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1784. Forgive, O merciful LORD, whatever I have done
contrary to thy laws. Give me such a sense of my Ætat. 75.
wi kedness as may produce true contrition and effectual repentance; so that when I shall be called into another state, I may be received among the sinners to whom sorrow and reformation have obtained pardon, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."2
Such was the distress of mind, such the penitence of 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 indul. gence in sin, in consideration of a counterbalance of duty. His offending, and his repenting, were distinct and separate:8 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 fogotten, 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
Prayers and Meditations, p. 130. Dr. Johnson related, with very earnest approbation, a story of a gentleman, who, in an impulse of passion, overcame the vire tue of a young woman. When she said to him, “I am afraid we have done wrong!" he answered, “Yes, we have done wrong; for I would not debauch her mind."
that since my last communion I have advanced, by 1784. pious reflections, in my submission to God, and my Ætat.75. benevolence to man."4
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 harın can ensue from the knowledge of the irregularities of Johnson, guarded as I have stated it, than from knowing that Addison and Parnell were intemperate 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 becn at the utmost pains to obtain an accurate account of his last illness, from the best authority.
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
Prayers and Meditations, p. 192.
1784. applying himself to medical inquiries, united his own Sefforts with those of the gentlemen who attended Ætat. 75.,
'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,
“ Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseas'd;
Plụck from the memory a rooted sorrow; « Raze out the written troubles of the brain; « And, with some sweet oblivious antidote, “ Cleansę- the stuff d bosom of that perilous stuff, “ Which weighs upon the heart?”
To which Dr. Brocklesby readily answer’d, from the saine great poet:
therein the patient “ Must minister to himself.”
Johnson expressed himself much satisfied with the application.
5 This bold experiment, Sir John Hawkins has related in such a manner as to suggest a charge against Johnson of intentionally hastening 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,
On another day after this, when talking on the 1784. subject of prayer, Dr. Brocklesby repeated from Juvenal,
Ætat. 7 5.
“ 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 shewed himself as full as ever of the spirit of the grammarian.
Having no other relations, it had been for some
[The authour in a former page has shewn the injustice of Sir John Hawkins's charge against Johnson, with respct to a person of the name of Heely, whom he has inaccurately represented as a relation of Johnson's. See p. 400.-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. VYSE, IN LAMBETII,
“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.
“ Your most humble servant, " Bolt-court, Fleet.street,
- SAM. JOHNSON.”
Nov, 29, 1784.
In conformity to the wish expressed in the preceding letter, an nquiry was made, but no descendants of Charles Scrimshaw or
1784. 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 would be a proper annuity to a favourite servant, and being answered that it must depend 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.?
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. M.]
7.“ IN TIDE 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.—1 leave seven hundred and fifty pounds in the hands of Bennet Langton, Esq.: three hundred pounds in the hands of Mr, Barclay and Mr. Ferkins, brewers; one hundred