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I am now not without hopes
have passed this long winter.
LETTER 510. TO MRS. THRALE.
London, March 20. 1784.
MADAM, Your last letter had something of tenderness. The accounts which you have had of my danger and distress were I suppose not aggravated. I have been confined ten weeks with an asthma and dropsy. But I am now better. God has in his mercy granted me a reprieve; for how much time his mercy must determine.
On the 19th of last month I evacuated twenty pints of water, and I think I reckon exactly. From that time the tumour has subsided, and I now begin to move with some freedom. You will easily believe that I am still at a great distance from health; but I am, as my chirurgeon expressed it, amazingly better. Heberden seems to have great hopes. Write to me no more about dying with a grace. When you feel what I have felt in approaching eternity-in fear of soon hearing the sentence of which there is no revocationwill know the folly my wish is that you may know it sooner. The distance between the grave and the remotest part of human longevity is but a very little; and of that little no path is certain. You know all this, and I thought that I knew it too; but I know it now with a new conviction. May that new conviction not be vain! I am now cheerful. I hope this approach to recovery is a token of the Divine mercy. My friends continue their kindness. I give a dinner to-morrow.
TO THE SAME.
April 15. - Yesterday I had the pleasure of giving another dinner to the remainder of the old club. We used to meet weekly about the year 1750, and we were as cheerful as in former times: only I could not make quite so much noise; for since the paralytic affliction, my voice is sometimes weak.
Metcalf and Crutchley, without knowing each other, are
both members of parliament for Horsham, in Sussex. Cator is chosen for Ipswich.
But a sick man's thoughts soon turn back upon himself. am still very weak, though my appetite is keen, and my digestion potent; and I gratify myself more at table than ever I did at my own cost before. I have now an inclination to luxury which even your table did not excite; for till now my talk was more about the dishes than my thoughts. I remember you commended me for seeming pleased with my dinners when you had reduced your table. I am able to tell you with great veracity that I never knew when the reduction began, nor should have known that it was made had not you told me. I now think and consult to-day what I shall eat to-morrow. This disease will likewise, I hope, be cured. For there are other things how different! which ought to predominate in the mind of such a man as I: but in this world the body will have its part; and my hope is, that it shall have no more my hope, but not my confidence; I have only the timidity of a Christian to determine, not the wisdom of a stoic to secure
April 19. - I received this morning your magnificent fish, and in the afternoon your apology for not sending it. I have invited the Hooles and Miss Burney to dine upon it tomorrow. The club which has been lately instituted is at Sam's; and there was I when I was last out of the house. But the people whom I mentioned in my letter are the remnant of a little club (2) that used to meet in Ivy-lane, about three and thirty years ago, out of which we have lost Hawkesworth and Dyer - the rest are yet on this side the grave.
April 21.- I make haste to send you intelligence, which, if I do not flatter myself, you will not receive without some degree of pleasure. After a confinement of one hundred and twenty-nine days, more than the third part of a year, and no inconsiderable part of human life, I this day returned thanks
(1) This friend of Johnson's youth survived him somewhat more than three years, having died February 19. 1788.- M.
to God in St. Clement's church for my recovery; a recovery, in my seventy-fifth year, from a distemper which few in the vigour of youth are known to surmount; a recovery, of which neither myself, my friends, nor my physicians, had any hope; for though they flattered me with some continuance of life, they never supposed that I could cease to be dropsical. The dropsy, however, is quite vanished; and the asthma so much mitigated, that I walked to-day with a more easy respiration than I have known, I think, for perhaps two years past. I hope the mercy that lightens my days will assist me to use them well.
The Hooles, Miss Burney, and Mrs. Hall (Wesley's sister), feasted yesterday with me very cheerfully on your noble salmon. Mr. Allen could not come, and I sent him a piece, and a great tail is still left.
Dr. Brocklesby forbids the club at present, not caring to venture the chilness of the evening; but I purpose to show myself on Saturday at the academy's feast. (1) I cannot publish my return to the world more effectually; for, as the Frenchman says, tout le monde s'y trouvera. For this occasion I ordered some clothes; and was told by the tailor, that when he brought me a sick dress, he never expected to make me any thing of any other kind. My recovery is indeed wonderful.
April 26. On Saturday I showed myself again to the living world at the Exhibition: much and splendid was the company, but, like the doge of Genoa at Paris, I admired nothing but myself. I went up all the stairs to the pictures without stopping to rest or to breathe, " in all the madness of superfluous health." The Prince of Wales had promised to be there; but when we had waited an hour and a half, sent us word that he could not come.
Mrs. Davenant called to pay me a guinea, but I gave two for you. Whatever reasons you have for frugality, it is not worth while to save a guinea a year by withdrawing it from a public charity. Mr. Howard called on me a few days
(1) The exhibition dinner of the Royal Academy. — C.
ago, and gave me the new edition, much enlarged, of his "Account of Prisons." He has been to survey the prisons on the Continent; and in Spain he tried to penetrate the dungeons of the Inquisition, but his curiosity was very imperfectly gratified. At Madrid, they shut him quite out; at Valladolid, they showed him some public rooms.
TO THE SAME.
London, May 31. 1784.
I have one way or other been disappointed hitherto of that change of air from which I think some relief may possibly be obtained; but Boswell and I have settled our resolution to go to Oxford on Thursday. But since I was at Oxford, my convivial friend Dr. Edwards, and my learned friend Dr. Wheeler, are both dead, and my probabilities of pleasure are very much diminished. Why, when so many are taken away, have I been yet spared? I hope that I may be fitter to die. How long we shall stay at Oxford, or what we shall do when we leave it, neither Bozzy nor I have settled; he is, for his part, resolved to remove his family to London, and try his fortune at the English bar: let us all wish him success.
LETTER 513. MRS. PIOZZI TO DR. JOHNSON.
Bath, June 30. [1784.]
MY DEAR SIR, The enclosed is a circular letter, which I have sent to all the guardians; but our friendship demands somewhat more: it requires that I should beg your pardon for concealing from you a connection which you must have heard of by many, but I suppose never believed. Indeed, my dear Sir, it was concealed only to save us both needless pain. I could not have borne to reject that counsel it would have killed me to take, and I only tell it you now because all is irrevocably settled, and out of your power to prevent. I will say, however, that the dread of your disapprobation has given me some anxious moments, and though, perhaps, I am become
by many privations the most independent woman in the world,
TO MRS. PIOZZI.
London, July 8. 1784.
DEAR MADAM, - What you have done, however I may lament it, I have no pretence to resent, as it has not been injurious to me: I therefore breathe out one sigh more of tenderness, perhaps useless, but at least sincere.
I wish that God may grant you every blessing, that you may be happy in this world for its short continuance, and eternally happy in a better state; and whatever I can contribute to your happiness I am very ready to repay, for that kindness which soothed twenty years of a life radically wretched.
Do not think slightly of the advice which I now presume to offer. Prevail upon M. Piozzi to settle in England: you may live here with more dignity than in Italy, and with more security your rank will be higher, and your fortune more under your own eye. I desire not to detail all my reasons, but every argument of prudence and interest is for England, and only some phantoms of imagination seduce you to Italy. I am afraid, however, that my counsel is vain; yet I have eased my heart by giving it.
When Queen Mary took the resolution of sheltering herself in England, the Archbishop of St. Andrew's, attempting to dissuade her, attended on her journey; and when they came to the irremeable stream that separated the two kingdoms, walked by her side into the water, in the middle of which he seized her bridle, and with earnestness proportioned to her danger and his own affection, pressed her to return. The queen went forward. If the parallel reaches thus far, may it go no farther. The tears stand in my eyes. I am going into Derbyshire, and hope to be followed by your good wishes, for with great affection, your, &c.
Any letters that come for me hither will be sent me.