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Johnson, in his hours of privacy, and in his devout approaches to his Maker. His sincerity, therefore, must appear to every candid mind unquestionable.
It is of essential consequence to keep in view that there was in this excellent man's conduct no false principle of commutation, no deliberate indulgence in sin, in consideration of a counterbalance of duty. His offending and his repenting were distinct and separate : 1 and when we consider his almost unexampled attention to truth, his inflexible integrity, his constant piety, who will dare to “ cast a stone at him?”. Besides, let it never be forgotten that he cannot be charged with any offence indicating badness of heart, any thing dishonest, base, or malignant; but that, on the contrary, he was charitable in an extraordinary degree : so that even in one of his own rigid judgments of himself (Easter-eve, 1781), while he says, “I have corrected no external habits ;” he is obliged to own, “ I hope that since my last communion I have advanced, by pious reflections, in my submission to God, and my benevolence to man.” (p. 186.)
I am conscious that this is the most difficult and dangerous part of my biographical work, and I cannot but be very anxious concerning it. I trust that I have got through it, preserving at once my regard to truth,—to my friend,-and to the interests of virtue and religion. Nor can I apprehend that more harm can ensue from the knowledge of the irregularities of Johnson, guarded as I have stated it, than from knowing that Addison and Parnell were inteinperate in the use of wine; which he himself, in his Lives of those celebrated writers and pious men, has not forborne to record.
It is not my intention to give a very minute detail of the particulars of Johnson's remaining days, of whom it was now evident that the crisis was fast approaching, when he must “ die like men, and fall like one of the princes." Yet it will be instructive, as well as gratifying to the curiosity of my readers, to record a few circumstances, on the authenticity of which they may perfectly rely, as I have been at the utmost pains to obtain an accurate account of his last illness, from the best authority.
1 Dr. Johnson related, with very earnest approbation, a story of a gentleman, who, in an impulse of passion, overcame the virtue of a young woman. When she said to him, “I am afraid we have done wrong!” he answered, “ Yes, we have done wrong ;” for he would not debauch her mind.
Dr. Heberden, Dr. Brocklesby, Dr. Warren, and Dr. Butter, physicians, generously attended him, without accepting any fees, as did Mr. Cruikshank, surgeon; and all that could be done from professional skill and ability was tried, to prolong a life so truly valuable. He himself, indeed, having, on account of his very bad constitution, been perpetually applying himself to medical inquiries, united his own efforts with those of the gentlemen who attended him; and imagining that the dropsical collection of water which oppressed him might be drawn off by making incisions in his body, he, with his usual resolute defiance of pain, cut deep, when he thought that his surgeon had done it too tenderly.!
About eight or ten days before his death, when Dr. Brocklesby paid him his morning visit, he seemed very low and desponding, and said, “I have been as a dying man all night.” He then emphatically broke out in the words of Shakspeare :
“ Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased;
Which weighs upon the heart ? " To which Dr. Brocklesby readily answered from the same great poet,
– Therein the patient Must minister to himself."
1 This bold experiment Sir John Hawkins (Life, p. 588-9) has related in such a manner as to suggest a charge against Johnson of intentionally bastening his end; a charge so very inconsistent with his character in every respect, that it is injurious even to refute it, as Sir John has thought it necessary to do.' It is evident, that what Johnson did in hopes of relief indicated an extraordinary eagerness to retard his dissolution,
Johnson expressed himself much satisfied with the application.
On another day after this, when talking on the subject of prayer, Dr. Brocklesby repeated from Juvenal,
“Orandum est, ut sit mens sana in corpore sano," and so on to the end of the tenth satire ; but in running it quickly over, he happened, in the line,
“Qui spatium vitæ extremum inter munera ponat," to pronounce supremum for extremum ; at which Johnson's critical ear instantly took offence, and discoursing vehemently on the unmetrical effect of such a lapse, he showed himself as full as ever of the spirit of the grammarian.
Having no other relations,' it had been for some time Johnson's intention to make a liberal provision for his faithful servant, Mr. Francis Barber, whom he looked upon as particularly under his protection, and whom he had all along treated truly as an humble friend. Having asked Dr. Brocklesby what wou.d be a proper annuity to a favourite servant, and being answered that it must depend
1 The author in a former page (p. 280 of this volume) has shown the injustice of Sir John Hawkins's charge against Johnson, with respect to a person of the name of Heely, whom he has inaccurately represented as a relation of Johnson's. That Johnson was anxious to discover whether any of his relations were living, is evinced by the following letter, written not long before he made his will :-
“ TO THE REV. DR. VYŞE.
“ Bolt Court, Nov. 29, 1784. “ Sir, I am desirous to know whether Charles Scrimshaw, of Woodsease (I think), in your father's neighbourhood, be now living; what is his condition, and where he may be found. If you can conveniently make any inquiry about him, and can do it without delay, it will be an act of great kindness to me, he being very nearly related to me. I beg [you] to pardon this trouble. I am, &c., “Sam. Johnson."
In conformity to the wish expressed in the preceding letter, an inquiry was made ; but no descendants of Charles Scrimshaw or of his sisters were discovered to be living. Dr. Vyse informs me, that Dr. Johnson told him, “ he was disappointed in the inquiries he had made after his relations." There is therefore no ground whatsoever for supposing that he was unmindful of them, or neglected them.-Malone.
on the circumstances of the master; and that in the case of a nobleman fifty pounds a year was considered as an adequate reward for many years' faithful service;-“Then,” said Johnson, “ shall I be nobilissimus, for I mean to leave Frank seventy pounds a year, and I desire you to tell him so." It is strange, however, to think, that Johnson was not free from that general weakness of being averse to execute a will, so that he delayed it from time to time; and had it not been for Sir John Hawkins's repeatedly urging it, I think it is probable that his kind resolution would not have been fulfilled. After making one, which, as Sir John Hawkins informs us, extended no further than the promised annuity, Johnson's final disposition of his property was established by a Will and Codicil, of which copies are subjoined.
1 “In the name of God. Amen. I, Samuel Johnson, being in full possession of my faculties, but fearing this night may put an end to my life, do ordain this my last will and testament. I bequeath to God a soul polluted by many sins, but I hope purified by Jesus Christ. I leave seven hundred and fifty pounds in the hands of Bennet Langton, Esq. : three hundred pounds in the hands of Mr. Barclay and Mr. Perkins, brewers; one hundred and fifty pounds in the hands of Dr. Percy, bishop of Dromore; one thousand pounds, three per cent. annuities in the public funds; and one hundred pounds now lying by me in ready money; all these before-mentioned sums and property I leave, I say, to Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir John Hawkins, and Dr. William Scott, of Doctors' Commons, in trust, for the following uses :- That is to say, to pay to the representatives of the late William Innys, bookseller, in St. Paul's Churchyard, the sum of two hundred pounds; to Mrs. White, my female servant, one hundred pounds stock in the three per cent. annuities aforesaid. The rest of the aforesaid sums of money and property, together with my books, plate, and household furniture, I leave to the before-mentioned Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir John Hawkins, and Dr. William Scott, also in trust, to be applied, after paying my debts, to the use of Francis Barber, my man-servant, a negro, in such manner as they shall judge most fit and available to his benefit. And I appoint the aforesaid Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir John Hawkins, and Dr. William Scott, sole executors of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills and testaments whatever. In witness whereof I hereuntu subscribe my name, and affix my seal, this eighth day of December, 1784.
“ Sam. JOHNSON, (L. S.) “ Signed, sealed, published, declared, and delivered, by the
said testator, as his last will and testament, in the presence
“ GEORGE STRAHAN.
The consideration of numerous papers of which he was possessed seems to have struck Johnson's mind with a sudden anxiety; and as they were in great confusion, it is much to be lamented that he had not intrusted some
“ By way of codicil to my last will and testament, I, Samuel Johnson, give, devise, and bequeath, my messuage or tenement situate at Lichfield, in the county of Stafford, with the appurtenances, in the tenure and occupation of Mrs. Bond, or Lichfield, aforesaid, or of Mr. Hinchman, her under-tenant, to my executors, in trust, to sell and dispose of the same; and the money arising from such sale I give and bequeath as follows, viz. to Thomas and Benjamin, the sons of Fisher Johnson, late of Leicester, and — Whiting, daughter of Thomas Johnson, late of Coventry, and the grand-daughter of the said Thomas Johnson, one full and equal fourth part each ; but in case there shall be more grand-daughters than one of the said Thomas Johnson living at the time of my decease, I give and bequeath the part or share of that one to and equally between such grand-daughters. I give and bequeath to the Rev. Mr. Rogers, of Berkley, near Froom, in the county of Somerset, the sum of one hundred pounds, requesting him to apply the same towards the maintenance of Elizabeth Herne, a lunatic. i also give and bequeath to my god-children, the son and daughter of Mauritius Lowe,* painter, each of them one hundred pounds of my stock in the three per cent. consolidated annuities, to be applied and disposed of by and at the discretion of my executors, in the education or settlement in the world of them my said legatees. Also I give and bequeath to Sir John Hawkins, one of my executors, the Annales Ecclesiastici of Baronius, and Holinshed's and Stowe's Chronicles, and also an octavo Common Prayer-Book. To Bennet Langton, Esq., I give and bequeath my Polyglot Bible. To Sir Joshua Reynolds, my great French Dictionary, by Martiniere; and my own copy of my folio English Dictionary, of the last revision. To Dr. William Scott, one of my executors, the Dictionnaire de Commerce, and Lectius's edition of the Greek Poets. To Mr. Windham, Poetæ Græci Heroici per Henricum Stephanum. To the Rev. Mr. Strahan, vicar of Islington, in Middlesex, Mill's Greek Testament, Beza's Greek Testament, by Stephens, all my Latin Bibles, and my Greek Bible, by Wechlius. To Dr. Heberden, Dr. Brocklesby, Dr. Butter, and Mr. Čruikshank, the surgeon who attended me, Mr. Holder, my apothecary, Gerard Hamilton, Esq., Mrs. Gardiner, of Snowhill, Mrs. Frances Reynolds, Mr. Hoole, and the Reverend Mr. Hoole, bis son, each a book at their election, to keep as a token of remembrance. I also give and bequeath to Mr. John Desmoulins, two hundred pounds consolidated three per cent. annuities; and to Mr. Sastres, the Italian master, the sum of five pounds, to be laid out in books of piety for his own use. And whereas the said Bennet Langton hath agreed, in consideration of the sum of seven hundred and fifty pounds, mentioned in my will to be in his hands to grant and secure an annuity of seventy
Johnson's relations with the Lowes, see Appendix to this
* O volume.