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Many years ago, a fire broke out in the brick part which was built as an addition to the old gaol of Newgate. The prisoners were in consternation and tumult, calling out, “ We shall be burnt-we shall be burnt! down with the gate--down with the gate!” Mr. Akerman haftened to them, shewed himself at the gate, and having, after some confused vociferation of “ Hear him-hear him!” obtained a silent attention, he then calmly told them, that the gate must not go down; that they were under his care, and that they should not be permitted to escape: but that he could assure them, they need not be afraid of being burnt, for that the fire was not in the prison, properly so called, which was strongly built with stone ; and that if they would engage to be quiet, he himself would come in to them, and conduct them to the further end of the building, and would not go out till they gave him leave. To this proposal they agreed; upon which Mr. Akerman, having first made them fall back from the gate, went in, and with a determined resolution ordered the outer turnkey upon no account to open the gate, even though the prisoners (though he trusted they would not) should break their word, and by force bring himself to order it. “Never mind me, (said he,) should that happen.” The prisoners peaceably followed him, while he conducted them through passages, of which he had the keys, to the extremity of the gaol, which was molt distant from the fire. Having, by this very judicious conduct, fully satisfied them that there was no immediate risk, if any at all, he then addresled them thus: “ Gentlemen, you are now convinced that I told you true. I have no doubt that the engines will soon extinguish this fire: if they should not, a sufficient guard will come, and you shall all be taken our and lodged in the Compters. I assure you, upon my word and honour, that I have not a farthing insured. I have left my house that I might take care of you. I will keep my promise, and stay with you, if infift
it : but if you will allow me to go out and look after my family and property, I will be obliged to you.” Struck with his behaviour, they called out, “ Master Akerman, you have done bravely ; it was very kind in you: by all means go and take care of
He did fo accordingly, while they remained and were all preserved.
Johnson has been heard to relate the substance of this story with high praise, in which he was joined by Mr. Burke. My illustrious friend, speaking of Mr. Akerman's kindness to his prisoners, pronounced this eulogy upon his character: "He who has long had constantly in his view the worst of mankind, and is yet eminent for the humanity of his disposition,
must have had it originally in a great degree, and continued to cultivate it
In the course of this month my brother David waited upon Dr. Johnson,
To Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, April 29, 1780.
Johnson received him very politely, and has thus mentioned hiin in a letter to Mrs. Thrale 7: “ I have had with me a brother of Boswell's, a Spanish merchant', whom the war has driven from his residence at Valencia, he is gone to see his friends, and will find Scotland but a forry place after twelve years residence in a happier climate. He is a very agreeable man, and speaks no Scotch.”
“ MORE years' than I have any delight to reckon, have past since
? Vol. II. p. 163. Mrs. Piozzi has omitted the name, she best knows why,
your life long. Try change of air, and come a few degrees Southwards ; a softer climate may do you both good; winter is coming on; and London will be warmer, and gayer, and busier, and more fertile of amusement than Aberdeen.
My health is better ; but that will be little in the balance, when I tell you that Mrs. Montagu has been very ill, and is I doubt now but weakly. Mr. Thrale has been very dangerously disordered; but is much better, and I hope will totally recover.
He has withdrawn himself from business the whole summer. Sir Joshua and his sister are well; and Mr. Davies has had
great -fuccess as an authour', generated by the corruption of a bookseller. More news I have not to tell you, and therefore you must be contented with hearing, what I know not whether you much wish to hear’, that I am, Sir,
« Your most humble servant, “ Bolt-court, Fleet-street,
SAM. JOHNSON.” August 21, 1780.
TO JAMES Boswell, Esq. * DEAR SIR,
“ I FIND you have taken one of your fits of taciturnity, and have resolved not to write till you are written to; it is but a peevish humour, but you shall have your way. .
« I have fate at home in Bolt-court, all the summer, thinking to write the Lives, and a great part of the time only thinking. Several of them, however, are done, and I still think to do the rest.
“ Mr. Thrale and his family have, since his illness, passed their time first at Bath, and then at Brighthelmston; but I have been at neither place. I would have gone to Lichfield, if I could have had time, and I might have had time, if I had been active; but I have missed much, and done little.
Meaning his entertaining “Memoirs of David Garrick, Esq." of which Johnson (as Davies informed me) wrote the first sentence; thus giving as it were, the key-note to the performance. It is, indeed, very characteristical of its authour, beginning with a maxim, and proceeding to illustrate." All excellence has a right to be recorded. I fhall, therefore, think it fuperfluous to apologise for writing the life of a man, who by an uncommon assemblage of private virtues, adorned the highest eminence in a publick profession.”
2 I wish he had omitted the fufpicion expressed here, though I believe he meant nothing but jocularity; for though he and I differed fometimes in opinion, he well knew how much I loved and revered him. BEATTIE,
#6 In 3 It will, no doubt be remarked how he avoids the rebellious land of America. This puts me in mind of an anecdote, for which I am obliged to my worthy social friend, Governour Penn: “ At one of Miss E. Hervey's assemblies, Dr. Johnson was following her up and down the room; upon which Lord Abingdon observed to her, 'Your great friend is very fond of you, you can go no where without himn.'— Aye, (said she,) he would follow me to any part of the world.'— Then (said the Earl,) ask him to go with you to America." “ Elays on the History of Mankind."
« In the late disturbances, Mr. Thrale's house and stock were in great 1780. danger; the mob was pacified at their first invasion, with about fifty pounds Ætat. 71. in drink and meat; and at their second, were driven away by the soldiers. Mr. Strahan got a garrison into his house, and maintained them a fortnight; he was so frighted that he removed part of his goods. Mrs. Williams took shelter in the country.
“ I know not whether I shall get a ramble this autumn; it is now about the time when we were travelling. I have, however, better health than I had then, and hope you and I may yet shew ourselves on some part of Europe, Asia, or Africa'. In the mean time let us play no trick, but keep each other's kindness by all means in our power.
“ The bearer of this is Dr. Dunbar, of Aberdeen, who has written and
« Yours most affectionately,
This year he wrote to a young clergyman in the country, the following
“ NOT many days ago Dr. Lawrence shewed me a letter, in which
“ You are afraid of falling into some improprieties in the daily service, by reading to an audience that requires no exactness. Your fear, I hope,
secures you from danger. They who contract absurd habits are such as have no fear. It is impoflible to do the same thing very often, without some peculiarity of manner : but that manner may be good or bad, and a little care will at least preserve it from being bad : to make it very good, there must, I think, be something of natural or casual felicity, which cannot be taught.
“ Your present method of making your sermons seems very judicious. Few frequent preachers can be supposed to have sermons more their own than yours
will be. Take care to register, somewhere or other, the authours from whom your several discourses are borrowed ; and do not imagine that you shall always remember, even what perhaps you now think it imposible to forget.
My advice, however, is, that you attempt, from time to time, an original sermon; and in the labour of composition, do not burden your mind with too much at once; do not exact from yourself, at one effort of excogitation, propriety of thought and elegance of expression. Invent first, and then embellish. The production of something, where nothing was before, is an act of greater energy than the expansion or decoration of the thing produced. Set down diligently your thoughts as they rise, in the first words that occur; and, when you have matter, you will easily give it form: nor, perhaps, will this method be always necessary; for, by habit, your thoughts and diction will flow together.
“ The composition of sermons is not very difficult : the divisions not only help the memory of the hearer, but direct the judgement of the writer; they supply sources of invention, and keep every part in its proper place.
“ What I like least in your letter is your account of the manners of your parislı; from which I gather, that it has been long neglected by the parson. The Dean of Carlines, who was then a little rector in Northamptonshire, told me, that it might be discerned whether or no there was a clergyman
, resident in a parish, by the civil or savage manner of the people. Such a congregation as yours stands in much need of reformation ; and I would not have you think it impossible to reform them. A very savage parith was civilised by a decayed gentlewoman, who came among them to teach a petty school. My learned friend Dr. Wheeler of Oxford, when he was a young man, had the care of a neighbouring parish for fifteen pounds a year, which he was never paid ; but he counted it a convenience that it compelled him to make a sermon weekly. One woman he could not bring to the communion; and, when he reproved or exhorted her, she only answered, that she was no scholar. He was advised to set some good woman or man of the parish, a
s Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore.