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This letter was brought to Dr. Johnson when in church. He stooped down and read it, and wrote, when he went home, the following letter for Dr. Dodd to the king.
SIR,—May it not offend your majesty, that the most miserable of men applies himself to your clemency, as his last hope and his last refuge; that your mercy is most earnestly and humbly implored by a clergyman, whom your laws and judges have condemned to the horrour and ignominy of a publick execution.
“I confess the crime, and own the enormity of its consequences, and the danger of its example. Nor have I the confidence to petition for impunity ; but humbly hope, that publick security may be established without the spectacle of a clergyman dragged through the streets to a death of infamy, amidst the derision of the profligate and profane; and that justice may be satisfied with irrevocable exile, perpetual disgrace, and hopeless penury.
My life, sir, has not been useless to mankind. I have benefitted many.
But my offences against God are numberless, and I have had little time for repentance. Preserve me, sir, by your prerogative of mercy, from the necessity of appearing unprepared at that tribunal, before which kings and subjects must stand at last together. Permit me to hide my guilt in some obscure corner of foreign country, where, if I can ever attain confidence to hope that my prayers will be heard, they shall be poured with all the fervour of gratitude for the life and happiness of your majesty.
• I am, sir,
“ Your majesty's," etc.
Subjoined to it was written as follows.
TO DR. DODD.
“SIR,--I most seriously enjoin you not to let it be at all known that I have written this letter, and to return the copy to Mr. Allen in a cover to me. I hope I need not tell you that I wish it success.-But do not indulge hope. -Tell nobody
It happened luckily that Mr. Allen was pitched on to assist in this melancholy office, for he was a great friend of Mr. Akerman, the keeper of Newgate. Dr. Johnson never went to see Dr. Dodd. He said to me, “ It would have done him more harm, than good to Dodd, who once expressed a desire to see him, but not earnestly."
Dr. Johnson, on the 20th of June, wrote the following letter.
TO THE RIGHT HON. CHARLES JENKINSON.
SIR,—Since the conviction and condemnation of Dr. Dodd, I have had, by the intervention of a friend, some intercourse with him; and I am sure I shall lose nothing in your opinion by tenderness and commiseration. Whatever be the crime, it is not easy to have any knowledge of the delinquent, without a wish that his life may be spared; at least when no life has been taken away by him. I will, therefore, take the liberty of suggesting some reasons for which I wish this unhappy being to escape the utmost rigour of his sentence.
“ He is, so far as I can recollect, the first clergyman of our church who has suffered publick execution for immorality; and I know not whether it would not be more for the interests of religion to bury such an offender in the obscurity of perpetual exile, than to expose him in a cart, and on the gallows, to all who for any reason are enemies to the clergy.
“The supreme power has in all ages paid some attention to the voice of the people, and that voice does not least deserve to be beard when it calls out for mercy. There is now a very general desire that Dodd's life should be spared. More is not wished; and perhaps this is not too much to be granted.
“ If you, sir, have any opportunity of enforcing these reasons, you may perhaps think them worthy of consideration : but whatever you determine, I most respectfully entreat that you will be pleased to pardon for this intrusion, sir,
· Your most obedient
“ Sam. Johnson."
It has been confidently circulated, with invidious remarks, that to this letter no attention whatever was paid
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 Hawkesbury'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, bis 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 reparable 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,
" Sam. JOHNSON,
“ June 26, 1777.”.
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 publick ministry the means of judging were sufficiently attainable. He must be allowed to preach well, whose sermons ke 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 bis 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 rectitudet.”
Johnson gave us this evening, in his bappy 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 every body 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. Every body 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
See Dr. Johnson's final opinion concerning Dr. Dodd, in vol. iv. under April 18, 1783. -Malone.