Imatges de pÓgina
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friends would consider accordingly; but from the manner in which the intelligence of it was communicated by Johnson, it appeared for the moment to be comparatively small. I, however, soon felt a sincere concern, and was curious to observe how Dr. Johnson would be affected. He said, “ This is a total extinction to their family, as much as if they were sold into captivity." Upon my mentioning that Mr. Thrale had daughters, who might inherit his wealth :

Daughters,” said Johnson, warmly; "he'll no more value his daughters than – ” I was going to speak. “ Sir,” said he, “don't


know how you yourself think ? Sir, he wishes to propagate his name." In short, I saw male succession strong in his mind, even where there was no name, no family of any long standing. I said, it was lucky he was not present when this misfortune happened. Johnson. “ It is lucky for me. People in distress never think you feel enough.” BosWELL. “And, Sir, they will have the hope of seeing you, which will be a relief in the mean time; and when you get to them, the pain will be so far abated, that they will be capable of being consoled by you, which, in the first violence of it, I believe, would not be the case.” JohnSon."No, Sir; violent pain of mind, like violent pain of body, must be severely felt.” BosweLL. “I own, Sir, I have not so much feeling for the distress of others, as some people have, or pretend to have : but I know this, that I would do all in my power to relieve them.” Johnson. “ Sir, it is affectation to pretend to feel the distress of others as much as they do themselves. It is equally so, as if one should

Ætat. 67.



pretend to feel as much pain while a friend's leg is cutting off, as he does. No, Sir; you have expressed the rational and just nature of sympathy. I would have gone to the extremity of the earth to have preserved this boy."

He was soon quite calm. The letter was from Mr. Thrale's clerk, and concluded, “I need not say how much they wish to see you in London.” He said, “We shall hasten back from Taylor's."

Mrs. Lucy Porter and some other ladies of the place talked a great deal of him when he was out of the room, not only with veneration but affection. It pleased me to find that he was so much beloved in his native city.

Mrs. Aston, whom I had seen the preceding night, and her sister, Mrs. Gastrel, a widow lady, had each a house, and garden, and pleasure-ground, prettily situated upon Stowhill, a gentle eminence, adjoining to Lichfield. Johnson walked away to dinner there, leaving me by myself without any apology; I'wondered at this want of that facility of manners, from which a man has no difficulty in carrying a friend to a house where he is intimate ; I felt it very un

; pleasant to be thus left in solitude in a country town, where I was an entire stranger, and began to think myself unkindly deserted; but I was soon relieved, and convinced that my friend, instead of being deficient in delicacy, had conducted the matter with perfect propriety, for I received the following note in his handwriting:

“ Mrs. Gastrel, at the lower house on Stowhill, desires Mr. Boswell's company to dinner at two."

I accepted of the invitation, and had here another proof how amiable his character was in the opinion of those who knew him best. I was not informed, till afterwards, that Mrs. Gastrel's husband was the clergyman who, while he lived at Stratford-upon Avon, where he was proprietor of Shakspeare's garden, with gothic barbarity cut down his mulberry-tree (1), and, as Dr. Johnson told me, did it to vex his neighbours. His lady, I have reason to believe, on the same authority, participated in the guilt of what the enthusiasts of our immortal bard deem almost a species of sacrilege.

After dinner Dr. Johnson wrote a letter to Mrs. Thrale, on the death of her son:



“ Lichfield, March 25. 1776. DEAR MADAM, - This letter will not, I hope, reach you many days before me; in a distress which can be so little relieved, nothing remains for a friend but to come and partake it.

Poor, dear, sweet, little boy! When I read the letter this day to Mrs. Aston, she said, 'Such a death is the next to translation. Yet, however I may convince myself of this, the tears are in my eyes, and yet I could not love him as you loved him, nor reckon upon him for a future comfort as you and his father reckoned upon him.

“ He is gone, and we are going! We could not



(1) See an accurate and animated statement of Mr. Gastrel's barbarity, by Mr. Malone, in a note on “ Some Account of the Life of William Shakspeare," prefixed to his admirable edition of that poet's works, vol. i. p. 118.

ÆTAT. 67.


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have enjoyed him long, and shall not long be separated from him. He has probably escaped many such pangs as you are now feeling.

Nothing remains, but that with humble confidence we resign ourselves to Almighty Goodness, and fall down, without irreverent murmurs, before the Sovereign Distributor of Good and Evil, with hope that though sorrow endureth for a night, yet joy may come in the morning.

“ I have known you, Madam, too long to think that you want any arguments for submission to the Supreme Will; nor can my consolation have any effect, but that of showing that I wish to comfort you.

What can be done you must do for yourself. Remember, first, that your child is happy; and then, that he is safe, not only from the ills of this orld, but from those more for. midable dangers which extend their mischief to eternity. You have brought into the world a rational being ; have seen him happy during the little life that has been granted to him ; and can have no doubt but that his happiness is now.

“ When you have obtained by prayer such tranquillity as nature will admit, force your attention, as you can, upon your accustomed duties and accustomed entertainments. You can do no more for our dear boy, but you must not therefore think less on those whom your attention may make fitter for the place to which he is gone. I am, dearest, dearest Madam, your most affectionate humble servant,

“ Sam. Johnson.”


I said this loss would be very distressing to Thrale, but she would soon forget it, as she had so many things to think of. Johnson. “ No, Sir, Thrale will forget it first. She has many things that she may think of. He has many things that he must think of.” This was a very just remark upon the different effects of those light pursuits which occupy a vacant and easy mind, and those serious engagements which arrest attention, and keep us from brooding over grief.

He observed of Lord Bute, “ It was said of Augustus, that it would have been better for Rome that he had never been born, or had never died. So it would have been better for this nation if Lord Bute had never been minister, or had never resigned.”

In the evening we went to the Town-hall, which was converted into a temporary theatre, and saw “ Theodosius," with “ The Stratford Jubilee." I was happy to see Dr. Johnson sitting in a conspicuous part of the pit, and receiving affectionate homage from all his acquaintance. We were quite gay and merry. I afterwards mentioned to him that I condemned myself for being so, when poor Mr. and Mrs. Thrale were in such distress. John

“ You are wrong, Sir; twenty years hence Mr. and Mrs. Thrale will not suffer much pain from the death of their son. Now, Sir, you are to consider, that distance of place, as well as distance of time, operates upon the human feelings. I would not have you be gay in the presence of the dis tressed, because it would shock them; but

you may be gay

at a distance. Pain for the loss of a friend, or of a relation, whom we love, is occasioned by the want which we feel. In time the vacuity is filled with something else; or sometimes the vacuity closes


of itself.”



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