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It has been confidently circulated, with invidious remarks, that to this letter no attention whatever was paid by Mr. Jenkinson, (afterwards Earl of Liverpool); and that he did not even deign to show the common civility of owning the receipt of it. I could not but wonder at such conduct in the noble Lord, whose own character and just elevation in life, I thought, must have impressed him with all due regard for great abilities and attainments. As the story had been much talked of, and apparently from good authority, I could not but have animadverted upon it in this work, had it been as was alleged ; but from my earnest love of truth, and having found reason to think that there might be a mistake, I presumed to write to his Lordship, requesting an explanation ; and it is with the sincerest pleasure that I am enabled to assure the world, that there is no foundation for it, the fact being, that, owing to some neglect, or accident, Johnson's letter never came to Lord Liverpool's hands. I should have thought it strange indeed, if that noble Lord had undervalued my illustrious friend ; * but instead of this being the case, his Lordship, in the very polite answer with which he was pleased immediately to honour me, thus expresses himself :-“I have always respected the memory of Dr. Johnson, and admire his writings; and I frequently read many parts of them with pleasure and great improvement.
All applications for the Royal Mercy having failed, Dr. Dodd prepared himself for death ; and, with a warmth of gratitude, wrote to Dr. Johnson as follows :
“June 25, Midnight. “ ACCEPT, thou great and good heart, my earnest and fervent thanks and prayers for all thy benevolent and kind efforts in my behalf.-Oh! Dr. Johnson ! as I sought your knowledge at an early hour in life, would to heaven I had cultivated the love and acquaintance of so excellent a man !-I pray God most sincerely to bless you with the highest transports—the infelt satisfaction of humane and benevolent exertions !-And admitted, as I trust I shall be, to the realms of bliss before you, I shall hail your arrival there with transports, and rejoice to acknowledge that you was my Comforter, my Advocate, and my Friend ! God be ever with you!
Dr. Johnson lastly wrote to Dr. Dodd this solemn and soothing letter :
TO THE REVEREND DR. DODD. "DEAR SIR,—
“That which is appointed to all men is now coming upon you. Outward circumstances, the eyes and the thoughts of men, are below the notice of an immortal being about to stand the trial for eternity, before the Supreme Judge of heaven and earth. Be comforted : your crime, morally or religiously considered, has no very deep dye of turpitude. It corrupted no man's principles ; it attacked no man's life. It involved only a temporary and repairable injury. Of this, and of all other sins, you are earnestly to repent; and may GOD, who knoweth our frailty, and desireth not our death, accept your repentance, for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
“ In requital of those well intended offices which you are pleased so emphatically to acknowledge, let me beg that you make in your devotions one petition for my eternal welfare.
“I am, dear Sir,
“ Your most affectionate servant, " June 26, 1777."
'SAM. Johnson. * [As Croker points out, “ Jenkinson was at this time Secretary at War, and was generally suspectei but without truth, of having a secret influence over the King. To request, therefore, his intiuence with the King on a matter wholly foreign to his duties and station, was a kind of verification of this slander to which Jenkinson might have been reluctant to assent,'']
DR. DODD'S EXECUTION
Under the copy of this letter I found written, in Johnson's own hand, “Next day, June 27, he was executed.”
To conclude this interesting episode with an useful application, let us now attend to the reflections of Johnson at the end of the “Occasional Papers,” concerning the unfortunate Dr. Dodd.—“Such were the last thoughts of a man whom we have seen exulting in popularity, and sunk in shame. For his reputation, which no man can give to himself, those who conferred it are to answer. Of his public ministry, the means of judging were sufficiently attainable. He must be allowed to preach well, whose sermons strike his audience with forcible conviction. Of his life, those who thought it consistent with his doctrine, did not originally form false notions. He was at first what he endeavoured to make others; but the world broke down his resolution, and he in time ceased to exemplify his own instructions.
"Let those who are tempted to his faults tremble at his punishment; and those whom he impressed from the pulpit with religious sentiments, endeavour to confirm them, by considering the regret and self-abhorrence with which he reviewed in prison his deviations from rectitude." *
Johnson gave us this evening, in his happy discriminative manner, a portrait of the late Mr. Fitzherbert of Derbyshire. “There was (said he) no sparkle, no brilliancy in Fitzherbert; but I never knew a man who was so generally acceptable. He made everybody quite easy, overpowered nobody by the superiority of his talents, made no man think worse of himself by being his rival, seemed always to listen, did not oblige you to hear much from him, and did not oppose what you said. . Everybody liked him ; but he had no friend, as I understand the word, nobody with whom he exchanged intimate thoughts. People were willing to think well of every thing about him. A gentleman was making an affected rant, as many people do, of great feelings about his dear son,' who was at school near London; how anxious he was lest he might be ill, and what he would give to see him. 'Can't you (said Fitzherbert) take a post-chaise and go to him ? ' This, to be sure, finished the affected man, but there was not much in it.† However, this was circulated as wit for a whole winter, and I believe part of a summer too; a proof that he was no very witty man. He was an instance of the truth of the observation, that a man will please more upon the whole by negative qualities than by positive ; by never offending, than by giving a great deal of delight. In the first place, men hate more steadily than they love ; and if I have said something to hurt a man once I shall not get the better of this, by saying many things to please him.”
Tuesday, September 16, Dr. Johnson having mentioned to me the extraordinary size and price of some cattle reared by Dr. Taylor, I rode out with our host, surveyed his farm, and was shown one cow which he had sold for a hundred and twenty guineas, and another for which he had been offered a hundred and thirty. Taylor thus described to me his old schoolfellow and friend, Johnson: “He is a man of a very clear head, great power of words, and a very gay imagination; but there is no
[See Dr. Johnson's final opinion concerning Dr. Dodd, in this volume, under April 18, 1783. M.]
Dr. Gisborne, Physician to his Majesty's Household, has obligingly communicated to me a fuller account oi this story than had reached Dr. Johnson. The affected gentleman was the late John Gilbert Coop Esq., author of a Life of Socrates, and of some poems in Dodsley's collection. Mr. Fitzherbert found him one morning, apparently, in such violent agitation, on account of the indisposition of his $19 ás to seem beyond the power of comfort. At length, however, he exclaimed, “ I'll write an Elegy.” Mr Fitzherbert being satisfied, by this, of the sincerity of his emotions, slyly said, “ Had not you better take a post-chaise and go and see him ? " It was the shrewdness of the insinuation which made the story be circulated.
disputing with him. He will not hear you, and having a louder voice than you, must roar you down.”
In the afternoon I tried to get Dr. Johnson to like the Poems of Mr. Hamilton of Bangour, which I had brought with me: I had been much pleased with them at a very early age : the impression still remained on my mind; it was confirmed by the opinion of my friend the Honourable Andrew Erskine, himself both a good poet and a good critic, who thought Hamilton as true a poet as ever wrote, and that his not having fame was unaccountable. * Johnson, upon repeated occasions, while I was at Ashbourne, talked slightingly of Hamilton. He said there was no power of thinking in his verses, nothing that strikes one, nothing better than what you generally find in magazines; and that the highest praise they deserved was, that they were very well for a gentleman to hand about among his friends. He said the imitation of Ne sit ancillæ tibi amor, etc., was too solemn; he read part of it at the beginning. He read the beautiful pathetic song, " Ah, the poor shepherd's mournful fate,” and did not seem to give attention to what I had been used to think tender elegant strains, but laughed at the rhyme, in Scotch pronunciation, wishes and blushes, reading wushes—and there he stopped. He owned that the epitaph on Lord Newhall was pretty well done. He read the “ Inscription in a Summer-house,” and a little of the imitations of Horace's Epistles ; but said he found nothing to make him desire to read on. When I urged that there were some good poetical passages in the book, “Where (said he) will you find so large a collection without
I thought the description of Winter might obtain his approbation :
See Winter, from the frozen north
He asked why an “iron chariot ? ” and said " icy chains was an old image. I was struck with the uncertainty of taste, and somewhat sorry that a poet whom I had long read with fondness, was not approved by Dr. Johnson. I comforted myself with thinking that the beauties were too delicate for his robust perceptions. Garrick maintained that he had not a taste for the finest productions of genius : but I was sensible that when he took the trouble to analyse critically, he generally convinced us that he was right.
In the evening the Reverend Mr. Seward, of Lichfield, who was passing throughi Ashbourne in his way home, drank tea with us. Johnson described him thus :“Sir, his ambition is to be a fine talker ; so he goes to Buxton, and such places, where he may find companies to listen to him. And, Sir, he is a valetudinarian, one of those who are always mending themselves. I do not know a more disagrecable character than a valetudinarian, who thinks he may do anything that is for his ease, and indulges himself in the grossest freedoms : Sir, he brings himself to the state of a hog in a stye."
Dr. Taylor's nose happening to bleed, he said it was because he had omitted to have himself blooded four days after a quarter of a year's interval. Dr. Johnson, who was a great dabbler in physic, disapproved much of periodical bleeding. For (said he) you accustom yourself to an evacuation which Nature cannot perform of herself, and therefore she cannot help you, should you from forgetfulness or any other cause omit it; so you may be suddenly suffocated. You may accustom yourself to
* [William Hamilton Bangour (1704-1754). Collected editions of his poems appeared in 1748. 1760, and 1850. Hamilton bore arms at Culloden for the Jacobite cause.]
other periodical evacuations, because, should you omit them, Nature can supply the omission; but Nature cannot open a vein to blood you.” *_I do not like to take an emetic (said Taylor), for fear of breaking some small vessels.”—“ Poh ! (said Johnson), if you have so many things that will break, you had better break your neck at once, and there's an end on't. You will break no small vessels : ” (blowing with high derision).
I mentioned to Dr. Johnson, that David Hume's persisting in his infidelity, when he was dying, shocked me much. JOHNSON : “Why should it shock you, Sir ? Hume owned he had never read the New Testament with attention. Here then was a man who had been at no pains to inquire into the truth of religion, and had continually turned his mind the other way. It was not to be expected that the prospect of death would alter his way of thinking, unless God should send an angel to set him right." I said I had reason to believe that the thought of annihilation gave Hume no pain. JOHNSON : “ It was not so, Sir. He had a vanity in being thought easy. It is more probable that he should assume an appearance of ease, than so very improbable a thing should be, as a man not afraid of going (as, in spite of his delusive theory, he cannot be sure but he may go) into an unknown state, and not being uneasy at leaving all he knew. And you are to consider that upon his own principle of annihilation he had no motive to speak the truth.” The horror of death, which I had always observed in Dr. Johnson, appeared strong tonight. I ventured to tell him that I had been, for moments in my life, not afraid of death; therefore I could suppose another man in that state of mind for a considerable space of time. He said, “he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him.” He added that it had been observed that scarce any man dies in public, but with apparent resolution ; from that desire of praise which never quits us. I said, Dr. Dodd seemed to be willing to die, and full of hopes of happiness. Sir (said he), Dr. Dodd would have given both his hands and both his legs to have lived. The better a man is, the more afraid is he of death, having a clearer view of infinite purity.” He owned that our being in an unhappy uncertainty as to our salvation, was mysterious ; and said, Ah! we must wait till we are in another state of being, to have many things explained to us.” Even the powerful mind of Johnson seemed foiled by futurity. But I thought, that the gloom of uncertainty in solemn religious speculation, being mingled with hope, was yet more consolatory than the emptiness of infidelity. A man can live in thick air, but perishes in an exhausted receiver.
Dr. Johnson was much pleased with a remark which I told him was made to me by General Paoli :—“ That it is impossible not to be afraid of death ; and that those who at the time of dying are not afraid, are not thinking of death, but of applause, or something else, which keeps death out of their sight: so that all men are equally afraid of death when they see it ; only some have a power of turning their sight away from it better than others.”
Nature, however, may supply the evacuation by an hæmorrhage. K.)
Johnson and Boswell Visit Derby-Biography-Whigs and Tories—The Stuarts-Johnson's Birthday
Warton's Poetry-Keddlestone-Bennet Langton—The '45—Dr. ButterShaving-Dodd on Death-Blair's Sermons-Lord Monboddo's Air Bath-Mrs. Carter's Early Rising-Dr. CullenWine-drinking-Scotch Contempt-Dr. Rutty's Diary-Egoists-Baretti's Style—The “ Biographia Britannica "—Dr. Kippis-Melancholy and Madness-Duties of a Scotch Laird-An American
Savage-Forster's “ Voyages.” On Wednesday, September 17, Dr. Butter, physician at Derby, drank tea with us; and it was settled that Dr. Johnson and I should go on Friday and dine with him. Johnson said, “ I'm glad of this.” He seemed weary of the uniformity of life at Dr. Taylor's.
Talking of biography, I said, in writing a life, a man's peculiarities should be mentioned, because they mark his character. JOHNSON : "Sir, there is no doubt as to peculiarities : the question is, whether a man's vices should be mentioned ; for instance, whether it should be mentioned that Addison and Parnell drank too freely ; for people will, probably, more easily indulge in drinking from knowing this ; so that more ill may be done by the example, than good by telling the whole truth.” Here was an instance of his varying from himself in talk; for when Lord Hailes and he sat one morning calmly conversing in my house at Edinburgh, I well remember that Dr. Johnson maintained that “If a man is to write A Panegyric, he may keep vices out of sight; but if he professes to write A Life, he must represent it really as it was : " and when I objected to the danger of telling that Parnell drank to excess, he said that “it would produce an instructive caution to avoid drinking, when it was seen that even the learning and genius of Parnell could be debased by it." And in the Hebrides he maintained, as appears from my “ Journal," * that a man's intimate friend should mention his faults, if he writes his life.
He had this evening, partly, I suppose, from the spirit of contradiction to his Whig friend, a violent argument with Dr. Taylor, as to the inclinations of the people of England at this time towards the Royal Family of Stuart. He grew so outrageous as to say “that, if England were fairly polled, the present King would be sent away to-night, and his adherents hanged to-morrow.” Taylor, who was as violent a Whig as Johnson was a Tory, was roused by this to a pitch of bellowing. He denied loudly what Johnson said ; and maintained that there was an abhorrence against the Stuart family, though he admitted that the people were not much attached to the present King.† JOHNSON : “Sir, the state of the country is this : the people knowing it to be agreed on all hands that this king has not the hereditary
Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,” 3d edit. p. 240. † Dr. Taylor was very ready to make this admission, because the party with which he was connectat was not in power. There was then some truth in it, owing to the pertinacity of factious clanou. Had he lived till now, it would have been impossible for him to deny that his Majesty possesses the warmest affection of his people.