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probably appeared to him that he should upbraid Piozzi, himself with unkind inattention, were he to leave the world without having paid a tribute of respect to their memory. “ TO MR. GREEN, APOTHECARY, AT LICHFIELD '.
“2nd December, 1784. “ DEAR SIR,-I have enclosed the epitaph for my father, mother, and brother, to be all engraved on the large size, and laid in the middle aisle in St. Michael's church, which I request the clergyman and churchwardens to permit.
“ The first care must be to find the exact place of interment, that the stone may protect the bodies. Then let the stone be deep, massy, and hard; and do not let the difference of ten pounds, or more, defeat our purpose.
“I have enclosed ten pounds, and Mrs. Porter will pay you ten more, which I gave her for the same purpose. What more is wanted shall be sent; and I beg that all possible haste may be made, for I wish to have it done while I am yet alive. Let me know, dear sir, that you receive this. I am, sir, your most humble servant,
- SAM. JOHNSON."
“TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD 2.
“ 2nd December, 1784. “DEAR MADAM,-I am very ill, and desire your prayers. I have sent Mr. Green the epitaph, and a power to call on you for ten pounds.
“I laid this summer a stone over Tetty, in the chapel of Bromley in Kent. The inscription is in Latins, of which this is the English. (Here a translation.)
“ That this is done, I thought it fit that you should know. What care will be taken of us, who can tell ? May God pardon and bless us, for Jesus Christ's sake I am, &c.
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
My readers are now, at last, to behold SAMUEL JOHNSON preparing himself for that doom, from
1 [A relation of Dr. Johnson). Ante, vol. iii. p. 353.—BOSWELL.
2 This lady, whose name so frequently occurs in the course of this work, survived Dr. Johnson just thirteen months. She died at Lichfield, in her 71st year, January 13, 1786, and bequeathed the principal part of her fortune to the Rev. Mr. Pearson, of Lichfield.-- MALONE.
3 [See ante, vol. i. p. 219.-Ev.]
Letters, vol. ii.
which the most exalted powers afford no exemption to man.
Death had always been to him an object of terrour; so that, though by no means happy, he still clung to life with an eagerness at which many have wondered. At any time when he was ill, he was very much pleased to be told that he looked better. An ingenious member of the Eumelian Club informs me, that upon one occasion, when he said to him that he saw health returning to his cheek, Johnson seized him by the hand and exclaimed, “Sir, you are one of the kindest friends I ever had.”
His own statement of his views of futurity will appear truly rational; and may, perhaps, impress the unthinking with seriousness.
“You know,” says he’ to Mrs. Thrale, “ I never thought confidence with respect to futurity any part of the character of a brave, a wise, or a good man. Bravery has no place where it can avail nothing; wisdom impresses strongly the consciousness of those faults, of which it is, perhaps, itself an aggravation; and goodness, always wishing to be better, and imputing every deficience to criminal negligence, and every fault to voluntary corruption, never dares to suppose the condition of forgiveness fulfilled, nor what is wanting in the crime supplied by penitence.
“This is the state of the best; but what must be the condition of him whose heart will not suffer him to rank himself among the best, or among the good ? Such must be his dread of the approaching trial, as
1 A club in London, founded by the learned and ingenious physician, Dr. Ash, in honour of whose name it was called Eumclian (literally, well-ushed), from the Greek Eupesars: though it was warmly contended, and even put to a vote, that it should have the more obvious appellation of Fraxincan, from the Latin.BoswELL.
2 Mrs. Thrale's Collection, 10th March, 1784.-BOSWELL.
will leave him little attention to the opinion of those whom he is leaving for ever; and the serenity that is not felt, it can be no virtue to feign.
His great fear of death', and the strange dark manner in which Sir John Hawkins“ imparts the uneasiness which he expressed on account of offences with which he charged himself, may give occasion to injurious suspicions, as if there had been something of more than ordinary criminality weighing upon his conscience. On that account, therefore, as well as from the regard to truth which he inculcated", I am to mention (with all possible respect and delicacy, however), that his conduct, after he came to London, and had associated with Savage and others, was not so strictly virtuous, in one respect, as when he was a younger man. It was well known that his amorous inclinations were uncommonly strong and impetuous. He owned to many of his friends, that he used to take women of the town to taverns, and hear them relate their history.-In short, it must not be concealed, that like many other good and pious men,
1 Mrs. Carter, in one of her letters to Mrs. Montague, says, “I see by the papers, that Dr. Johnson is dead. In extent of learning, and exquisite purify of moral writing, he has left no superior, and I fear very few equals. His vir ues and his piety were founded on the steadiest of Christian principles and faith. His faults, I firmly believe, arose from the irritations of a most suffering state of nervous constitution, which scarcely ever allowed him a moment's ease.”_Bos.
[She adds, “ You wonder that an undoubted believer and a man of piety should be afraid of death ;' but it is such characters who have ever the despest sense of their imperfections and deviations from the rule of duty, of which the very best must be conscious; and such a temper of mind as is struck with awe and humility at the prospect of the last solemn sentence appears much better suited to the wretched deficiencies of the best human performances than the thoughtless security that rushes undisturbed into eternity.”- Miss Curter's Life, vol. ii. p. 166.
To this passage the editor of Mrs. Carter's Letters subjoins :
“Mrs. Carter told the editor, that in one of the last conversations which she had with this eminent moralist, she told him that she had never known hiin say any thing contrary to the principles of the Christian religion. He seized her hand with great emotion, exclaiming, “You know this, and bear witness to it when I am gone!'”—Mrs. Carter's Letters to Mrs. Montague, vol. iii. p. 231.—ED]
? (Again the editor is obliged to say, that he can see nothing more strange or dark in Hawkins's expressions than in Mr. Boswell's—nay, than in Dr. Johison's own.- -ED.] 3 See what he said to Mr. Malone, vol. iv. p. 421.-_BoSWELL. VOL. V.
among whom we may place the apostle Paul upon his own authority, Johnson was not free from propensities which were ever “warring against the law of his mind,”—and that in his combats with them, he was sometimes overcomel.
Here let the profane and licentious pause; let them not thoughtlessly say that Johnson was an hypocrite, or that his principles were not firm, because his practice was not uniformly conformable to what he professed.
Let the question be considered independent of moral and religious associations; and no man will deny that thousands, in many instances, act against conviction. Is a prodigal, for example, an hypocrite, when he owns he is satisfied that his extravagance will bring him to ruin and misery? We are sure he believes it; but immediate inclination, strengthened by indulgence, prevails over that belief in influencing his conduct. Why then shall credit be refused to the sincerity of those who acknowledge their persuasion of moral and religious duty, yet sometimes fail of living as it requires ? I heard Dr. John'son once observe, “ There is something noble in publishing truth, though it condemns one's self?.” And one who said in his presence, “ he had no
[Surely Mr. Boswell might have been forgiven if he had not revived these stories, which, whether true or false originally, were near fifty years old. He had already said (ante, vol. i. p. 140) quite enough, and perhaps more than he was authorized to say, on this topic. The reader will recollect that it has been shown (ante, vol. i. pp. 96. 139 and 140, n.) that the duration, and probably the intensity, of Dr. Johnson's intimacy with Savage have been greatly exaggerated, and so, no doubt, have been the supposed consequences of that intimacy. The editor does not wish to enter into more detail on this disagreeable subject, but his “regard for truth” obliges him to declare his opinion, that Mr. Boswell's introduction of this topic, his pretended candour, and hollow defence, were unwarranted by any evidence, and are the most, indeed almost the only, discreditable points of his whole work.-En.]
9 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, vol. ii. p. 431. On the same subject, in his letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated November 29, 1783, he makes the following just observation : “Life, to be worthy of a rational being, must be always in progression ; we must always purpose to do more or better than in time past. The mind is enlarged and elevated by mere purposes, though they end as they
notion of people being in earnest in their good professions, whose practice was not suitable to them,” was thus reprimanded by him :-“Sir, are you so grossly ignorant of human nature as not to know that a man may be very sincere in good principles, without having good practice '?"
But let no man encourage or soothe himself in presumptuous sin,” from knowing that Johnson was sometimes hurried into indulgences which he thought criminal. I have exhibited this circumstance as a shade in so great a character, both from my sacred love of truth, and to show that he was not so weakly scrupulous? as he has been represented by those who imagine that the sins, of which a deep sense was upon his mind, were merely such little venial trifles as pouring milk into his tea on GoodFriday. His understanding will be defended by my statement, if his consistency of conduct be in some degree impaired. But what wise man would, for momentary gratifications, deliberately subject himself to suffer such uneasiness as we find was experienced by Johnson in reviewing his conduct as compared with his notion of the ethicks of the gospel ? Let the following passages be kept in remembrance :
“O God, giver and preserver of all life, by whose power I Prayers was created, and by whose providence I am sustained, look down & Med.
began, by airy contemplation. We compare and judge, though we do not practise.”-BOSWELI..
1 Ibid, vol. iii. p. 55.
2 (In one of the manuscripts communicated by Mr. Anderdon there is a note, dated in 1784, by which it appears that Johnson was aware that he was sometimes over scrupulous, for it records a resolution “ to endeavour to conquer scruples.' These scruples, which have been so unfeelingly exposed to the world, ought at least to have relieved him from these imputations which Nr. Boswell alone has raised against him. He cannot be supposed to have been minutely scrupulous about trifles while habitually guilty of crimes: and the editor must repeat, that the conscientious sincerity of Johnson's self-confessions, and the long period over which they extend, ought alone to have sufficed to repel such insinuations. And it ought to be recollected, that Mr. Boswell, who revives this antiquated scandal, was yet very indignant with Mrs. Piozzi for telling an unfavourable story of a momentary rudeness to Mr. Cholmondeley. See ante, p. 259, n.-En.)