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very glad of a correspondent so capable as yourself, to diversify the hours. You have, at present, too many novelties about you to need any help from me to drive along your time.
"I know not any thing more pleasant, or more instructive, than to compare experience with expectation, or to register from time to time the difference between idea and reality. It is by this kind of observation that we grow daily less liable to be disappointed. You, who are very capable of anticipating futurity, and raising phantoms before your own eyes, must often have imagined to yourself an academical life, and have conceived what would be manners, the views, and the conversation, of men devoted to letters; how they would choose their companions, how they wonld direct their studies, and how they would regulate their lives. Let me know what you expected, and what you have found. At least record it to yourself before custom has reconciled you to the scenes before yon, and the disparity of your discoveries to your hopes has vanished from your mind. It is a rule never to be forgotten, that whatever strikes strongly, should be described while the first impression remains fresh upon the mind.
"I love, dear Sir, to think ou you, and, therefore should willingly write more to you, but that the post will not now give me leave to do more than send my compliments to Mr. Warton, and tell you that I am, dear Sir, most affectionately,
"Your very humble servant, "June 28, 1758." - Sam. Johnson."
*• To Bennet Langton, Esq. At Langton, Near Spilsry, LinColnshire. « Dear Sir,
"I Should be sorry to think that what engrosses the attention of my friend, should have uo part of mine. Your mind is now full of the fate of Drury; but his fate is past, and nothing remains but to try what reflection will suggest to mitigate the terrors of a violent death, which is more formidable at the first glance, than on a nearer and more steady view. A violent death is never very painful; the only danger is, lest it should be unprovided. But if a man can be supposed to make no provision for death in war, what can be the state that would have *wakened him to the care of futurity? When would that man have prepared himself to die, who went to seek death without preparation? What then can be the reason why we lament more him that dies of a wound, thau him that dies of a fever? A man that languishes with disease, ends his life with more pain, but with less virtue: he leaves no example to his friends, nor bequeaths any honour to his descendants. The only reason why we lament a soldier's death, is, that we think he night have lived longer; yet this cause of grief is common to many other kinds of death, which are not so passionately bewailed. The truth is, that every death is violent which is the effect of accident; every death which is not gradually brought on by the miseries of age, or when life is extingnished from any other reason than that it is burnt out. He that dies before sixty, of a cold or consumption, dies, in reality, by a violent death; yet his death is borne with patience, only because the cause of his untimely end is silent and invisible. Let us endeavour to see things as they are, and then enqnire whether we ought to complain. Whether to see life as it is, will give us much consolation, I know not; but the consolation which is drawn from truth, if any there be, is solid and durable; that which may derive from error, must be, like its original, fallacious and fugitive. 1 am, dear Sir,
"Your most humble servant,
"Sept. 21, 1758. "Sam. Johnson."
In 1759, in the month of January, his mother died, at the great age of ninety, an event which deeply affected him; not that " his mind had acqnired no firmness by the contemplation of mortality;" but that his reverential affection for her was not abated by years, as indeed he retained all his tender feelings even to the latest period of his life. 1 have been told, that he regretted much his not having gone to visit his mother for several years previous to her death. But he was constantly engaged in literary labours which confined him to London; and though he had not the comfort of seeing his aged parent, he contributed liberally to her support.
[" To Mrs. Johnson, In Lichfield,
"The account which Miss [Porter] gives me of your health, pierces my heart. God comfort and preserve yon, and save yon, for the sake of Jesus Christ.
"I would have Miss read to you from time to time, the Passion of our Saviour, and sometimes the sentences in the Communion Service, beginning—Come unto me, all ye that travel and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
"I have just now read a physical book, which inclines me to think that a strong infusion of the bark would do you good. Do, dear mother, try it.
"Pray, send me your blessing, and forgive all that I have done amiss to you. And whatever you would have done, and what debts you would have paid first, or any thing else that you would direct, let Miss put it down; I shall endeavour to obey you.
"I have got twelve gnineas to send yon, but unhappily am at a loss how to send it to-night. If I cannot send it to-night, it will come by the next post.
"Pray do not omit any thing mentioned in this letter. God bless you for ever and ever. "I am your dutiful Son,
"January 13th, 1758." "sam. Johnson."
"To Miss Porter, At Mrs. Johnson's, In Lichfield.
"My Dear Miss,
"I Think myself obliged to you beyond all expression of gratitnde for your care of my dear mother. God grant it may not be without success. Tell Kitty, that I shall never forget her tenderness for her mistress. Whatever you can do, continue to do. My heart is very full. "I hope you received twelve guineas on Mouday. I found a way of sending them by means of the Post-master, after 1 had written my letter, and hope they came safe. I will send you more in a few days. God bless you all. "1 am, my dear,
"Your most obliged, "Jan. 16, 1759. "and most humble servant,
"Ov^r the leaf is a letter to my mother." "Sam. Johnson."
"Dear Honoured Mother,
"your weakness afflicts me beyond what I am willing to communicate to you. I do not think you unlit to face death, but I know not how to bear the thought of losing you. Endeavour to do all you [can] for yourself. Eat as much as you can.
"I pray often for you; do you pray for me.—I have nothing to add to my last letter. "I am, dear, dear Mother,
"Your dutiful Son, "Jan. l6, 1759. "Sam. Johnson."
"To Mrs Johnson, In Lichfield, "Dear Honoured Mother,
"I Fear you are too ill for long letters; therefore I will only tell you, you have from me all the regard that can possibly subsist in the heart. 1 pray God to bless you for evermore, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. "Let Miss write to me every post, however short. "I am, dear Mother, "Jan. 18, 1759. "Your dutiful Son, "Sam. Johnson."
"To Miss Porter, At Mrs. Johnson's In Lichfield. Dear Miss,
"I Will, if it be possible, come down to you, God grant I msy yet [find] my dear mother breathing and sensible. Do not tell her, lest I disappoint her. If I miss to write next post, I am on the road.
"I am, my dearest Miss, "Jan. 20, 1759. "Your most humble servant,
"Sam. Johnson." "Dear Honoured Mother,
"Neither your condition nor your character make it fit for me to say much. You have been the best mother, and I believe the best woman in the world. 1 thank you for your indulgence to me, and beg forgiveness of all that I have done ill, and all that I have omitted to do well. God grant you his Holy Spirit, and receive you to everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. Lord Jesus receive your spirit. Amen. "I am, dear, dear Mother,
"Yourdutiful Son, "Jan. 20, 1759. "Sam. Johnson."
"To Miss Porter, In Lichfield. "You will concieve my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best mother. If she were to live again, surely I should behave better to her.
But she is happy, and what is past is nothing to her; and forme, since I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will efface them. I return you and all those that have been good to her my sincerest thanks, and pray God to repay you all with infinite advantage. Write to me and comfort me, dear child. 1 shall be glad likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of twenty pounds in a few days, which 1 thought to have brought to my mother; but God suffered it not. I have not power or composure to say much more. God bless you, and bless us all. "I am, dear Miss,
"Your affectionate humble servant, "Jan. 23, 1759. "Sam. Johnson."]
Soon after this event, he wrote his "Rasselas, Prince Of AuysSinia; concerning the publication of which Sir John Hawkins guesses vaguely and idly, instead of having taken the trouble to inform himself with authentick precision. Not to trouble my readers with a repetition of the knight's reveries, I have to mention, that the late Mr. Strahau the printer told me, that Johnson wrote it, that with the profits he might defray the expence of his mother's funeral, and pay some little debts which she had left. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that he composed it in the evenings of one week, sent it to the press in portions as it was written, and had never since read it over. Mr. Strahan, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley, purchased it for a hundred pounds, but afterwards paid him twenty-five pounds more, when it came to a second edition.
Considering the large sums which have been received for compilation", and works requiring not much more genins than compilations, we cannot but wonder at the very low price which he was content to receive for this admirable performance; which, though he had written nothing eke, would have rendered his name immortal in the world of literature. None of his writings has been so extensively diffused over Europe: for it has been translated into most, if not till, of the modern languages. This Tale, with all the charms of oriental imagery, and all the force and beauty of which the English language is capable, leads us through the most important scenes of human life, and shews us that this stage of our being is full of " vanity aud vexation of spirit." To those who look no further than the present life, or who maintain that human nature has not fallen from the state in which it was created, the instruction of this sublIioe story will be of no avail. But they who think justly, and feel with strong sensibility, will listen with eagerness and admiration to its truth and wisdom. Voltaire's Candide, written to refute the system of Optimism, which it has accomplished with brilliant success, is wonderfully similar in its plan and conduct to Johnson's Rasselas; insomuch, that 1 have heard Johnson say, that if they had not been published so closely one after the other that there was not time for imitation, it would have been in vain to deny that the scheme of that which came latest was taken from the other. Though the proposition illustrated by both these works was the same, namely, that in our present state there is more evil than good, the intention of the writers was very different. Voltaire, I am afraid, meant only by wanton profaneness to obtain a sportive victory over religion, and to discredit the belief of a superintending Providence; Johnson meant, by shewing the unsatisfactory nature of things temporal, to direct the hopes of man to things eternal. Rasselas, as was observed to me by a very accomplished lady, may be considered as a more enlarged and more deeply philosophical discourse in prose, upon the interesting truth, which in his " Vanity of Human Wishes" he had so successfully enforced in verse.
The fund of thinking which this work contains, is such, that almost every sentence of it may furnish a subject of long meditation. I am not satisfied if a year passes without my having read it through ; and at every perusal, my admiration of the mind which produced it is so highly raised that I can scarcely believe that I had the honour of enjoying the intimacy of such a man.
I restrain myself from qnoting passages from this excellent work, or even referring to them, because 1 should not know what to select, or, rather, what to omit. I shall, however, transcrible one, as it shews how well he could state the arguments of those who believe in the appearance of departed spirits; a doctrine which it is a mistake to suppose that he himself ever positively held:
"If all your fear be of apparitions, (said the Prince,) I will promise you safety; there is no danger from the dead ; he that is once buried will be seen no more.
"That the dead are seen no more, (said Imlac,) I will not undertake to maintain, against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages, and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which prevails, as far as human nature is diffused, eould become universal only by its truth; those that never heard of one another, would not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little weaken the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues, confess it by their fears."
Notwithstanding my high admiration of Rasselas, I will not maintain that the " morbid melancholy" in Johnson's constitution may not, perhaps, have made life appear to him more insipid and unhappy than it generally is ; for I am sure that he had less enjoyment from it than I have. Yet, whatever additional shade his own particular sensations may have thrown on his representation of life, attentive observation and close enquiry have convinced me, that there is too much reality in the gloomy picture. The truth, however, is, that we judge of the happiness and misery of life differently at different times, according to the state of our changeable frame. I always remember a remark made to me by a Turkish lady educated in France: "Mafoi, Monsienr, notre bonhenr depend de lafaqon que notre tang circule." Thia have 1 learnt from a pretty hard course of experience, and would, from sincere benevolence, impress upon all who honour this book with a perusal, that until a steady