« PreviousContinue »
LETTER I. To Mr. James ELPHINSTON.
Sept. 25th, 1750. You have as I find by every kind of evidence, lost an excellent
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 when once the tribute of nature has been paid. The buiness of life summons us away om 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 separation 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 further 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 satisfaction is sincerely wished you by,
and most humble servant,
LETTER II. To Mrs. THRALE.
London, Aug. 13, 1765. IF you have really so good an opinion of me as you express, it will not be necessary to inform you how una willingly 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 se
cond 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. T'hrale'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.
LETTER III. To the Same.
Litchfield, July 20, 1767. 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 allow me to call my home.
Miss Lucy* is more kind and civil than I expected, and has raised my esteem by many excellences very no ble and resplendent, though a little discoloured by hoary virginity. Every thing else recals 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, LETTER IV. To Mrs. THRALE.
* Miss Lucy Porter, daughter to Dr. Johnson's wife by a former husband.
Litchfield, August 14, 1769. 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 omission.
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 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 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
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.