Page images
PDF
EPUB

p. 588.

Hawk. were I to repeat it, would render me suspected of in

excusable vanity'; it concluded with these words, ' If I was not satisfied with this, I must be a savage.'

" 7th. I again visited him. Before my departure, Dr. Brocklesby came in, and, taking him by the wrist, Johnson gave him a look of great contempt, and ridiculed the judging of his disorder by the pulse. He complained that the sarcocele had again made its appearance, and asked if a puncture would not relieve him, as it had done the year before; the doctor answered that it might, but that his surgeon was the best judge of the effect of such an operation,

ohnson, upon this, said, 'How many men in a year die through the timidity of those whom they consult for health! I want length of life, and you fear giving me pain, which I care not for.'

“8th. I visited him with Mr. Langton, and found him dictating to Mr. Strahan another will?, the former being, as he had said at the time of making it, a temporary one. On our entering the room, he said, . God bless you both.' I arrived just time enough to direct the execution, and also the attestation of it. After he had published it, he desired Mr. Strahan to say the Lord's

prayer,

which he did, all of us joining. Johnson, after it, uttered, extempore, a few pious ejaculations.

9th, I saw him in the evening, and found him dictating, to Mr. Strahan, a codicil to the will he had made the evening before. I assisted them in it, and received from the testator a direction, to insert a devise

1 (See ante, p. 316. n.—ED.] * There seems something odd in this affair of the will. Why did Johnson, after employing Sir J. Hawkins, a professional and in every other respect a proper person to draw up his will, throw it aside, and dictate another to a young clergyman? Had Sir J. Hawkins attempted to thwart the testator's intentions, which he tells us he disapproved of: or was this change the result of the scene of the 5th about the secreted books ? In any case, it may have tended to produce that unfavourable temper towards Dr. Johnson which tinges the whole, and certainly discolours some passages of Sir J. Hawkins's book. -Ed.]

p. 589.

to his executors of the house at Lichfield, to be sold Hawk. for the benefit of certain of his relations, a bequest of sundry pecuniary and specific legacies, a provision for the annuity of 701. for Francis, and, after all, a devise of all the rest, residue, and remainder of his estate and effects, to his executors, in trust for the said Francis Barber, his executors and administrators; and having dictated accordingly, Johnson executed and published it as a codicil to his will 1.

He was now so weak as to be unable to kneel, and lamented that he must pray sitting, but, with an effort, he placed himself on his knees, while Mr. Strahan repeated the Lord's Prayer.

During the whole of the evening, he was much composed and resigned. Being become very weak and helpless, it was thought necessary that a man should watch with him all night; and one was found in the neighbourhood, who, for half a crown a night, undertook to sit up

with and assist him. When the man had left the room, he, in the presence and hearing of Mr. Strahan and Mr. Langton, asked me where I meant

1“How much soever I approve of the practice of rewarding the fidelity of ser. vants, I cannot but think that, in testamentary dispositions in their favour, some discretion ought to be exercised ; and that in scarce any instance they are to be preferred to those who are allied to the testator either in blood or by affinity. Of the merits of this servant, a judgment may be formed from what I shall here. after have occasion to say of him. It was hinted to me many years ago, by his master, that he was a loose fellow; and I learned from others, that, after an absence from his service of some years, he married. In his search of a wife, he picked up one of those creatures with whom, in the disposal of themselves, no contrariety of colour is an obstacle. It is said, that soon after his marriage he became jealous, and, it may be supposed, that he continued so, till, by presenting him with a daughter of her own colour, his wife put an end to all his doubts on that score. Notwithstanding which, Johnson, in the excess of indiscriminating benevolence, about a year before his death, took the wife and her two children into his house, and made them a part of his family ; and, by the codicil to his will, made a disposition in his favour, to the amount in value of near fifteen hun. dred pounds.”—HAWKINS. [Several small causes contributed to make Sir J. Hawkins dislike Barber ; who, in the kind of feud and rivalry between Sir John and Mr. Boswell, sided with the latter, and communicated to him the papers to which he, as residuary legatee, became entitled. It is painful to see in a man of Sir J. Hawkins's station, such rancour as prompted the imputation made in the foregoing note against the poor woman, Barber's wife, whose moral conduct, whatever it may h..ve been, had surely nothing to do with Sir John Hawkins's squabbles with her husband.-Ed.]

p. 590.

Hawk. to bury him. I answered, doubtless, in Westminster

abbey: “If,” said he, ‘ my executors think it proper to mark the spot of my interment by a stone, let it be so placed as to protect my body from injury. I assured him it should be done. Before my departure, he desired Mr. Langton to put into my hands money to the amount of upwards of 1001. with a direction to keep it till called for.

“ 10th. This day at noon I saw him again. He said to me, that the male nurse to whose care I had committed him was unfit for the office. He is,' said he, “an idiot, as awkward as a turnspit just put into the wheel, and as sleepy as a dormouse.' Mr. Cruikshank came into the room, and looking on his scarified leg, saw no sign of a mortification.

“11th. At noon, I found him dozing, and would not disturb him.

“ 12th. Saw him again; found him very weak, and, as he said, unable to pray.

6 13th. At noon I called at the house, but went not into his room, being told that he was dozing. I was further informed by the servants, that his appetite was totally gone, and that he could take no sustenance. At eight in the evening of the same day, word was brought me by Mr. Sastres, to whom, in his last moments, he uttered these words, “Jam moriturus,' that at a quarter past seven, he had, without a groan, or the least sign of pain or uneasiness, yielded his last breath.

“ At eleven, the same evening, Mr. Langton came to me, and, in an agony of mind, gave me to understand, that our friend had wounded himself in several parts of the body. I was shocked at the news; but, upon being told that he had not touched any vital part, was easily able to account for an action, which would else have given us the deepest concern.

P. 591.

66

The fact was, that conceiving himself to be full of Hawk. water, he had done that, which he had often solicited his medical assistants to do, made two or three incisions in his lower limbs, vainly hoping for some relief from the flux that might follow.

“Early the next morning, Frank came to me; and, being desirous of knowing all the particulars of this transaction, I interrogated him very strictly concerning it, and received from him answers to the following effect :

That, at eight in the morning of the preceding day, upon going into the bedchamber, his master, being in bed, ordered him to open a cabinet, and give him a drawer in it; that he did so, and that out of it his master took a case of lancets, and choosing one of them, would have conveyed it into the bed, which Frank and a young man that sat up with him seeing, they seized his hand, and entreated him not to do a rash action: he said he would not; but drawing his hand under the bed-clothes, they saw his arm move. Upon this they turned down the clothes, and saw a great effusion of blood, which soon stopped ; that soon after, he got at a pair of scissors that lay in a drawer by him, and plunged them deep in the calf of each leg; that immediately they sent for Mr. Cruikshank and the apothecary, and they, or one of them, dressed the wounds; that he then fell into that dozing which carried him off ; that it was conjectured he lost eight or ten ounces of blood; and that this effusion brought on the dozing, though his pulse continued firm till three o'clock.

“ That this act was not done to hasten' his end,

· [The clumsy solemnity with which Hawkins thinks it necessary to defend Dr. Johnson from the suspicion of endeavouring to shorten his life by an act manifestly, avowedly, and even passionately meant to prolong it, is certainly

p. 592.

Hawk. but to discharge the water that he conceived to be

in him, I have not the least doubt. A dropsy was his disease ; he looked upon himself as a bloated carcass; and, to attain the power of easy respiration, would have undergone any degree of temporary pain. He dreaded neither punctures nor incisions, and, indeed, defied the trochar and the lancet; he had often reproached his physicians and surgeon with cowardice: and when Mr. Cruikshank scarified his leg, he cried out, 'Deeper, deeper; I will abide the consequence: you are afraid of your reputation, but that is nothing to me.' To those about him he said, 'You all pretend to love me, but you do not love me so well as I myself do.'

“ I have been thus minute in recording the particulars of his last moments, because I wished to attract attention to the conduct of this great man, under the most trying circumstances human nature is subject to. Many persons have appeared possessed of more serenity of mind in this awful scene; some have remained unmoved at the dissolution of the vital union; and it may be deemed a discouragement from the severe practice of religion, that Dr. Johnson, whose whole life was a preparation for his death, and a conflict with natural infirmity, was disturbed with terror at the prospect of the grave'. Let not this relax the circumspection of any one. It is true, that natural firmness of spirit, or the confidence of hope, may buoy up the mind to the last; but, how

very offensive; but it hardly, the editor thinks, justifies Mr. Boswell's suspicions (ante, p. 313. n.) that there was some malevolence at the bottom of the defence.-ED.)

'[Hawkins seems to confound two different periods. At the first appearance of danger, Dr. Johnson exhibited great, and perhaps gloomy anxiety, which, however, under the gradual effect of religious contemplations and devotional exercises, gave way to more comfortable hopes suggested by a lively faith in the propitiatory merits of his Redeemer. In this tranquillizing disposition the last days of his life seem to have been passed, and in this christian confidence it is believed that he died. -Ed.]

« PreviousContinue »