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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From a Letter to his Friend Mr. Joseph Baretti, at Milan
By Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
 
I KNOW my Baretti will not be satisfied with a letter in which I give him no account of myself; yet what account shall I give him? I have not, since the day of our separation, suffered or done anything considerable. The only change in my way of life is, that I have frequented the theatre more than in former seasons. But I have gone thither only to escape from myself. We have had many new farces, and the comedy called ‘The Jealous Wife,’—which, though not written with much genius, was yet so well adapted to the stage, and so well exhibited by the actors, that it was crowded for near twenty nights. I am digressing from myself to the play-house; but a barren plan must be filled with episodes. Of myself I have nothing to say, but that I have hitherto lived without the concurrence of my own judgment; yet I continue to flatter myself that when you return, you will find me mended. I do not wonder that where the monastic life is permitted, every order finds votaries, and every monastery inhabitants. Men will submit to any rule by which they may be exempt from the tyranny of caprice and of chance. They are glad to supply by external authority their own want of constancy and resolution, and court the government of others when long experience has convinced them of their own inability to govern themselves. If I were to visit Italy, my curiosity would be more attracted by convents than by palaces; though I am afraid I should find expectation in both places equally disappointed, and life in both places supported with impatience and quitted with reluctance. That it must be so soon quitted is a powerful remedy against impatience; but what shall free us from reluctance? Those who have endeavored to teach us to die well, have taught few to die willingly; yet I cannot but hope that a good life might end at last in a contented death.  1
 
 
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