR Miss,- I will, if it be possible, come down to you. God grant I may yet [find] my dear mother breathing and sensible. Do not tell her, lest I, disappoint her. If I miss to write next post, I am on the road. I am, my dearest Miss, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. Johnson. « On the other side.”
LETTER 66. TO MRS. JOHNSON.
« Jan. 20. 1759.(*) “Dear HONOURED MOTHER,— Neither your condi. ion nor your character make it fit for me to say much. You have been the best mother, and I believe the best woman in the world. I thank you for your indulgence to me, and beg forgiveness of all that I have done ill, and all that I have omitted to do well. (?) God grant you His Holy Spirit, and receive you to everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. Lord Jesus receive your spirit. Amen. I am, dear, dear mother, your dutiful son,
“ SAM. JOHNSON." LETTER 67. TO MISS PORTER.
“ Jan. 23. 1759. (3) “ You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best mother. If she were to live again, surely I should behave better to her. But she is happy, and what is passed is nothing to her; and for me, since I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will efface them. I return you and all those that have been good to her my sincerest thanks, and pray God to repay you all with infinite advantage. Write to me, and comfort me, dear child. I shall be glad likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of twenty pounds in a few days, which I thought to have brought to my mother ; but God suffered it not.
I have not
(1) This letter was written on the second leaf of the preceding, addressed to Miss Porter.
(2) So, in the prayer which he composed on this occasion: — “ Almighty God, merciful Father, in whose hands are life and death, sanctify unto me the sorrow which I now feel. Forgive me whatever I have done unkindly to my mother, and whatever I have omitted to do kindly. Make me to remember her good precepts and good example, and to reform my life according to thy holy word,” &c. Prayers, &c., p. 31. – - M.
(3) Mrs. Johnson probably died on the 20th or 21st of Jan nuary, and was buried on the day this letter was written.-M.