Page images

out of his window but with a view to the Gentleman's Magazine) was a penurious paymaster; he would contract for lines by the hundred, and expect the long hundred; but he was a good man, and always delighted to have his friends at his able.'

“ When talking of a regular edition of his own works, he said, that he had power (from the booksellers) to print such an edition, if his health admitted it; but had no power to assign over any edition, unless he could add notes, and so alter them as to make them new works; which his state of health forbade him to think of. I may possibly live,' said he,

or rather breathe, three days, or perhaps three weeks; but find myself daily and gradually weaker.'

He said at another time, three or four days only before his death, speaking of the little fear he had of undergoing a chirurgical operation, I wouid give one of these legs for a year more of life, I mean of comfortable life, not such as that which I now suffer ; '. and lamented much his inability to read during his hours of restlessness. “I used formerly,” he added, when sleepless in bed, to read like a Turk.'

" Whilst confined by his last illness, it was his regular practice to have the church service read to him by some attentive and friendly divine. The Rev. Mr. Hoole performed this kind office in my presence for the last tinie, when, by his own desire, no more than the Litany was read; in which his responses were in the deep and sonorous voice which Mr. Boswell has occasionally noticed, and with the most profound devotion that can be imagined. His hearing not being quite perfect, he more than once interrupted Mr. Hoole with, • Louder, my dear Sir, louder, I entreat you, or you pray in vain !' — and, when the service was ended, he, with great earnestness, turned round to an excellent lady who was present, saying, “I thank you, Madam, very heartily, for your kindness in joining me in this

solemn exercise. Live well, I conjure you; and yo. will not feel the compunction at the last which I now feel.' (1)

So truly humble were the thoughts which this great and good man entertained of his own approaches to religious perfection.

“ He was earnestly invited to publish a volume of Devotional Exercises ; but this (though he listened to the proposal with much complacency, and a large sum of money was offered for it) he declined, from motives of the sincerest modesty.

“ He seriously entertained the thought of translating Thuanus. He often talked to me on the subject; and once, in particular, when I was rather wishing that he would favour the world, and gratify his sovereign, by a Life of Spenser (which he said that he would readily have done had he been able to obtain any new materials for the purpose), he adıled,

I have been thinking again, Sir, of Thuanus : it would not be the laborious task which you have sup

I should have no trouble but that of dictation, which would be performed as speedily as an amanuensis could write.''

On the same undoubted authority I give a few articles which should have been inserted in chrono. logical order, but which, now that they are before me, I should be sorry to omit :

Among the early associates of Johnson, at St.

posed it.

(1) There is a slight error in Mr. Nichols's account, as appears by the following communication from the Rev. Mr. Hoole himself, now rector of Poplar:

“ My mother was with us when I read prayers to Dr. Johnson, on Wed. nesday, December 8.; but not for the last time, as is stated by Mr. Nichols, for I attended him again on Friday, the 10th. I must here mention an incident which shows how ready Johnson was to make amends for any little incivility. When I called upon him, the morning after he had pressed me rather roughly to read louder, he said, I was peevish yesterday; yor must forgive me when you are as old and as sick as I am, perhaps you may be peevish too. I have heard him make many apologies of this kind." C.

[ocr errors]

was col

John's Gate, was Samuel Boyse, well known by his ingenious productions; and not less noted for his imprudence. It was not unusual for Boyse to be a customer to the pawnbroker. On one of these occasions, Dr. Johnson collected a sum of money to redeem his friend's clothes, which in two days after were pawned again. "The sum,' said Johnson, lected by sixpences, at a time when to me sixpence was a serious consideration.'

Speaking one day of a person () for whom he had a real friendship, but in whom vanity was somewhat too predominant, he observed, that · Kelly was so fond

displaying on his sideboard the plate which he possessed, that he added to it his spurs. For my part,' said he, “I never was master of a pair of spurs, but once ; and they are now at the bottom of the ocean. By the carelessness of Boswell's servant, they were dropped from the end of the boat, on our return from the Isle of Sky.'" (2)

The late Reverend Mr. Samuel Badcock (3) having been introduced to Dr. Johnson by Mr. Nichols, some years before his death, thus expressed himself in a letter to that gentleman :

“ How much I am obliged to you for the favour you did me in introducing me to Dr. Johnson ! Tantum

(1) Hugh Kelly, the dramatic author, who died in Gough Square in 1777, æt. 38. Kelly's first introduction to Johnson was not likely to have pleased a person of “predominant vanity.” After having sat a short time, he got up to take his leave, say.. ing, that he feared a longer visit might be troublesome. Not in the least, Sir,” Johnson is said to have replied, “I had for. gotten that you were in the room.” — C.

(2) Antè, Vol. IV. p. 176. — C.

(3) Chiefly known as a Monthly Reviewer, and for a con troversy with Dr. Priestley, whose friend and admirer he had previously been. He had been bred a dissenter, but conformeil to she established church, and was ordained in 1787. He died soon after in May, 1788, æt. 41. - C.


vidi Virgilium. But to have seen him, and to have re. ceived a testimony of respect from him, was enough. I recollect all the conversation, and shall never forget one of his expressions. Speaking of Dr. Priestley (whose writings, I saw, he estimated at a low rate), he said, “You have proved him as deficient in probity as he is in learning. I called him an Index Scholar ;' but he was not willing to allow him a claim even to that merit. He said, ' that he borrowed from those who had been borrowers themselves, and did not know that the mistakes he adopted had been answered by others.' I often think of our short, but precious visit, to this great

I shall consider it as a kind of an æra in my life."

It is to the mutual credit of Johnson and divines of different communions, that although he was a steady 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 Rev. Thomas Hussey, D.D. ('), his Catholic 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

(1) No doubt the gentleman who is so conspicuous in Mr, Cumberland's Memoirs. He was subsequently first master of the Roman Catholic college at Maynooth, and titular Bishop of Waterford in Ireland, in which latter capacity he published, in 1797, a pastoral charge, which excited a good deal of observ. ation.-C.

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 Rev. 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 showed 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 to. wards 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 idiot; he is as awkward as a turnspit when first put into the wheel, and as sleepy as a dormouse."

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(1), 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

(1) In 1780. See his letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated August 8th, 1780. “ You have heard in the papers how (Lade] is come to age: I have enclosed a short song of congratulation, which you must not show 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 author's first essays in that way of writing, and a beginner is always to be treated with tenderness. M.

« PreviousContinue »