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have told you sooner, what I can always tell you with truth, that I wish you long life and happiness, always increasing till it shall end at last in the happiness of heaven.
“I hope, my dear, you are well ; I am at present pretty much disordered by a cold and cough ; I have just been blooded, and hope I shall be better.
Pray give my love to Kitty. I should be glad to hear that she goes on well. I am, my dearest dear, yourmost affectionate servant,
He this year lent his friendly assistance to correct and improve a pamphlet written by Mr. Gwyn, the architect, entitled “ Thoughts on the Coronation of George III.”*
Johnson had now for some years admitted Mr. Baretti to his intimacy ; nor did their friendship cease upon their being separated by Baretti's revisiting his native country, as appears from Johnson's letters to him.
LETTER 77. TO MR. JOSEPH BARETTI,
At Milan. (")
“ London, June 10. 1761. “You reproach me very often with parsimony of writing; but you may discover, by the extent of my paper, that I design to recompense rarity by length. A short letter to a distant friend is, in my opinion, an insult like that of a slight bow or cursory salutation ;
(1) The originals of Dr. Johnson's three letters to Mr. Baretti, which are among the very best he ever wrote, were communicated to the proprietors of that instructive and elegant monthly miscellany, “The European Magazine,” in which they first appeared.
a proof of unwillingness to do much, even where there is a necessity of doing something. Yet it must be remembered, that he who continues the same course of life in the same place, will have little to tell. One week and one year are very like one another. The silent changes made by him are not always perceived ; and if they are not perceived, cannot be recounted. I have risen and lain down, talked and mused, while you have roved over a considerable part of Europe; yet I have not envied my Baretti any of his pleasures, though, perhaps, I have envied others his company: and I am glad to have other nations made acquainted with the character of the English, by a traveller who has so nicely inspected our manners, and so successfully stu died our literature. I received your kind letter from Falmouth, in which you gave me notice of your de. parture for Lisbon ; and another from Lisbon, in which you told me that you were to leave Portugal in a few days. To either of these how could any answer be returned ? I have had a third from Turin, complain ing that I have not answered the former. Your English style still continues in its purity and vigour. With vigour your genius will supply it; but its purity must be continued by close attention. To use two languages familiarly, and without contaminating one by the other, is very difficult: and to use more than two, is hardly to be hoped. The praises which some have received for their multiplicity of languages, may be sufficient to excite industry, but can hardly generate confidence.
“I know not whethei I can heartily rejoice at the kind reception which you have found, or at the popu. larity to which you are exalted. I am willing that your merit should be distinguished ; but cannot wish that your affections may be gained. I would have
you happy wherever you are : yet I would have you wish to return to England. If ever you visit us again, you will find the kindness of your friends undiminished.
To tell you how many inquiries are made after you, would be tedious, or if not tedious, would be vain ; because you may be told in a very few words, that all who knew you wish you well; and that all that you embraced at your departure, will caress you at your return : therefore do not let Italian academicians nor Italian ladies drive us from your thoughts. You may find among us what you will leave behind, soft smiles and easy sonnets. Yet I shall not wonder if all our invitations should be rejected : for there is a pleasure in being considerable at home, which is not easily resisted.
“By conducting Mr. Southwell () to Venice, you fulfilled, I know, the original contract : yet I would wish you not wholly to lose him from your notice, but to recommend him to such acquaintance as may best secure him from suffering by his own follies, and to take such general care both of his safety and his interest as may come within your power. His relations will thank you for any such gratuitous attention : at least, they will not blame you for any evil that may happen, whether they thank you or not for any good.
« You know that we have a new king and a new parliament. Of the new parliament Fitzherbert is a member. We were so weary of our old king, that we are much pleased with his successor ; of whom we are so much inclined to hope great things, that most of us begin already to believe them. The young man is hitherto blameless; but it would be unreasonable to expect much from the immaturity of juvenile years, and the ignorance of princely education. He has been long in the hands of the Scots, and has already favoured them more than the English will contentedly endure. But, perhaps, he scarcely knows whom he has distinguished, or whom he has disgusted.
(1) Probably the Hon. Thomas Arthur Southwell, afterwards second Viscount Southwell, who was born in 1742, and succeeded his father in 1780. — C.
“ The artists have instituted a yearly Exhibition of pictures and statues, in imitation, as I am told, of foreign academies. This year was the second Exhibi. tion. They please themselves much with the multitude of spectators, and imagine that the English school will rise in reputation. Reynolds is without a rival, and continues to add thousands to thousands, which he deserves, among other excellencies, by retaining his kindness for Baretti. This Exhibition has filled the heads of the artists and lovers of art. Surely life, if it be not long, is tedious, since we are forced to call in the assistance of so many trifles to rid us of our time,
of that time which never can return. (1) “I know my Baretti will not be satisfied with a
(1) Of the beauties of painting, notwithstanding the many eulogiums on that art which, after the commencement of his friendship with Sir Joshua Reynolds, he inserted in his writings, Johnson had not the least conception; and the notice of this defect led me to mention the following fact. One evening, at the club, I came in with a small roll of prints, which, in the afternoon, I had picked up: I think they were landscapes of Perelle, and laying it down with my hat, Johnson's curiosity prompted him to take it up and unroll it: he viewed the prints severally with great attention, and asked me what sort of pleasure such things could afford me: I replied that, as representations of nature, containing an assemblage of such particulars as render rural scenes delightful, they presented to my mind the objects themselves, and that my imagination realised the prospect before me. He said, that was more than his would do, for that in his whole life he was never capable of discerning the least resemblance of any kind between a picture and the subject it was intended to represent. To the delights of music, he was equally insensible: neither voice nor instrument, nor the harmony of concordant sounds, had power over his affections, or even to engage his attention. Of music in general, he has been heard to say, “it excites in my mind no ideas, and hinders me from contemplating my own;" and of a fine singer, or in. strumental performer, that “he had the merit of a Canary-bird.” Not that his hearing was so defective as to account for this insensibility, but he laboured under the misfortune which he has noted in the Life of Barretier, and is common to more persons than in this musical age are willing to confess it, of wanting that additional sense or faculty, which renders music grateful to the human ear. - HAWKINS.
letter in which I give him no account of myself: yet what account shall I give him ? I have not, since the day of our separation, suffered or done any thing con. siderable. The only change in my way of life is, that I have frequented the theatre more than in former seasons. But I have gone thither only to escape from myself. We have had many new farces, and the comedy called “The Jealous Wife,' (') which, though not written with much genius, was yet so well adapted to the stage, and so well exhibited by the actors, that it was crowded for near twenty nights. I am digressing from myself to the playhouse ; but a barren plan must be filled with episodes. Of myself I have nothing to say, but that I have hitherto lived without the concurrence of my own judgment; yet I continue to flatter myself, that, when you return, you will find me mended. I do not wonder that, where the monastic life is permitted, every order finds votaries, and every monastery inhabitants.
Men will submit to any rule, by which they may be exempted from the tyranny of caprice and of chance. They are glad to supply by external authority their own want of constancy and resolution, and court the government of others, when long experience has convinced them of their own inability to govern themselves. If I were to visit Italy, my curiosity would be more attracted by convents than by palaces ; though I am afraid that I should find expectation in both places equally disappointed, and life in both places supported with impatience and quitted with reluctance. That it must be so soon quitted, is a powerful remedy against impatience ; but what shall free us from reluctance? Those who have endeavoured to teach us to die well, have taught few to die willingly:
(1) [Colman's comedy of the Jealous Wife came out in January, 1761. The characters of Major and Mrs. Oakly were performed by Garrick and Mrs. Pritchard, and Mrs. Clive was the Lady Freelove.]