Boswell's Life of Johnson (1904)/Volume 1/Appendix B

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APPENDIX B.

Johnson's Letters to his Mother and Miss Porter in 1759.

(Page 394.)

Malone published seven of the following letters in the fourth edition, and Mr. Croker the rest.

'To Mrs. Johnson in Lichfield.

'Honoured Madam,

'The account which Miss [Porter] gives me of your health pierces my heart. God comfort and preserve you and save you, 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 travail 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 guineas[1] to send you, 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,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 13, 1758[2].'

'To Miss Porter, at Mrs. Johnson's, in Lichfield.

'My dear Miss,

'I think myself obliged to you beyond all expression of gratitude for your care of my dear mother. God grant it may not be without success. Tell Kitty[3] 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 Monday. I found a way of sending them by means of the postmaster, after I had written my letter, and hope they came safe. I will send you more in a few days. God bless you all.

'I am, my dear,

'Your most obliged

'And most humble servant,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 16, 1759.

'Over the leaf is a letter to my mother.'

'Dear honoured Mother,

'Your weakness afflicts me beyond what I am willing to communicate to you. I do not think you unfit 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,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 16, 1759'

'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. I 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,

'Your dutiful son,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 18, 1759.'

'To Miss Porter, at Mrs. Johnson's, in Lichfield.

'Dear Miss,

'I will, if it be possible, come down to you. God grant I may 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, dear mother,

'Your most humble servant,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 20. 1759.' On the other side.

'Dear honoured Mother[4],

'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. I 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,

'Your dutiful son,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 20, 1759.'

'To Miss Porter in Lichfield.

'You will conceive 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 for me, 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. I shall be glad likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of twenty pounds in a few days, which I 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,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 23, 1759[5].'

'To Miss Porter.

(The beginning is torn and lost.)

'You will forgive me if I am not yet so composed as to give any directions about any thing. But you are wiser and better than, and I shall be pleased with all that you shall do. It is not of any use for me now to come down; nor can I bear the place. If you want any directions, Mr. Howard[6] will advise you. The twenty pounds I could not get a bill for to-night, but will send it on Saturday.

'I am, my dear, your affectionate servant,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Jan. 25, 1759.'

'To Miss Porter,

'Dear Miss,

'I have no reason to forbear writing, but that it makes my heart heavy, and I had nothing particular to say which might not be delayed to the next post ; but had no thoughts of ceasing to correspond with my dear Lucy, the only person now left in the world with whom I think myself connected. There needed not my dear mother's desire, for every heart must lean to somebody, and I have nobody but you; in whom I put all my little affairs with too much confidence to desire you to keep receipts, as you prudently proposed.

'If you and Kitty will keep the house, I think I shall like it best. Kitty may carry on the trade for herself, keeping her own stock apart, and laying aside any money that she receives for any of the goods which her good mistress has left behind her. I do not see, if this scheme be followed, any need of appraising the books. My mothers debts, dear mother, I suppose I may pay with little difficulty; and the little trade may go silently forward. I fancy Kitty can do nothing better; and I shall not want to put her out of a house, where she has lived so long, and with so much virtue. I am very sorry that she is ill, and earnestly hope that she will soon recover; let her know that I have the highest value for her, and would do any thing for her advantage. Let her think of this proposal. I do not see any likelier method by which she may pass the remaining part of her life in quietness and competence.

'You must have what part of the house you please, while you are inclined to stay in it; but I flatter myself with the hope that you and I shall some time pass our days together. I am very solitary and comfortless, but will not invite you to come hither till I can hope of making you live here so as not to dislike your situation. Pray, my dearest, write to me as often as you can.

'I am, dear Madam,

'Your affectionate humble servant,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Feb. 6, 1759.'

'To Miss Porter.

'Dear Madam,

'I thought your last letter long in coming; and did not require or expect such an inventory of little things as you have sent me. I could have taken your word for a matter of much greater value. I am glad that Kitty is better; let her be paid first, as my dear, dear mother ordered, and then let me know at once the sum necessary to discharge her other debts, and I will find it you very soon.

'I beg, my dear, that you would act for me without the least scruple, for I can repose myself very confidently upon your prudence, and hope we shall never have reason to love each other less. I shall take it very kindly if you make it a rule to write to me once at least every week, for I am now very desolate, and am loth to be universally forgotten.

'I am, dear sweet,

'Your affectionate servant,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'March 1, 1758[9].'

'To Miss Porter.

'Dear Madam,

'I beg your pardon for having so long omitted to write. One thing or other has put me off. I have this day moved my things and you are now to direct to me at Staple Inn, London. I hope, my dear, you are well, and Kitty mends. I wish her success in her trade. I am going to publish a little story book [Rasselas], which I will send you when it is out. Write to me, my dearest girl, for I am always glad to hear from you.

'I am, my dear, your humble servant,

'Sam, Johnson.'

'March 23, 1759.'

'To Miss Porter.

'Dear Madam,

'I am almost ashamed to tell you that all your letters came safe, and that I have been always very well, but hindered, I hardly know how, from writing. I sent, last week, some of my works, one for you, one for your aunt Hunter, who was with my poor dear mother when she died, one for Mr. Howard, and one for Kitty.

'I beg you, my dear, to write often to me, and tell me how you like my little book.

'I am, dear love, your affectionate humble servant,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'May 10, 1759.'

  1. Six of these twelve guineas Johnson appears to have borrowed from Mr. Allen, the printer. See Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 366 n. Malone.
  2. Written by mistake for 1759. On the outside of the letter of the 13th was written by another hand—'Pray acknowledge the receipt of this by return of post, without fail.' Malone.
  3. Catherine Chambers, Mrs. Johnson's maid-servant. She died in October, 1767. Malone. See Post, ii. 49.
  4. This letter was written on the second leaf of the preceding, addressed to Miss Porter. Malone.
  5. Mrs. Johnson probably died on the 20th or 2ist January, and was buried on the day this letter was written. Malone. On the day on which his mother was buried Johnson composed a prayer, as being 'now about to return to the common comforts and business of the world.' Pr. and Med. p. 38. After his wife's death he had allowed forty days to pass before his 'return to life.' See ante, p. 271, note 2.
  6. See ante, p. 94.