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Nov. 20, 1729. “ Yes, dear Sir, I have had all you designed for me; and have read all, as I read whatever you write, with esteem and pleasure. But your last letter, full of friendship and goodness, gave me such impressions of concern and tenderness, as neither I can express, nor you perhaps with all the force of your imagination fully conceive.
“ I am not yet master enough of myself, after the late wound I have received, to open my very heart to you; and am not content with less than that, whenever I converse with you. My thoughts are at present vainly, but pleasingly, employed on what I have lost, and can never recover. I know well I ought, for that reason, to call them off to other subjects; but, hitherto, I have not been able to do it. By giving them the rein a little, and suffering them to spend their force, I hope in some time to check and subdue them. Multis fortunæ vulneribus perculsus, huic uni me imparem sensi, et pænè succubui. This is weakness, not wisdom, I own; and on that account fitter to be trusted to the bosom of a friend, where I may safely lodge all my infirmities. As soon as my mind is in some measure corrected and calmed, I will endeavour to follow your advice, and turn it toward something of use and moment; if I have still life enough left to do any thing, that is worth reading and preserving. In the mean time, I shall be
studies ;” and, as an example, suggests to him that his predecessor Sprat, “ though of a much inferior genius” (yet Johnson pronounced, that each of Sprat's different books had a distinct and characteristical excellence') turned all his thoughts that way.
pleased to hear that you proceed in what you intend, without any such melancholy interruptions as I have met with. You outdo others on all occasions; my hope and my opinion is, that on moral subjects, and in drawing characters, you will outdo yourself. Your mind is as yet unbroken by age and ill accidents; your knowledge and judgement are at the height: use them in writing somewhat that they may teach the present and future times, and if not gain equally the applause of both, may yet raise the envy of the one and secure the admiration of the other. Remember Virgil died at fifty two, and Horace at fifty eight; and, as bad as both constitutions were, yours is yet more delicate and tender. Employ not your precious moments, and great talents, on little men and little things : but choose a subject every way worthy of you, and handle it, as you can, in a manner which nobody else can equal or imitate. As for me, my abilities, if I ever had any, are not what they were; and yet I will endeavour to recollect and employ them:
- gelidus tardante senectâ
However, I should be ungrateful to this place, if I did not own that I have gained upon the gout in the South of France much more than I did at Paris, though even there I sensibly improved. What happened to me here last summer was merely the effect of my folly, in trusting too much to a physician, who kept me six weeks on a milk-diet without purging me, contrary to all the rules of the faculty. The milk threw me at last into a fever, and that fever soon produced the gout; which, finding my stomach
weakened by a long disuse of meat, attacked it, and had like at once to have despatched me. The excessive heat of this place concurred to heighten the symptoms : but, in the midst of my distemper, I took a sturdy resolution of retiring thirty miles into the mountains of the Cevennes; and there I soon found relief from the coolness of the air and the verdure of the climate, though not to such a degree as not to feel some relics of those pains in my stomach, which till lately I had never felt. Had I staid, as I intended, there till the end of October, I believe my cure had been perfected: but the earnest desire of meeting one I dearly loved called me abruptly to Montpelier; where, after continuing two months under the cruel torture of a sad and fruitless expectation, I was forced at last to take a long journey to Toulouse : and even there I had missed the person I sought, had she not with great spirit and courage ventured all night up the Garonne to see me, which she above all things desired to do before she died. By that means she was brought where I was between seven and eight in the morning, and lived twenty hours afterward; which time was not lost on either side, but passed in such a manner as gave great satisfaction to both, and such as on her part every way became her circumstances and character: for she had her senses to the very last gasp, and exerted them to give me, in those few hours, greater marks of duty and love than she had done in all her life-time, though she had never been wanting in either. The last words she said to me were the kindest of all; a. reflexion on the goodness of God, which had allowed us in this manner to meet once more, before we parted
for ever. Not many minutes after that, she laid herself on her pillow, in a sleeping posture,
placidáque ibi demùm morte quievit. « Judge you, Sir, what I felt, and still feel, on this occasion; and spare me the trouble of describing it. At my age, under my infirmities, among utter strangers, how shall I find out proper reliefs and supports! I can have none, but those with which reason and religion furnish me: and on those I lay hold, and make use of, as well as I can; and hope that He, who laid the burthen upon me (for wise and good purposes, no doubt) will enable me to bear it, in like manner as I have borne others, with some degree of fortitude and firmness.
“ You see, how ready I am to relapse into an argument, which I had quitted once before in this letter. I shall, probably, again commit the same fault, if I continue to write: and, therefore, I stop short here; and, with all sincerity, affection, and esteem, bid you adieu, till we meet either in this world, if God pleases, or else in another.
“ A friend I have with me will convey this safely to your hands, though perhaps it may be some time before it reaches you: whenever it does, it will give you a true account of the posture of mind I was in when I wrote it, and which I hope may by that time be a little altered.”
During his residence in France, he was exposed to some trouble from a suspicion of his having facilitated the escape from that country of Father Courayer, who had published in 1727 a · Defence of the English Ordinations,' to the great vexation of Cardinal
de Noailles. The French King and Cardinal Fleury sent him a message on the subject, by the Lieutenant of Police; but after an hour's conversation, as he himself states in a letter, he satisfied that officer, that he had done nothing but what became him ; owned his friendship for Courayer, pointed to his picture hanging up in the room, and acknowledged that he had paid him a visit in his retreat at Hanment, and had received from him a farewell call in return the night before he left Paris.' The Lieutenant promised, he adds, to justify him both to the court and the city;' but the Cardinal, convinced that the exiled Prelate had been deeply engaged in the escape, displayed much resentment toward him on that account.
A short time before his decease, alarmed lest his papers should fall into the hands of government and thus endanger his correspondents, he destroyed several of the most important ones, and ineffectually solicited Lord Waldegrave, the English Embassador, to affix his seal to the remainder. To the French government he, also, made a similar application; but some difficulties arising, he withdrew it. After his death John Samples, a ministerial spy, who had wormed himself into the Bishop's intimacy, endeavoured to obtain possession of them for the ostensible purpose of transmitting them to the Pretender: but the friends of the deceased interposed; the papers were sent to the Scots College, and the seal of office affixed. His son-in-law and executor, however, was permitted to select such as related to family-affairs.*
* These, which were seized upon that gentleman's return to VOL. V.