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While in the country, notwithstanding the accumulation of illness which he endured, his mind did not lose its powers.
He translated an Ode of Horace, which is printed in his Works, and composed several prayers. I Mall insert one of them, which is so wise and energetick, so philosophical and so pious, that I doubt not of its affording consolation to many a sincere Christian, when in a state of mind to which I believe the best are sometimes liable
And here I am enabled fully to refute a very unjust reflection both against Dr. Johnson, and his faithful servant, Mr. Francis Barber, by Sir John Hawkins, as if both of them had been guilty of culpable neglect towards a person of the name of Heely, whom Sir John chooses to call a relation of Dr. Johnson's. The fact is, that Mr. Heely was not his relation; he had indeed been married to one of his cousins, but she had died without having children, and he had married another woman, so that even the night connection which there once had been by alliance was dissolved. Dr. Johnson, who had shewn very great liberality to this man while his first wife was alive, as has appeared in a former part of this work, was humane and charitable enough to continue his bounty to him occasionally; but surely there was no strong call of duty upon him or upon
his legatee, to do more. The following letter, obligingly communicated to me by Mr. Andrew Strahan, will confirm what I have stated:
To Mr. HEELY, No. 5, in Pye-street, Westminster.
“ AS necessity obliges you to call so soon again upon me, you should at least have told the smallest sum that will supply your present want; you cannot suppose that I have much to spare. Two guineas is as much as you ought to be behind with your creditor.--If you wait on Mr. Strahan, in • Againjt inquisitive and perplexing thoughts. “ O Lord, my Maker and Protector, who haft
LORD graciously sent me into this world to work out my salvation, enable me to drive from me all such unquiet and perplexing thoughts as may mislead or hinder me in the practice of those duties which Thou haft required. When I behold the works of thy hands, and consider the course of thy providence, give me grace always to remember that thy thoughts are not my thoughts, nor thy way's my ways. And while it shall please Thee to continue me in this world, where much is to be done, and little to be known, teach me, by thy Holy Spirit, to withdraw my mind from unprofitable and dangerous enquiries, from difficulties vainly curious, and doubts impossible to be solved. Let me rejoice in the light which Thou haft imparted, let me serve Thee with active zeal and humble confidence, and wait with patient expectation for the time in which the foul which Thou receivelt Thall be satisfied with knowledge. Grant this, O, LORD, for Jesus Christ's fake. Amen." .7 Vol. I. p. 289.
New-street, Fetter-lane, or in his absence, on Mr. Andrew Strahan, show 1784. this, by which they are entreated to advance you two guineas, and to keep Ætat: 75. this as a voucher. I am, Sir, your humble servant, Alhbourne, August 12, 1784.
Indeed it is very necessary to keep in mind that Sir John Hawkins has unaccountably viewed Johnson's character and conduct in almost every particular with an unhappy prejudice .
We now behold Johnson for the last time, in his native city, for which he ever retained a warm affection, and which by a sudden apostrophe under the word Lich, he introduces with reverence, into his immortal work The ENGLISH DICTIONARY—Salve magna parens'! While here, he felt a revival of all the
tenderness 3 I shall add one instance only to those on which I have thought it incumbent on me to observe. Talking of Mr. Garrick's having signified his willingness to let Johnson have the loan of any of his books to affift him in his edition of Shakspeare ; Sir John says (page 444) “ Mr. Garrick knew not what risque he ran by this offer. Johnson had so strange a forgetfulness of obligations of this fort, that few who lent him books ever saw them again.” This surely conveys a most unfavourable insinuation, and has been so understood.. Sir John mentions the single case of a curious edition of Politian, which he tells us, “ appeared to belong to Pembroke-College, and which, probably, had been considered by Johnfon as his own, for upwards of fifty years." Would it not be fairer to consider this as an inadvertence, and draw no general inference? The truth is, that Johnson was so attentive, that in one of his manuscripts in my possession, he has marked in two columns books borrowed, and books lent.
In Sir John Hawkins's compilation, there are, however, some passages concerning Johnson which have unquestionable merit. One of them I shall transcribe, in justice to a writer whom I have had too much occasion to censure, and to shew my fairness as the biographer of my. illuftrious friend: “ There was wanting in his conduct and behaviour, that dignity which results from a regular and orderly course of action, and by an irresistible power commands esteem. He could noi be said to be a stayed man, nor so to have adjusted in his mind the balance of reason and passion, as to give occasion to say what may be observed of some men, that all they do is juft, fit,, and right.”
. The following circumstance, mutually to the honour of Johnson and the corporation of his native city, has been communicated to me by the Reverend Dr. Vyse, from the Town. Clerk : “ Mr. Simpson has now before him, a record of the respect and veneration which the Corporation of Lichfield, in the year 1767, had for the merits and learning of Dr. Johnson.. His father built the corner house in the Market-place, the two fronts of which, towards Market and Broad-market-street, stood upon waste land of the Corporation, under a forty years' lease, which
' was then expired. On the 15th of August, 1767, at a common-hall of the bailiffs and citizens, it was ordered (and that without any follicitation) that a lease should be granted to Samuel Johnson, Doctor of Laws, of the incroachments at his house, for the term of ninety-nine years, at the old rent, which was five shillings. Of which, as Town-Clerk, Mr. Simpson had the honour and pleasure of informing him, and that he was desired to accept it, without paying
tenderness of filial affection, an instance of which appeared in his ordering the grave-stone and inscription, over Elizabeth Blaney', to be substantially and carefully renewed.
To Mr. Henry White, a young clergyman, with whom he now formed an intimacy, so as to talk to him with great freedom, he mentioned that he could not in general accuse himself of having been an undutiful son. indeed (faid he) I was disobedient; I refused to attend my father to Uttoxetermarket. Pride was the source of that refusal, and the remembrance of it was painful. A few years ago, I desired to atone for this fault; I went to Uttoxeter in very bad weather, and stood for a considerable time bare-headed in the rain, on the spot where my father's stall used to stand. In contrition I stood, and I hope the pennance was expiatory.”
“ I told him (says Miss Seward) in one of my latest visits to him, of a wonderful learned pig, which I had seen at Nottingham ; and which did all that we have observed exhibited by dogs and horses. The subject amused him. · Then (said he) the pigs are a race unjustly calumniated. Pig has, it seems,
, not been wanting to man, but man to pig. We do not allow time for his education, we kill him at a year old.' Mr. Henry White, who was present, observed that if this instance had happened in or before Pope's time, he would not have been justified in instancing the swine as the lowest degree of groveling instinct. Doctor Johnson seemed pleased with the observation, while the person who made it proceeded to remark, that great torture must have been employed, ere the indocility of the animal could have been subdued.
Certainly (said the Doctor) but (turning to me); how old is your pig?" I told him three years old. • Then (said he) the pig has no cause to complain; he would have been killed the first year if he had not been educated, and protracted existence is a good recompence for very considerable degrees of torture.”
As Johnson had now very faint hopes of recovery, and as Mrs. Thrale was no longer devoted to him, it might have been supposed that he would naturally have chosen to remain in the comfortable house of his beloved wife's daughter, and end his life where he began it. But there was in him an animated and lofty spirit, and however complicated diseases might depress
any fine on the occasion, which lease was afterwards granted, and the Doctor died poffeffed of this property."
· See Vol. I. p. 9. ? Mr. Burke suggested to me as applicable to Johnson, what Cicero, in his Cato Major, says of Appius, “ Intentum enim animum tanquam arcum habebat, nec languefcens succumbebat feneftuti;" repeating at the same time, the following noble words in the fame passage: "Ita enim fenectus benefta eft fi fe ipfa defendit, fe jus fuum retinet, si nemini emancipata eft, fi usque ad extremam vils Spiritum wudicet jus suum."
ordinary mortals, all who saw him, beheld and acknowledged the invietum 1784.
From Lichfield he came to Birmingham, where he passed a few days with
your inspection, exactly the minutes I wrote to him.” This paper having been found in his repositories after his death, Sir John Hawkins has inserted it entire, and I have made occasional use of it, and other communications from Mr. Hector, in the course of this work. I have both visited and corresponded with him since Dr. Johnson's death, and by asking a great variety of particulars have obtained additional information. I followed the same mode with the Reverend Dr. Taylor, in whose presence I wrote down a good deal of what he could tell; and he, at my request, figned his name, to give it authenticity. It is very rare to find any person who is able to give a distinct account of the life even of one whom he has known intiinately, without questions being put to them. My friend, Dr. Kippis, has told me, that on this account it is a practice with him to draw out a biographical catechism.
Johnson then proceeded to Oxford, where he was again kindly received by
the difficulty of this sort of composition. He reminded me of this, and of my having wished him to try his hand, and to give us a specimen of the style and manner that he approved. He added, that he was now in a right frame of mind, and as he could not possibly employ his time better, he would in earnest fet about it. But I find upon enquiry, that no papers of this sort were left behind him, except a few short ejaculatory forms suitable to his present situation."
Dr. Adams had not then received accurate information on this subject; for it has since appeared that various prayers had been composed by him at different periods, which intermingled with pious resolutions, and fome short notes of his life, were entitled by him “ Prayers and Meditations,” and have in pursuance of his earnest requisition in the hopes of doing good, been published, with a judicious well-written Preface, by the Reverend Mr. Strahan, to whom he delivered them. This admirable collection, to which I have frequently referred in the course of this work, evinces, beyond all his compositions for the publick, and all the eulogies of his friends and admirers, the sincere virtue and piety of Johnson. It proves with unquestionable authenticity, that amidst all his constitutional infirmities, his earnestness to conform his practice to the precepts of Christianity was unceasing, and that he habitually endeavoured to refer every transaction of his life to the will of the Supreme Being.
He arrived in London on the 16th of November, and next day sent to Dr. Burney, the following note, which I insert as the last token of his remembrance of this ingenious and amiable man, and as another of the many proofs of the tenderness and benignity of his heart.
“ Mr. Johnson, who came home last night, sends his respects to dear Dr. Burney, and all the dear Burneys, little and great.”
To Mr. HeCTOR, in Birmingham. « DEAR SIR,
“ I did not reach Oxford until Friday morning, and then I sent Francis to see the balloon Ay, but could not go myself. I staid at Oxford 'till Tuesday, and then came in the common vehicle easily to London. I am as I was, and having feen Dr. Brocklesby, am to ply the squills; but whatever be their efficacy, this world must soon pass away. Let us think seriously on our duty.--I send my kindest respects to dear Mrs. Careless; let me have the prayers of both. We have all lived long, and must foon part. GOD have mercy on us, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. I am, &c. “ London, Nov, 17, 1784.