The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

by James Boswell

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"Whatever You Have, Spend Less"

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Context: In 1782 Boswell was much of the time in Scotland, away from Dr. Johnson, but Johnson wrote him a series of letters during that time which Boswell uses in his biography of the great man. On December 7, 1782, Johnson wrote from London that he had been ill much of the year and had been busy seeking health, commenting, "I am afraid, however, that health begins, after seventy, and long before, to have a meaning different from that which it had at thirty." Johnson goes on in his letter to complain of not having letters from Boswell, in the querulous tone of an old man, as he is. He asks Boswell, who has inherited his father's estates, in Scotland, to let him know the "history" of Boswell's current life, including such specific items as the number of houses and cows Boswell now owns, the extent of his landholdings, and the agreements with his tenants. In the course of the letter Dr. Johnson offers some advice in management to his friend and biographer:

Your economy, I suppose, begins now to be settled; your expences are adjusted to your revenue, and all your people in their proper places. Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.

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