Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“ MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.

“ Edinburgh, 28th July, 1777. “ MY DEAR SIR, – This is the day on which you were to leave London, and I have been amusing myself in the intervals of my law-drudgery with figuring you in the Oxford postcoach. I doubt, however, if you have had so merry a journey as you and I had in that vehicle last year, when you

made so much sport with Gwyn, the architect. Incidents upon a journey are recollected with peculiar pleasure: they are preserved in brisk spirits, and come up again in our minds, tinctured with that gaiety, or at least that animation, with which we first perceived them.”

*

(I added, that something had occurred which I was afraid might prevent me from meeting him; and that my wife had been affected with complaints which threatened a consumption, but was now better.)

[“ DR. JOHNSON TO MR. THRALE.

“ [Oxford], 4th Aug. 1777. “ Boswell's project is disconcerted by a visit from a relation of Yorkshire, whom he mentions as the head of his clan, Bozzy, you know, makes a huge bustle about all his own motions and all mine. I have enclosed a letter to pacify him, and reconcile him to the uncertainties of human life.”] “ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

"Oxford, 4th Aug. 1777. « DEAR SÍŘ,– Do not disturb yourself about our interviews; I hope we shall have many: nor think it any thing hard or unusual that your design of meeting me'is interrupted. We have both endured greater evils, and have greater evils to expect.

6 Mrs. Boswell's illness makes a more serious distress. Does the blood rise from her lungs or from her stomach ? From little vessels broken in the stomach there is no danger. Blood from the lungs is, I believe, always frothy, as mixed with wind. Your physicians know very well what is to be done. The loss of such a lady would, indeed, be very afflictive, and I hope she is in no danger. Take care to keep her mind as easy as posar sible.

“I have left Langton in London. He has been down with the militia, and is again quiet at home, talking to his little people, as I suppose you do sometimes. Make my compliments to Miss Veronica'. The rest are too young

for

ceremony. "I cannot but hope that you have taken your country-house at a very seasonable time, and that it may conduce to restore or establish Mrs. Boswell's health, as well as provide room and exercise for the young ones. That you and your lady may both be happy, and long enjoy your happiness, is the sincere and earnest wish of, dear sir, your most, &c.

“ SAM. JOHNSON."

“MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON. (Informing him that my wife had continued to grow better, so that my alarming apprehensions were relieved: and that I hoped to disengage myself from the other embarrassment which had occurred, and therefore requesting to know particularly when he intended to be at Ashbourne.)

[ocr errors]

“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

“ 30th August, 1777:

ini DEAR SIR,--I am this day come to Ashbourne, and have only to tell you, that Dr. Taylor says you shall be welcome to him, and you know how welcome you will be to me. Make haste to let me know when you may be expected.

“Make my compliments to Mrs. Boswell, and tell her I hope we shall be at variance no more. I am, dear sir, your most humble servant,

“ SAM. JOHNSON.”

“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

“ Ashbourne, Ist Sept. 1777. DEAR SIR,-On Saturday I wrote a very short letter, immediately upon my arrival hither, to show you that I am not less desirous of the interview than yourself. Life admits not of delays; when pleasure can be had, it is fit to catch it: every hour takes away part of the things that please us, and perhaps part of our disposition to be pleased. When I came to Lichfield, I found my old friend Harry Jackson dead.

It was a

1 This young lady, the authour's eldest daughter, and at this time about five years old, died in London, of a consumption, four months after her father, Sept. 26, 1795.-MALONE.

(See ante, p. 351, He says in a letter to Mrs. Thrale, “Lichfield, 7th

2

loss, and a loss, not to be repaired, as he was one of the companions of my childhood. I hope we may long continue to gain friends ; but the friends which merit or usefulness can procure us are not able to supply the place of old acquaintance, with whom the days of youth may be retraced, and those images revived which gave the earliest delight. If you and I live to be much older, we shall take great delight in talking over the Hebridean Journey.

“In the mean time it may not be amiss to contrive some other little adventure, but what it can be I know not; leave it, as Sidney says,

"To virtue, fortune, time, and woman's breast 1 ;'

August, 1777.-At Birmingham I heard of the death of an old friend, and at Lichfield of the death of another. Anni prædantur euntes. One was a little older, and the other a little younger, than myself." The latter probably was Jackson.-ED.]

1 By an odd mistake, in the first three editions we find a reading in this line to which Dr. Johnson would by no means have subscribed, wine having been substituted for time. That errour probably was a mistake in the transcript of Johnson's original letter, his hand-writing being often very difficult to read. The other deviation in the beginning of the line (virtue instead of nature) must be attributed to his memory having deceived him; and therefore has not been disturbed. The verse quoted is the concluding line of a sonnet of Sidney's, of which the earliest copy, I believe, is found in Harrington's translation of Ariosto, 1591, in the notes on the eleventh book :-" And therefore,” says he, “that excellent verse of Sir Philip Sydney in his first Arcadia (which I know not by what mishap is left out in the printed booke) [4to. 1590,] is in mine opinion worthie to be praised and followed, to make a true and virtuous wife:

* Who doth desire that chast his wife should bee,

First be he true, for truth doth truth deserve;
Then be he such, as she his worth may see,
And, alwaies one, credit with her

preserve:
Not toying kynd, nor causelessly unkynd,

Not stirring thoughts, nor yet denying right,
Not spying faults, nor in plaine errors blind,

Never hard hand, nor ever rayns (reins) too light;
As far from want, as far from vaine expence,

Th’ one doth enforce, the t'other doth entice:
Allow good companie, but drive from thence

All filthie mouths that glorie in their vice:
This done, thou hast no more but leave the rest

To nature, fortune, time, and woman's breast." I take this opportunity to add, that in England's Parnassus, a collection of poetry printed in 1600, the second couplet of this sonnet is thus corruptly exhibited :

« Then he be such as he his words may see,

And alwaies one credit which her a variation which I the rather mention, because the readings of that book have been triumphantly quoted, when they happened to coincide with the sophistica

preserve :

for I believe Mrs. Boswell must have some part in the consultation.

One thing you will like. The doctor, so far as I can judge, is likely to leave us enough to ourselves. He was out to-day before I came down, and, I fancy, will stay out to dinner. I have brought the papers about poor Dodd, to show you, but you will soon have despatched them.

“Before I came away, I sent poor Mrs. Williams into the country, very ill of a pituitous defluxion, which wastes her gradually away, and which her physician declares himself unable to stop. I supplied her as far as could be desired with all conveniences to make her excursion and abode pleasant and useful. But I am afraid she can only linger a short time in a morbid state of weakness and pain. “ The Thrales, little and great, are all well, and

purpose to go to Brighthelmstone at Michaelmas. They will invite me to go with them, and perhaps I may go, but I hardly think I shall like to stay the whole time ; but of futurity we know but little.

“ Mrs. Porter is well; but Mrs. Aston, one of the ladies at Stow-hill, has been struck with a palsy, from which she is not likely ever to recover. How soon may such a stroke fall upon us !

“ Write to me, and let us know when we may expect you. I am, dear sir, your most humble servant, “ SAM, JOHNSON."

“MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.

“ Edinburgh, 9th Sept. 1777. (After informing him that I was to set out next day, in order to meet him at Ashbourne ;-)

“ I have a present for you from Lord Hailes; the fifth book of Lactantius,' which he has published with Latin notes. He is also to give you a few anecdotes for your · Life of Thomson,' who I find was private tutor to the present Earl of Hadington, Lord Hailes's cousin, a circumstance not mentioned by Dr. Murdoch. I have keen expectations of delight from your edition of the English Poets.

tions of the second folio edition of Shakspeare's plays in 1632, as adding I know not what degree of authority and authenticity to the latter: as if the corruptions of one book (and that abounding with the grossest falsifications of the authours from whose works its extracts are made) could give any kind of support to another, which in every page is still more adulterated and unfaithful. See Mr. Steevens's Shakspeare, vol. xx. p. 97, fifth edit. 1803.-MALONE.

"I am

for poor

sorry

Mrs. Williams's situation. You will, however, have the comfort of reflecting on your kindness to her. Mr. Jackson's death, and Mrs. Aston's palsy, are gloomy circumstances. Yet surely we should be habituated to the uncertainty of life and health. When my mind is unclouded by melancholy, I consider the temporary distresses of this state of being as · light afflictions,” by stretching my mental view into that glorious after-existence, when they will appear to be as nothing. But present pleasures and present pains must be felt. I lately read · Rasselas' over again with satisfaction.

“Since you are desirous to hear about Macquarry's sale, I shall inform you particularly. The gentleman who purchased Ulva is Mr. Campbell of Auchnaba: our friend Macquarry was proprietor of two-thirds of it, of which the rent was 1561. 5s. 11d. This parcel was set up at 4,0691. 5s. ld. but it sold for no less than 5,5401. The other third of Ulya, with the island of Staffa, belonged to Macquarry of Ormaig. Its rent, including that of Staffa, 831. 128. 2.d.-set up at 2,1781. 16s. 4d. -sold for no less than 3,5401. The Laird of Col wished to purchase Ulva, but he thought the price too high. There may, indeed, be great improvements made there, both in fishing and agriculture ; but the interest of the purchase-money exceeds the rent so very much, that I doubt if the bargain will be profitable. There is an island called Little Colonsay, of 101. yearly rent, which I am informed has belonged to the Macquarrys of Ulva for many ages, but which was lately claimed by the Presbyterian Synod of Argyll, in consequence of a grant made to them by Queen Anne. It is believed that their claim will be dismissed, and that Little Colonsay will also be sold for the advantage of Macquarry's creditors. What think you of purchasing this island, and endowing a school or college there, the master to be a clergyman of the Church of England ? How venerable would such an institution make the name of Dr. SAMUEL Johnson in the Hebrides! I have, like yourself, a wonderful pleasure in recollecting our travels in those islands. The pleasure is, I think, greater than it reasonably should be, considering that we had not much either of beauty or elegance to charm our imaginations, or of rude novelty to astonish. Let us, by all means, have another expedition. I shrink a little from our scheme of going up the Baltick. I am sorry you have already been in Wales ; for I wish to see it. Shall we go to Ireland, of which I have seen but little ? We shall try to strike out a plan when we are at Ashbourne.-I am ever your most faithful humble servant,

“ JAMES BOSWELL." VOL. III.

K K

« ZurückWeiter »