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by many privations the most independent woman in the world, I feel as if acting without a parent's consent till you write kindly to your faithful servant, H. L. P.
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 I am, with great affection, your, &c. SAM. JOHNSON.
Any letters that come for me hither will be sent me.
LETTER 515. TO MR. NICHOLS.
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. SAM. JOHNSON.
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.
LETTER 517. TO THE SAME.
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. I am, Sir, your, &c.
TO THE SAME.
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. 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.
I have grown weary
After this week, do not write to me till you hear again from me, for I know not well where I shall be ; of the solitude of this place, and think of removal. I am, Sir, your, &c.
TO THE SAME.
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, your, &c.
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.