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April 12. 1784. SIR, - I have sent you inclosed a very curious proposal from Mr. Hawkins, the son of Sir John Hawkins, who, I believe, will take care that whatever his son promises shall be performed. If you are inclined to publish this compilation, the editor will agree for an edition on the following terms, which I think liberal enough. That you shall print the book at your own charge. That the sale shall be wholly for your benefit till your expenses are repaid; except that at the time of publication you shall put into the hands of the editor, without price, . . . copies for his friends. That, when you have been repaid, the profits arising from the sale of the remaining copies shall be divided equally between you and the editor, That the edition shall not comprise fewer than five hundred.
TO MR. SASTRES.
Ashbourne, Aug. 21. 1784. DREA SIR, I am glad that a letter has at last reached you; what became of the two former, which were directed to Mortimer instead of Margaret-street, I have no means of knowing, nor is it worth the while to enquire; they neither enclosed bills, nor contained secrets.
My health was for some time quite at a stand, if it did not rather go backwards ; but for a week past it flatters me with appearances of amendment, which I dare yet hardly credit. My breath has been certainly less obstructed for eight days; and yesterday the water seemed to be disposed to a fuller flow. But I get very little sleep; and my legs do not like to carry me.
You were kind in paying my forfeits at the club; it cannot be expected that many should meet in the summer; however, they that continue in town should keep up appearances as well as they can. I hope to be again among you.
I wish you had told me distinctly the mistakes in the French words. The French is but a secondary and subordinate part of your design ; exactness, however, in all parts is necessary, though complete exactness cannot be attained; and the French are so well stocked with dictionaries, that a little attention may easily keep you safe from gross faults; and as you work on, your vigilance will be quickened, and your observation regulated ; you will better know your own wants, and learn better whence they may be supplied. Let me know minutely the whole state of your negotiations. Dictionaries are like watches, the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.
The weather here is very strange summer weather; and we are here two degrees nearer the north than you. I was, I think, loath to think a fire necessary in July, till I found one in the servants' hall, and thought myself entitled to as much warmth as them.
I wish you would make it a task to yourself to write to me twice a week; a letter is a great relief to, dear Sir, your, &c.
Ashbourne, Sept. 2. 1784. Dear Sir, — Your critic seems to me to be an exquisite Frenchman; his remarks are nice; they would at least have escaped me. I wish you better luck with your next specimen; though if such slips as these are to condemn a dictionary, I know not when a dictionary will be made. I cannot yet think that gourmander is wrong; but I have here no means of verifying my opinion.
My health, by the mercy of God, still improves; and I have hope of standing the English winter, and of seeing you, and reading Petrarch at Bolt Court; but let me not flatter myself too much. I am yet weak, but stronger than I was.
I suppose the club is now almost forsaken ; but we shall I hope meet again. We have lost poor Allen ; a very worthy man, and to me a very kind and officious neighbour.
Of the pieces ascribed by Bembo to Virgil, the Dirce (ascribed, I think, to Valerius Cato), the Copa and the Moretum
are, together with the Culex and Ceiris, in Scaliger's Appendix ad Virgilium. The rest I never heard the name of before.
I am highly pleased with your account of the gentleman and lady with whom you lodge; such characters have sufficient attractions to draw me towards them; you are lucky to light upon them in the casual commerce of life.
Continue, dear Sir, to write to me; and let me hear any thing or nothing, as the chance of the day may be. Sir, your, &c.
Ashbourne, Sept. 16. 1784. DEAR SIR, — What you have told me of your landlord and his lady at Brompton has made them such favourites, that I am not sorry to hear how you are turned out of your lodgings, because the good is greater to them than the evil is to you.
The death of dear Mr. Allen gave me pain. When after some time of absence I visit a town, I find my friends dead; when I leave a place, I am followed with intelligence, that the friend whom I hope to meet at my return is swallowed in the grave. This is a gloomy scene; but let us learn from it to prepare for our own removal.
Allen is gone; Sastres and Johnson are hasting after him; may we be both as well prepared!
I again wish your next specimen success. Paymistress can hardly be said without a preface (it may be expressed by a word perhaps not in use, pay mistress).
The club is, it seems, totally deserted; but as the forfeits go on, the house does not suffer; and all clubs, I suppose, are unattended in the summer. We shall, I hope, meet in winter, and be cheerful.
After this week, do not write to me till you hear again from me, for I know not well where I shall be ; I have grown weary of the solitude of this place, and think of removal. I am, Sir,
Lichfield, Oct. 20. 1784. SIR, You have abundance of naughty tricks; is this your way of writing to a poor sick friend twice a week ? Post comes after post, and brings no letter from Mr. Sastres. If you know any thing, write and tell it; if you know nothing, write and say that you know nothing.
What comes of the specimen ? If the booksellers want a specimen, in which a keen critic can spy no faults, they must wait for another generation. Had not the Crusca faults ? Did not the academicians of France commit many faults? It is enough that a dictionary is better than others of the same kind. A perfect performance of any kind is not to be expected, and certainly not a perfect dictionary.
Mrs. Desmoulines never writes, and I know not how things go on at home; tell me, dear Sir, what you can.
If Mr. Seward be in town, tell me his direction, for I ought to write to him.
I am very weak, and have had bad nights. I am, dear Sir,
LETTER 520. TO THE SAME.
Lichfield, Nov. 1. 1784. DEAR SIR, — I beg you to continue the frequency of your letters; every letter is a cordial; but you must not wonder that I do not answer with exact punctuality. You may always have something to tell: you live among the various orders of mankind, and may make a letter from the exploits, sometimes of the philosopher, and sometimes of the pickpocket. You see some balloons succeed and some miscarry, and a thousand strange and a thousand foolish things. But I see nothing; I must make my letter from what I feel, and what I feel with so little delight, that I cannot love to talk of it.
I am certainly not to come to town, but do not omit to write; for I know not when I shall come, and the loss of a letter is not much. I am, dear Sir, your, &c.
LETTER 521. TO DR. HEBERDEN.
Lichfield, Oct. 13. 1784. Dear SIR, — Though I doubt not but Dr. Brocklesby would communicate to you any incident in the variation of my health which appeared either curious or important, yet I think it time to give you some account of myself.
Not long after the first great efflux of the water, I attained so much vigour of limbs and freedom of breath, that without rest or intermission, I went with Dr. Brocklesby to the top of the painter's Academy. This was the greatest degree of health that I have obtained, and this, if it could continue, were perhaps sufficient; but my breath soon failed, and my body
At Oxford (in June) I was much distressed by shortness of breath, so much that I never attempted to scale the Library : the water gained upon me, but by the use of squills was in a great measure driven away.
In July I went to Lichfield, and performed the journey with very little fatigue in the common vehicle, but found no help from my native air. I then removed to Ashbourne, in Derbyshire, where for some time I was oppressed very heavily by the asthma ; and the dropsy had advanced so far, that I could not without great difficulty button me at my knees. (Here are omitted some minute medical details.)
No hydropical humour has been lately visible. The relaxation of my breath has not continued as it was at first, but neither do I breathe with the same angustia and distress as before the remission. The summary of my state is this: I am deprived, by weakness and the asthma, of the power of walking beyond a very short space. I draw my breath with difficulty upon the least effort, but not with suffocation or pain. The dropsy still threatens, but gives way to medicine.
The summer has passed without giving me any strength. My appetite is, I think, less keen than it was, but not so abated as that its decline can be observed by any but myself. Be pleased to think on me sometimes. I am, Sir, &c.