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Mr. Hoole, a gentleman long known and long esteemed in the India-house, after having translated Tasso, has undertaken Ariosto. How well he is qualified for his undertaking he has already shewn. He is desirous, Sir, of your fa . vour in promoting his proposals, and Hatters me by supposing that my testimony may advance his interest.
It is a new thing for a clerk of the India-house to translate poets—it is new for a govemor of Bengal to patronize learning. Thai he may find his ingenuity rewarded, and that learning may flourish under your protection, is the wish of,
Sir, your most huinble servant, 1785, June.
XLVIII. Letters from Dr. Johnson and Dr. Adams.
Dr. Johnson to Mr. J. Elphinstone.
Sept. 25, 1750. YOU have, as I find by every kind of evidence, lost an excellent mother, and I hope you will not think me incapible of partaking of your grief. I have a mother now 82 years of age, whom therefore I must soon lose, unless it please God that she rather should mourn for me. I read the letters in which you relate your mother's death to Mrs. Straham*; and I think I do my self honour, when I tell you, that I read them with tears. But tears are neither to me, nor to you, of any farther use, when once the tribute of nature has been paid. The business of life summons us away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise of those virtues of which we are lamenting our deprivation. The greatest benefit which one friend
can confer upon another is, to guard, for so surely it must be, and incite, and elevate, his virtues. This your mother will still perform, if you diligently preserve the memory of her life, and of her death; a life, so far as I can learn, useful, wise, and innocent; and a death, resigned, peaceful, and holy. I cannot forbear to mention, that neither reason nor revelation denies you to hope, that you may increase her happiness, by obeying her precepts; and that she may, in her present state, look with pleasure upon every act of virtue, to which her instructions and example have contributed. Whether this be more than
* Sister to Mr. Elphinstone.
a pleasing dream, or a just opinion of separate spirits, is indeed of no great importance to us, when we consider ourselves as acting under the eye of God; yet surely there is something pleasing in the belief, that our separation from those whom we love is merely corporeal; and it may be a great incitement to virtuous friendship, if it can be made probable, that that union has received the divine approba. tion, and shall continue to eternity. There is one expedient by which you may, in some degree, continue her presence. If you write down minutely what you can remember of her from your earliest years, you will read it with great pleasure, and receive from it many hints of soothing recollection when time shall remove her yet farther from you, and your grief shall be matured to veneration. To this, however painful for the present, I cannot but advise you as to a source of comfort and satisfaction in the time to come ; for all comfort and all satisfaction is sincerely wished you by, dear Sir, yours, &c,
Oxford, Oct. 22, 1785. IN
your last month's Review of Books you have asserted, “ that the publication of Dr. Johnson's Prayers and Meditations appears to have been at the instance of Dr. Adams, Master of Pembroke College, in Oxford.” This is more than I think you are warranted by the Editor's Preface* to say; and is so far from being true, that Dr. Adams never saw a line of these compositions before they appeared in print, nor ever heard from Dr. Johnson, or the Editor, that any such existed. Had he been consulted about the publication, he would certainly have given his voice against it: and be therefore hopes that you will clear him, in as public a manner as you can, from being any way accessary to it.
* The vords of the Preface, which led to the supposition, are, “ Being last summer on a visit at Oxford, to the Rev. Mr. Adams, (Master of Pembroke College, at which Dr. Johnson received part of his education.) and that gentleman urging him repeatedly to engage in some work of this kind, he then first conceived a design to revise these pious cffusions, and bequeath them, with enlargements, to the use and benefit of others," Epit,
XLIX. Letters to and from Dr. Johnson, on Suicide.
Bath, Feb. 14. As a very dangerous misconstruction of a passage in 8 work of the late Dr. Johnson appears to have been made by some persons; and though the Doctor kindly condescended to correct the error, through the same channel that the remark was first intended to be conveyed to him; yet as the misconstruction arising from a book may long survive the explanation contained in a newspaper, I'beg leave, through your lasting Repository, in justice to the character of a most worthy man, to perpetuate the Doctor's Vindication of himself, as well as to communicate to the world the steps which led to it,
Bath, May 4, 1782. Conscious of the motive from which I write, and trusting that it will readily and clearly appear; I shall leave it to plead my excuse for the trouble I may hereby give you. Without farther preface, therefore, I take the liberty to inform you, that, in the Morning Chronicle of Dec. 12 last, a person, in the character of a master of an academy, recommended the “ Beauties of your Writings,” a book published last year, to all persons who have the care of youth, as well calculated to convey at once both pleasure and instruction, particularly to young minds. However, he pointed out one passage in it, under the article Death, which, he said, is supposed by some readers to recommend suicide; but knowing your principles too well to join in this opinion, he hoped you would favour the public, through the channel of the same paper, with an explanation, which might effectually remove so erroneous an idea. The passage is as follows : “To die, is the fate of man; but to die with lingering anguish is generally his folly."
I confess, I have joined in the wish of the letter-writer, but have not had the pleasure of seeing it gratified. Possibly the letter has not come to your knowledge, and therefore I take this method of acquainting you with it; or probably the passage, when taken with the context, loses its exceptionable appearance. I own, I do not recollect my
having met with it in any of your works, though I cannot but suppose it is to be found there, and on that account you may have thought it unnecessary to give it any farther explanation. Whatever may be the cause of your not having taken any notice of the letter, I cannot be satisfied whilst any thing, which has the sanction of your name, even appears, uncontroverted, to recommend suicide ; whilst the acknowledged friend of Religion and Virtue is supposed, uncontradicted, to have published any sentiment inconsistent with the Christian Religion. I shall still hope, therefore, that you will not think your time mis-spent by publicly removing this, possibly, “ stone of stumbling,” this, as it appears,
“rock of offence;" especially as your silence may tend to confirm the opinion of those who understand the passage in this very unfavourable sense; and if you shall think this deserving of your private notice, you will thereby confer an honour, as well as an obligation, on, Sir, your obedient humble servant, &c.
To Dr. Johnson, &c.
May 15, 1782. Being now in the country in a state of recovery, as I hope, from a very oppressive disorder, I cannot neglect the acknowledgement of your Christian letter. The book called “ Beauties of J-n,” is the production of I know not whom ; I never saw it but by casual inspection, and considered myself as utterly disengaged from its consequences. Of the passage you mention I remember some notice in some paper ; but knowing that it must be misrepresented, I thought of it no more, nor do I now know where to find it in my own books. I am accustomed to think little of newspapers; but an opinion so weighty and serious as yours, has determined me to do, what I should, without your season. able admonition, have omitted; and I will direct my thought to be shewn in its true state. If I could find the passage, I would direct you to it. I suppose the tenor is this: “ Acute diseases are the immediate and inevitable strokes of Heaven; but of them the pain is short, and the conclusion speedy: chronical disorders, by which we are suspended in tedious torture between life and death, are commonly the effect of our own misconduct and intemperance, To die,” &c. This, Sir, you see is all true, and all blameless. I hope, some time in the next week, to have all
rectified. My health has been lately much shaken ; if you favour this with any answer, it will be a comfort to me to know that I have your prayers. I am, Sir, your most hum
your favour of
Bath, May 18, 1782. I'AM to acknowledge and thank you
for the 15th; and I am happy to find; that you think the busi, ness on which I wrote to you not undeserving your attention. The sentiment as you have prefaced and explained it, as I doubted not would be the case, is quite unexceptionable.
I am glad to find that you are better than you have been, and on the recovery. Indeed, I should be wanting in gratitude, as well as benevolence and charity, if you had not, in return for the great pleasure I have received from your writings, my best wishes and prayers; and particularly, as my last and best, that when the period of the present state of your existence shall approach, you may have a short and easy passage from this life to that in which good men “rest from their labours, and their works follow them.” I am, Sir, with great esteem, your obliged and obedient humble ser
To Dr. Johnson, &c.
The following appeared in the Morning Chronicle of May 29,
A correspondent having mentioned, in the Morning Chronicle of Dec. 12, the last clause of the following paragraph, as seeming to favour suicide ;, we are requested to print the whole passage, that its true incaning may appear, which is not to recommend suicide, but exercise.
“ Exercise cannot secure us from that dissolution to which we are decreed ; but while the soul and body continue united, it can make the association pleasing, and give probable hopes that they shall be disjoined by an easy separation. It was a principle among the ancients, that acute diseases are from heaven, and chronical from ourselves; the dart of death indeed falls from heaven, but we poison it by our own misconduct : to die is the fate of man; but to die with lingering anguish is generally his fully.” Vide Rambler, vol. II. No. 85.