Page images
PDF
EPUB

p. 47.

Prayers upon me with tenderness and mercy; grant that I may not have & Med. been created to be finally destroyed; that I may not be pre

served to add wickedness to wickedness.” P. 68. “O Lord, let me not sink into total depravity; look down

upon me, and rescue me at last from the captivity of sin.” P. 84. “Almighty and most merciful Father, who hath continued my

life from year to year, grant that by longer life I may become less desirous of sinful pleasures, and more careful of eternal

happiness.” P. 120. “Let not my years be multiplied to increase my guilt ; but

as my age advances, let me become more pure in my thoughts,

more regular in my desires, and more obedient to thy laws.” P. 130. “ Forgive, O merciful Lord, whatever I have done contrary to thy laws. Give me such a sense of

my

wickedness as may produce true contrition and effectual repentance: so that when I shall be called into another state, I may be received among

the sinners to whom sorrow and reformation have obtained pardon, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."

Such was the distress of mind, such the penitence of Johnson, in his hours of privacy, and in his devout approaches to his Maker. His sincerity, therefore, must appear to every candid mind unquestionable.

It is of essential consequence to keep in view, that there was in this excellent man's conduct no false principle of commutation, no deliberate indulgence in sin, in consideration of a counterbalance of duty. His offending and his repenting were distinct and separate': and when we consider his almost unexampled attention to truth, his inflexible integrity, his constant piety, who will dare to “cast a stone at him?” Besides, let it never be forgotten that he cannot be charged with any offence indicating badness of heart, any thing dishonest, base, or malignant; but that, on the contrary, he was charitable in an extraordinary degree: so that even in one of his own

1 Dr. Johnson related, with very earnest approbation, a story of a gentleman, who, in an impulse of passion, overcame the virtue of a young woman. When she said to him, “ I am afraid we have done wrong!” he answered, “Yes, we have done wrong ;—for I would not debauch her mind._BOSWELL.

rigid judgements of himself (Easter-eve, 1781), while he says, “I have corrected no external habits;" he is obliged to own, “ I hope that since my last com- Prayers munion I have advanced, by pious reflections, in my p. 192. submission to God, and my benevolence to man.”

I am conscious that this is the most difficult and dangerous part of my biographical work, and I cannot but be very anxious concerning it. I trust that I have got through it, preserving at once my regard to truth,—to my friend, -and to the interests of virtue and religion. Nor can I apprehend that more harm can ensue from the knowledge of the irregularities of Johnson, guarded as I have stated it, than from knowing that Addison and Parnell were intemperate in the use of wine; which he himself, in his Lives of those celebrated writers and pious men, has not forborne to record!.

It is not my intention to give a very minute detail of the particulars of Johnson's remaining days*, of whom it was now evident, that the crisis was fast approaching, when he must die like men, and fall 824 Ps. like one of the princes." Yet it will be instructive, as well as gratifying to the curiosity of my readers, to record a few circumstances, on the authenticity of

v. 7.

error.

[Mr. Boswell makes here a poor and disingenuous defence for a very grievous

It is one thing to repeat-as Dr. Johnson did, historically, what all the world knew, and few were inclined to blame seriously—that Parnell and Addison loved a cheerful glass

“Narratur et prisci Catonis

Sæpe mero caluisse virtus.” But it is quite another thing to insinuate oneself into a man's confidence, to follow him for twenty years like his shadow, to note his words and actions like a spy, to ransack his most secret papers, and scrutinize even his conscientious confessions, and then, with all the sinister authority which such a show of friendship must confer, to accuse him of low and filthy guilt supposed to have been com. mitted a quarter of a century before the informer and his calumniated friend had ever met, and which, consequently, Mr. Boswell could only have had from hearsay or from guess, and which all personal testimony and all the documentary evidence seem to disprove. Surely Mr. Boswell's good sense, good taste, and good feeling, must have, on this occasion, given way under some powerful selfdelusion.--En.]

[The particulars which Mr. Boswell's absence, and the jealousy between him and some of Johnson's other friends, prevented his being able to give, the editor is now at liberty to supply from Hawkins's work, as well as from an interesting journal of Mr. Windham's.-Ed.]

which they may perfectly rely, as I have been at the utmost pains to obtain an accurate account of his last illness, from the best authority.

Dr. Heberden, Dr. Brocklesby, Dr. Warren, and Dr. Butter, physicians, generously attended him, without accepting any fees, as did Mr. Cruikshank, surgeon; and all that could be done from professional skill and ability was tried, to prolong a life so truly valuable. He himself, indeed, having, on account of his very bad constitution, been perpetually applying himself to medical inquiries, united his own efforts with those of the gentlemen who attended him; and imagining that the dropsical collection of water which oppressed him might be drawn off by making incisions in his body, he, with his usual resolute defiance of pain, cut deep, when he thought that his surgeon had done it too tenderly'.

About eight or ten days before his death, when Dr. Brocklesby paid him his morning visit, he seemed very low and desponding, and said, “I have been as a dying man all night.” He then emphatically broke out in the words of Shakspeare,

Macb. act v. sc. 2.

“ Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased;

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow;
Raze out the written troubles of the brain;
And, with some sweet oblivious antidote,
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff,

Which weighs upon the heart ?”
To which Dr. Brocklesby readily answered from the
same great poet:

Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.”

[ocr errors]

i This bold experiment Sir John Hawkins has related in such a manner as to suggest a charge against Johnson of intentionally hastening his end; a charge so very inconsistent with his character in every respect, that it is injurious even to refute it, as Sir John has thought it necessary to do. It is evident, that what Johnson did in hopes of relief indicated an extraordinary eagerness to retard his dissolution.-Boswell. [If Sir J. Hawkins, whose account the reader will presently see (post, p. 341), makes rather too much of this singular incident, surely Mr. Boswell treats too lightly the morbid impatience which induced Dr. Johnson to take the lancet into his own hands. ED.)

Sat. x.

v. 356.

Johnson expressed himself much satisfied with the application.

On another day after this, when talking on the subject of prayer, Dr. Brocklesby repeated from Juvenal,

56 Orandum est, ut sit mens sana in corpore sano," and so on to the end of the tenth satire; but in running it quickly over, he happened, in the line,

- Qui spatium vitæ extremum inter munera ponat',' to pronounce supremum for extremum; at which Johnson's critical ear instantly took offence, and discoursing vehemently on the unmetrical effect of such a lapse, he showed himself as full as ever of the spirit of the grammarian.

Having no other relations, it had been for some time Johnson's intention to make a liberal provision for his faithful servant, Mr. Francis Barber, whom

[ocr errors]

[Mr. Boswell has omitted to notice the line, for the sake of which Dr. Brocklesby probably introduced the quotation,

“ Fortem posce animum et mortis terrore carentem!2 The authour in a former page has shown the injustice of Sir John Hawkins's charge against Johnson, with respect to a person of the name of Heely, whom he has inaccurately represented as a relation of Johnson's. See p. 285. That Johnson was anxious to discover whether any of his relations were living, is evinced by the following letter, written not long before he made his will:

TO THE REV. DR. VYSE, IN LAMBETH. SIR,

“ I am desirous to know whether Charles Scrimshaw, of Woodsease (I think), in your father's neighbourhood, be now living; what is his condition, and where he may be found. If you can conveniently make any inquiry about him, and can do it without delay, it will be an act of great kindness to me, he being very nearly related to me. I beg (you) to pardon this trouble.

“ I am, sir, your most hunible servant, Bolt-court, Fleet-street,

“SAM. Johnson." Nov. 29, 1784.” In conformity to the wish expressed in the preceding letter, an inquiry was made, but no descendants of Charles Scrimshaw or of his sisters, were discovered to be living. Dr. Vyse informs me, that Dr. Johnson told him, he was disappointed in the inquiries he had made after his relations." There is therefore no ground whatsoever for supposing that he was unmindful of them, or neglected them.-MALONE. (Surely Mr. Malone's conclusion is rather too strong, when his premises show that Dr. Johnson had so long and so utterly neglected these relatives, that when, within a month of his death, he set about inquiring after them, all traces of their existence had vanished._Ev.]

[ocr errors]

he looked upon as particularly under his protection, and whom he had all along treated truly as an humble friend. Having asked Dr. Brocklesby what would be a proper annuity to a favourite servant, and being answered that it must depend on the circumstances of the master; and that in the case of a nobleman fifty pounds a year was considered as an adequate reward for many years' faithful service;—“ Then,” said Johnson, “ shall I be nobilissimus, for I mean to leave Frank seventy pounds a year, and I desire you to tell him so." It is strange, however, to think, that Johnson was not free from that general weakness of being averse to execute a will, so that he delayed it from time to time, and had it not been for Sir John Hawkins's repeatedly urging it, I think it is probable that his kind resolution would not have been fulfilled,

[“ After the declaration he had made of his intention to provide for his servant Frank,” says Sir J. Hawkins, “ and before his going into the country, I had frequently pressed him to make a will, and had gone so far as to make a draft of one, with blanks for the names of the executors and residuary legatee, and directing in what manner it was to be executed and attested; but he was exceedingly averse to this business; and, while he was in Derbyshire, I repeated my solicitations, for this purpose, by letters. When Dr. Johnson arrived in town, he had done nothing in it, and, to what I formerly said, I now added, that he had never mentioned the disposal of the residue of his estate, which, after the purchase of an annuity for Frank, would be something considerable, and that he would do well to bequeath it

Hawk. p. 575.

1 [Here followed in a note Dr. Johnson's will, which, as well as some subsequent paragraphs of Mr. Boswell's work, the editor has transposed, for the sake of what seems to him a better order. -Ed.]

« PreviousContinue »