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1784. We now behold Johnson for the last time, in his Ætat. Et native city, for which he ever retained a warm affec75. tion, and which, by a sudden apostrophe, under the
word Lich, he introduces with reverence, into his immortal Work, THE ENGLISH DICTIONARY :- Salve, magna parens !” While here, he felt a revival of all the tenderness of filial affection, an instance of which appeared in his ordering the grave-stone and inscription over Elizabeth Blaney, to be substantially and carefully renewed.
To Mr. Henry White, a young clergyman, with whom he now formed an intimacy, so as to talk to him. with great freedom, he mentioned that he could not in general accuse himself of having been an undutiful son. « Once, indeed, (said he,) I was disobedient ; I refused to attend my father to Úttoxeter-market.
Pride was the source of that refusal, and the remembrance of it
vertence, and draw no general inference ? the truth is, that Johnson was so attentive, that in one of his manuscripts in my possession, he has marked in two columns, books borrowed, and books lent.
In Sir John Hawkins's compilation, there are, however, some passages concerning Johnson which have unquestionable merit. One of them I shall transcribe, in justice to a writer whom I have had too much occasion to censure, and to shew my fairness as the biographer of my illustrious friend : “There was wanting in his conduct and behaviour, that 'dignity which results from a regular and orderly course of action, and by an irresistible power commands esteem. He could not be said to be a stayed man, nor so to have adjusted in his mind the balance of reason and passion, as to give occasion to say what may be observed of some men, that all they do is just, fit, and right.” Yet a judicious friend well suggests, “ It might, however, have been added, that such men are often merely just, and rigidly correct, while their hearts are cold and unfeeling; and that Johnson's virtues were of a much higher tone than those of the stayed, orderly man, here described.”
: The following circumstance, mutually to the honour of Johnson and the corporation of his native city, has been communicated to me by the Reverend Dr. Vyse, from the Town-Clerk : “Mr. Simpson has now before him, a record of the respect and veneration which the Corporation of Lichfield, in the year 1767, had for the merits and learning of Dr. Johnson. His father built the corner house in the Market-place, the two fronts of which, towards Market and Broad-market-street, stood upon waste land of the Corporation, under a forty years' lease, which was then expired. On the 15th of August, 1767, at a common-hall of the bailiffs and citizens, it was ordered (and that without any solicitation,) that a lease should be granted to Samuel Johnson, Doctor of Laws, of the encroachments at his house, for the term of ninety-nine years, at the old rent, which was five shillings. Of which, as Town-Clerk, Mr, Simpson had the honour and pleasure of informing him, and that he was desired to accept it, without paying any fine on the occasion, which lease was afterwards granted, and the Doctor died possessed of this property."
See Vol. I. p. 35.
was painful. A few years ago I desired to atone for 1784. this fault, I went to Uttoxeter in very bad weather, and
Ætat. stood for a considerable time bare headed in the rain, 75. on the spot where my father's stall used to stand. In contrition I stood, and I hope the penance was expiatory.”
“ I told him (says Miss Seward) in one of my latest visits to him, of a wonderful learned pig, which I had seen at Nottingham ; and which did all that we have observed exhibited by dogs and horses. The subject amused him. “Then, (said he,) the pigs are a race unjustly calumniated. Pig has, it seems, not been wanting to man, but man to pig. We do not allow time for his education, we kill him at a year old. Mr. Henry White, who was present, observed that if this instance had happened in or before Pope's time, he would not have been justified in instancing the swine as the lowest degree of groveling instinct. Dr. Johnson seemed pleased with the observation, while the person who. made it proceeded to remark, that great torture must have been employed, ere the indocility of the animal could have been subdued. Certainly, (said the Doctor ;) but, (turning to me,) how old is your pig?' I told him, three years old. • Then, (said he,) the pig has no cause to complain ; he would have been killed the first year if he had not been educated, and protracted existence is a good recompence for very considerable degrees of torture.”
As Johnson had now very faint hopes of recovery, and as Mrs. Thrale was no longer devoted to him, it might have been supposed that he would naturally have chosen to remain in the comfortable house of his beloved wife's daughter, and end his life where he began it. But there was in him an animated and lofty spirit,' and however complicated diseases might depress ordinary mortals, all who saw him beheld and
· Mr. Burke suggested to me as applicable to Johnson, what Cicero in his Cato Major, says of Appius : “ Intentum enim animum tanquam arcum habebat, nec languescens succumbebat senectuti ;” repeating, at the same time, the following noble words in the same passage : “ Ita enim senectus honesta est si se ipsa defendit, si jus suum retinet, si nemini emancipata est, si usque ad extremum vitæ spiritum vindicem jus suum.”
1784. acknowledged the invictum animum Catonis. : Such Ætat. was his intellectual ardour even at this time, that he 75. said to one friend, “ Sir, I look upon every day to be
lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance ;” and to another, when talking of his illness, “ I will be conquered ; I will not capitulate.” And such was his
; love of London, so high a relish had he of its magnificent extent, and variety of intellectual entertainment, that he languished when absent from it, his mind having become quite luxurious from the long habit of enjoying the metropolis ; and, therefore, although at Lichfield, surrounded with friends who loved and revered him, and for whom he had a very sincere affection, he still found, that such conversation as London affords, could be found no where else. These feelings, joined, probably, to some flattering hopes of aid from the eminent physicians and surgeons in London, who kindly and generously attended him without accepting fees, made him resolve to return to the capital.
From Lichfield he came to Birmingham, where he passed a few days with his worthy old schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, who thus writes to me: “He was very solicitous with me to recollect some of our most early transactions, and transmit them to him, for I perceived nothing gave him greater pleasure than calling to mind those days of our innocence. I complied with his request, and he only received them a few days before his death. I have transcribed for your inspection, exactly the minutes I wrote to him.” This paper having been found in his repositories after his death, Sir John Hawkins has inserted it entire, and I have made occasional use of it and other communications from Mr. Hector, 2 in the
(Atrocem animum Catonis, are Horace's words, and it may be doubted whether etrox is used by any other original writer in the same sense. Stubborn is perhaps the most correct translation of this epithet. M.]
? It is a most agreeable circumstance attending the publication of this work, that Mr. Hector has survived his illustrious school-fellow so many years; that he still retains his health and spirits ; and has gratified me with the following acknowledgement : “ I thank you, most sincerely thank you, for the great and long continued entertainment your Life of Dr. Johnson has afforded me, and others, of my particular friends.” Mr. Hector, besides setting me right as to the verse on a sprig of Myrtle, (see Vol. I. p. 76, note,) has favoured me with two English odes,
course of this work. I have both visited and corres- 1784. ponded with him since Dr. Johnson's death, and by my Ætar. enquiries concerning a great variety of particulars have 75. obtained additional information. I followed the same mode with the Reverend Dr. Taylor, in whose presence I wrote down a good deal of what he could tell; and he, at my request, signed his name, to give it authenticity. It is very rare to find any person who is able to give a distinct account of the life even of one whom he has known intimately, without questions being put to them. My friend Dr. Kippis, has told me, that on this account it is a practice with bim to draw out a biographical catechism.
Johnson then proceeded to Oxford, where he was again kindly received by Dr. Adams, 3 who was pleased to give me the following account in one of his letters,
written by Dr. Johnson, at an early period of his life, which will appear in my edition of his Poems.
[This early and worthy friend of Johnson died at Birmingham, September 2, 1794. M.]
3 [This amiable and excellent man survived Dr. Johnson about four years, having died in January 1789, at Gloucester, where a Monument is erected to his Memory, with the following Inscription :
Sacred to the Memory of
WILLIAM ADAMS, D. D.
Archdeacon of Landaff.
Ingenious, Learned, Eloquent,
Pious, Benevolent, and Charitable,
Pure, and undeviating in his own Conduct,
He was on all occasions forward to encourage
His vigilant Attention was uniformly exerted
Whilst the mild Dignity of his Deportment,
Inspired Esteem, Gratitude, and Affection.
He died Jan. 13th, 1789, aged 82.
1784. (Feb. 17th, 1785:) “ His last visit was, I believe, to Ætat, my house, which he left, after a stay of four or five 75. days. We had much serious talk together, for which I
ought to be the better as long as I live. You will remember some discourse which we had in the summer upon the subject of prayer, and the difficulty of this sort of composition. He reminded me of this, and of my having wished him to try his hand, and to give us a specimen of the style and manner that he approved. He added, that he was now in a right frame of mind, and as he could not possibly employ his time better, he would in earnest set about it. But I find upon enquiry, that no papers of this sort were left behind him, except a few short ejaculatory forms suitable to his present situation."
Dr. Adams had not then received accurate information on this subject ; for it has since appeared that various prayers had been composed by him at different periods, which intermingled with pious resolutions, and some short notes of his life, were entitled by him
Prayers and Meditations,” and have, in pursuance of his earnest requisition, in the hopes of doing good, been published, with a judicious well written Preface, by the Reverend Mr. Strahan, to whom he delivered them. This admirable collection, to which I have frequently referred in the course of this Work, evinces, beyond all his compositions for the publick, and all the eulogies of his friends and admirers, the sincere virtue and piety of Johnson. It proves with unquestionable authenticity, that amidst all his constitutional infirmities, his earnestness to conform his practice to the precepts of Christianity was unceasing, and that he habitually endeavoured to refer every transaction of his life to the will of the Supreme Being.
He arrived in London on the 16th of November, and next day sent to Dr. Burney the following note, which I insert as the last token of his remembrance of that ingenious and amiable man, and as another of the many proofs of the tenderness and benignity of his heart :