Page images
PDF
EPUB

emedies which he used, under the title of Ægri Ephemeris, which he began on the 6th of July, but continued it no longer than the 8th of November ; finding, I suppose, that it was a mournful and unavailing register. It is in my possession; and is written with great care and accuracy.

Still his love of literature (1) did not fail. A very few days before his death he transmitted to his friend, Mr. John Nichols, a list of the authors of the Universal History, mentioning their several shares in that work. It has, according to his direction, been deposited in the British Museum, and is printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, 1784.()

(1) It is truly wonderful to consider the extent and constancy of Johnson's literary ardour, notwithstanding the melancholy which clouded and embittered his existence. Besides the numerous and various works which he executed, he had, at differ. ent times, formed schemes of a great many more, of which the following catalogue was given by him to Mr. Langton, and by that gentleman presented to his Majesty. - B. – This catalogue, as Mr. Boswell calls it, is, by Dr. Johnson himself, intitled “ Designs," and is written in a few pages of a small duodecimo note-book bound in rough calf. It seems, from the hand, that it was written early in life: from the marginal dates it appears that some portions were added in 1752 and 1753. In the first page of this little volume, his late Majesty King George III, wrote with his own hand : Original Manuscripts of Dr. Samuel Johnson, presented by his friend, · Langton, Esq. April 16th, 1785. G. R." — C. - See JOHNSONIANA, post.]

(2) As the letter accompanying this list (which fully supports the observation in the text) was written but a week before Dr. Johnson's death, the reader may not be displeased to find it here preserved :

[ocr errors]

J.ETTER 471.
TO MR, NICHOLS

“ December 6. 1784 “ The late learned Mr. Swinton, having one day remarked that one man, meaning, I suppose, no man but himself, could assign all the parts of the Ancient Universal History to their proper authors, at the request of Sir Kohert Chambers, or of myself, gave the account which I now transmit to ou in his own hand; being willing that of so great a work the history

During his sleepless nights he amused hiniself by translating into Latin verse, from the Greek, many of the epigrams in the “ Anthologia." These translations, with some other poems by him in Latin, he gave to his friend Mr. Langton, who, having added a few notes, sold them to the booksellers for a small sum to be given to some of Johnson's relations, which was accordingly done; and they are printed in the collection of his works.

A very erroneous notion had circulated as to Johnson's deficiency in the knowledge of the Greek language, partly owing to the modesty () with

should be known, and that each writer should receive his due proportion of praise from posterity.

“I recommend to you to preserve this scrap of literary intelligence in Mr. Swinton's own hand, or to deposit it in the Museum, that the veracit of this account may never be doubted. I am, Sir, your most humble ser vant,

SAM. JOHNSON.”

Mr. Sn.
The History of the

The History of the
Carthaginians.

Cyrenaica.
Numidians.

Marmarica.
Mauritanians.

Regio Syrtica.
Gætulians,

Turks, Tartars, and Moguls.
Garamanthes.

Indians,
Melano Gatulians.

Chinese.
Nigritæ.
Dissertation on the Peopling of America.

Independency of the Arabs. The Cosmogony, and a small part of the History immediately following ; by Mr. Sale.

To the birth of Abraham ; chiefly by Mr. Shelvock.
History of the Jews, Gauls, and Spaniards; by Mr. Psalmanazar.
Xenophon's Retreat; by the same.

History of the Persians and the Constantinopolitan Empire; by Dr.
Campbell.
History of the Romans; by Mr. Bower.

(1) On the subject of Dr. Johnson's skill in Greek, I have great pleasure in quoting an anecdote told by my dear and lamented friend, the late Mr. Gifford, in his Life of Ford :

“ My friend the late Lord Grosvenor had a house at Salt Hi!!, where I usually spent a part of the summer, and thus became acquainted with that great and good man, Jacob Bryant. Here the conversation turned one morning on a Greek criticism by Dr. Johnson in some volume lying on the table, which I ventured (for I was then young) to deem incorrect, and pointed it out to him. I could not help thinking that he was something af my opinion, but he was cautious and reserved. 'But, Sir,' said I, will

which, from knowing how much there was to be learnt, he used to mention his own comparative acquisitions. When Mr. Cumberland (1) talked to him of the Greek fragments which are so well illustrated in “ The Observer," and of the Greek dramatists in general, he candidly acknowledged his insufficiency in that particular branch of Greek literature. Yet it may be said, that though not a great, he was a good Greek scholar. Dr. Charles Burney, the younger, who is universally acknowledged by the best judges to be one of the few men of this age who are very eminent for their skill in that noble language, has assured me, that Johnson could give a Greek word for almost every English one; and that, although not sufficiently conversant in the niceties of the language, he, upon some occasions, discovered, even in these, a considerable degree of critical acumen. Mr. Dalzel, professor of Greek at Edinburgh, whose skill is unquestionable, mentioned to me, in very liberal terms, the impression which was made upon him by Johnson, in a conversation which they had in London concerning that language. As Johnson, therefore, was undoubtedly one of the first Latin scholars in

ing to overcome his scruples, o Dr. Johnson himself admitted that he was not a good Greek scholar." Sir,' he replied, with a serious and impressive air, it is not easy for us to say what such a man as Johnson would call a. good Greek scholar. I hope that I profited by that lesson - certainly I never forgot it.”-Gifford's Works of Ford, vol. i. p. Ixii. — C.

(1) Mr. Cumberland assures me that he was always treated with great courtesy by Dr. Johnson, who, in his “ Letters to Mrs, Thrale," Vol. II. p. 68., thus speaks of that learned, inge nious, and accomplished gentleman: “ The wants of coinpany is an inconvenience, but Mr. Cumberland is a million."

modern times, let us not deny to his fame some additional splendour from Greek. (1)

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

LETTER 472. TO MR. GREEN, APOTHECARY,

At Lichfield. (?)

« Dec. 2. 1784. “ DEAR SIR, I have enclosed the epitaph for my father, mother, and brother, to be all engraven on the large size, and laid in the middle aisle in St. Michael's church, which I request the clergyman and churchwardens 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, &c. SAM. Johnson.'

(1) In this place Mr. Boswell had introduced extracts from cotemporary writers whom he supposed to have imitated John. son's style, which it as been thought convenient to transpose to the end of the Life. - C. - [See JohnsonIANA, post.]

(8) A relation of Dr. Johnson. See antè, Vol. VI. p. Sumo

LETTER 473. TO MRS. LUCY PORTER,
At Lichfield. (1)

" Dec. 2. 1784. • DEAR MADAM, 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 (7), 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 ? May God pardon and bless us, for Jesus Christ's sake. I am, &c.

SAM. JOHNSON.” (1) This lady survived Dr. Johnson just thirteen months. She died at Lichfield, in her 71st year, January 13. 1786, and bequeathed the principal part of her fortune to the Rev. Mr Pearson, of Lichfield. — M.

(2) See antè, Vol. I. p. 287. — C.

« PreviousContinue »