페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

married to one of his cousins, but she had died without having children, and he had married another woman ; so that even the slight connexion which there once had been by alliance was dissolved. Dr. Johnson, who had shown very great liberality to this man while his first wife was alive, as has appeared in a former part of this work, was humane and charitable enough to continue his bounty to him occasionally; but surely there was no strong call of duty upon him or upon his legatee, to do

The following letter, obligingly communicated to me by Mr. . Andrew Strahan, will confirm what I have stated :

more.

“SIR,

TO MR. HEELY, NO. 5, IN PYE-STREET, WESTMINSTER.

Ashbourne, August 12, 1784. As necessity obliges you to call so soon again upon me, you should at least have told the smallest sum that will supply your present want : you cannot suppose that I have much to spare. Two guineas is as much as you ought to be behind with your creditor.—If you wait on Mr. Strahan, in New-street, Fetterlane, or in his absence, on Mr. Andrew Strahan, show this, by which they are entreated to advance you two guineas, and to keep this as a voucher.

“I am, Sir, your humble servant,

SAM. JOHNSON.” Indeed it is very necessary to keep in mind that Sir John Hawkins has unaccountably viewed Johnson's character and conduct in almost every particular, with an unhappy prejudice.?

i Vol. ii. p. 27.

2 I shall add one instance only to those which I have thought it incumbent on me to point out. Talking of Mr. Garrick's having signified his willingness to let Johnson have che loan of any of his books to assist him in his edition of Shakspeare, Sir John says (p. 444), “ Mr. Garrick knew not what risk be ran by this offer. Johnson had so strange a forgetfulness of obligations of this sort, that few who lent him books ever saw them again." This surely conveys a most unfavourable insinuation, and has been so understood. Sir John mentions the single case of a curious edition of Politian, which, he tells. us, appeared to belong to Pembroke College, which probably had been considered by Johnson as his own, for upwards of fifty years. Would it not be fairer to consider this as an inadvertence, and draw no general inference? The truth is, that Johnson was so attentive that in one of his manuscripts in my possession, he has marked in two columns books borrowed and books lent.

In Sir John Hawkins's compilation, there are, however, some passages concerning Johnson which have unquestionable merit. One of them I shall transcribe, in justice to a writer whom I have had too much occasion to censure, and to show my fairness as the biographer of my illustrious friend :-"There was wanting in his conduct and behaviour that dignity which results from a regular and ordinary course of action, and by an irresistible power commands esteem. He could not be said to be a staid man, nor so to have adjusted in his mind the balance of reason and passion, as to give occasion to say what may be observed of some men, that all they do is just, fit, and right." Yet a judicious friend well suggests, " It might, however, have been added, that such men are often merely just, and rigidly correct, while their hearts are cold and unfeeling; and that Johnson's virtues were of a much higher tone than those of the staid, orderly man kere described "-BOSWELL

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

JOHNSON'S LAST VISIT TO Lichfield-UtroxeTeR-THE LEARNED PIG-JOHN. son's VISIT TO OXFORD-DR. ADAMS CORRESPONDENCE-Johnson's INCREASING INDISPOSITION-HIS ReturN TO THE METROPOLIS-VARIOUS WORKS CONTEMPLATED BY HIM-LIST OF THE AUTHORS OF UNIVERSAL HISTORY-Rev. JOHN SWINTON-JOHNSON'S KNOWLEDGE OF Greek-IMITATIONS OF HIS STYLE-MR. BURROWES-GEORGE COLMAN-DR. ROBERTSON-MR. GIBBON—Miss BURNEY ARCHDEACON NARES-"THE MIRROR"-Rev. DR. KNOX-JOHNSON'S AFFECTION FOR HIS DEPARTED RELATIONS — - HIS APPROACHING DISSOLUTION — HIS FEARS Op DEATH-His PRAYERS.

E now behold Johnson for the last time in his native city, for

[ocr errors]

apostrophe, under the word Lich. he introduces with reverence, into his immortal work, the English Dictionary:—“Salve magna parens !

1 The following circumstance, mutually to the honour of Johnson and the corporation of his native city, has been communicated to me by the Rev. Dr. Vyse, from the townclerk :-"Mr. Simpson has now before him a record of the respect and veneration which the corporation of Lichfield, in the year 1767, had for the merits and learning of Dr. Johnson. His father built the corner house in the Market-place, the two fronts of which, towards Market and Broad Market-street, stood upon waste land of the corporation, under a forty years' lease, which was then expired. On the 15th of August, 1767, at a common hall of the bailiffs and citizens, it was ordered (and that without any solicitation), that a lease should be granted to Samuel Johnson, Doctor of Laws, of the encroachments at his house, for the term of ninety-nine years, at the old rent, which was five shillings. Or which, as town-clerk, Mr. Simpson had the honour and pleasure of informing him, and that he was desired to accept it, without paying any fine on the occasion, which lease was afterwards granted, and the doctor died possessed of this property "-Boswell.

While here, he felt a revival of all the tenderness of filial affection, an instance of which appeared in his ordering the grave-stone and inscription over Elizabeth Blaney? to be substantially and carefully renewed.

To Mr. Henry White, a young clergyman, with whom he now formed an intimacy, so as to talk to him with great freedom, he mentioned that he could not in general accuse himself of having been an undutiful son.

“Once, indeed,” said he, “I was disobedient ; I refused to attend my father to Uttoxeter market. Pride was the source of that refusal, and

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small]

the remembrance of it was painful. A few years ago I desired to atone for this fault ; I went to Uttoxeter in very bad weather, and stood for a

1 See vol. i. p. 35.- ED.

considerable time bareheaded in the rain, on the spot where my father's stall used to stand. In contrition I stood, and I hope the penance was expiatory."1

“ I told him," says Miss Seward, “ in one of my latest visits to him, of a wonderful learned pig, which I had seen at Nottingham; and which did all that we have observed exhibited by dogs and horses. The subject amused him. Then,' said he,' the pigs are a race unjustly calumniated. Pig has, it seems, not been wanting to man, but man to pig. We do not allow time for his education ; we kill him at a year old. Mr. Henry White, who was present, observed that if this instance had happened in or before Pope's time, he would not have been justified in instancing the swine as the lowest degree of grovelling instinct. Dr. John son seemed pleased with the observation, while the person who made it proceeded to remark, that great torture must have been employed, ere the indocility of the animal could have been subdued. — Certainly,' said the Doctor; . but (turning to me), how old is your pig? I told him, three years old. Then,' said he, “the pig has no cause to complain ; he would have been killed the first year if he had not beer. educated, and protracted existence is a good recompense for very con.. siderable degrees of torture.'”

· The preceding view of Uttoxeter Market place is from an old sketch, but the conduit near which, according to the tradition of the town, Dr. Johnson stood at the time of

his doing penance, is not the

in existence when this singular act was performed. Messrs. Norris and Son, of Uttoxeter, have kindly furnished with another sketch, supposed to refer to the circumstance in question, which sketch we have engraved, and here insert. It is by Captain Daniel Astle, a native of Uttoxeter, and a friend of Dr. Johnson's, and consists of portraits of the doctor and himself. By many persons it is thought to represent the very scene of Johnson doing penance in Uttoxeter Market-place.-Ed.

[graphic]

6

same

as

was

us

JOHNSON AND CAPT. ASTLE.

As Johnson had now very faint hopes of recovery, and as Mrs. Thrale was no longer devoted to him, it might have been supposed that he would naturally have chosen to remain in the comfortable house of his beloved wife's daughter, and end his life where he began it. But there was in him an animated and lofty spirit ;1 and however complicated diseases might depress ordinary mortals, all who saw him beheld and acknowledged the invictum animum Catonis. Such was his intellectual ardour even at this time, that he said to one friend, “ Sir, I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance ;" and to another when talking of his illness, “ I will be conquered ; I will not capitulate."

And such was his love of London, so high a relish had he of its magnificent extent, and variety of intellectual entertainment, that he languished when absent from it, his mind having become quite luxurious from the long habit of enjoying the metropolis ; and therefore, although at Lichfield, surrounded with friends who loved and revered him, and for whom he had a very sincere affection, he still found that such conversation as London affords, could be found no where else. These feelings joined, probably to some flattering hopes of aid from the aminent physicians and surgeons in London, who kindly and generously attended him without accepting fees, made him resolve to return to the capital.

From Lichfield he came to Birmingham, where he passed a few days with his worthy old schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, who thus writes to me: “ He was very solicitous with me to recollect some of our most early transactions, and transmit them to him, for I perceived nothing gave him greater pleasure than calling to mind those days of our innocence. I complied with his request, and he only received them a few days before his death. I have transcribed for your inspection, exactly the minutes I wrote to him.” This paper having been found in his repositories after his death, Sir John Hawkins has inserted it entire, and I have made occasional use of it and other communications from Mr. Hector, in the course of this work. I have both visited and

· Burke suggested to me as applicable to Johnson, what Cicero, in his “ Cato Major," says of Appius :-" Intentum enim animum, tanquam arcum, habebat, nec languescens succumbebat senectuti ;" repeating, at the same time, the following noble words in the same passage :-“ Ita enim senectus honesta est, si se ipsa defendit, si jus suum retinet, si nemini emancipata est, si usque ad extremum vitæ spiritum vindicat jus suum."— Boswell.

2 Atrocem animum Catonis, are Horace's words, and it may be doubted whether atrox is used by any other original writer in the same sense. Stubborn is perhaps the most correct translation of this epithet.—MALONE.

8 It is a most agreeable circumstance attending the publication of this work, that Mr. Hector has survived his illustrious schoolfellow so many years; that he still retains his health and spirits ; and has gratified me with the following acknowledgment :-"I thank you, most sincerely thạnk you, for the great and long-continued entertainment your Life of Dr. Johnson has afforded me, and others of my particular friends." Mr. Hector, besides setting me right as to the verse on a Sprig of Myrtle (see vol. i. p. 71, n.) has

« 이전계속 »