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where the great Sir Isaac Newton had lived and died before."
In one of his little memorandum-books is the following minute:
“August 9. 3 P. M. ætat. 72, in the summer-house at Streatham. After innumerable resolutions formed and neglected, I have retired hither, to plan a life of greater diligence, in hope that I may yet be useful, and be daily better prepared to appear before my Creator and my Judge, from whose infinite mercy I humbly call for assistance and support. My purpose is, — To pass eight hours every day in some serious employment. Having prayed, I purpose to employ the next six weeks upon the Italian language for my settled study."
How venerably pious does he appear in these moments of solitude; and how spirited are his resolutions for the improvement of his mind, even in elegant literature, at a very advanced period of life, and when afflicted with many complaints.
In autumn he went to Oxford, Birmingham, Lichfield, and Ashbourne, for which very good reasons might be given in the conjectural yet positive manner of writers, who are proud to account for every event which they relate. He himself, however, says, "The motives of my journey I hardly know: I omitted it last year, and am not willing to miss it again." (Pr. and Med. p. 198.) But some good considerations arise, amongst which is the kindly recollection of Mr. Hector, surgeon, of Birmingham. "Hector is likewise an old friend, the only companion of my childhood that passed through the school with me. We have always loved one another; perhaps we may be made better by some serious
conversation; of which, however, I have no distinct hope."
He says, too, "At Lichfield, my native place, I hope to show a good example by frequent attendance on public worship."
My correspondence with him during the rest of this year was, I know not why, very scanty, and all on my side. I wrote him one letter to introduce Mr. Sinclair (now Sir John), the member for Caithness (1), to his acquaintance; and informed him in another that my wife had again been affected with alarming symptoms of illness.
(1) The Right Hon. Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, Bart.; a voluminous writer on agriculture and statistics. — C.
Death of Robert Levett.- Verses to his Memory. Chatterton Dr. Lawrence. Death of Friendship. "Beauties" and "Deformities" of Johnson. - Misery of being in Debt.- Six Rules for Travellers.-Death of Lord Auchinleck. "Kindness and Fondness."
Life. — Old Age.
Evils of Po-
verty.- Prayer on leaving Streatham. Cowdry.-Nichols's "Anecdotes."- Wilson's "Archeological Dictionary."— Dr. Patten.
IN 1782 his complaints increased, and the history of his life this year is little more than a mournful recital of the variations of his illness, in the midst of which, however, it will appear from his letters, that the powers of his mind were in no degree impaired.
LETTER 405. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"Jan. 5. 1782.
"DEAR SIR, I sit down to answer your letter on the same day in which I received it, and am pleased that my first letter of the year is to you. No man ought to be at ease while he knows himself in the wrong; and I have not satisfied myself with my long silence. The letter relating to Mr. Sinclair, however, was, I believe, never brought.
"My health has been tottering this last year; and I can give no very laudable account of my time.
always hoping to do better than I have ever hitherto done. My journey to Ashbourne and Staffordshire was not pleasant; for what enjoyment has a sick man visiting the sick? Shall we ever have another frolic like our journey to the Hebrides?
"I hope that dear Mrs. Boswell will surmount her complaints: in losing her you will lose your anchor, and be tossed, without stability, by the waves of life. (1) I wish both you and her very many years, and very happy.
"For some months past I have been so withdrawn from the world, that I can send you nothing particular. All your friends, however, are well, and will be glad of your return to London. I am, dear Sir, &c.
At a time when he was less able than he had once been to sustain a shock, he was suddenly deprived of Mr. Levett, which event he thus communicated to Dr. Lawrence.
LETTER 406. TO DR. LAWRENCE.
"Jan. 17. 1782.
"SIR, - Our old friend, Mr. Levett, who was last night eminently cheerful, died this morning. The man who lay in the same room, hearing an uncommon noise, got up and tried to make him speak, but without effect. He then called Mr. Holder, the apothecary, who, though when he came he thought him dead, opened a vein, but could draw no blood. So has ended the long life of a very useful and very blameless man. I am, Sir, your most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON."
In one of his memorandum-books in my possession is the following entry :
(1) The truth of this has been proved by sad experience. - B. Mrs. Boswell died June 4. 1789.-M.
January 20, Sunday, Robert Levett was buried in the churchyard of Bridewell, between one and two in the afternoon. He died on Thursday, 17, about seven in the morning, by an instantaneous death. He was an old and faithful friend: I have known him from about 46. Commendavi. May God have mercy on him! May he have mercy on me!"
Such was Johnson's affectionate regard for Levett (1), that he honoured his memory with the following pathetic verses:
"Condemn'd to Hope's delusive mine,
As on we toil from day to day,
By sudden blast or slow decline
"Well try'd through many a varying year,
Of every friendless name the friend.
"Yet still he fills affection's eye,
Obscurely wise and coarsely kind;
"When fainting Nature call'd for aid,
And hovering death prepared the blow,
His vigorous remedy display'd
The power of art without the show.
"In misery's darkest caverns known,
(1) See an account of him, antè, Vol. I. p. 290. (2) Johnson repeated this line to me thus:
"And labour steals an hour to die."
But he afterwards altered it to the present reading.