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“ They who build houses and collect costly pictures and furniture, with the money of an honest artisan or mechanick, will be very glad of emancipation from the hands of a bailiff, by a sale of their senatorial suffrage."
But I think the most perfect imitation of Johnson is a professed one, entitled “ A Criticism on Gray's Elegy in a Country Church-Yard,” said to be written by Mr. YOUNG, Professor of Greek, at Glasgow, and of which let him have the credit, unless a better title can be shewn. It has not only the particularities of Johnson's style, but that very species of literary discussion and illustration for which he was eminent. Having already quoted so much from others, I shall refer the curious to this performance, with an assurance of much entertainment.
Yet whatever merit there may be in any imitations of Johnson's style, every good judge must see that they are obviously different from the original; for all of them are either deficient in its force, or overloaded with its peculiarities; and the powerful sentiment to which it is suited is not to be found.
Johnson's affection for his departed relations seemed to grow warmer as he approached nearer to the time when he might hope to see them again. It probably appeared to him that he should upbraid 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.'
excused for not knowing the political regulations of his country. No senator can be in the hands of a bailiff." 9 See Vol. II.
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 church-wardens 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, “ Dec. 2, 1784.
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
“ TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD.
“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 Latin, 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 ?
[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 beqeathed the principal part of her fortune to the Rev. Mr. Pearson, of Lichfield. Malone.] [See a character of her in Miss Seward's Letters, vol. i. p. 116., drawn in that lady's lively manner. A. C.)
May God pardon and bless us, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake.
“ I am, &c. “Dec. 2, 1784.
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
My readers are now, at last, to behold SAMUEL Johnson preparing himself for that doom, from 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,) % 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.
2 A Club in London, founded by the learned and ingenious physician, Dr. Ash, in honour of whose name it was called Eumelian, from the Greek Evustics: though it was warmly contended, and even put to a vote, that it should have the more obvious appellation of Frazinean, from the Latin.
3 Mrs. Thrale's Collection, March 10, 1784. Vol. II. p. 3.
“ 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 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, 4 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, 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 overcome.
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 prac
4 See what he said to Mr. Malone, pp. 50, 51 of this volume.
tice 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. Johnson once observe, “ There is something noble in publishing truth, though it condemns one's self.” 5 And one who said in his presence, “ he had no 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 ? ”6 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
$ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d. edit. p. 209. On the same subject, in his Letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated Nov. 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 began, by airy contemplation. We compare and judge, though we do not practise." 6 Ibid.