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1777

Ætat. 68.

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 fought 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 transport, 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 ŞIR,

« 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 Şupreme 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 fake 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,

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“ Your affectionate servant, June 26, 1777..

SAM. JOHNSON.”

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 funk in Tame. For his reputation, which no man can give to himself, those who conferred it áre 1777to answer. Of his publick ministry the means of judging were sufficiently Etat. 68. attainable. He must be allowed to preach well, whose sermons strike his audience with forcible conviction. Of his life, those who thought it confistent 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 refolution, and he in time ceased to exemplify his 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 felt-übhorrence with which he reviewed in prison his deviations from rectitude.”

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Johnson gave us this evening, in his happy 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 fuperiority 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 him.. A gentleman was making an affected rant, as many people do, of great feelings about á his dear fon, who was at school near London; how anxious he was left he might be ill, and what he would give to see him. “Can't

"Can't you (said: Fitzherbert) take a post-chaise and go to him?' This, to be sure, finished the affected man, but there was not much in it. However this was circulated as wit for a whole winter, and I believe part of a summer too; a proof that he was no very witty man. He was an instance of the truth of the observation, that a man will please more upon the whole by negative qualities than by positive; by never offending, than by giving a great deal of delight. In the fist place, men hate more steadily than they love; and if I have said something to hurt a man once, I shall nor get the better of this by saying many things to please him.”

Tuesday, September 16, Dr. Johnson having mentioned to me the extraordinary size and price of some cattle reared by Dr. Taylor, I rode out with our host,, surveyed his farm, and was shown one cow which he had fold for a hundred and twenty guineas, and another for which he had been offered a hundred and thirty. Taylor thus described to me his old schoolfellow and

friend,

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1777.

Ætat. 68.

friend, Johnson: “He is a man of a very clear head, great power of words,

a and a very gay imagination; but there is no disputing with him. He will not hear you, and having a louder voice than you, must roar you down.”

” In the afternoon I tried to get Dr. Johnson to like the Poems of Mr. Hamilton of Bangour, which I had brought with me: I had been much pleased with them at a very early age ; the impression still remained on my mind : it was confirmed by the opinion of my friend the Honourable Andrew Erskine, himself both a good poet and a good critick, who thought Hamilton as true a poet as ever wrote, and that his not having fame was unaccountable. Johnson upon repeated occasions, while I was at Ashbourne, talked Nightingly of Hamilton. He said there was no power of thinking in his verses, nothing that strikes one, nothing better than what you generally find in magazines; and that the highest praise they deserved was, that they were very well for a gentleman to hand about among his friends. He said the imitation of Ne fit ancillæ tibi amor &c. was too solemn; he read part of it at the beginning. He read the beautiful pathetick song, " Ah the poor shepherd's mournful fate,” and did not seem to give attention to what I had been used to think tender elegant strains, but laughed at the rhyme, in Scotch pronunciation, wishes and blushes, reading wußes--and there he stopped. He owned that the epitaph on Lord Newhall was pretty well done. He read the “ Inscription in a Summer-house,” and a little of the imitations of Horace's Epistles; but said, he found nothing to make him desire to read on. When I urged that there were some good poetical passages in the book. “ Where (faid he) will you

find fo large a collection without some.” I thought the description of Winter might obtain his approbation:

“ See Winter, from the frozen north,
« Drives his iron chariot forth !
“ His grisy hand in icy chains
« Fair Tweeda's silver flood constrains,” &c.

He asked why an“ iron chariot ;” and said “icy chains” was an old image. I was struck with the uncertainty of taste, and somewhat forry that a poet whom I had long read with fondness, was not approved by Dr. Johnson. I comforted myself with thinking that the beauties were too delicate for his robust perceptions. Garrick maintained that he had not a taste for the finest productions of genius : but I was sensible, that when he took the trouble to analyfe critically, he generally convinced us that he was right.

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In the evening, the Reverend Mr. Seward, of Lichfield, who was passing 1777 through Ashbourne in his way home, drank tea with us. Johnson described Ætat. 68. him thus : Sir, his ambition is to be a fine talker ; so he goes to Buxton, and such places, where he may find companies to listen to him. And, Sir, he is a valetudinarian, one of those who are always mending themselves. I do not know a more disagreeable character than a valetudinarian, who thinks he may

do any thing that is for his ease, and indulges himself in the groffest freedoms: Sir, he brings himself to the state of a hog in a stye.”

Dr. Taylor's nose happening to bleed, he said, it was because he had omitted to have himself blooded four days after a quarter of a year's interval: Dr. Johnson, who was a great dabbler in physick, disapproved much of periodical bleeding “For (said he) you accustom yourself to an evacuation which Nature cannot perform of herself, and therefore she cannot help you, should you,

from forgetfulness or any other cause, omit it; fo you may be suddenly fuffocated. You may accustom yourself to other periodical evacuations, because should you omit them, Nature can supply the omission; but Nature cannot open a vein to blood you."" I do not like to take an emetick, (faid Taylor,). for fear of breaking some small vessels.”_" Poh! (faid Johnson) if you have so many things that will break, you had better break your neck at once, and there's an end on't. You will break no small vessels.” (blowing with high derifion).

I mentioned to Dr. Johnson, that David Hume's persisting in his infidelity, when he was dying, shocked me much. Johnson. " Why shquld it shock

“ Hume owned he had never read the New Testament with attention. Here then was a man who had been at no pains to inquire into the truth of religion, and had continually, turned his mind the other way. It was not to be expected that the prospect of death would alter his

way

of thinking, unless God should send an angel to set him right.” I said, I had reason to believe that the thought of annihilation gave Hume no pain. JOHNSON. “ It was not so,, Sir. He had a vanity in being thought easy. It is more probable that he should assume an appearance of ease, than that so very improbable a thing should be, as a man not afraid of going (as, in spite of his delusive theory, he cannot be sure but he may go,) into an.unknown state, and not being uneasy at leaving all he knew. And you are to consider, that

upoA his own principle of annihilation, he had no motive to speak the truth.” The horrour of death which I had always observed in. Dr. Johnson, appeared strong to-night. I ventured to tell him, that I had been, for moments of my life, not afraid of death; therefore I could suppose another man in that state of mind for a

considerable

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1770

considerable space of time. He said, “ he never had a moment in which death Pirat. 68. was not terrible to him.” He added, that it had been observed, that almost

no, man dies in publick, but with apparent resolution; from that defire of praise which never quits us. I said, Dr. Dodd seemed to be willing to die, and full of hopes of happiness. “ Sir, (said he,) Dr. Dodd would have given both his hands and both his legs to have lived. The better a man is, the more afraid is he of death, having a clearer view of infinite purity." He owned, that our being in an unhappy uncertainty as to our salvation, was mysterious ; and said, “ Ah! we must wait till we are in another state of being, to have many things explained to us." Even the powerful mind of Johnson feemed foiled by futurity. But I thought, that the gloom of uncertainty in folemn religious speculation, being mingled with hope, was yet more consolatory than the emptiness of infidelity. A man can live in thick air, but perishes in an exhausted receiver.

Dr. Johnson was much pleased with a ren:ark which I told him was made to me by General Paoli :-" That it is impossible not to be afraid of death ; and that those who at the time of dying are not afraid, are not thinking of death, but of applause, or something else, which keeps death out of their fight: so that all men are equally afraid of death when they fee it; only some have a power of turning their sight away from it better than others.”

On Wednesday, September 17, Dr. Butter, physician at Derby, drank tea with us; and it was settled that Dr. Johnson and I should go on Friday and dine with him. Johnfon faid, “. I'm glad of this.” He seemed weary of the uniformity of life at Dr. Taylor's.

Talking of biography, I said, in writing a life a man's peculiarities should be mentioned, because they mark his character. JOHNSON. “ Sir, there is no doubt as to peculiarities: the question is, whether a man's vices should be mentioned ; for instance, whether it should be mentioned that Addison and Parnel drank too freely : for people will probably more easily indulge in drinking from knowing this; so that more ill may be done by the example, than good by telling the whole truth.” Here was an instance of his varying from himself in talk; for when Lord Hailes and he sat one morning calmly conversing in my house at Edinburgh, I well remember that Dr. Johnson maintained, that “ if a man is to write A Panegyrick, he may keep vices out of sight; but if he professes to write A Life, he must represent it really as it was :" and when I objected to the danger of telling that Parnel drank to excess, he said, that “ it would produce an instructive caution to avoid drinking, when it was seen, that even the learning and genius of Parnel could be debased by it.” And

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