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Death of Dr. James.
He praised the ladies of the present age, insisting that they were more faithful to their husbands, and more virtuous in every respect, than in former times, because their understandings were better cultivated'. It was an undoubted proof of his good sense and good disposition, that he was never querulous, never prone to inveigh against the present times, as is so common when superficial minds are on the fret. On the contrary, he was willing to speak favourably of his own age; and, indeed, maintained its superiority in every respect, except in its reverence for government; the relaxation of which he imputed, as its grand cause, to the shock which our monarchy received at the Revolution, though necessary; and secondly, to the timid concessions made to faction by successive administrations in the reign of his present Majesty. I am happy to think, that he lived to see the Crown at last recover its just influence'.
At Leicester we read in the news-paper that Dr. James' was dead. I thought that the death of an old school-fellow, and one with whom he had lived a good deal in London, would have affected my fellow-traveller much : but he only said, 'Ah! poor Jamy. Afterwards, however, when we were in the chaise, he said, with more tenderness, Since I set out on this jaunt, I have lost an old friend and a young
! We have now more knowledge generally diffused; all our ladies read now, which is a great extension.' Post, April 29, 1778.
· See post, April 28, 1783.
6 Newbery, the publisher, was the vendor of Dr. James's famous powder. It was known that on the doctor's death a chemist whom he had employed meant to try to steal the business, under the pretence that he alone knew.the secret of the preparation. A supply of powders enough to last for many years was laid in by Newbery in anticipation, while James left an affidavit that the chemist was never employed in the manufacture. He, however, asserted that James was deprived of his mental faculties when the affidavit was made. Evidence against this was collected and published; the conclusion to the Preface being written by Johnson. A Bookseller of the Last Century, p. 138. See ante, i. 183.
Breakfast at Barnet.
one;—Dr. James, and poor Harry'.' (Meaning Mr. Thrale's son.)
Having lain at St. Alban's, on Thursday, March 28, we breakfasted the next morning at Barnet. I expressed to him a weakness of mind which I could not help; an uneasy apprehension that my wife and children, who were at a great distance from me, might, perhaps, be ill. “Sir, (said he, consider how foolish you would think it in thein to be apprehensive that you are illo.' This sudden turn relieved me for the moment; but I afterwards perceived it to be an ingenious fallacy. I might, to be sure, be satisfied that they had no reason to be apprehensive about me, because I knew that I myself was well: but we might have a mutual anxiety, without the charge of folly; because each was, in some degree, uncertain as to the condition of the other.
I enjoyed the luxury of our approach to London, that metropolis which we both loved so much, for the high and varied intellectual pleasure which it furnishes'. I experienced immediate happiness while whirled along with such a companion, and said to him, 'Sir, you observed one day at General Oglethorpe's", that a man is never happy for the present, but when he is drunk. Will you not add,-or when driving rapidly in a post-chaise'?' JOHNSON. “No, Sir, you are driving rapidly from something, or to something.'
'Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale on the birth of a second son who died early :- I congratulate you upon your boy; but you must not think that I shall love him all at once as well as I love Harry, for Harry you know is so rational. I shall love him by degrees.' Piozzi Letters, i. 206. A week after Harry's death he wrote :- I loved him as I never expect to love any other little boy; but I could not love him as a parent.' 16. p. 310.
* Johnson had known this anxiety. He wrote to Mrs. Thrale from Ashbourne on July 7, 1775:- I cannot think why I hear nothing from you. I hope and fear about my dear friends at Streatham. But I may have a letter this afternoon-Sure it will bring me no bad news.' 16. i. 263. See Boswell's Hebrides, Sept. 21, 1773.
See ante, ii. 86. Ante, April 10, 1775. • See ante, March 21, 1776, and post, pt. 19, 1777.
Talking of melancholy, he said, 'Some men, and very thinking men too, have not those vexing thoughts'. Sir Joshua Reynolds is the same all the year round'. Beauclerk, except when ill and in pain, is the same. But I believe most men have them in the degree in which they are capable of having them. If I were in the country, and were distressed by that malady, I would force myself to take a book; and every time I did it I should find it the easier. Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking.'
We stopped at Messieurs Dillys, booksellers in the Poultry; from whence he hurried away, in a hackney coach, to Mr. Thrale's, in the Borough. I called at his house in the evening, having promised to acquaint Mrs. Williams of his safe return; when, to my surprize, I found him sitting with her at tea, and, as I thought, not in a very good humour: for, it seems, when he had got to Mr. Thrale's, he found the
· The phrase 'vexing thoughts,' is, I think, very expressive. It has been familiar to me from my childhood; for it is to be found in the Psalms in Metre, used in the churches (I believe I should say kirks) of Scotland, Psal. xliii. v. 5;
•Why art thou then cast down, my soul?
What should discourage thee?
Disquieted in me?" Some allowance must no doubt be made for early prepossession. But at a maturer period of life, after looking at various metrical versions of the Psalms, I am well satisfied that the version used in Scotland is, upon the whole, the best; and that it is vain to think of having a better. It has in general a simplicity and unction of sacred Poesy; and in many parts its transfusion is admirable. Bos
* Burke and Reynolds are the same one day as another,' Johnson said, post, under Sept. 22, 1777. Boswell celebrates Reynolds's equal and placid temper,' ante, i. 1. On Aug. 12, 1775, he wrote to Temple: – It is absurd to hope for continual happiness in this life; few men, if any, enjoy it. I have a kind of belief that Edmund Burke does; he has so much knowledge, so much animation, and the consciousness of so much fame.' Letters of Boswell, p. 212. s. See ante, i. 517.
The projected tour to Italy.
coach was at the door waiting to carry Mrs. and Miss Thrale, and Signor Baretti, their Italian master, to Bath'. This was not shewing the attention which might have been expected to the 'Guide, Philosopher, and Friend',' the Irlac who had hastened from the country to console a distressed mother, who he understood was very anxious for his return. They. had, I found, without ceremony, proceeded on their intended journey. I was glad to understand from him that it was still resolved that his tour to Italy with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale should take place, of which he had entertained some doubt, on account of the loss which they had suffered; and his doubts afterwards proved to be well-founded. He observed, indeed very justly, that their loss was an additional reason for their going abroad; and if it had not been fixed that he should have been one of the party, he would force them out; but he would not advise them unless his advice was asked, lest they might suspect that he recommended what he
'Baretti says, that Mrs. Thrale abruptly proposed to start for Bath, as wishing to avoid the sight of the funeral. She had no manfriend to go with her,' and so he offered his services. Johnson at that moment arrived. 'I expected that he would spare me the jaunt, and go himself to Bath with her; but he made no motion to that effect.' European Mag. xiii. 315. It was on the evening of the 29th that Boswell found Johnson, as he thought, not in very good humour. Yet on the 30th he wrote to Mrs. Thrale, and called on Mr. Thrale.
On April I and April 4 he again wrote to Mrs. Thrale. He would have gone a
4 second time, he says, to see Mr. Thrale, had he not been made to understand that when he was wanted he would be sent for. Piozzi Letters, i. 309–314.
Pope, Essay on Man, iv. 390. Boswell twice more applies the same line to Johnson, post, June 3, 1781, and under Dec. 13, 1784.
• Imlac consoles the Princess for the loss of Pekuah. When the clouds of sorrow gather over us, we see nothing beyond them, nor can imagine how they will be dispelled; yet a new day succeeded to the night, and sorrow is never long without a dawn of ease.
But they who restrain themselves from receiving comfort do as the savages would have done, had they put out their eyes when it was dark.' Rasselas, ch. 35. “Keep yourself busy,' wrote Johnson to Mrs. Thrale, ‘and you will in time grow cheerful. New prospects may open, and new enjoyments may come within your reach.' Piozzi Letters, i. 315.
The enthusiasm of curiosity.
wished on his own account.' I was not pleased that his intimacy with Mr. Thrale's family, though it no doubt contributed much to his comfort and enjoyment, was not without some degree of restraint: not, as has been grossly suggested, that it was required of him as a task to talk for the entertainment of them and their company; but that he was not quite at his ease; which, however, might partly be owing to his own honest pride—that dignity of mind which is always jealous of appearing too compliant.
On Sunday, March 31, I called on him, and shewed him as a curiosity which I had discovered, his Translation of Lobo's Account of Abyssinia, which Sir John Pringle had lent me, it being then little known as one of his works'. He said, * Take no notice of it,' or 'don't talk of it.' He seemed to think it beneath him, though done at six-and-twenty. I said to him, “Your style, Sir, is much improved since you translated this.' He answered with a sort of triumphant smile, Sir, I hope it is.'
I On Wednesday, April 3, in the morning I found him very busy putting his books in order, and as they were generally very old ones, clouds of dust were flying around him. He had on a pair of large gloves such as hedgers use. ent appearance put me in mind of my uncle, Dr. Boswell's' description of him, ' A robust genius, born to grapple with whole libraries.'
I gave him an account of a conversation which had passed between me and Captain Cook, the day before, at dinner at Sir John Pringle's"; and he was much pleased with the conscientious accuracy of that celebrated circumnavigator, who set me right as to many of the exaggerated accounts given by Dr. Hawkesworth of his Voyages. I told him that while I was with the Captain, I catched the enthusiasm of curiosity
i See ante, i. 100. It was reprinted iņ 1789.
See post, under April 29, 1776. • In like manner he writes, “I catched for the moment an enthusiasm with respect to visiting the Wall of China. Post, April 10, 1778.