Imatges de pÓgina
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CHAPTER IX.

1779.

Experiments on the Constancy of Friends. Colonel James Stuart.-Choice of Guardians.— Adventurers to the East Indies. Poor of London.

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Essay on Man."

son's Residences in

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- Pope's Lord Bolingbroke. John

London.

Middlesex Election.

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Conjugal Infidelity.

Helps to the Study of Greek.
House of Commons.

Right of Expulsion. George Whitfield. Philip

Astley.

Keeping Company with Infidels. Irish

Union. Vulgar Prosperity.

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"The Ambassador

I DID not write to Johnson, as usual, upon my return to my family; but tried how he would be affected by my silence. Mr. Dilly sent me a copy of a note which he received from him on the 13th of July, in these words:

LETTER 350. TO MR. DILLY.

"SIR,-Since Mr. Boswell's departure, I have never heard from him. Please to send word what you know of him, and whether you have sent my books to his lady. I am, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."

My readers will not doubt that his solicitude about me was very flattering.

LETTER 351. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

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July 13. 1779. "DEAR SIR, - What can possibly have happened, that keeps us two such strangers to each other? I expected to have heard from you when you came home I expected afterwards. I went into the country and returned; and yet there is no letter from Mr. Boswell. No ill, I hope, has happened; and if ill should happen, why should it be concealed from him who loves you? Is it a fit of humour, that has disposed you to try who can hold out longest without writing? If it be, you have the victory. But I am afraid of something bad; set me free from my suspicions.

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'My thoughts are at present employed in guessing the reason of your silence: you must not expect that I should tell you any thing, if I had any thing to tell. Write, pray write to me, and let me know what is or what has been the cause of this long interruption. am, dear Sir, your most affectionate humble servant, "SAM. JOHNSON."

LETTER 352. TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.

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"Edinburgh, July 17. 1779.

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MY DEAR SIR, - What may be justly denominated a supine indolence of mind has been my state of existence since I last returned to Scotland. In a livelier state I had often suffered severely from long intervals of silence on your part; and I had even been chid by you for expressing my uneasiness. I was willing to take advantage of my insensibility, and while I could bear the experiment, to try whether your affection for me would, after an unusual silence on my part, make you write first. This afternoon I have had a very high satisfaction by receiving your kind letter of inquiry, for which I most gratefully thank you. I am doubtful if

it was right to make the experiment; though I have gained by it. I was beginning to grow tender, and to upbraid myself, especially after having dreamt two nights ago that I was with you. I, and my wife, and my four children, are all well. I would not delay one post to answer your letter; but as it is late, have not time to do more. You shall soon hear from me, upon many and various particulars; and I shall never again put you to any test. I am, with veneration, my dear Sir, your, &c. JAMES BOSWELL."

On the 22d of July, I wrote to him again; and gave him an account of my last interview with my worthy friend, Mr. Edward Dilly, at his brother's house at Southill in Bedfordshire, where he died soon after I parted from him, leaving me a very kind remembrance of his regard.

I informed him that Lord Hailes, who had pro-, mised to furnish him with some anecdotes for his "Lives of the Poets," had sent me three instances of Prior's borrowing from Gombauld, in Recueil des Poètes, tome 3. Epigram "To John I owed great obligation," p. 25. "To the Duke of Noailles," p. 32. p. 32. "Sauntering Jack and idle Joan," p. 35.

My letter was a pretty long one, and contained a variety of particulars; but he, it should seem, had not attended to it; for his next to me was as follows:

LETTER 353. TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

"MY DEAR SIR, again, and trying who

"Streatham, Sept. 9. 1779. Are you playing the same trick can keep silence longest

Re

member that all tricks are either knavish or childish; and that it is as foolish to make experiments upon the constancy of a friend, as upon the chastity of a wife.

"What can be the cause of this second fit of silence, I cannot conjecture; but after one trick, I will not be cheated by another, nor will harass my thoughts with conjectures about the motives of a man who, probably, acts only by caprice. I therefore suppose you are well, and that Mrs. Boswell is well too, and that the fine summer has restored Lord Auchinleck. I am much better than you left me; I think I am better than when

I was in Scotland.

"I forgot whether I informed you that poor Thrale has been in great danger. Mrs. Thrale likewise has miscarried, and been much indisposed. Every body else is well. Langton is in camp. I intend to put Lord Hailes's description of Dryden (1) into another edition, and, as I know his accuracy, wish he would consider the dates, which I could not always settle to my own mind.

"Mr. Thrale goes to Brighthelmstone, about Michaelmas, to be jolly and ride a-hunting. I shall go to town, or perhaps to Oxford. Exercise and gaiety, or rather carelessness, will, I hope, dissipate all remains of his malady; and I likewise hope, by the change of place, to find some opportunities of growing yet better myself I am, dear Sir, your, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."

My readers will not be displeased at bein told every slight circumstance of the manner in which Dr. Johnson contrived to amuse his solitary hours. He sometimes employed himself in che

(1) Which I communicated to him from his Lordship, but it has not yet been published. I have a copy of it. - - B.-The few notices concerning Dryden, which Lord Hailes had col.ected, the author afterwards gave me. — - M.

mistry, sometimes in watering and pruning a vine, sometimes in small experiments, at which those who may smile should recollect that there are moments which admit of being soothed only by trifles. (1)

On the 20th of September I defended myself against his suspicion of me, which I did not deserve; and added, "Pray let us write frequently. A whim strikes me, that we should send off a sheet once a week, like a stage-coach, whether it be full or not; nay, though it should be empty. The very sight of your handwriting would comfort me; and were a sheet to be thus sent regularly, we should much

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(1) In one of his manuscript Diaries, there is the following entry, which marks his curious minute attention: -"July 26. 1768. I shaved my nail by accident in whetting the knife, about an eighth of an inch from the bottom, and about a fourth from the top. This I measure that I may know the growth of nails; the whole is about five eighths of an inch." Another of the same kind appears August 7. 1779: "Partem brachii dextri carpo proximam et cutem pectoris circa mamillam dextram rasi, ut notum fieret quanto temporis pili renovarentur.' And, "August 15. 1783:- -I cut from the vine 41_leaves, which weighed five oz. and a half, and eight scruples: I lay them upon my bookcase, to see what weight they will lose by drying." B. - Dr. Johnson was always exceeding fond of chemistry; and we made up a sort of laboratory at Streatham one summer, and diverted ourselves with drawing essences and colouring liquors. But the danger in which Mr. Thrale found his friend one day, when I was driven to London, and he had got the children and servants assembled round him to see some experiments performed, put an end to all our entertainment; as Mr. Thrale was persuaded that his short sight would have occasioned his destruction in a moment, by bringing him close to a fierce and violent flame. Indeed, it was a perpetual miracle that he did not set himself on fire reading abed, as was his constant custom, when quite unable even to keep clear of mischief with our best help; and accordingly the foretops of all his wigs were burned by the candle down to the very network. Future experiments in chemis. try, however, were too dangerous, and Mr. Thrale insisted that we should do no more towards finding the philosopher's stone. - PIOZZI.

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