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legs are extremely weak, and my breath very short, and the water is now increasing upon me. In this uncomfortable state your letters used to relieve; what is the reason that I have them no longer ? Are you sick, or are your sullen ? Whatever be the reason, if it be less than necessity, drive it away; and of the short life that we have, make the best use for yourself and for your friends. * * * I am sometimes afraid that your omission to write has some real cause, and shall be glad to know that you are not sick, and that nothing ill has befallen dear Mrs. Boswell, or any of your family. I am, &c.,
Yet it was not a little painful to me to find that in a paragraph of this letter, which I have omitted, he still persevered in arraigning me as before, which was strange in him who had so much experience of what I suffered. I, however, wrote to him two as kind letters as I could ; the last of which came too late to be read by him, for his illness increased more rapidly upon him than I had apprehended; but I had the consolation of being informed that he spoke of me on his death-bed with affection, and I look forward with humble hope of renewing our friendship in a better world.
I now relieve the readers of this work from any farther personal notice of its author; who, if he should be thought to have obtruded himself too much upon their attention, requests them to consider the peculiar plan of his biographical undertaking.
Soon after Johnson's return to the metropolis, both the asthma and dropsy became more violent and distressful. He had for some time kept a journal in Latin of the state of his illness, and the remedies which he used, under the title of Ægri Ephemeris, which he began on the 6th of July, but continued it no longer than the 8th of November; finding, I suppose, that it was a mournful and unavailing register. It is in my possession; and is written with great care and accuracy.
Still his love of literature? did not fail. A very few
? It is truly wonderful to consider the extent and constancy of Jolin. son's literary ardour, notwithstanding the melancholy which clouded
days before his death he transmitted to his friend, Mr. John Nichols, a list of the authors of the Universal His. tory, mentioning their several shares in that work. It has, according to his direction, been deposited in the British Museum, and is printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, 1784.
and embittered his existence. Besides the numerous and various works which he executed, he had, at different times, formed schemes of a great many more, of which the following catalogue (see Appendix to this volume] was given by him to Mr. Langton, and by tbat gentleman presented io his Majesty.
In the first page of this little volume, his late Majesty King George III. wrote with his own hand :-" Original Manuscripts of Dr. Samuel Johnson, presented by his friend, — Langton, Esq. April 16th, 1785. G. R.”—Croker.
As the letter accompanying this list (which fully supports the observation in the text) was written but a week before Dr. Johnson's death, the reader may not be displeased to find it here preserved :
TO MR. NICHOLS.
“ December 6th, 1784. “ The late learned Mr. Swinton, having one day remarked that one man, meaning, I suppose, no man but himself, could assign all the parts of the Ancient Universal History to their proper authors, at the request of Sir Robert Chambers, or of myself, gave the account which I now transmit to you in his own hand; being willing that of so great a work the history should be known, and that each writer should receive his due proportion of praise from posterity.
“I recommend to you to preserve this scrap of literary intelligence in Mr. Swinton's own hand, or to deposit it in the Museum, that the veracity of this account may never be doubted. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. Johnson."
The History of the
Turks, Tartars, and Moguls.
- Independency of the Arabs. The Cosmogony, and a small part of the History immediately follow. ing; by Mr. Sale.
To the birth of Abraham ; chiefly by Mr. Shelvock.
During his sleepless nights he amused himself by translating into Latin verse, from the Greek, many of the epigrams in the “ Anthologia.” These translations, with some other poems by him in Latin, he gave to his friend Mr. Langton, who, having added a few notes, sold them to the booksellers for a small sum to be given to some of Johnson's relations, which was accordingly done; and they are printed in the collection of his works.
A very erroneous notion had circulated as to Johnson's deficiency in the knowledge of the Greek language, partly owing to the modesty with which, from knowing how inuch there was to be learnt, he used to mention his own comparative acquisitions. When Mr. Cumberland ? talked to him of the Greek fragments which are so well illustrated in “The Observer,” and of the Greek dramatists in general, he candidly acknowledged his insufficiency in that particular branch of Greek literature. Yet it may be said, that though not a great, he was a good Greek scholar. Dr. Charles Burney, the younger, who is universally ac
History of the Jews, Gauls, and Spaniards ; by Mr. Psalmanazar. Xenophon's Retreat; by the same.
History of the Persians and the Constantinopolitan Empire; by Dr. Campbel).
History of the Romans; by Mr. Bower.—Malone.
i On the subject of Dr. Johnson's skill in Greek, I have great pleasure in quoting an anecdote told by my late friend, Mr. Gifford, in his Life of Ford:
“My friend the late Lord Grosvenor had a house at Salt Hill, where I usually spent a part of the summer, and thus became acquainted with that great and good man, Jacob Bryant. Here the conversation turned one morning on a Greek criticism by Dr. Johnson in some volume lying on the table, which I ventured (for I was then young) to deem incorrect, and pointed it out to him. I could not help thinking that he was some. thing of my opinion, but he was cautious and reserved. “But, Sir,' said I, willing to overcome his scruples, ' Dr. Johnson himself admitted that he was not a good Greek scholar.'. Sir,' he replied, with a serious and impressive air, “ it is not easy for us to say what such a man as Johnson would call a good Greek scholar.' I hope that I profited by that lesson-certainly I never forgot it.”—Gifford's Works of Ford, vol. i., p. Ixii.- Croker.
? Mr. Cumberland assures me that he was always treated with great courtesy by Dr. Johnson, who, in his Letters to Mrs. Thrale, vol. ii., p. 68, thus speaks of that learned, ingenious, and accomplished gentleman : “ The want of company is an inconvenience, but Mr. Cumberland is a million."
knowledged by the best judges to be one of the few men of this age who are very eminent for their skill in that noble language, has assured me, that Johnson could give a Greek word for almost every English one; and that, although not sufficiently conversant in the niceties of the language, he, upon some occasions, discovered, even in these, a considerable degree of critical acumen. Mr. Dalzel, professor of Greek at Edinburgh, whose skill is unquestionable, mentioned to me, in very liberal terms, the im. pression which was made upon him by Johnson, in a con. versation which they had in London concerning that language. As Johnson, therefore, was undoubtedly one of the first Latin scholars in modern times, let us not deny to his fame some additional splendour from Greek.
I shall now fulfil my promise of exhibiting specimens of various sorts of imitation of Johnson's style.
In the “Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 1787," there is an “Essay on the Style of Dr. Samuel Johnson,” by the Reverend Robert Burrowes, whose respect for the great object of his criticism 1 is thus evinced in the concluding paragraph: “I have singled him out from the whole body of English writers, because his universally acknowledged beauties would be most apt to induce imitation: and I have treated rather on his faults, than his perfections, because an essay might comprise all the observations I could make upon his faults, while volumes would not be sufficient for a treatise on his perfections."
Mr. Burrowes has analysed the composition of Johnson, and pointed out its peculiarities with much acuteness ; and I would recommend a careful perusal of his Essay to those who being captivated by the union of perspicuity and splendour which the writings of Johnson contain, without having a sufficient portion of his vigour of mind, may be in danger of becoming bad copyists of his manner. I, however, cannot but observe, and I observe it to his credit, that this learned gentleman has himself caught no mean degree of the expansion and harmony which, independent of all other circumstances, characterise the sentences of Johnson. Thus, in the preface to the volume in which the Essay appears, we find,
i We must smile at a little inaccuracy of metaphor in the preface to the Transactions, which is written by Mr. Burrowes. The critic of the style of Johnson baving, with a just zeal for literature, observed, that the whole nation are called on to exert themselves, afterwards says, " They are called on by every tye which can have laudable influence on the heart of man.”
“If it be said, that in societies of this sort too much attention is frequently bestowed on subjects barren and speculative, it may be answered, that no one science is so little connected with the rest as not to afford many principles whose use may extend considerably beyond the science to which they primarily belong, and that no proposition is so purely theoretical as to be totally incapable of being applied to practical purposes. There is no apparent connection between duration and the cycloidal arch, the properties of which duly attended to have furnished us with our best regulated methods of measuring time: and he who had made himself master of the nature and affections of the logarithmic curve is not aware that he has advanced considerably towards ascertaining the proportionable density of the air at its various distances from the surface of the earth.”
The ludicrous imitators of Johnson's style are innumerable. Their general method is to accumulate hard words, without considering, that, although he was fond of introducing them occasionally, there is not a single sentence in all his writings where they are crowded together, as in the first verse of the following imaginary Ode by him to Mrs. Thrale," which appeared in the newspapers :
“ Cervisial coctor's viduate dame,
Opins't thou this gigantic frame, 1 Johnson's wishing to unite himself with this rich widow was mucn talked of, but I believe without foundation. The report, however, gave occasion to a poem, not without characteristical merit, entitled Ode to Mrs. Thrale, by Samuel Johnson, LL.D., on their supposed approaching Nuptials: printed for Mr. Faulder in Bond Street. I shall quote as a specimen the first three stanzas :
“If e'er my fingers touch'd the lyre,
In satire fierce, in pleasure gay,
Shall Sam refuse the sportive lay?