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treat with silent contempt so foolish a notion concerning my illustrious friend; yet, as I find it has gained ground, it is necessary to refute it. The real fact iheu is, that Johnson had a very philosophical mind, and such a rational respect for testimony, as to make him submit bis understanding to what was authentically proved, though he could not comprehend why it was. so. Being thus disposed, he was willing to inquire into the truth of any relation of supernatural agency; a general belief of which has prevailed in all nations and ages. But so far was he from being the dupe of implicit faith, that he examined the matter with a jealous atten. tion, and no man was more ready to refute its falsehood when he had discovered it. Churchill, in his poem entitled The Ghost, availed himself of the absurd credulity imputed to Johnson, and drew a caricature of him under the name of Pom. poso; representing hiin as one of the believers of the story of a ghost in Cock-lane, which, in the year 1762, had gained very general credit in London. Many of my readers, I am convinced, are to this hour under an impression, that Johnson was thus foolishly deceived. It will therefore surprise them a good deal, when they are informed, upon undoubted authority, that Johnson was one of those by whom the imposture was detected. The story had become so popular, that he thought it should be investigated; and in this research he was assisted by the reverend Dr. Douglas, afterwards bishop of Salisbury, the great detector of impostures; who informs me, that after the gentlemen who went and examined into the evidence, were satisfied of its falsity, Johnson wrote, in their presence, an account of it, which was published in the news. papers and Gentleman's Magazine, and undeceived the world.*
The account was as follows: “On the night of the 1st of February, many gentlemen, eminent for their rank and character, were, by the invitation of the reverend Mr. Ald. rich, of Clerkenwell, assembled at his house, for the examination of the noises supposed to be made by a departed spirit, for the detection of some enormous crime.
“ About ten at night the gentlemen met in the chamber in which the girl, supposed to be disturbed by a spirit, had, with proper caution, been put to bed by several ladies. They sat rather more than an hour, and hearing nothing, went down stairs, when they interrogated the father of the girl, who denied, in the strongest terms, any knowledge or belief of fraud.
“ The supposed spirit had before publicly promised, by an affirmative knock, that it would attend one of the gen. tlemen into the vault under the church of St. John Clerkenwell, where the body is deposited, and give a token of her presence there, by a knock upon her coffin; it was there. fore determined to make this trial of the existence or vera. city of the supposed spirit.
“ While they were inquiring and deliberating, they were summoned into the girl's chamber by some ladies who were near her bed, and who had heard knocks and scratches. When the gentlemen entered, the girl declared that she felt the spirit like a mouse upon her back, and was required to hold her hands out of bed. From that time, though the spirit was very solemnly required to manifest its existence by appearance, by impression on the hand or body of any present, by scratches, knocks, or any other agency, no evidence of any preternatural power was ex• hibited.
“ The spirit was then very seriously advertised, that the person to whom the promise was made of striking the coffin, was then about to visit the vault, and that the performance of the promise was then claimed. The company, at one o'clock, went into the church, and the gentlema to
BOSWELL. “ I do not know whether there are any well attested stories of the appearance of ghosts. You know there is a famous story of the appearance of Mrs. Veal, prefixed to Drelincourt on Death." JOHNSON. “ I believe, sir, that is given up: I believe the woman declared, upon her death-bed, that it was a lie.”* BOSWELL. “This objection is made against the truth of ghosts appearing; that if they are in a state of happiness, it would be a punishment to them to return to this world ; and if they are in a state of misery, it would be giving them á respite.” Johnson. “ Why, sir, as the happiness or misery of embodied spirits does not depend upon place, but is intellectual, we cannot say they are less happy or less miserable by appearing upon earth.”
Another time, the subject of ghosts being introduced, Johnson told Boswell of a friend of his, an honest man, and a man of sense, having asserted
whom the promise was made, went with another into the vault. The spirit was solemnly required to perform its promise, but nothing more
han silence ensued : the person, supposed to be accused by the spirit, then went down with several others, but no effect was perceived. Upon their return, they examined the girl, but could draw no confes. sion from her. Between two and three, she desired, and was permitted to go home with her father.
" It is, therefore, the opinion of the whole assembly, that the child has some art of making or counterfeiting a particular noise, and that there is no agency of any higher cause."
• This fiction is known to be invented by Daniel Defoe, and was added to the second edition of the English transla. tion of Drelincourt's work, (which was originally written in French,) to make it sell. The first edition had it not. Malone.
to him, that he had seen an apparition. Goldsmith said, he was assured by his brother, the reverend Mr. Goldsmith, that he also had seen one. General Oglet horpe related, that Prendergast, an officer in the duke of Marlborough's army, had mentioned to many of his friends, that he should die on a particular day: that upou that day a battle took place with the French; that after it was over, and Prendergast was still alive, his brother officers, while they were yet in the field, jestingly asked him where was his prophecy now? Prendergast gravely answered, “ I shall die notwithstanding what you see.” Soon afterwards, there came a shot from a French battery, to which the orders for a cessation of arms had uot reached, and he was killed upon the spot. Colonel Cecil, who took possession of his effects, found in his pocket-book the following solemn entry :
[Here the date.] " Dreamt-or sir John Friend meets me:" (here the very day on which he was killed was mentioned.) Prendergast had been convicted with sir John, who was executed for high treason. General Oglethorpe said, he was with colonel Cecil, when Pope came and inquired into the truth of this story, which made a great noise at the time, and was then confirmed by the colonel.
Johnson had said on a former occasion, he knew one friend, who was an honest man, and a sensible
• Here was a blank, which may be filled up thus:was told by an apparition :"-the writer being probably uncertain whether he was asleep or awake, when his mind was impressed with the solemn presentiment, with which the fact afterwards happened so wonderfully to correspond.
man, who told him he had seen a ghost-old Mr. Edward Cave, the printer, at St. John's Gate. He said, Mr. Cave did not like to talk of it, and seemed to be in great horror whenever it was mentioned. Boswell.“ Pray, sir, what did he say was the appearance ?” JOHNSON. “
Why, sir, something of a shadowy being."
Boswell mentioned witches, and asked him what they properly meant. JOHNSON. Why, sir, they properly mean those who make use of the aid of evil spirits.” BoSWELL. “ There is, no doubt, sir, a general report and belief of their having existed." JOHNSON. “ You have not only the general report and belief, but you have many voluntary solemn confessions.” He did not affirm any thing positively upon a subject, which it is the fashion of the times to laugh at as a matter of absurd credulity : he only seemed willing, as a candid inquirer after truth, however strange and inexplicable, to show that he understood what might be urged for it.
Boswell, one night, finding him in a very good humour, ventured to lead him to the subject of our situation in a future state, having much curiosity to know his notions on that point. JOHNSON.
Why, sir, the happiness of an unembodied spirit will consist in a consciousness of the favour of God, in the contemplation of truth, and in the possession of felicitating ideas." Boswell. “But; sir, is