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death was sudden, and no will has yet been found; I therefore gave notice of his death in the papers, that an heir, if he has any, may appear. He has left very little; but of that little his brother is doubtless heir, and your friend may be perhaps his brother. I have had another application from one who calls himself his brother; and I suppose it is fit that the claimant should give some proofs of his relation. I would gladly know, from the gentleman that thinks himself R. Levet's brother, in what year, and in what parish, R. Levet was born? Where
or how was he educated? What was his early course of life? What were the marks of his person; his stature; the colour of his eyes? Was he marked by the small-pox? Had he any impediment in his speech? What relations had he, and how many are now living? His answer to these questions will show whether he knew him; and he may then proceed to show that he is his brother. He may be sure that nothing shall be hastily wasted or removed. I have not looked into his boxes, but transferred that business to a gentleman in the neighbourhood, of character above suspicion.
LETTER 492. TO MRS. THRALE.
April 26. 1782.
I have been very much out of order since you sent me away; but why should I tell you, who do not care, nor desire to know. I dined with Mr. Paradise on Monday, with the Bishop of St. Asaph yesterday, with the Bishop of Chester I dine to-day, and with the Academy on Saturday, with Mr. Hoole on Monday, and with Mrs. Garrick on Thursday, the 2d of May, and then-what care you? — what then? news run that we have taken seventeen French transports; that Langton's lady is lying down with her eighth child, all alive; and Mrs. Carter's Miss Sharpe is going to marry a schoolmaster sixty-two years old.
April 30. 1782. I have had a fresh cold, and been very poorly. But I was yesterday at Mr. Hoole's, where were Miss Reynolds and many others. I am going to the club. Since Mrs. Garrick's invitation I have a letter from Miss More, to engage me for the evening. I have an appointment to Miss Monkton, and another with Lady Sheffield at Mrs. Wray's. Two days ago Mr. Cumberland had his third night, which, after all expenses, put into his own pocket five pounds. He has lost his plume. Mrs. Sheridan refused to sing, at the Duchess of Devonshire's request, a song to the Prince of Wales. They pay for the Drury Lane Theatre neither principal nor interest; and poor Garrick's funeral expenses are yet unpaid, though the undertaker is broken. Could you have a better purveyor for But I wish I was at Streatham.
a little scandal?
TO THE SAME.
London, June 4. 1782.
Wisely was it said by him who said it first, that this world is all ups and downs. You know, dearest lady, that when I pressed your hand at parting, I was rather down. When I came hither, I ate my dinner well; but was so harassed by the cough, that Mr. Strahan said, it was an extremity which he could not have believed "without the sensible and true avouch" of his own observation. I was indeed almost sinking under it, when Mrs. Williams happened to cry out that such a cough should be stilled by opium or any means. I took yesterday half an ounce of bark, and knew not whether opium would counteract it; but remembering no prohibition in the medical books, and knowing that to quiet the cough with opium was one of Lawrence's last orders, I took two grains, which gave me not sleep indeed, but rest, and that rest has given me strength and courage.
This morning to my bed-side came dear Sir Richard [Jebb]. I told him of the opium, and he approved it, and told me, if I
went to Oxford, which he rather advised, that I should strengthen the constitution by the bark, tame the cough with opium, keep the body open, and support myself by liberal nutriment. As to the journey I know not that it will be necessary desine mollium tandem querularum.
Sunday, June 8. 1782. - I have this day taken a passage to Oxford for Monday- - not to frisk, as you express it with very unfeeling irony, but to catch at the hopes of better health. The change of place may do something. To leave the house where so much has been suffered affords some pleasure.
Oxford, June 12. 1782. -I find no particular salubrity in this air; my respiration is very laborious; my appetite is good, and my sleep commonly long and quiet; but a very little motion disables me. I dine to-day with Dr. Adams, and tomorrow with Dr. Wetherel. Yesterday Dr. Edwards invited some men from Exeter College, whom I liked very well. These variations of company help the mind, though they can. not do much for the body. But the body receives some help from a cheerful mind.
Oxford, June 17. 1782. Oxford has done, I think, what for the present it can do, and I am going slily to take a place in the coach for Wednesday, and you or my sweet Queeny will fetch me on Thursday, and see what you can make of me. To-day I am going to dine with Dr. Wheeler, and to-morrow Dr. Edwards has invited Miss Adams and Miss More. Yesterday I went with Dr. Edwards to his living. He has really done all that he could do for my relief or entertainment, and really drives me away by doing too much.
LETTER 495. TO MR. NICHOLS.
Jan. 10. 1783.
SIR, — I am much obliged by your kind communication of your account of Hinckley. (1) I know Mr. Carte is one of
(1) For this work Dr. Johnson had contributed several hints towards the Life of Anthony Blackwall, to whom, when very young, he had been some time an usher at Market Bosworth school. Blackwall died in April, 1730, before Johnson was one and twenty. - NICHOLS.
the prebendaries of Lichfield, and for some time surrogate of the chancellor. Now I will put you in a way of showing me more kindness. I have been confined by illness a long time; and sickness and solitude make tedious evenings. Come sometimes and see, Sir, &c.
LETTER 496. TO JOSEPH FOWKE, ESQ.
April 19. 1783.
DEAR SIR, To show you that neither length of time, nor distance of place, withraws you from my memory, I have sent you a little present (1), which will be transmitted by Sir Robert Chambers.
To your former letters I made no answer, because I had none to make. Of the death of the unfortunate man [meaning Nundocomar], I believe Europe thinks as you think; but it was past prevention; and it was not fit for me to move a question in public which I was not qualified to discuss, as the inquiry could then do no good; and I might have been silenced by a hardy denial of facts, which, if denied, I could not prove.
Since we parted, I have suffered much sickness of body and perturbation of mind. My mind, if I do not flatter myself, is unimpaired, except that sometimes my memory is less ready; but my body, though by nature very strong, has given way to repeated shocks.
Genua labant, vastos quatit æger anhelitus artus. This line might have been written on purpose for me. You will see, however, that I have not totally forsaken literature. I can apply better to books than I could in some more vigorous parts of my life at least than I did; and I have one more reason for reading that time has, by taking away my companions, left me less opportunity of conversation. I have led an inactive and careless life; it is time at last to be diligent: there is yet provision to be made for eternity.
Let me know, dear Sir, what you are doing. Are you ac
(1) A collection of the Doctor's works. —
cumulating gold, or picking up diamonds? Or are you now sated with Indian wealth, and content with what you have? Have you vigour for bustle, or tranquillity for inaction? Whatever you do, I do not suspect you of pillaging or oppressing; and shall rejoice to see you return with a body unbroken, and a mind uncorrupted.
You and I had hardly any common friends, and therefore I have few anecdotes to relate to you. Mr. Levet, who brought us into acquaintance, died suddenly at my house last year, in his seventy-eighth year, or about that age. Mrs. Williams, the blind lady, is still with me, but much broken by a She is, however, not very wearisome and obstinate disease. likely to die; and it would delight me if you would send her some petty token of your remembrance: you may send me one Whether we shall ever meet again in this world, who can tell? Let us, however, wish well to each other: prayers can pass the Line and the Tropics. I am, &c.
London, May-day, 1783. On Saturday I dined, as is usual, at the opening of the Exhibition. Our company was splendid; whether more numerous than at any former time, I know not. Our tables seem always full. On Monday, if I am told truth, were received at the door 190l., for the admission of 3800 spectators. Supposing the show open ten hours, and the spectators staying one with another each an hour, the room never had fewer than 380 justling against each other. Poor Lowe met some discouragement; but I interposed for him, and prevailed. Mr. Barry's exhibition was opened the same day, and a book is published to recommend it; which, if you read it, you will find decorated with some satirical pictures of Sir Joshua Reynolds and others. I have not escaped. You must, however, think with some esteem of Barry for the comprehension of his design.