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I am indebted to Mr. Malone, one of Sir Joshua Reynolds's exccutors, for the following note, which was found among his papers after his death, and which, we may presume, his unaffected modesty prevented him from communicating to me with the other letters from Dr. Johnson with which he was pleased to furnish me. However slight in itself, as it does honour to that illustrious painter and most amiable man, I am happy to introduce it.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
66 June 23, 1781. "DEAR SIR,-It was not before yesterday that I received your splendid benefaction. To a hand so liberal in distributing, I hope nobody will envy the power of acquiring. I am, dear Sir, your, &c.
The following letters were written at this time by Johnson to Miss Reynolds, the latter on receiving from her a copy of her "Essay on Taste," privately printed, but never published.
TO MISS REYNOLDS.1
"Bolt Court, June 28, 1781. "DEAREST MADAM,—There is in these [pages, or remarks,] such depth of penetration, such nicety of observation, as Locke or Pascal might be proud of. This I desire you to believe is my real opinion. However, it cannot be published in its present state. Many of your notions seem not to be very clear in your own mind; many are not sufficiently developed and expanded for the common reader; it wants everywhere to be made smoother and plainer. You 'may, by revisal and correction, make it a very elegant and very curicus work. I am, my dearest dear, your, &c. SAM. JOHNSON.
TO THOMAS ASTLE, ESQ.
66 July 17, 1781.
Sir,—I am ashamed that you have been forced to call so often for your books, but it has been by no fault on either side. They have never been out of my hands, nor have I ever been at home without seeing you; for to see a man so skilful in the antiquities of my country is an opportunity of improve- * ment not willingly to be missed.
"Your notes on Alfred" appear to me very judicious and accurate, but they
i Miss Reynolds, for whom Dr. Johnson had a high regard, died in Westminster, at the age of eighty, Nov. 1, 1807.-M.
2 The will of King Aifred, alluded to in this letter, from the original Saxor, in the library of Mr. Astle, had been printed at the expense of the University of Oxford.
are too few. Many things familiar to you are unknown to me, and to most others; and you must not think too favourably of your readers; by supposing them knowing, you will leave them ignorant. Measure of land, and value of money, it is of great importance to state with care. Had the Saxons any gold
"I have much curiosity after the manners and transactions of the middle ages, but have wanted either diligence or opportunity, or both. You, Sir, have great opportunities, and I wish you both diligence and success. I am, Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
The following curious anecdote I insert in Dr. Burney's own words:
"Dr. Burney related to Dr. Johnson the partiality which his writings had excited in a friend of Dr. Burney's, the late Mr. Bewley,' well known in Norfolk by the name of the Philosopher of Mossingham; who, from the Ramblers and plan of his dictionary, and long before the author's fame was established by the Dictionary itself, or any other work, had conceived such a reverence for him, that he earnestly begged Dr. Burney to give him the cover of the first letter he had received from him, as a relic of so estimable a writer. This was in 1755. In 1760, when Dr. Burney visited Dr. Johnson at the Temple, in London, where he had then chambers, he happened to arrive there before he was up; and being shown into the room where he was to breakfast, finding himself alone, he examined the contents of the apartment, to try whether he could, undiscovered, steal anything to send to his friend Bewley, as another relic of the admirable Dr. Johnson. But finding nothing better to his purpose, he cut some bristles off his hearth-broom, and enclosed them in a letter to his country enthusiast, who received them with due reverence. The Doctor was so sensible of the honour done to him by a man of genius and science, to whom he was' an utter stranger, that he said to Dr. Burney, 'Sir, there is no man possessed of the smallest portion of modesty, but must be flattered with the admiration of such a man. I'll give him a set of my Lives, if he will do me the honour to accept them.' In this he kept his word; and Dr. Burney had not only the pleasure of gratifying his friend with a present more worthy of his acceptance than the segment from the hearth-broom, but soon after introducing him to Dr. Johnson himself in Bolt Court, with whom he had the satisfaction of conversing for a considerable time, not a fortnight before his death; which happened in St. Martin's street, during his visit to Dr. Burney, in the house where the great Sir Isaac Newton had lived and died before."
In one of his little memorandum-books is the following minute :
1 Mr. William Bewley died Sept. 5, 1788. He was a "Monthly Reviewer."-0.
16 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, frc.n 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,' 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-D: Lawrence-Death of Friendship-"Beauties" and "Deformities" of Johnson-Misery :f being in Debt-Six Rules for Travellers-Death of Lord Auchinleck-"Kindness and Fondness"-Life-Old Age-Evils of Poverty-Prayer on leaving Streatham-Visit to 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.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
66 January 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. I am 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. 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, etc., SAM. JOHNSON."
At a time when he was less able than he had once been to sus
1 The truth of this has been proved by sad experience.-B. Mrs. Boswell died June 4
tain a shock, he was suddenly deprived of Mr. Levett, which event he thus communicated to Dr. Lawrence:
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,
In one of his memorandum-books in my possession is the following entry :
“ 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,' that 16 honoured his memory with the following pathetic verses:
Condemn'd to Hope's delusive mine,
Our social comforts drop away.
"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;
Thy praise to merit unrefined.
"When fainting Nature call'd for aid,
And hovering death prepared the blow
The power of art without the show.
1 See an account of him, antè, Vol. I.