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Of these wishes, that they had formed, they well knew that none could be obtained. They deliberated awhile what was to be done, and resolved, when the inundation should cease, to return to Abissinia.
I. TO MR. JAMES ELPHINSTON.
Sept. 25th, 1750.
DEAR SIR,-You have, as I find by every kind of evidence, lost an excellent mother; and I hope you will not think me incapable of partaking of your grief. I have a mother, now eighty-two years of age, whom, therefore, I must soon lose, unless it please God that she rather should mourn for me. I read the letters in which you relate your mother's death to Mrs. Strahan, and think I do myself honour, when I tell you that I read them with tears; but tears are neither to you, nor to me, of any farther use, when once the tribute of nature has been paid. The business of life summons us away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise of those virtues, of which we are lamenting our deprivation.
The greatest benefit which one friend can confer upon another, is to guard and excite and elevate his virtues. This your mother will still perform, if you diligently preserve the memory of her life, and of her death: a life, so far as I can learn, useful, wise, and innocent; and a death, resigned, peaceful, and holy. I cannot forbear to mention, that neither reason nor revelation denies you to hope, that you may increase her happiness, by obeying her precepts; and that she may, in her present state, look, with pleasure, upon every act of virtue, to which her instructions or example have contributed. Whether this be more than a pleasing dream, or a just opinion of separate spirits, is, indeed, of no great importance to us, when we consider ourselves as acting under the eye of God: yet, surely, there is something pleasing in the belief, that our separa
tion from those, whom we love, is merely corporeal; and it may be a great incitement to virtuous friendship, if it can be made probable, that that union, which has received the divine approbation, shall continue to eternity.
There is one expedient, by which you may, in some degree, continue her presence. If you write down minutely what you remember of her from your earliest years, you will read it with great pleasure, and receive from it many hints of soothing recollection, when time shall remove her yet farther from you, and your grief shall be matured to veneration. To this, however painful for the present, I cannot but advise you, as to a source of comfort and satisfaction in the time to come; for all comfort and all satisfaction is sincerely wished you by,
Your most obliged, most obedient,
And most humble servant,
II. TO MRS. THRALE.
London, Aug. 13, 1765.
MADAM,-If you have really so good an opinion of me as you express, it will not be necessary to inform you how unwillingly I miss the opportunity of coming to Brighthelmstone in Mr. Thrale's company; or, since I cannot do what I wish first, how eagerly I shall catch the second degree of pleasure, by coming to you and him, as soon as I can dismiss my work from my hands.
I am afraid to make promises, even to myself; but I hope that the week after the next will be the end of my present business. When business is done, what remains but pleasure? and where should pleasure be sought, but under Mrs. Thrale's influence?
Do not blame me for a delay by which I must suffer so much, and by which I suffer alone. If you cannot think I am good, pray think I am mending, and that in time I may deserve to be, dear madam, your, &c.
III. TO MRS. THRALE.
Lichfield, July 20, 1767. MADAM, Though I have been away so much longer than I purposed or expected, I have found nothing that withdraws my affections from the friends whom I left behind, or which makes me less desirous of reposing at that place, which your kindness and Mr. Thrale's allows me to call my home.
Miss Lucy is more kind and civil than I expected, and has raised my esteem by many excellencies, very noble and resplendent, though a little discoloured by hoary virginity. Every thing else recalls to my remembrance years, in which I proposed what, I am afraid, I have not done, and promised myself pleasure which I have not found. But complaint can be of no use; and why then should I depress your hopes by my lamentations? I suppose it is the condition of humanity to design what never will be done, and to hope what never will be obtained. But, among the vain hopes, let me not number the hope which I have, of being long, dear madam, your, &c.
IV. TO THE SAME.
Lichfield, August 14, 1769. MADAM,—I set out on Thursday morning, and found my companion, to whom I was very much a stranger, more agreeable than I expected. We went cheerfully forward, and passed the night at Coventry. We came in late, and went out early; and, therefore, I did not send for my cousin Tom: but I design to make him some amends for the
Next day we came early to Lucy, who was, I believe, glad to see us. She had saved her best gooseberries upon the tree for me; and, as Steele says, I was neither too proud nor too wise" to gather them. I have rambled a very little "inter fontes et flumina nota," but I am not yet well. They have cut down the trees in George lane. Evelyn, in his
a Miss Lucy Porter, daughter to Dr. Johnson's wife, by a former husband.
book of Forest Trees, tells us of wicked men that cut down trees, and never prospered afterwards; yet nothing has deterred these audacious aldermen from violating the Hamadryads of George lane. As an impartial traveller, I must however tell, that, in Stow street, where I left a draw-well, I have found a pump; but the lading-well, in this ill fated George lane, lies shamefully neglected.
I am going to-day, or to-morrow, to Ashbourne; but I am at a loss how I shall get back in time to London. Here are only chance coaches, so that there is no certainty of a place. If I do not come, let it not hinder your journey. I can be but a few days behind you; and I will follow in the Brighthelmstone coach. But I hope to come.
I took care to tell Miss Porter, that I have got another Lucy. I hope she is well. Tell Mrs. Salusbury that I beg her stay at Streatham, for little Lucy's sake. I am, &c.
V. TO MRS. THRALE.
Lichfield, July 11, 1770. MADAM,-Since my last letter, nothing extraordinary has happened. Rheumatism, which has been very troublesome, is grown better. I have not yet seen Dr. Taylor, and July runs fast away. I shall not have much time for him, if he delays much longer to come or send. Mr. Green, the apothecary, has found a book, which tells who paid levies in our parish, and how much they paid, above a hundred years ago. Do you not think we study this book hard? Nothing is like going to the bottom of things. Many families, that paid the parish-rates, are now extinct, like the race of Hercules: "Pulvis et umbra sumus." What is nearest us, touches us most. The passions rise higher at domestick, than at imperial, tragedies. I am not wholly unaffected by the revolutions of Sadler street; nor can forbear to mourn a little when old names vanish away, and new come into their place.
Do not imagine, madam, that I wrote this letter for the sake of these philosophical meditations; for when I began