« PreviousContinue »
he is as awkward as a turnspit when first put into the wheel, and as sleepy as a dormouse.”
A friend having placed a pillow conveniently to support him, he thanked him for his kindness, and said, “That will do all that a pillow can do."
Once, when his servant brought him a note, he cried, "An odd thought strikes me—we shall receive no letters in the grave."
He repeated spiritedly a poem which he said he had composed some years before, on the occasion of a rich extravagant young gentleman's coming of age. He had never repeated it but once since its composition, and had given away only one copy of it. We quote the poem here, both for its own sake and because of the circumstances under which it was recited this second time.
Ling’ring year, at length is flown; Pride and pleasure, pomp and plenty, Great
are now your own.
Loosen'd from the minor's tether,
Free to mortgage or to sell, Wild as wind, and light as feather,
Bid the sons of thrift farewell.
Call the Betseys, Kates, and Jennies,
All the names that banish care; Lavish of your grandsire's guineas,
Show the spirit of an heir.
All that prey on vice and folly
Joy to see their quarry fly;
There the lender grave and sly.
Wealth, my lad, was made to wander,
Let it wander as it will ;
Bid them come and take their fill.
When the bonny blade carouses,
Pockets full, and spirits highWhat are acres ? what are houses?
Only dirt, or wet or dry.
Should the guardian friend or mother
Tell the woes of wilful waste;
You can hang or drown at last.
During all these last weary days the attachment of Johnson's numerous friends was steady, and their kindness unremitting. Mr. Langton's attentions were especially tender, and were as tenderly received :-“ Te teneam moriens deficiente manu” [Dying shall I hold thee with my failing hand], said the old man to this faithful one. Johnson kept none of his acquaintances away from his bedside; the sight of a human face looking upon him with affectionate respect had always been sweet, and was sweeter now than ever before. One day Langton found Burke and four or five more sitting with the dying man. Burke said to him, “I am afraid, Sir, such a number of us may be oppressive to you." "No, Sir," said Johnson, “it is not so ; and I must be in a wretched state indeed when your company would not be a delight to me.” Burke, with a trembling voice, replied, "My dear Sir, you have always been too good to me." Those were the last words that passed between these two noble men--perhaps the two noblest men of their time : and they were not the language of debate—they were a loving and everlasting farewell.
Sir Joshua Reynolds he requested to do three things in memory of him :-To forgive him thirty pounds which he had borrowed of him ; to read the Bible; and never to use his pencil on a Sunday. Sir Joshua promised all three.
A few days before his death he asked one of his executors where he would be buried, and seemed pleased when it was answered, "Doubtless in Westminster Abbey."
The sacrament was administered to him in his own room, and before receiving it he composed and uttered the following prayer :
Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now, as to human eyes
seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the death of thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer. Grant, O LORD, that my whole hope and confidence may be in his merits, and thy mercy; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance;
LIPS SEALED FOR EVER,
tude of my
make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity; and make the death of thy Son JESUS CHRIST effectual to my redemption. Have mercy upon me, and pardon the multioffences. Bless
my friends ; have mercy upon all men. Support me by thy Holy Spirit, in the days of weakness, and at the hour of death; and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“ Men might well seek For purifying rites; eren pious deeds
Need washing." This was what the Church-symbols meant for Dr. Johnsonwhatever they may or may not mean for us : and he did well to hold by them to the end.
On Monday, the 13th of December, a Miss Morris, daughter of a particular friend of his, called, and begged Francis to ask the Doctor to let her see him, that she might receive his blessing. The request was granted; the young lady entered the room; and the Doctor, turning himself in his bed, said, “God bless you, my dear !” These were the last words he ever spoke.
His difficulty of breathing increased till about seven o'clock in the evening, when Frank and Mrs. Desmoulins, who were sitting in the room, observed that the heavy respiration had ceased, and, on going to the bed, found that he had breathed his last. He had passed peacefully and painlessly away into the silent land: one more toiling brain and struggling heart for ever laid to rest.
Upon Monday, December 20th, his remains were deposited in Westminster Abbey, not far from the body of his friend and pupil, David Garrick; and over his grave was placed a large blue flagstone, with this inscription
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.,
Feelingly sucet is stillness after storm,
And now, at the close of our delightful labour, it hardly appears to us that we have told this Story of Johnson's Life; it seems rather that the story has told itself. It was fitting that he should be everything, and we nothing-except a kind of living note of admiration, marking the finest incidents in a manly career and the finest features in a manly character. Such a story is its own best commentator : yet surely some little good must result from this new and simple setting of the old and well-worn facts. Communion, though but for a short while, with the spirit of this man's life, fellowship with his sufferings, sympathy with his sorrows, the sense of his virtues, and the felt presence of his genius, will surely bring a touch of healing to some wounded heart, or a word of strength to some weary brain. It has been well said, “ The first condition of human goodness is, something to love; the second, something to reverence :” both these conditions meet, and meet grandly, in the Life of Doctor Samuel Johnson.
BRADBURY, AGNEW, & co., PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS.