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Church-of-England man, there was, nevertheless, much agreeable intercourse between him and them. Let me particularly name the late Mr. La Trobe, and Mr. Hutton, of the Moravian profession. His intimacy with the English Benedictines, at Paris, has been mentioned : and as an additional proof of the charity in which he lived with good men of the Romish Church, I am happy in this opportunity of recording his friendship with the Reverend Thomas Hussey, D. D, his Catholick Majesty's Chaplain of Embassy at the Court of London, that very respectable man, eminent not only for his powerful eloquence as a preacher, but for his various abilities and acquisitions.—Nay, though Johnson loved a Presbyterian the least of all, this did not prevent his having a long and uninterrupted social connection with the Reverend Dr. James Fordyce, who, since his death, hath gratefully celebrated him in a warm strain of devotional composition.
Amidst the melancholy clouds which hung over the dying Johnson, his characteristical manner shewed itself on different occasions.
When Dr. Warren, in his usual style, hoped that he was better; his answer was, “ No, Sir; you cannot conceive with what acceleration I advance towards death."
A man whom he had never seen before was employed one night to sit up with him. Being asked next morning how he liked his attendant, his answer was, “ Not at all, Sir: the fellow's an ideot; he is as aukward as a turn-spit when first put into the wheel, and as sleepy as a dormouse.”
Mr. Windham having placed a pillow conveniently to support him, he thanked him for his kindness, and said, “ That will do,—all that a pillow can do."
He repeated with great spirit a poem, consisting of several stanzas, in four lines, in alternate rhyme, which he said he had composed some years before, on occasion of a rich, extravagant young gentleman's coming of age : saying he had never repeated it but once since he composed it, and had given but one copy of it. That copy was given to Mrs. Thrale, now Piozzi, who has published it in a Book which she entitles - British Synonimy,” but which is truly a collection of entertaining remarks and stories, no matter whether accurate or not. Being a piece of exquisite satire, conveyed in a strain of pointed vivacity and humour, and in a manner of which no other instance is to be found in Johnson's writings, I shall here insert it:
Ling'ring year, at length is flown;
Great *******, are now your own.
Loosen'd from the Minor's tether,
Free to mortgage or to sell,
Bid the sons of thrift farewell.
Call the Betseys, Kates, and Jennies,
All the names that banish care ;
Shew the spirit of an heir.
Joy to see their quarry fly :
There the lender, grave and sly.
? [In 1730, See his Letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated August 8, 1780. “ You have heard in the papers how *** is come to age : I have enclosed a short song of congratulation, which you must not shew to any body. It is odd that it should come into any body's head. I hope you will read it with candour; it is, I believe, one of the authour's first essays in that way of writing, and a beginner is always to be treated with tenderness." Malone.]
Wealth, my lad, was made to wander,
Let it wander as it will;
Bid them come and take their fill.
Pockets full, and spirits high-
Only dirt, or wet or dry.
Tell the woes of wilful waste :
You can hang or drown at last. As he opened a note which his servant brought to him, he said, “ An odd thought strikes me :-we shall receive no letters in the grave.
He requested three things of Sir Joshua Reynolds :To forgive him thirty pounds which he had borrowed of him ;-to read the Bible ;-and never to use his pencil on a Sunday. Sir Joshua readily acquiesced.
Indeed he shewed the greatest anxiety for the religious improvement of his friends, to whom he discoursed of its infinite consequence. He begged of Mr. Hoole to think of what he had said, and to commit it to writing; and, upon being afterwards assured that this was done, pressed his hands, and in an earnest tone thanked him. Dr. Brocklesby having attended him with the utmost assiduity and kindness as his physician and friend, he was peculiarly desirous that this gentleman should not entertain any loose speculative notions, but be confirmed in the truths of Christianity, and insisted on his writing down in his presence, as nearly as he could collect it, the import of what passed on the subject : and Dr. Brocklesby having complied with the request, he made him sign the paper, and urged him to keep it in his own custody as long as he lived.
Johnson, with that native fortitude, which, amidst all his bodily distress and mental sufferings, never for sook him, asked Dr. Brocklesby, as a man in whom he had confidence, to tell him plainly whether he could recover. “ Give me (said he) a direct answer.”
The Doctor having first asked him if he could bear the whole truth, which way soever it might lead, and being answered that he could, declared that, in his opinion, he could not recover without a miracle. “ Then (said Johnson,) I will take no more physick, not even my opiates : for I have prayed that I may render up my soul to God unclouded.” In this resolution he persevered, and, at the same time, used only the weakest kinds of sustenance. Being pressed by Mr. Windham to take somewhat more generous nourishment, lest toc low a diet should have the very effect which he dreaded, by debilitating his mind, he said, “ I will take any thing but inebriating sustenance.”
The Reverend Mr. Strahan, who was the son of his friend, and had been always one of his great favourites, had, during his last illness, the satisfaction of contributing to soothe and comfort him. That gentleman's house, at Islington, of which he is Vicar, afforded Johnson, occasionally and easily, an agreeable change of place and fresh air; and he attended also upon him in town in the discharge of the sacred offices of his profession.
Mr. Strahan has given me the agreeable assurance, that after being in much agitation, Johnson became quite composed, and continued so till his death.
Dr. Brocklesby, who will not be suspected of fanaticism, obliged me with the following accounts:
“ For some time before his death, all his fears were calmed and absorbed by the prevalence of his faith, and his trust in the merits and propitiation of JESUS CHRIST.
“ He talked often to me about the necessity of faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, as necessary beyond all good works whatever, for the salvation of mankind.
“ He pressed me to study Dr. Clarke and to read his Sermons. I asked him why he pressed Dr. Clarke, an Arian. * Because (said he, he is fullest on the propitiatory sacrifice."
Johnson having thus in his mind the true Christian scheme, at once rational and consolatory, uniting justice and mercy in the DIVINITY, and the improvement of human nature, previous to his receiving the Holy Sacrament in his apartment, composed and fervently uttered this prayer :
“ Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now as to human eyes it seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the death of thy Son JESUS CHRIST, our Saviour and Redeemer. Grant, O LORD, that my whole hope and confidence may be in his merits, and thy mercy ; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance; make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity ; and make the death of thy
3 The change of his sentiments with regard to Dr. Clarke, is thus mentioned to me in a letter from the late Dr. Adams, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford—“The Doctor's prejudices were the strongest, and certainly in another sense the weakest, that ever possessed a sensible man.
You know his extreme zeal for orthodoxy. But did you ever hear what he told me himself? That he had made it a rule not to admit Dr. Clarke's name in his Dictionary. This, however, wore off. At some distance of time he advised with me what books he should read in defence of the Christian Religion. I recommended • Clarke's Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion, as the best of the kind; and I find in what is called his · Prayers and Meditations,' that he was frequently employed in the latter part of his time in reading Clarke's Sermons."
* The Reverend Mr. Strahan took care to have it preserved, and has inserted it in “ Prayers and Meditations," p. 216.