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help you on with your clothes, that I may learn to do it when you are an old man.' 999 1
Soon after this time a little incident occurred, which I will not suppress, because I am desirous that my work should be, as much as is consistent with the strictest truth, an antidote to the false and injurious notions of his character, which have been given by others, and therefore I infuse every drop of genuine sweetness into my biographical cup.
FROM MR. BOSWELL.
"South Audley Street," Monday, April 26. "MY DEAR SIR,-I am in great pain with an inflamed foot, and obliged to keep my bed, so am prevented from having the pleasure to dine at Mr. Ramsay's to-day, which is very hard; and my spirits are sadly sunk. Will you be so friendly as to come and sit an hour with me in the evening? I am ever yours, &c. JAMES BOSWELL."
TO MR. BOSWELL.
"Harley Street. "MR. JOHNSON laments the absence of Mr. Boswell, and will come to him."
He came to me in the evening, and brought Sir Joshua Reynolds. I need scarcely say, that their conversation, while they sat by my bedside, was the most pleasing opiate to pain that could have been administered.
Johnson being now better disposed to obtain information concerning Pope than he was last year, sent by me to my Lord Marchmont a present of those volumes of his "Lives of the Poets" which were at this time published, with a request to have permission to wait on him; and his lordship, who had called on him twice, obligingly appointed Saturday, the 1st of May, for receiving us.
On that morning Johnson came to me from Streatham, and after drinking chocolate at General Paoli's in South Audley Street, we proceeded to Lord Marchmont's in Curzon Street. His lordship met us at the door of his library, and with great politeness said to Johnson, “I am not going to make an encomium upon myself, by telling you the high respect I have for you, Sir." Johnson was exceed
1 Mr. Boswell himself.-C.
2 The residence of General Paoli.-C.
ingly courteous; and the interview, which lasted about two hours, during which the earl communicated his anecdotes of Pope, was as agreeable as I could have wished.' When we came out, I said to Johnson, "that, considering his lordship's civility, I should have been vexed if he had again failed to come." "Sir," said he, "I would rather have given twenty pounds than not have come." I accompanied him to Streatham, where we dined, and returned to town in the evening.
On Monday, May 3, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's. I pressed him this day for his opinion on the passage in Parnell, concerning which I had in vain questioned him in several letters, and at length obtained it in due form of law.
"CASE FOR DR. JOHNSON'S OPINION;
"Parnell, in his 'Hermit,' has the following passage:—
To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight,
(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,
Is there not a contradiction in its being first supposed that the Hermit knew both what books and swains reported of the world; yet afterwards said, that he knew it by swains alone?"
"I think it an inaccuracy. He mentions two instructors in the first line, and says he had only one in the next."
1 His first question, as he told Sir J. Hawkins, was, “What kind of a man was Mr. Pope in his conversation?" His lordship answered, "That if the conversation did not take something of a lively or epigrammatic turn, he fell asleep, or, perhaps, pretended to be so."-C.
2 "I do not," says Mr. Malone, “see any difficulty in this passage, and wonder that Dr. Johnson should have acknowledged it to be inaccurate. The Hermit, it should be observed, had no actual experience of the world whatsoever: all his knowledge concerning it had been obtained in two ways; from books, and from the relations of those country swains who had seen a little of it. The plain meaning, therefore is, 'To clear his doubts concerning Providence, and to obtain some knowledge of the world by actual experience; to see whether the accounts furnished by books, or by the oral communications of swains, were just representations of it;' [I say swains,] for his oral or vivâ voce information had been obtained from that part of mankind alone, &c. The word alone here does not relate to the whole of the preceding line, as has been supposed, but, by a common licence, to the words, of all mankind, which are understood, and of which it is restrictive" Mr. Malone, It must be owned, has shown much critical ingenuity in his explanation of this passage, His interpretation, however, seems to me much too recondite. The meaning of the pas sage may be certain enough; but surely the expression is confused, and one part of it contradictory to the other.-B. It is odd enough that these critics did not think it worth their
This evening I set out for Scotland.
TO MRS. ASTON.
"May 4, 1779.
"DEAR MADAM,-When I sent you the little books, I was not sure that you were well enough to take the trouble of reading them, but have lately heard from Mr. Greeves that you are much recovered. I hope you will gain more and more strength, and live many and many years, and I shall come again to Stowhill, and live as I used to do, with you and dear Mrs. Gastrel.
"I am not well: my nights are very troublesome, and my breath is short; but I know not that it grows much worse. I wish to see you. Mrs. Harvey has just sent to me to dine with her, and I have promised to wait on her to
"Mr. Green comes home loaded with curiosities,' and will be able to give his friends new entertainment. When I come, it will be great entertainment to me if I can find you and Mrs. Gastrel well, and willing to receive me. I am, dearest Madam, &c., SAM. JOHNSON."
TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.
"May 4, 1779.
“DEAR MADAM,—Mr. Green has informed me that you are much better; I hope I need not tell you that I am glad of it. I cannot boast of being much better; my old nocturnal complaint still pursues me, and my respiration is difficult, though much easier than when I left you the summer before last. Mr. and Mrs. Thrale are well; Miss has been a little indisposed, but she is got well again. They have, since the loss of their boy, had two daughters; but they seem likely to want a son.
'I hope you had some books which I sent you. I was sorry for poor Mrs Adey's death, and am afraid you will be sometimes solitary; but endeavour, whether alone or in company, to keep yourself cheerful. My friends likewise die very fast; but such is the state of man. I am, dear love, your, &c.,
He had, before I left London, resumed the conversation concerning the appearance of a ghost at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which Mr. John Wesley believed, but to which Johnson did not give credit. I was, however, desirous to examine the question closely, and at the
while to consult the original for the exact words on which they were exercising their ingenuity. Parnell's words are not "if bocks AND swains," but "if books or swains," which might mean, not that books and swains agreed, but that they differed, and that the Hermit's doubt was excited by the difference between his authorities. This, however, would make no great alteration in the question, on which Dr. Johnson's decision seems Just.-C.
Mr. Green, it will be recollected had a museum at Lichfield.-C.
same time wished to be made acquainted with Mr. John Wesley; for though I differed from him in some points, I admired his various talents, and ioved his pious zeal. At my request, therefore, Dr. Johnson gave me a letter of introduction to him.
TO THE REV. MR. JOHN WESLEY.
"May 5, 1779. "SIR,-Mr. Boswell, a gentleman who has been long known to me, is desir-. ous of being known to you, and has asked this recommendation, which I give him with great willingness, because I think it very much to be wished that worthy and religious men should be acquainted with each other. I am, Sir, &c., "SAM. JOHNSON."
Mr. Wesley being in the course of his ministry at Edinburgh, I presented this letter to him, and was very politely received. I begged to have it returned to me, which was accordingly done. His state of the evidence as to the ghost did not satisfy me.
TO MRS. THRALE.1
66 Lichfield, May 29, 1779. "I have now been here a week, and will try to give you my journal, or such parts of it as are fit, in my mind, for communication.
"On Friday, we set out about twelve, and lay at Daventry.
“On Saturday, we dined with Rann at Coventry. He intercepted us at the town's end. I saw Tom Johnson, who had hardly life to know that I was with him. I hear he is since dead. In the evening I came to Lucy, and walked to Stowhill. Mrs. Aston was gone, or going to bed. I did not see her.
"Sunday. After dinner I went to Stowhill, and was very kindly received. At night I saw my old friend Brodhurst—you know him—the playfellow of my infancy, and gave him a guinea.
Monday.-Dr. Taylor came, and we went with Mrs. Cobb to Greenhill Bower. I had not seen it, perhaps, for fifty years. It is much degenerated. Everything grows old. Taylor is to fetch me next Saturday. Mr. Green came to see us, and I ordered some physic.
"Tuesday.-Physic, and a little company. I dined, I think, with Lucy both Monday and Tuesday.
"Wednesday, Thursday.—I had a few visits, from Peter Garrick among the rest, and dined at Stowhill. My breath very short.
"Friday.-I dined at Stowhill. I have taken physic four days together. "Saturday.-Mrs. Aston took me out in her chaise, and was very kind. I
1 Dr. Johnson made this year his usual excursion into the midland counties; but his visit was shortened by the alarming illness of Mr. Thrale.-C.
dined with Mrs. Cobb, and came to Lucy, with whom I found, as I had done the first day, Lady Smith and Miss Vyse."
"Ashbourne, June 14, 1779.
"Your account of Mr. Thrale's illness is very terrible; but when I remember that he seems to have it peculiar to his constitution-that whatever distemper he has, he always has his head affected-I am less frighted. The seizure was, I think, not apoplectical, but hysterical, and therefore not dangerous to life. I would have you, however, consult such physicians as you think you can best trust. Bromfield seems to have done well, and, by his practice, seems not to suspect an apoplexy. That is a solid and fundamental comfort. I remember Dr. Marsigli, an Italian physician, whose seizure was more violent than Mr. Thrale's, for he fell down helpless; but his case was not considered as of much danger, and he went safe home, and is now a professor at Padua. His fit was considered as only hysterical."
TO THE SAME.
"Ashbourne, June 17, 1779.
"It is certain that your first letter did not alarm me in proportion to the danger, for indeed it did not describe the danger as it was. I am glad that you have Heberden; and hope his restoratives and his preservatives will both be effectual. In the preservatives, dear Mr. Thrale must concur; yet what can he reform? or what can he add to his regularity and temperance? He can only sleep less. We will do, however, all we can. I go to Lichfield to-morrow, with intent to hasten to Streatham.
"Both Mrs. Aston and Dr. Taylor have had strokes of the palsy. The lady was sixty-eight, and at that age has gained ground upon it; the doctor is, you know, not young, and he is quite well, only suspicious of every sensation in the peccant arm. I hope my dear master's case is yet slighter, and that; as his age is less, his recovery will be more perfect. Let him keep his thoughts diverted and his mind easy."
TO HENRY THRALE, ESQ.
"Lichfield, June 28, 1779. "DEAR SIR,-To show you how well I think of your health, I have sent you an hundred pounds to keep for me. It will come within one day of quarterday, and that day you must give me. I came by it in a very uncommon man ner, and would not confound it with the rest.
My wicked mistress talks as if she thought it possible for me to be indif. ferent or negligent about your health or hers. If I could have done any good,
1 A serious apoplectic attack, which was the precursor of another of the same natur which terminated his existence in the course of the ensuing year.-0.