« PreviousContinue »
benefactor ! Some are so nice in a scrutiny of this kind that they can never find any proper objects of their benevolence, and are necessitated to save their money. It should doubtless be distributed in the best manner we are able to distribute it; but what would become of us all, if he on whose bounty all depend should be extreme to mark that which is done amiss?
“ It is hard to judge any man, without a due consideration of all circumstances. Here were stupendous abilities and suitable attainments; but then here were hereditary disorders of body and mind reciprocally aggravating each other-a scrofulous frame, and a melancholy temper: here was a life, the greater part of which passed in making provision for the day, under the pressure of poverty and sickness, sorrow and anguish. So far to gain the ascendant over these as to do what Johnson did, required very great strength of mind indeed. Who can say that, in a like situation, he should long have possessed or been able to exert it?
“ From the mixture of power and weakness in the composition of this wonderful man, the scholar should learn humility. It was designed to correct that pride which great parts and great learning are apt to produce in their possessor. In him it had the desired effect. For though consciousness of superiority might sometimes induce him to carry it high with man (and even this was much abated in the latter part of life), his devotions have shown to the whole world how humbly he walked at all times with his God.
“His example may likewise encourage those of timid and gloomy dispositions not to despond, when they reflect that the vigour of such an intellect could not preserve its possessor from the depredations of melancholy. They will cease to be surprised and alarmed at the degree of their own sufferings: they will resolve to bear with patience and resignation the malady to which they find a Johnson subject as well as themselves : and if they want words in which to ask relief from him who alone can give it, the God of mercy
and Father of all comfort, language affords no finer than those in which his prayers are conceived. Child of sorrow, whoever thou art, use
and be thankful that the man existed by whose means thou hast them to use.
“ His eminence and his fame must of course have excited envy and malice ; but let envy and malice look at his infirmities and his charities, and they will quickly melt into pity and love.
“ That he should not be conscious of the abilities with which Providence had blessed him was impossible. He felt his own powers'; he felt what he was capable of having performed ; and he saw how little, comparatively speaking, he had performed. Hence his appre. hensions on the near prospect of the account to be made, viewed through the medium of constitutional and morbid melancholy, which
often excluded from his sight the bright beams of divine mercy. May those beams ever shine upon us ! But let them not cause us to forget that talents have been bestowed of which an account must be rendered, and that the fate of the “unprofitable servant may justly beget apprehensions in the stoutest mind. The indolent man who is without such apprehensions has never yet considered the subject as he ought. For one person who fears death too much, there are a thousand who do not fear it enough, nor have thought in earnest about it. Let us only put in practice the duty of self-examination ; let us inquire into the success we have experienced in our war against the passions, or even against undue indulgence of the common appetites-eating, drinking, and sleeping; we shall soon perceive how much more easy it is to form resolutions than to execute them, and shall no longer find occasion, perhaps, to wonder at the weakness of Johnson.
“On the whole, in the memoirs of him that have been published, there are so many witty sayings and so many wise ones, by which the world, if it so please, may be at once entertained and improved, that I do not regret their publication. In this, as in all other instances, we are to adopt the good and reject the evil. The little stories of his oddities and his infirmities in common life will, after a while, be overlooked and forgotten ; but his writings will live for ever, still more and more studied and admired, while Britons shall continue to be characterized by a love of elegance and sublimity, of good sense and virtue. The sincerity of his repentance, the stedfastness of his faith, and the fervour of his charity, forbid us to doubt, that his sun set in clouds to rise without them: and of this let us always be mindful, that every one who is made better by his books will add a wreath to his crown.”
[Diary of Dr. Johnson's last illness, by J. HOOLE,
Esq.-referred to in vol. v. p. 317.] Europ. “Saturday, Nov. 20, 1784.–This evening, about eight o'clock, I Mag.
paid a visit to my dear friend Dr. Johnson, whom I found very ill p. 153. and in great dejection of spirits. We had a most affecting conversa
tion on the subject of religion, in which he exhorted me, with the greatest warmth of kindness, to attend closely to every religious duty, and particularly enforced the obligation of private prayer and receiving the sacrament. He desired me to stay that night and join in prayer with him; adding, that he always went to prayer every
night with his man Francis. He conjured me to read and meditate Europ. upon the Bible, and not to throw it aside for a play or a novel. He Mag.
V xxxvi. said he had himself lived in great negligence of religion and worship for forty years ; that he had neglected to read his Bible, and had often reflected what he could hereafter say when he should be asked why he had not read it. He begged me repeatedly to let his present situation have due effect upon me, and advised me, when I got home,
Ι to note down in writing what had passed between us, adding, that what a man writes in that manner dwells upon his mind. He said many things that I cannot now recollect, but all delivered with the utmost fervour of religious zeal and personal affection. Between nine and ten o'clock his servant Francis came up stairs : he then said we would all go to prayers, and, desiring me to kneel down by his bed-side, he repeated several prayers with great devotion. I then took my leave. He then pressed me to think of all he had said, and to commit it to writing. I assured him I would. He seized my hand with much warmth, and repeated, · Promise me you will do it:' on which we parted, and I engaged to see him the next day.
“Sunday, Nov. 21.—About noon I again visited him : found him rather better and easier, his spirits more raised, and his conversation more disposed to general subjects. When I came in, he asked if I had done what he desired (meaning the noting down what passed the night before); and upon my saying that I had, he pressed my hand, and said earnestly, “Thank you. Our discourse then grew more cheerful. He told me, with apparent pleasure, that he heard the Empress of Russia had ordered the Rambler to be translated into the Russian language, and that a copy would be sent him. Before we parted, he put into my hands a little book, by Fleetwood, on the sacrament, which he told me he had been the means of introducing to the University of Oxford by recommending it to a young student there.
Monday, Nov. 22.–Visited the doctor : found him seemingly better of his complaints, but extremely low and dejected. I sat by him till he fell asleep, and soon after left him, as he seemed little disposed to talk; and, on my going away, he said emphatically, 'I am very poorly indeed!
Tuesday, Nov. 23.—Called about eleven: the doctor not up: Mr. 1 Gardiner in the dining-room: the doctor soon came to us, and seemed more cheerful than the day before. He spoke of his design to invite a Mrs. Hall 2 to be with him, and to offer her Mrs. Williams's room. Called again about three: found him quite oppressed with company that morning, therefore left him directly.
1 [No doubt an error of the press for Mrs. Gardiner. -Ed.]
2 [See ante, vol. iv. p. 466.-ED.] VOL. V.
Europ. “ Wednesday, Nov. 24.-Called about seven in the evening: found Mag. him
ill and very low indeed. He said a thought had struck him v. xxxvi. p. 153. that his rapid decline of health and strength might be partly owing
to the town air, and spoke of getting a lodging at Islington. I sat with him till past nine, and then took my leave.
“ Thursday, Nov. 25.--About three in the afternoon was told that he had desired that day to see no company. In the evening, about eight, called with Mr. Nicol', and, to our great surprise, we found him then setting out for Islington, to the Rev. Mr. Strahan's. He could scarce speak. We went with him down the court to the coach. He was accompanied by his servant Frank and Mr. Lowe the painter. I offered myself to go with him, but he declined it.
Friday, Nov. 26.—Called at his house about eleyen: heard he was much better, and had a better night than he had known a great while, and was expected home that day. Called again in the afternoonnot so well as he was, nor expected home that night.
Saturday, Nov. 27.–Called again about noon: heard he was much worse : went immediately to Islington, where I found him extremely bad, and scarce able to speak, with the asthma. Sir John Hawkins, the Rev. Mr. Strahan, and Mrs. Strahan, were with him. Observing that we said little, he desired that we would not constrain ourselves, though he was not able to talk with us. Soon after he said he had something to say to Sir John Hawkins, on which we immediately went down into the parlour. Sir John soon followed us, and said he had been speaking about his will. Sir John started the idea of proposing to him to make it on the spot, that Sir John should dictate it, and that I should write it. He went up to propose it, and soon came down with the doctor's acceptance. The will was then begun; but before we proceeded far, it being necessary, on account of some alteration, to begin again, Sir John asked the doctor whether he would choose to make any introductory declaration respecting his faith. The doctor said he would. Sir John further asked if he would make any declaration of his being of the church of England: to which the doctor said “No!' but, taking a pen, he wrote on a paper the following words, which he delivered to Sir John, desiring him to keep it: 'I commit to the infinite mercies of Almighty God my soul, polluted with many sins; but purified, I trust, with repentance and the death of Jesus Christ.' While he was at Mr. Strahan’s, Dr. Brocklesby came in, and Dr. Johnson put the question to him, whether he thought he could live six weeks? to which Dr. Brocklesby returned a very doubtful answer, and soon left
After dinner the will was finished, and about six we came to town in Sir John Hawkins's carriage; Sir John, Dr. Johnson, Mr.
1 Mr. George Nicol, of Pall Mall.-J. HOOLE.
Ryland (who came in after dinner), and myself. The doctor ap- Europ. peared much better in the way home, and talked pretty cheerfully. Mag.
v.xxxvi. Sir John took leave of us at the end of Bolt-court, and Mr. Ryland
156. and myself went to his house with the doctor, who began to grow very ill again. Mr. Ryland soon left us, and I remained with the doctor till Mr. Sastres came in. We staid with him about an hour, when we left him on his saying he had some business to do. Mr. Sastres and myself went together homewards, discoursing on the dangerous state of our friend, when it was resolved that Mr. Sastres should write to Dr. Heberden; but going to his house that night, he fortunately found him at home, and he promised to be with Dr. Johnson next morning.
Sunday, Nov. 28.—Went to Dr. Johnson's about two o'clock : met Mrs. Hoole coming from thence, as he was asleep: took her back with me: found Sir John Hawkins with him. The doctor's conversation tolerably cheerful. Sir John reminded him that he had expressed a desire to leave some small memorials to his friends, particularly a Polyglot Bible to Mr. Langton; and asked if they should add the codicil then. The doctor replied, "he had forty things to add, but could not do it at that time.' Sir John then took his leave. Mr. Sastres came next into the dining-room, where I was with Mrs. Hoole. Dr. Johnson hearing that Mrs. Hoole was in the next room desired to see her. He received her with great affection, took her by the hand, and said nearly these words: 'I feel great tenderness for you: think of the situation in which you see me, profit by it, and God Almighty keep you for Jesus Christ's sake, Amen.' He then asked if we would both stay and dine with him. Mrs. Hoole said she could not; but I agreed to stay. Upon my saying to the doctor that Dr. Heberden would be with him that morning, his answer was, ‘God has called me, and Dr. Heberden comes too late. Soon after this Dr. Heberden came. While he was there, we heard them, from the other room, in earnest discourse, and found that they were talking over the affair of the K-g and C-n. We overheard Dr. Heberden say, All you did was extremely proper.' After Dr. He
• berden was gone,
Mr. Sastres and I returned into the chamber. Dr. Johnson complained that sleep this day had powerful dominion over him, that he waked with great difficulty, and that probably he should go off in one of these paroxysms. Afterwards he said that he hoped his sleep was the effect of opium taken some days before, which might not be worked off. We dined together--the doctor, Mr. Sastres, Mrs. Davies, and myself. He eat a pretty good dinner with seeming appe
This alludes to an application made for an increase to his pension, to enable him to go to Italy.-J. HOOLE.
? [Sic; but probably an error of the press for C-, meaning the King and Lord Chancellor : see ante, p. 265.Ed.]