Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 146

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of 18th Century British Men’s Issues; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Dismounted Count, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, etchings, and Crayolas™  by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) a penmarq™/sternwall™ co-production.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

As the evidence of what I have mentioned at the beginning of this year, I select from his private register the following passage:

'July 25, 1776. O GOD, who hast ordained that whatever is to be desired should be sought by labour, and who, by thy blessing, bringest honest labour to good effect, look with mercy upon my studies and endeavours. Grant me, O LORD, to design only what is lawful and right; and afford me calmness of mind, and steadiness of purpose, that I may so do thy will in this short life, as to obtain happiness in the world to come, for the sake of JESUS CHRIST our Lord. Amen.'

It appears from a note subjoined, that this was composed when he 'purposed to apply vigorously to study, particularly of the Greek and Italian tongues.'

Such a purpose, so expressed, at the age of sixty-seven, is admirable and encouraging; and it must impress all the thinking part of my readers with a consolatory confidence in habitual devotion, when they see a man of such enlarged intellectual powers as Johnson, thus in the genuine earnestness of secrecy, imploring the aid of that Supreme Being, 'from whom cometh down every good and every perfect gift.'



'A young man, whose name is Paterson, offers himself this evening to the Academy. He is the son of a man for whom I have long had a kindness, and who is now abroad in distress. I shall be glad that you will be pleased to shew him any little countenance, or pay him any small distinction. How much it is in your power to favour or to forward a young man I do not know; nor do I know how much this candidate deserves favour by his personal merit, or what hopes his proficiency may now give of future eminence. I recommend him as the son of my friend. Your character and station enable you to give a young man great encouragement by very easy means.

You have heard of a man who asked no other favour of Sir Robert Walpole, than that he would bow to him at his levee.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


'Aug. 3, 1776.'


'Edinburgh, August 30, 1776.

'For the honour of Count Manucci, as well as to observe that exactness of truth which you have taught me, I must correct what I said in a former letter. He did not fall from his horse, which might have been an imputation on his skill as an officer of cavalry; his horse fell with him.’



'Having spent about six weeks at this place, we have at length resolved upon returning. I expect to see you all in Fleet-street on the 30th of this month.

'I did not go into the sea till last Friday, but think to go most of this week, though I know not that it does me any good. My nights are very restless and tiresome, but I am otherwise well.

'I have written word of my coming to Mrs. Williams. Remember me kindly to Francis and Betsy. I am, Sir,

'Your humble servant,


Brighthelmstone, Oct. 21, 1776'

I again wrote to Dr. Johnson on the 21st of October, informing him, that my father had, in the most liberal manner, paid a large debt for me, and that I had now the happiness of being upon very good terms with him; to which he returned the following answer.



'I had great pleasure in hearing that you are at last on good terms with your father. Cultivate his kindness by all honest and manly means. Life is but short; no time can be afforded but for the indulgence of real sorrow, or contests upon questions seriously momentous. Let us not throw away any of our days upon useless resentment, or contend who shall hold out longest in stubborn malignity. It is best not to be angry; and best, in the next place, to be quickly reconciled. May you and your father pass the remainder of your time in reciprocal benevolence!

* * * * *

'Do you ever hear from Mr. Langton? I visit him sometimes, but he does not talk. I do not like his scheme of life; but as I am not permitted to understand it, I cannot set any thing right that is wrong. His children are sweet babies.

'I hope my irreconcileable enemy, Mrs. Boswell, is well. Desire her not to transmit her malevolence to the young people. Let me have Alexander, and Veronica, and Euphemia, for my friends.

'Mrs. Williams, whom you may reckon as one of your well-wishers, is in a feeble and languishing state, with little hope of growing better. She went for some part of the autumn into the country, but is little benefited; and Dr. Lawrence confesses that his art is at an end. Death is, however, at a distance; and what more than that can we say of ourselves? I am sorry for her pain, and more sorry for her decay. Mr. Levett is sound, wind and limb.

'I was some weeks this autumn at Brighthelmstone. The place was very dull, and I was not well; the expedition to the Hebrides was the most pleasant journey that I ever made. Such an effort annually would give the world a little diversification.

'Every year, however, we cannot wander, and must therefore endeavour to spend our time at home as well as we can. I believe it is best to throw life into a method, that every hour may bring its employment, and every employment have its hour. Xenophon observes, in his Treatise of Oeconomy, that if every thing be kept in a certain place, when any thing is worn out or consumed, the vacuity which it leaves will shew what is wanting; so if every part of time has its duty, the hour will call into remembrance its proper engagement.

'I have not practised all this prudence myself, but I have suffered much for want of it; and I would have you, by timely recollection and steady resolution, escape from those evils which have lain heavy upon me. I am, my dearest Boswell,

'Your most humble servant,


'Bolt-court, Nov. 16, 1776.'

On the 16th of November I informed him that Mr. Strahan had sent me twelve copies of the Journey to the Western Islands, handsomely bound; requested to know how they should be distributed: and mentioned that I had another son born to me, who was named David, and was a sickly infant.



'I have been for some time ill of a cold, which, perhaps, I made an excuse to myself for not writing, when in reality I knew not what to say.

'The books you must at last distribute as you think best, in my name, or your own, as you are inclined, or as you judge most proper. Every body cannot be obliged; but I wish that nobody may be offended. Do the best you can.

'I congratulate you on the increase of your family, and hope that little David is by this time well, and his mamma perfectly recovered. I am much pleased to hear of the re-establishment of kindness between you and your father. Cultivate his paternal tenderness as much as you can. To live at variance at all is uncomfortable; and variance with a father is still more uncomfortable.

Besides that, in the whole dispute you have the wrong side; at least you gave the first provocations, and some of them very offensive. Let it now be all over. As you have no reason to think that your new mother has shewn you any foul play, treat her with respect, and with some degree of confidence; this will secure your father. When once a discordant family has felt the pleasure of peace, they will not willingly lose it. If Mrs. Boswell would but be friends with me, we might now shut the temple of Janus. {In ancient Rome the doors of the Temple of Janus were kept closed in times of peace. – Editor}

'Mrs. Williams has been much out of order; and though she is something better, is likely, in her physician's opinion, to endure her malady for life, though she may, perhaps, die of some other. Mrs. Thrale is big, and fancies that she carries a boy; if it were very reasonable to wish much about it, I should wish her not to be disappointed. The desire of male heirs is not appendant only to feudal tenures. A son is almost necessary to the continuance of Thrale's fortune; for what can misses do with a brewhouse? Lands are fitter for daughters than trades. 

'Baretti went away from Thrale's in some whimsical fit of disgust, or ill-nature, without taking any leave. It is well if he finds in any other place as good an habitation, and as many conveniencies. He has got five-and-twenty guineas by translating Sir Joshua's Discourses into Italian, and Mr. Thrale gave him an hundred in the spring; so that he is yet in no difficulties.

'Your humble servant,


'Dec. 21, 1776.'

(classix comix™ is brought to you by Bob’s Bowery Bar, conveniently located at the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “Do you ever find yourself filled with an awful sense of existential dread at the state of the nation? Well, don’t despair, drop in at Bob’s Bowery Bar and chase away the glooms with Bob’s post-election happy-hour special, ‘The Happy Jack’ – a delightful concoction of Bob’s Mom’s homemade applejack, cask-aged Royal Navy rum, key lime, cloves, cinnamon, crystalized ginger, and blackstrap molasses, served piping hot in a pint tankard – only .99¢ between the hours of 4pm and 6pm, Monday through Friday! (Sorry, no more than four per customer.)”

– Horace P. Sternwall, host of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents Philip Morris Commander’s Soup Kitchen Tales, broadcast live Mondays at 8pm (EST). This week’s presentation: “The Brave Little Paper Boy”, by Artemis Boldwater, starring Hyacinth Wilde as “Timmy O’Leary”, Angus Strongbow as “Father Jim”, Jack Carson as “Officer Tom”, and Miss Kitty Carlisle as “Major Babs”.)

part 147

No comments:

Post a Comment