Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

observed to listen very attentively while Miss Thrale played on the harpsichord ; and with eagerness he called to her, “Why don't you dash away like Burney?' Dr. Burney upon this said to him, 'I believe, Sir, we shall make a musician of you at last.' Johnson with candid complacency replied, “Sir, I shall be glad to have a new sense given to me.

He had come down one morning to the breakfastroom, and been a considerable time by himself before any body appeared. When on a subsequent day he was twitted by Mrs. Thrale for being very late, which he generally was, he defended himself by alluding to the extraordinary morning, when he had been too early. 'Madam, I do not like to come down to vacuity.'

“ Dr. Burney having remarked that Mr. Garrick was beginning to look old, he said, 'Why, Sir, you are not to wonder at that ; no man's face has had more wear and tear.

LETTER 228. TO MRS. MONTAGU. (1)

« Dec. 15. 1775. MADAM, — Having, after my return from a little ramble to France, passed some time in the country, I did not hear, till I was told by Miss Reynolds, that you were in town; and when I did hear it, I heard likewise that you were ill. To have you detained among us by sickness is to enjoy your presence at too dear a rate. I suffer myself to be flattered with hope that only half the intelligence is now true, and that you are now so well as to be able to leave us, and so kind as not to be willing. I am, Madam, your most humble servant,

“ SAM. Johnson.”

(1) Mrs. Montagu's recent kindness to Miss Williams was not lost on Johnson. His letters to that lady became more elaborately respectful, and his subsequent mention of her took, as we shall see, a high tone of panegyric. — C.

LETTER 229. TO MRS. MONTAGU.

“ Dec. 17. 1775. “ Madam, — All that the esteem and reverence of mankind can give you has been long in your possession, and the little that I can add to the voice of nations will not much exalt; of that little, however, you are, I hope, very certain. - I wonder, Madam, if you remember Col in the Hebrides ? The brother and heir of poor Col has just been to visit me, and I have engaged to dine with him on Thursday. I do not know his lodging, and cannot send him a message, and must therefore suspend the honour which you are pleased to offer to, Madam, your most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON."

LETTER 230. TO MRS. MONTAGU.

“ Thursday, Dec. 21. 1775. “ MADAM, — I know not when any letter has given me so much pleasure or vexation as that which I had yesterday the honour of receiving. That you, Madam, should wish for my company is surely a sufficient reason for being pleased ; – that I should delay twice, what I had so little right to expect even once, has so bad an appearance, that I can only hope to have it thought that I am ashamed. You have kindly allowed me to name a day. Will you be pleased, Madam, to accept of me any day after Tuesday ? Till I am favoured with your answer, or despair of so much condescension, I shall suffer no engagement to fasten itself upon me. I am, Madam, your most obliged and most humble servant,

“ SAM, JOHNSON.”

Not having heard from him for a longer time than I supposed he would be silent, I wrote to him Dec. 18., not in good spirits :

• Sometimes I have been afraid that the cold which has gone over Europe this year like a sort of pestilence

has seized you severely : sometimes my imagination, which is upon occasions prolific of evil, hath figured that you may have somehow taken offence at some part of my

conduct.”

LETTER 231. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

“ Dec. 29. 1775. - DEAR SIR,

- Never dream of any offence. How should you offend me ? I consider your friendship as a possession, which I intend to hold till you take it from me, and to lament if ever by my fault I should lose it. However, when such suspicions find their way into your mind, always give them vent; I shall make haste to disperse them ; but hinder their first ingress if you can.

Consider such thoughts as morbid. “ Such illness as may excuse my omission to Lord Hailes I cannot honestly plead. I have been hindered, I know not how, by a succession of petty obstructions. I hope to mend immediately, and to send next post to his lordship. Mr. Thrale would have written to you if I had omitted ; he sends his compliments, and wishes to see you.

“ You and your lady will now have no more wrangling about feudal inheritance. How does the young Laird of Auchinleck? I suppose Miss Veronica is grown a reader and discourser. I have just now got a cough, but it has never yet hindered me from sleeping; I have had quieter nights than are common with me. I cannot but rejoice that Joseph (1) has had the wit to find the way back. He is a fine fellow, and one of the best travellers in the world.

Young Col brought me your letter. He is a very

(1) Joseph Ritter, a Bohemian, who was in my service many years, and attended Dr. Johnson and me in our tour to the Hebrides. After having left me for some time, he had now returned to me.

pleasing youth. I took him two days ago to the Mitre, and we dined together. I was as civil as I had the means of being. I have had a letter from Rasay, acknowledging, with great appearance of satisfaction, the insertion in the Edinburgh paper. I am very glad that it was done.

“ My compliments to Mrs. Boswell, who does not love me ; and of all the rest, I need only send them to those that do ; and I am afraid it will give you very little trouble to distribute them. – I am, my dear, dear Sir, &c.

" Sam. JOHNSON."

6 SIR,

LETTER 232. TO MR. GRANGER. (1)

(About 1775, but has no date.) When I returned from the country I found your letter ; and would very gladly have done what you desire, had it been in my power.

Mr. Farmer is, I am confident, mistaken in supposing that he gave me any such pamphlet or cut. I should as soon have suspected myself, as Mr. Farmer, of forgetfulness ; but that I do not know, except from your letter, the name of Arthur O'Toole (?), nor recollect that I ever heard of it before. I think it impossible that I should have suffered such a total obliteration from my mind of any thing which was ever there. This at least is certain ; that I do not know of

any

such pamphlet ; and equally certain I desire you to think it, that if I had it, you should immediately receive it from, Sir, your most humble servant,

- Sam. JOHNSON.”

(1) Author of the “ Biographical History of England."- C.

(2) [The pamphlet alluded to was written by John Taylor, the water-poet, and entitled “Honour of the Noble Captain O'Toole, 1622.” Some account of O'Toole will be found in Granger, vol. ii. p. 100.]

33

CHAPTER II.

1776.

Law of Entail.— Boswell's Melancholy. - John Wesley.

Clarendon Press. Booksellers' Profits. Bolt Court. Mrs. Thrale's Birth-day. Entails. Smith's Wealth of Nations." Lawyers and Lawsuits. - Scotch Militia Bill. Obligation in settling Estates. " Johnsoniana.Value of Truth. Monastic Orders. Carthusians. Religious Austerities. - Wine-bibbing. Fasting.

Influence of Education. Arithmetic.

Sea Life.

In 1776, Johnson wrote, so far as I can discover, nothing for the public: but that his mind was still ardent, and fraught with generous wishes to attain to still higher degrees of literary excellence, is proved by his private notes of this year, which I shall insert in their proper place. LETTER 233. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

« Jan. 10. 1776. « DEAR SIR,

- I have at last sent you all Lord Hailes's papers.

While I was in France, I looked very often into Henault ; but Lord Hailes, in my opinion, leaves him far and far behind. Why I did not despatch so short a perusal sooner, when I look back, I am utterly unable to discover ; but human moments are stolen away by a thousand petty impediments which leave no trace behind them. I have been afflicted, through the whole

[blocks in formation]
« VorigeDoorgaan »