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treat you to give me. I am in great trouble; if you can write three words to me, be pleased to do it. I am afraid to say much, and cannot say nothing when my dearest is in danger. The all-merciful God have mercy on you! I am, Madam, your, &c. (1)
LETTER 481. TO MR. GEORGE STRAHAN,
Feb. 19. 1763.
Dear George,—I am glad that you have found the benefit of confidence, and hope you will never want a friend to whom you may safely disclose any painful secret. The state of your mind you had not so concealed but that it was suspected at home, which I mention, that if any hint should be given you,
(1) Miss Boothby died Friday, January 16. 1756; upon whose death Dr. Johnson composed the following prayer:-"Hill Boothby's death, January, 1756.- O Lord God, Almighty disposer of all things, in whose hands are life and death, who givest comforts and takest them away, I return thee thanks for the good example of Hill Boothby, whom thou hast now taken away; and implore thy grace that I may improve the opportu nity of instruction which thou hast afforded me, by the knowledge of her life, and by the sense of her death; that I may consider the uncertainty of my present state, and apply myself earnestly to the duties which thou hast set before me, that, living in thy fear, I may die in thy favour, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (Pr. and Med. p. 25.)
The general phraseology of Johnson's notes, and the terms "my dearest" and "my angel," seem strange; but it must be recollected that dearest dear, and similar superlatives of tenderness, were usual with him in addressing Miss Reynolds and other ladies, for whom he confessedly felt nothing but friendship; and they were addressed to Miss Boothby when she was dying, and when the hearts of both were softened by sickness and affliction, and warmed by spiritual communication. As to the supposed rivalry between him and Lord Lyttelton for Miss Boothby's favour (see antè, Vol. IX. p. 57.), it must be either a total mistake or an absurd exaggeration. Lord Lyttelton was, during the whole of the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson and Miss Boothby, a married man, fondly attached to his wife, and remarkable for the punctilious propriety of his moral conduct; and the preference shown by Miss Boothby, and which is said to have rankled in Johnson's heart, could have been nothing more than some inci. dent in a morning visit, when Lord Lyttelton and Johnson may have met in Cavendish Square (for it seems certain that they never met in the country). We have seen in the cases of Lord Chesterfield (Vol. II. p.7.) and of Miss Cotterell (Vol. I. p. 293.) how_touchy Johnson was on such occasions, and how ready he was to take offence at any thing that looked like slight. Some preference or superior respect shown by Miss Boothby to Lord Lyttelton's rank and public station (he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1755) no doubt offended the sensitive pride of Johnson, and occasioned the dislike which he confessed to Mrs. Thrale he felt for Lord Lyttelton; but an amorous rivalry between them is not only absurd, but
it may not be imputed to me, who have told nothing but to yourself, who had told more than you intended.
I hope you read more of Nepos, or of some other book, than you construe to Mr. Bright. The more books you look into for your entertainment, with the greater variety of style you will make yourself acquainted. Turner I do not know; but think that if Clark be better, you should change it, for I shall never be willing that you should trouble yourself with more than one book to learn the government of words. What book that one shall be, Mr. Bright must determine. Be but diligent in reading and writing, and doubt not of the success. Be pleased to make my compliments to Miss Page and the gentlemen. I am, dear Sir, yours affectionately,
LETTER 482. TO THE SAME.
March 26. 1763.
DEAR SIR, You did not very soon answer my letter, and therefore cannot complain that I make no great haste to answer yours. I am well enough satisfied with the proficiency that you make, and hope that you will not relax the vigour of your diligence. I hope you begin now to see that all is possible which was professed. Learning is a wide field, but six years spent in close application are a long time; and I am still of opinion, that if you continue to consider knowledge as the most pleasing and desirable of all acquisitions, and do not suffer your course to be interrupted, you may take your degree not only without deficiency, but with great distinction.
You must still continue to write Latin. This is the most difficult part, indeed the only part that is very difficult, of your undertaking. If you can exemplify the rules of syntax, I know not whether it will be worth while to trouble yourself with any more translations. You will more increase your number of words, and advance your skill in phraseology, by making a short theme or two every day; and when you have construed properly a stated number of verses, it will be pleasing to go from reading to composition, and from composition
to reading. But do not be very particular about method; any method will do if there be but diligence. Let me know, if you please, once a week what you are doing. I am, dear George, your humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON.
TO THE SAME.
April 16. 1763.
DEAR SIR, Your account of your proficience is more nearly equal, I find, to my expectations than your own. are angry that a theme on which you took so much pains was at last a kind of English Latin; what could you expect more? If at the end of seven years you write good Latin, you will excel most of your contemporaries: Scribendo disces scribere. It is only by writing ill that you can attain to write well. Be but diligent and constant, and make no doubt of success.
I will allow you but six weeks for Tully's Offices. Walker's Particles I would not have you trouble yourself to learn at all by heart, but look in it from time to time and observe his notes and remarks, and see how they are exemplified. The translation from Clark's history will improve you, and I would have you continue it to the end of the book.
I hope you read by the way at loose hours other books, though you do not mention them; for no time is to be lost; and what can be done with a master is but a small part of the whole. I would have you now and then try at some English When you find that you have mistaken any thing, review the passage carefully and settle it in your mind.
Be pleased to make my compliments, and those of Miss Williams, to all our friends. I am, dear Sir, yours most affectionately, SAM. JOHNSON.
LETTER 484. TO THE SAME.
Sept. 20. 1763.
DEAR SIR, I should have answered your last letter sooner if I could have given you any valuable or useful directions;
but I knew not any way by which the composition of Latin verses can be much facilitated. Of the grammatical part, which comprises the knowledge of the measure of the foot, and quantity of the syllables, your grammar will teach you all that can be taught, and even of that you can hardly know any thing by rule but the measure of the foot. The quantity of syllables even of those for which rules are given is commonly learned by practice and retained by observation. For the poetical part, which comprises variety of expression, propriety of terms, dexterity in selecting commodious words, and readiness in changing their order, it will all be produced by frequent essays and resolute perseverance. The less help you have, the sooner you will be able to go forward without help.
I suppose you are now ready for another author. I would not have you dwell longer upon one book than till your familiarity with its style makes it easy to you. Every new book will for a time be difficult. Make it a rule to write something in Latin every day; and let me know what you are now doing, and what your scheme is to do next. Be pleased to give my compliments to Mr. Bright, Mr. Stevenson, and Miss Page. I am, dear Sir, your affectionate servant,
LETTER 485. TO THE SAME.
July 14. 1763.
DEAR GEORGE, To give pain ought always to be painful, and I am sorry that I have been the occasion of any uneasiness to you, to whom I hope never to [do] any thing but for your benefit or your pleasure. Your uneasiness was without any reason on your part, as you had written with sufficient frequency to me, and I had only neglected to answer them, because, as nothing new had been proposed to your study, no new direction or incitement could be offered you. But if it had happened that you had omitted what you did not omit, and that I had for an hour, or a week, or a much longer time, thought myself put out of your mind by something to which
presence gave that prevalence, which presence will sometimes give even where there is the most prudence and experience, you are not to imagine that my friendship is light enough to be blown away by the first cross blast, or that my regard or kindness hangs by so slender a hair as to be broken off by the unfelt weight of a petty offence. I love you, and hope to love you long. You have hitherto done nothing to diminish my good will, and though you had done much more than you have supposed imputed to you, my good will would not have been diminished.
I write thus largely on this suspicion, which you have suffered to enter into your mind, because in youth we are apt to be too rigorous in our expectations, and to suppose that the duties of life are to be performed with unfailing exactness and regularity; but in our progress through life we are forced to abate much of our demands, and to take friends such as we can find them, not as we would make them.
These concessions every wise man is more ready to make to others, as he knows that he shall often want them for himself; and when he remembers how often he fails in the observance of a cultivation of his best friends, is willing to suppose that his friends may in their turn neglect him, without any intention to offend him.
When therefore it shall happen, as happen it will, that you or I have disappointed the expectation of the other, you are not to suppose that you have lost me, or that I intended to lose you; nothing will remain but to repair the fault, and to go on as if it never had been committed. I am, Sir, your affectionate servant, SAM. JOHNSON.
LETTER 486. TO MISS REYNOLDS.
Oxford, Oct. 27. [1763.]
Your letter has scarcely come time enough to make an answer possible. I wish we could talk over the affair. I cannot go now I must finish my book. I do not know Mr. Col