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February 23. 1796. The epitaph was written by the Rev. Dr. Parr, and is as follows:
SAMVELI · JOHNSON
GRAMMATICO · ET · CRITICO SCRIPTORVM · ANGLICORVM · LITTERATE ·
PERITO POETAE · LVMINIBVS · SENTENTIARVM ET · PONDERIBVS · VERBORVM · ADMIRABILI
MAGISTRO · VIRTVTIS · GRAVISSIMO HOMINI OPTIMO. ET SINGVLARIS. EXEMPLI
QVI. VIXIT. ANN. LXXV. MENS 11. • DIEB.Xul. CESSIT:IDIB.DECEMBR:ANN CHRIST.clo Locc 'LXXXII SEPVLT. IN AED SANCT . PETR. WESTMONASTERIENS. XII: KALIANVAR · ANN CHRIST. clolocc LXXXV. AMICI · ET • SODALES · LITTERARII
PECVNIA · CONLATA
On a scroll in his hand are the following words :
ΕΝΜΑΚΑΡΕΣΣΙΠΟΝΩΝ ΑΝΤΑΞΙΟΣΕΙΗ ΑΜΟΙΒΗ. .
On one side of the monument:
FACIEBAT JOHANNES BACON, SCULPTOR ANN. CHRIST.
The subscription for this monument, which cost eleven hun. dred guineas, was begun by the Literary Club, and completed by the aid of Johnson's other friends and admirers.- M. - [Sce JOHNSONIANA, post.]
The character of Samuel Johnson has, I trust, been so developed in the course of this work, that they who have honoured it with a perusal may
be considered as well acquainted with him. As, however,
may be expected that I should collect into one view the capital and distinguishing features of this extraordinary man, I shall endeavour to acquit myself of that part of my biographical undertaking (1), however difficult it may be to do that which many
readers will do better for themselves.
His figure was large and well formed, and his countenance of the cast of an ancient statue; yet his appearance was rendered strange and somewhat uncouth, by convulsive cramps, by the scars of that distemper which it was once imagined the royal touch could cure, and by a slovenly mode of dress. He had the use only of one eye; yet so much does mind govern, and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his visual perceptions, as far as they extended, were uncommonly quick and
(1) As I do not see any reason to give a different character of my illustrious friend now from what I formerly gave, the greatest part of the sketch of him in my “ Journal of a Tour te The Hebrides” is here adopted.
accurate. So morbid was his temperament, tha he never knew the natural joy of a free and vigor. ous use of his limbs : when he walked, it was like the struggling gait of one in fetters; when he rode, he had no command or direction of his horse, but was carried as if in a balloon. That with his constitution and habits of life he should have lived seventy-five years, is a proof that an inherent vivida vis is a powerful preservative of the human frame.
Man is, in general, made up of contradictory qualities ; and these will ever show themselves in strange succession, where a consistency in appearance at least, if not reality, has not been attained by long habits of philosophical discipline. In proportion to the native vigour of the mind, the contradictory qualities will be the more prominent, and more difficult to be adjusted; and, therefore, we are not to wonder that Johnson exhibited an emi. nent example of this remark, which I have made upon human nature. At different times he seemed a different man in some respects ; not, however, in any great or essential article, upon which he had fully employed his mind, and settled certain principles of duty, but only in his manners, and in the display of argument and fancy in his talk. He was prone to superstition, but not to credulity. Though his imagination might incline him to a belief of the marvellous and the mysterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy. He was a sincere and zealous Christian, of high Church of England and monarchical principles, which he would
not tamely suffer to be questioned; and had, perhaps, at an early period, narrowed his mind somewhat too much, both as to religion and politics. His being impressed with the danger of extreme latitude in either, though he was of a very independent spirit, occasioned his appearing somewhat unfavourable to the prevalence of that noble freedom of sentiment which is the best possession of
Nor can it be denied that he had many prejudices; which, however, frequently suggested many of his pointed sayings, that rather show a playfulness of fancy than any settled malignity. He was steady and inflexible in maintaining the obligations of religion and morality, both from a regard for the order of society and from a veneration for the Great Source of all order; correct, nay stern in his taste; hard to please, and easily offended; impetuous and irritable in his temper, but of a most humane and benevolent heart (1), which showed itself not only in a most liberal charity, as far as his circumstances would allow, but in a thousand instances of active benevolence. He was afflicted with a bodily disease, which made him often restless and fretful, and with a constitutional melancholy, the clouds of which darkened the brightness of his fancy, and gave a gloomy cast to his whole course of
(1) In the “ Olla Podrida,” a collection of essayş published at Oxford, there is an admirable paper upon the character of Johnson written by the Rev. Dr. Horne, the late excellent Pishop of Norwich.
The following passage is eminently happy: -“ To reject wisdom, because the person of him who communicates it is uncouth, and his manners are inelegant; what is it, but to throw away a pine-apple, and assign for a reason the roughness of its coat?" (See JOHNSONJANA, post.]
thinking: we, therefore, ought not to wonder at his sallies of impatience and passion at any time, especially when provoked by obtrusive ignorance or presuming petulance, and allowance must be made for his uttering hasty and satirical sallies even against his best friends. And, surely, when it is considered, that “ amidst sickness and sorrow exerted his faculties in so many works for the benefit of mankind, and particularly that he achieved the great and admirable Dictionary of our language, we must be astonished at his resolution. The solemn text, “ of him to whom much is given much will be required,” seems to have been ever present to his mind, in a rigorous sense, and to have made him dissatisfied with his labours and acts of goodness, however comparatively great; so that the unavoidable consciousness of his supe. riority was, in that respect, a cause of disquiet. He suffered so much from this, and from the gloom which perpetually haunted him, and made solitude frightful, that it may be said of him, “ If in this life only he had hope, he was of all men most miserable." He loved praise when it was brought to him ; but was too proud to seek for it. He was somewhat susceptible of flattery. As he was general and unconfined in his studies, he cannot be considered as master of any one particular science; but he had accumulated a vast and various collection of learning and knowledge, which was so arranged in his mind as to be ever in readiness to be brought forth. But his superiority over other learned men consisted chiefly in what may be called the art of thinking