For my sake, therefore, among many greater reasons, take care, dear Madam, of your health, spare no expence, and want no attendance that can procure ease, or preserve it. Be very careful to keep your mind quiet; and do not think it too much to give an account of your recovery to, Madam,

'Yours, &c.


'London, Sept. 7, 1782.'



'Having passed almost this whole year in a succession of disorders, I went in October to Brighthelmston, whither I came in a state of so much weakness, that I rested four times in walking between the inn and the lodging. By physick and abstinence I grew better, and am now reasonably easy, though at a great distance from health[487]. I am afraid, however, that health begins, after seventy, and long before, to have a meaning different from that which it had at thirty. But it is culpable to murmur at the established order of the creation, as it is vain to oppose it. He that lives must grow old; and he that would rather grow old than die, has GOD to thank for the infirmities of old age[488].

'At your long silence I am rather angry. You do not, since now you are the head of your house, think it worth your while to try whether you or your friend can live longer without writing[489], nor suspect that after so many years of friendship, that when I do not write to you, I forget you. Put all such useless jealousies out of your head, and disdain to regulate your own practice by the practice of another, or by any other principle than the desire of doing right.

'Your oeconomy, I suppose, begins now to be settled; your expences are adjusted to your revenue, and all your people in their proper places. Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.

'Let me know the history of your life, since your accession to your estate. How many houses, how many cows, how much land in your own hand, and what bargains you make with your tenants.

* * * * *

'Of my Lives of the Poets, they have printed a new edition in octavo, I hear, of three thousand. Did I give a set to Lord Hailes? If I did not, I will do it out of these. What did you make of all your copy[490]?

'Mrs. Thrale and the three Misses[491] are now for the winter in Argyll-street. Sir Joshua Reynolds has been out of order, but is well again; and I am, dear Sir,

'Your affectionate humble servant,


'London, Dec. 7, 1782.'


'Edinburgh, Dec. 20, 1782.


'I was made happy by your kind letter, which gave us the agreeable hopes of seeing you in Scotland again.

'I am much flattered by the concern you are pleased to take in my recovery. I am better, and hope to have it in my power to convince you by my attention of how much consequence I esteem your health to the world and to myself. I remain, Sir, with grateful respect,

'Your obliged and obedient servant,


The death of Mr. Thrale had made a very material alteration with respect to Johnson's reception in that family. The manly authority of the husband no longer curbed the lively exuberance of the lady; and as her vanity had been fully gratified, by having the Colossus of Literature attached to her for many years, she gradually became less assiduous to please him. Whether her attachment to him was already divided by another object, I am unable to ascertain; but it is plain that Johnson's penetration was alive to her neglect or forced attention; for on the eth of October this year, we find him making a 'parting use of the library[492]' at Streatham, and pronouncing a prayer, which he composed on leaving Mr. Thrale's family[493]:--

'Almighty God, Father of all mercy, help me by thy grace, that I may, with humble and sincere thankfulness, remember the comforts and conveniences which I have enjoyed at this place; and that I may resign them with holy submission, equally trusting in thy protection when thou givest, and when thou takest away. Have mercy upon me, Lord, have mercy upon me.

'To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, I commend this family. Bless, guide, and defend them, that they may so pass through this world, as finally to enjoy in thy presence everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen[494].'

One cannot read this prayer, without some emotions not very favourable to the lady whose conduct occasioned it[495].

In one of his memorandum-books I find, 'Sunday, went to church at Streatham. Templo valedixi cum osculo[496].'

He met Mr. Philip Metcalfe[497] often at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, and other places, and was a good deal with him at Brighthelmston[498] this autumn, being pleased at once with his excellent table and animated conversation. Mr. Metcalfe shewed him great respect, and sent him a note that he might have the use of his carriage whenever he pleased. Johnson (3d October, 1782) returned this polite answer:--'Mr.

Life of Johnson Vol_04 Page 46

James Boswell

Scottish Authors

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

James Boswell
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book