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XXXIII-To MRS. THRALE.
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 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 distributer 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 world, but from those more formidable 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 him; and can have no doubt but that his happiness is now permanent and immutable.
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. dearest, dearest madam, your most affectionate humble servant.
XXXIV. To MRS. THRALE.
Sept. 6, 1777.
DEAREST LADY,-It is true, that I have loitered, and, what is worse, loitered with very little pleasure. The time has run away, as most time runs, without account, without use, and without memorial. But, to say this of a few weeks, though not pleasing, might be borne; but what ought to be the regret of him who, in a few days, will have so nearly the same to say of sixty-eight years? But complaint is vain.
If you have nothing to say from the neighbourhood of the metropolis, what can occur to me, in little cities and petty towns; in places which we have both seen, and of which no description is wanted? I have left part of the company with which you dined here, to come and write this letter, in which I have nothing to tell, but that my nights are very tedious. I cannot persuade myself to forbear trying something.
As you have now little to do, I suppose you are pretty diligent at the Thraliana; and a very curious collection posterity will find it. Do not remit the practice of writing down occurrences as they arise, of whatever kind, and be very punctual in annexing the dates. Chronology, you know, is the eye of history; and every man's life is of importance to himself. Do not omit painful casualties, or unpleasing passages; they make the variegation of existence; and there are many transactions, of which I will not promise, with Æneas, "et hæc olim meminisse juvabit;" yet that remembrance which is not pleasant, may be useful. There is, however, an intemperate attention to slight circumstances, which is to be avoided, lest a great part of life be spent in writing the history of the rest. Every day,
perhaps, has something to be noted, but in a settled and uniform course, few days can have much.
Why do I write all this, which I had no thought of when I began! The Thraliana drove it all into my head. It deserves, however, an hour's reflection, to consider how, with the least loss of time, the loss of what we wish to retain may be prevented.
Do not neglect to write to me, for when a post comes empty, I am really disappointed.
Boswell, I believe, will meet me here. lady, your, &c.
XXXV.-To MRS. THRALE.
Lichfield, October 3, 1777.
DEAR MADAM,-This is the last time that I shall write, in this excursion, from this place. To-morrow I shall be, I hope, at Birmingham; from which place I shall do my best to find the nearest way home. I come home, I think, worse than I went; and do not like the state of my health. But, "vive hodie," make the most of life. I hope to get better, and-sweep the cobwebs. But I have sad nights. Mrs. Aston has sent me to Mr. Greene, to be cured.
Did you see Foote at Brighthelmstone ?-Did you think he would so soon be gone?-Life, says Falstaff, is a shuttle. He was a fine fellow in his way; and the world is really impoverished by his sinking glories. Murphy ought to write his life, at least, to give the world a Footeiana. Now, will any of his contemporaries bewail him? Will genius change his sex to weep? I would really have his life written with diligence.
It will be proper for me to work pretty diligently now for some time. I hope to get through, though so many weeks have passed. Little lives and little criticisms may
Having been in the country so long, with very little to detain me, I am rather glad to look homewards. I am, &c.
XXXVI.-To MRS. THRALE.
October 13, 1777.
DEAR MADAM,-Yet I do love to hear from you: such pretty, kind letters as you send. But it gives me great delight to find that my master misses me. I begin to wish myself with you more than I should do, if I were wanted less. It is a good thing to stay away, till one's company is desired, but not so good to stay, after it is desired.
You know I have some work to do. I did not set to it very soon; and if I should go up to London with nothing done, what would be said, but that I was—who can tell what? I, therefore, stay till I can bring up something to stop their mouths, and then
Though I am still at Ashbourne, I receive your dear letters, that come to Lichfield, and you continue that direction, for I think to get thither as soon as I can.
One of the does died yesterday, and I am afraid her fawn will be starved; I wish Miss Thrale had it to nurse; but the doctor is now all for cattle, and minds very little either does or hens.
How did you and your aunt part? Did you turn her out of doors, to begin your journey? or did she leave you by her usual shortness of visits? I love to know how you go on.
I cannot but think on your kindness and my master's. Life has, upon the whole, fallen short, very short, of my early expectation; but the acquisition of such a friendship, at an age, when new friendships are seldom acquired, is something better than the general course of things gives man a right to expect. I think on it with great delight: I am not very apt to be delighted. I am, &c.
XXXVII.-To MRS. THRALE.
Lichfield, October 27, 1777.
DEAR MADAM,-You talk of writing and writing, as if you had all the writing to yourself. If our correspondence were printed, I am sure posterity, for posterity is always the author's favourite, would say that I am a good writer too." Anch' io sono pittore." To sit down so often with nothing to say; to say something so often, almost without consciousness of saying, and without any remembrance of having said, is a power of which I will not violate my modesty by boasting, but I do not believe that every body has it.
Some, when they write to their friends, are all affection; some are wise and sententious; some strain their powers for efforts of gaiety; some write news, and some write secrets; but to make a letter without affection, without wisdom, without gaiety, without news, and without a secret, is, doubtless, the great epistolick art.
In a man's letters, you know, madam, his soul lies naked, his letters are only the mirror of his breast; whatever passes within him, is shown, undisguised, in its natural process; nothing is inverted, nothing distorted: you see systems in their elements; you discover actions in their motives.
Of this great truth, sounded by the knowing to the ignorant, and so echoed by the ignorant to the knowing, what evidence have you now before you? Is not my soul laid open in these veracious pages? Do not you see me reduced to my first principles? This is the pleasure of corresponding with a friend, where doubt and distrust have no place, and every thing is said as it is thought. The original idea is laid down in its simple purity, and all the supervenient conceptions are spread over it, "stratum super stratum," as they happen to be formed. These are the letters by which souls are united, and by which minds, naturally in unison, move each other, as they are moved themselves. I know, dearest lady, that in the perusal of