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HE general sense of mankind and the practice
of the learned in all ages, have given a sanction to biographical history, and concurred to recommend that precept of the wise fon of Sirach, in which we are exhorted to ' praise famous men, such as by their counsels and by their knowledge of learning were meet for the people,-and were wise and eloquent in theirinstructions,--and such as recited verses in writing *.'In each of these faculties did the perfon, whose history I am about to write, so greatly excel, that, except for my presumption in the attempt to display his worth, the undertaking may be thought to need no apology; espe. cially if we contemplate, together with his mental endowments, those moral qualities which distinguished him, and reflect that, in an age when literary acqui.
• Ecclus. chap. xliv. ver. 1, & seqq.
sitions and scientific improvements are rated at their utmost value, he rested not in the applause which these procured him; but adorned the character of a scholar and a philosopher with that of a christian.
Justified, as I trust, thus far in the opinion of the reader, I may, nevertheless, stand in need of his excuse; for that, in the narration of facts that respect others, I have oftener spoke of myself, and in my own person, than the practice of some writers will warrant. To this objection, if any shall please to make it, I answer, that the reverse of wrong is not always right. By the office I have undertaken I stand engaged to relate facts to which I was a witness, conversations in which I was a party, and to record memorable sayings uttered only to myself. Whoever attends to these circumstances, must, besides the disgust which such an affectation of humility would excite, be convinced, that in some instances, the avoiding of egotisms had been extremely difficult, and in many impossible.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, the subject of the following memoirs, was the elder of the two sons of Michael Johnson, of the city of Lichfield, bookseller, and of Sarah his wife, a sister of Dr. Joseph Ford, a physician of great eminence, and father of the famous Cornelius otherwise called Parson Ford.* He was born, as I find it noted in his diary, on the seventh day of September, 1709: his brother, named Nathanael, was born some years after. Mr. Johnson was a man of eminence in his trade, and of such reputation in the city abovementioned, that he, more than once, bore, for a year, the office of bailiff or chief magistrate thereof, and discharged the duties of that exalted ftation with honour and applause. It may here be proper, as it will account for some particulars refpecting the character of his son Samuel, to mention, that his political principles led him to favour the pretenfions of the exiled family, and that though a very honest and sensible man, he, like many others inhabiting the country of Stafford, was a Jacobite.
* Of this perfon, who yet lives in the remembrance of a few of his associates, little can be related but from oral tradition. He was, as I have heard Johnson fay, a man of great wit and ftu. pendous parts, but of very profligate manners. He was chaplain to Lord Chesterfield during his residence at the Hague; but, as his lordship was used to tell him, precluded all hope of pre
ferment ferment by the want of a vice, namely, hypocrify. It was fupposed that the parson in Hogarth's modern midnight conversation, was intended to represent him in his hour of feftivity, foar in the morning.
It may farther be supposed, that he was poffeffed of foine amiable qualities either moral or personal, from a circumstance in his early life, of which evidence is yet semaining. While he was an apprentice at Leek in Staffordshire, a young woman of the fame town fell in love with him, and upon his removal to Lichfield followed him, and took lodgings opposite his house. Her passion was not unknown to Mr. Johnson, but he had no inclination to return it, till he heard thatit fo affected her mind that her life wasindanger, when he visited her, and made her a tender of his hand, but feeling the approach of death, she declined it, and shortly afcer died, and was interred in Lichfield cathedral. In pity
to her sufferings, Mr. Johnson caused a stone to be placed over her grave with this infcription :
Her lies the body of
She departed this life,
2d of September, 1694. The first born child of Mr. Johnson and his wife, their son Samuel, had the misfortune to receive, together with its nutriment derived froin a hired nurse, the seeds of that disease which troubled him through life, the struma, or, as it is called, the king's-evil ; for the cure whereof his mother, agreeable to the opinion then entertained of the efficacy of the royal touch, presented him to Queen Anne, who, for the last time, as it is said, that she ever performed that office, with her accustomed grace and benignity administered to the child as much of that healing quality as it was in her power to dispense, and hung about his neck the usual amulet of an angel of gold, with the impress of St. Michael the archangel on the one side, and a thip under full fail on the other.* It was probably
• This healing gift is said to have been derived to our princes from Edward the Confefior, and is recorded by his hiftorian, Alured Rivallensis. In Stow's annals we have a relation of the first cure of this kind which Edward performed; but, as it is rather disgusting to read it, I chase to give it in the words of the author from whence it is apparently taken, with this remark, that the kings of France lay claim to the fame miraculous power. ' Adolescentula quædam tra
dita nuptiis duplici laborabat incommodo. Nam faciem ejus mor• bus deformaverat, amorem viri fterilitas prolis ademerat : sub
faucibus quippe quafi glandes ei fuccreverant, quæ totam faciem • deformi tumore fæduntes, putrefa&tis fub cute humoribus, fan
guinem in faniem verterunt, inde nati vermes odorem teterri. mum exhalabant. Ita viro incutiebat morbus horrorem, fterilitas