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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.
“ Long-expected one-and-twenty,
Ling'ring year, at length is flown;
Great (Sir John), are now your own.
Free to mortgage or to sell,
Bid the sons of thrift farewell.
All the names that banish care;
Show the spirit of an heir.
Joy to see their quarry fly;
There the lender, grave and sly.
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 in him, he said, “ An odd thought strikes me: shall receive no letters in the grave. (1)"
He requested three things of Sir Joshua Reynolds :- To forgive him thirty pounds which he had borrowed of him 1; to read the Bible; - and never to use his pencil on a Sunday. Sir Joshua readily acquiesced.
Indeed he showed 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,
(1) Madame de Maintenon somewhere said, les morts n'écriv ent pas, and higher thoughts of the same class had struck Jeremy Taylor :-“ What servants shall we have to wait on us in the grave? What friends to visit us ? What officious people to cleanse away the moist and unwholesome cloud reflected on our faces from the sides of the weeping vaults, which are the longest weepers at our funeral ! ” - Holy Dying, chap. i. s. 2. - C.
never forsook hiin, asked Dr. Brocklesby, as a man in whom he had confidence, to tell him plainiy whether he could recover. 6 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. 66 Then,” said Johnson, “ I will take no more physic, not even my opiates ; for I have prayed that I may render up my soul to God unclouded." (1) 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 too 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
(1) The following is an instance of a similar spirit : “ Maria Theresa, queen of Hungary and Bohemia, who died about 1780, was a woman of great strength of mind, united with other estimable qualities. A short time before her death, one of the ladies near her person, in reply to an inquiry made respecting the state of the empress, answered, that her Majesty seemed to be asleep. No,' replied she, I could sleep if I would indulge repose, but I am sensible of the near approach of death, and I will not allow myself to be surprised by him in my sleep. I wish to meet my dissolution awake.
There is nothing transmitted to us by antiquity finer than this answer, which is divested of all ostentation.”-Wraxall's Historical Memoirs of his own Time, vol. i. p. 365. - MARKLAND.
is vicar, afforded Johnson, occasionally and easily, in 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 becanie 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
I asked him why he pressed Dr. Clarke, an Arian. (1) Because,' said he, he is fullest on the propitiatory sacrifice.'
Of his last moments, my brother, Thomas David, has furnished me with the following particulars :
“ The Doctor, from the time that he was certain his death was near, appeared to be perfectly resigned, was
(1) The change of his sentiments with regard to Dr. Clarke is thús 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”
seidom or never fretful or out of temper, and often said to his faithful servant, who gave me this account, • Attend, Francis, to the salvation of your soul, which is the object of greatest importance :' he also explained to him passages in the Scripture, and seemed to have pleasure in talking upon religious subjects.
“ On Monday, the 13th of December, the day on which he died, a Miss Morris (1), daughter to a particular friend of his, called, and said to Francis, that she begged to be permitted to see the Doctor, that she might earnestly request him to give her his blessing. Francis went into the room, followed by the young lady, and delivered the message. The Doctor turned himself in the bed, and said, 'God bless you, my dear!' These were the last words he spoke. His difficulty of breath. ing increased till about seven o'clock in the evening, when Mr. Barber and Mrs. Desmoulins, who were sitting in the room, observing that the noise he had made in breathing had ceased, went to the bed, and found he was dead."
About two days after his death, the following very agreeable account was communicated to Mr. Malone, in a letter by the Honourable John Byng, to whom I am much obliged for granting me permission to introduce it in my work :
“ DEAR SIR, — Since I saw you, I have had a long conversation with Cawston (2), who sat up with Dr. Johnson, from nine o'clock on Sunday evening, till ten o'clock on Monday morning. And, from what I can gather from him, it should seem that Dr. Johnson was perfectly composed, steady in hope, and resigned to
(1) She was the sister of a lady of the same name who appeared on the stage at Covent Garden as Juliet, in 1768, and died next year. She was a relation of Mr. Corbyn Morris, commise sioner of the customs. — European Magazine, Sept. 1799, p. 158.