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LETTER 522. TO MR. STRAHAN.
Oct. 16. 1784.
DEAR SIR, I have hitherto omitted to give you that account of myself, which the kindness with which you have treated me gives you a right to expect.
I went away feeble, asthmatical, and dropsical. The asthma has remitted for a time, but is now very troublesome; the weakness still continues, but the dropsy has disappeared; and has twice, in the summer, yielded to medicine. I hope to return with a body somewhat, however little, relieved, and with a mind less dejected.
I hope your dear lady and dear little ones are all well, and all happy; I love them all. I am, dear Sir, your most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON.
LETTER 523. TO MR. EDMUND ALLEN. (1)
Pembroke College, Oxford, June 7. 1784.
DEAR SIR, I came hither on Thursday without the least trouble or fatigue, but I do not yet perceive any improvement of my health. My breath is very much obstructed, my legs are very soon tired, and my nights are very restless.
Boswel went back next day, and is not yet returned. Miss Adams and Miss More are not yet come. How long I shall stay or whither I shall go I cannot yet guess: while I am away I beg that you will sit for me at the Club, and that you will pay Betty Barber five shillings a week. by degrees be better. I am, &c.
I hope I shall SAM. JOHNSON.
LETTER 524. TO THE REV. DR. HAMILTON.(2)
Bolt Court, June 4. 1783. REVEREND SIR, - Be pleased to excuse this application from a stranger in favour of one who has very little ability to
(1) [From the original in the possession of Allan Cunningham, Esq.] (2) [This and the two following letters, addressed to the Rev. Dr. Hamilton, Vicar of St. Martin's in the Fields, are published from the ori
speak for herself. The unhappy woman who waits on you with this, has been known to me many years. She is the daughter of a clergyman of Leicestershire, who by an unhappy marriage is reduced to solicit a refuge in the workhouse of your parish, to which she has a claim by her husband's settle
Her case admits of little deliberation; she is turned out of her lodging into the street. What my condition allows me to do for her I have already done, and having no friend, she can have recourse only to the parish. I am, reverend Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON.
Bolt Court, Feb. 11. 1784. SIR, My physicians endeavour to make me believe that I shall sometime be better qualified to receive visits from men of elegance and civility like yours.
Mrs. Pellè shall wait upon you, and you will judge what will be proper for you to do. I once more return you my thanks, and am, Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON.
TO THE SAME.
Feb. 17. 1784. 1
I am so much disordered that I can only say that this is the person whom I recommend to your kindness and favour. I am, Sir, &c.
LETTER 527. TO THE SAME.
June 2. 1784.
SIR, You do every thing that is liberal and kind. Mrs. Pellè is a bad manager for herself, but I will employ a more skilful agent, one Mrs. Gardiner, who will wait on you and
ginals, in the possession of his son; who observes, that "they are of no further interest, than as showing the goodness of Johnson's heart, and the spirit with which he entered into the cause and interests of an individual in distress, when he was almost on the bed of sickness and death
employ Pelle's money to the best advantage. Mrs. Gardiner will wait on you.
I return you, Sir, sincere thanks for your attention to me. I am ill, but hope to come back better (1), and to be made better still by your conversation. I am, Sir, &c.
Various Imitations of Johnson's Style.
[See antè, Vol. VIII. p. 321.]
I SHALL now fulfil my promise of exhibiting specimens of various sorts of imitation of Johnson's style.
In the "Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 1787,” there is an "Essay on the Style of Dr. Samuel Johnson," by the Reverend Robert Burrowes, whose respect for the great object of his criticism (2) is thus evinced in the concluding paragraph: "I have singled him out from the whole body of English writers, because his universally-acknowledged beauties would be most apt to induce imitation: and I have treated rather on his faults, than his perfections, because an essay might comprise all the observations I could make upon his faults, while volumes would not be sufficient for a treatise on his perfections."
(1) [Dr. Johnson left town on the following morning, with Boswell, for Oxford.]
(2) We must smile at a little inaccuracy of metaphor in the preface to the Transactions, which is written by Mr. Burrowes. The critic of the style of Johnson having, with a just zeal for literature, observed, that the whole nation are called on to exert themselves, afterwards says, "They are called on by every tye which can have laudable influence on the heart of man." BOSWELL. See antè, Vol. I. p. 256. — C.
Mr. Burrowes has analysed the composition of Johnson, and pointed out its peculiarities with much acuteness; and I would recommend a careful perusal of his Essay to those who being captivated by the union of perspicuity and splendour which the writings of Johnson contain, without having a sufficient portion of his vigour of mind, may be in danger of becoming bad copyists of his manner. I, however, cannot but observe, and I observe it to his credit, that this learned gentleman has himself caught no mean degree of the expansion and harmony which, independent of all other circumstances, characterise the sentences of Johnson. Thus, in the preface to the volume in which the Essay appears, we find,
"If it be said that in societies of this sort too much attention is frequently bestowed on subjects barren and speculative, it may be answered that no one science is so little connected with the rest as not to afford many principles whose use may extend considerably beyond the science to which they primarily belong, and that no proposition is so purely theoretical as to be totally incapable of being applied to practical purposes. There is no apparent connection between duration and the cycloidal arch, the properties of which duly attended to have furnished us with our best regulated methods of measuring time: and he who had made himself master of the nature and affections of the logarithmic curve is not aware that he has advanced considerably towards ascertaining the proportionable density of the air at its various distances from the surface of the earth."
The ludicrous imitators of Johnson's style are innumerable. Their general method is to accumulate hard words, without considering, that, although he was fond of introducing them occasionally, there is not a single sentence in all his writings where they are crowded together, as in the first verse of the following imaginary Ode by him to Mrs. Thrale (1), which appeared in the newspapers:
"Cervisial coctor's viduate dame,
(1) Johnson's wishing to unite himself with this rich widow was much talked of, but I believe without foundation. The report, however, gave
This and a thousand other such attempts are totally unlike the original, which the writers imagined they were turning into ridicule. There is not similarity enough for burlesque, or even for caricature.
Mr. Colman, in his "Prose on several Occasions," has "A Letter from Lexiphanes, containing Proposals for a Glossary, or Vocabulary of the Vulgar Tongue; intended as a Supplement to a larger Dictionary." It is evidently meant as a sportive sally of ridicule on Johnson, whose style is thus imitated, without being grossly overcharged:
"It is easy to foresee that the idle and illiterate will complain that I have increased their labours by endeavouring to diminish them; and that I have explained what is more easy by what is more difficult - ignotum per ignotius. I expect, on the other hand, the liberal acknowledgments of the learned. He who is buried in scholastic retirement, secluded from the assemblies of the gay, and remote from the circles of the polite, will at once comprehend the definitions, and be grateful for such a seasonable and necessary elucidation of his mother-tongue."
Annexed to this letter is the following short specimen of the work, thrown together in a vague and desultory manner, not even adhering to alphabetical concatenation.
occasion to a poem, not without characteristical merit, entitled "Ode to Mrs. Thrale, by Samuel Johnson, LL.D., on their supposed approaching Nuptials:" printed for Mr. Faulder in Bond Street. I shall quote as a specimen the first three stanzas :
"If e'er my fingers touch'd the lyre,
"My dearest lady! view your slave,
"To rich felicity thus raised,
My bosom glows with amorous fire,
'Tis I myself am Thrale's Entire."— B.
Mrs. Carter, in one of her letters to Mrs. Montagu, says, "I once saw him (Dr. Johnson) very indigné when somebody jested about Mrs. Thrale's marrying himself." The choice would, no doubt, have been singular, but much less exceptionable than that which she has made."- Mrs. Carter's Letters, vol. iii. p. 221. — C.