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Would we alter the boast from the sword to the pen,
Has beat forty French', and will beat forty more 2 !" Johnson this year gave at once a proof of his benevolence, quickness of apprehension, and admirable art of composition, in the assistance which he gave to Mr. Zachariah Williams, father of the blind lady whom he had humanely received under his roof. Mr. Williams had followed the profession of physick in Wales; but having a very strong propensity to the study of natural philosophy, had made many ingenious advances towards a discovery of the longitude, and repaired to London in hopes of obtaining the great parliamentary reward. He failed of success; but Johnson having made himself master of his principles and experiments, wrote for him a pamphlet, published in quarto, with the following title : “ An Account of an Attempt to ascertain the Longitude at Sea, by an exact Theory of the Variation of the Magnetical Needle; with a Table of the Variations at the most remarkable Cities in Europe, from the year 1660 to 1860 +.” To diffuse it more extensively, it was accompanied with an Italian translation on the opposite page, which it is supposed was the work of Signor Baretti', an Italian of considerable literature, who having come to England a few years before, had been employed in the capacity both of a language master and an authour, and formed an intimacy with Dr. Johnson. This pamphlet Johnson presented to the Bodleian Library”. On' a blank leaf of it is pasted a paragraph cut out of a newspaper, containing an account of the death and character of Williams, plainly written by Johnson 3.
The number of the French Academy employed in settling their language. -BOSWELL.
? [This compliment is creditable to Garrick's placability, if we are to believe that he took to himself the character of Prospero in the Rambler of the 15th Feb. 1752 (see ante, p. 192); but it surely is not a very happy effort of wit. “Well arm'd like a hero of yore," and “ will beut forty more,' " have little meaning, and are awkward expletives, added, it would seem, merely because they rhymed. -Ed.]
3 [Mr. Williams, as early as 1721, persuaded himself that he had discovered the means of ascertaining the longitude, and he seeins to have passed a long life in that delusion.- En.]
In July this year he had formed some scheme of mental improvement, the particular purpose of which does not appear.
But we find in his “ Prayers and Meditations,” p. 25, a prayer entitled “On the Study of Philosophy, as an instrument of living;” and after it follows a note, “ This study was not pursued.”
On the 13th of the same month he wrote in his Journal the following scheme of life, for Sunday: Having lived” (as he with tenderness of conscience expresses himself) “ not without an habitual reverence for the Sabbath, yet without that attention to its religious duties which Christianity requires :"
1 This ingenious foreigner, who was a native of Piedmont, came to England about the year 1753, and died in London, May 5, 1789. A very candid and judicious account of him and his works, beginning with the words, “ So much asperity," and written, it is believed, by a distinguished dignitary in the church, [Dr. Vincent, Dean of Westminster), may be found in the Gentleman's Magazine for that year, p. 469.-MALONE.
? When Dr. Johnson was with me at Oxford, in 1755, he gave to the Bodleian Library a thin quarto of twenty-one pages, a work in Italian, with an English translation on the opposite page. The English title-page is this : “ An Account of an Attempt to ascertain the Longitude at Sea, by an exact Variation of the Magnetical Needle, &c. By Zachariah Williams. London, printed for Dodsley, 1755.” The English translation, from the strongest internal marks, is unquestionably the work of Johnson. In a blank leat, Johnson has written the age, and time of death, of the authour 2. Williams, as I have said above. On another blank leaf is pasted a paragraph from a newspaper, of the death and character of Williams, which is plainly written by Johnson. He was very anxious about placing this book in the Bodleian ; and, for fear of any omission or mistake, he entered, in the great Catalogue, the title-page of it with his own hand. WARTon.
In this statement there is a slight mistake. The English account, which was written by Johnson, was the original ; the Italian was a translation, done by Baretti.-MALONE.
3 “ On Saturday the 12th (July, 1755), about twelve at night, died Mr. Zachariah Williams, in his eighty-third year, after an illness of eight months, in full possession of his mental faculties. He has been long known to philosophers and seamen for his skill in magnetism, and his proposal to ascertain the longitude by a peculiar system of the variation of the compass. He was a man of industry indefatigable, of conversation inoffensive, patient of adversity and disease, eminently sober, temperate, and pious; and worthy to have ended life with better fortune."
“1. To rise early, and in order to it, to go to sleep early on Saturday.
“ 2. To use some extraordinary devotion in the morning.
“ 3. To examine the tenour of my life, and particularly the last week; and to mark my advances in religion, or recession from it.
“ 4. To read the Scripture methodically with such helps as are at hand.
“5. To go to church twice.
“ 6. To read books of Divinity, either speculative or practical.
« 7. To instruct my family.
sv8. To wear off by meditation any worldly soil contracted in the week !."
In 1756 Johnson found that the great fame of his Dictionary had not set him above the necessity of
making provision for the day that was passing over him.” No royal or noble patron extended a munificent hand to give independence to the man who had conferred stability on the language of his country. We may feel indignant that there should have been such unworthy neglect; but we must, at the same time, congratulate ourselves, when we consider, that to this very neglect, operating to rouse the natural indolence of his constitution, we owe many valuable productions, which otherwise, perhaps, might never have appeared.
He had spent, during the progress of the work, the money for which he had contracted to write his Dictionary. We have seen that the reward of his labour was only fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds; and when the expense of amanuenses and paper, and other articles, are deducted, his clear profit was very inconsiderable. I once said to him, “ I am sorry, sir, you did not get more for your Dictionary.” His answer was, “ I am sorry too.
1 [In 1755 Johnson seems to have written for Mrs. Lenox the dedication to the Duke of Newcastle of her Translation of Sully's Memoirs.-ED.)
But it was very well. The booksellers are generous, liberal-minded men.” He, upon all occasions, did ample justice to their character in this respect. He considered them as the patrons of literature; and, indeed, although they have eventually been considerable gainers by his Dictionary, it is to them that we owe its having been undertaken and carried through at the risk of great expense, for they were not absolutely sure of being indemnified.
[In 1756, Mr. Garrick, ever disposed to help the afflicted, indulged Miss Williams with a benefit-play, that produced her two hundred pounds.] [Johnson, as might be expected, exerted his influence to swell the profits of this act of kindness, which indeed was probably intended by Garrick as a mark of regard as much to Johnson as to Miss Williams. ]
[“ DR. JOHNSON TO MISS CARTER.
“Gough-square, 14th Jan. 1756. “Madam,—From the liberty of writing to you, if I have hitherto been deterred from the fear of your understanding, I am now encouraged to it from the confidence of your goodness.
“I am soliciting a benefit for Miss Williams, and beg that if you can by letters influence any in her favour (and who is there whom you cannot influence?) you will be pleased to patronize her on this occasion. Yet, for the time is short, and as , you were not in town, I did not till this day remember that you might help us, and recollect how widely and how rapidly light is diffused.
“ To every joy is appended a sorrow. The name of Miss Carter introduces the memory of Cave. Poor dear Cave! I owed him much; for to him I owe that I have known you. He died, I am afraid, unexpectedly to himself, yet surely unburthened
[They seem to have been immediately considerable gainers, for a second folio edition was (if we may credit the title-page) published in the same year as the first-an extraordinary sale for so great and expensive a work.--Ed.)
with any great crime, and for the positive duties of religion I have yet no right to condemn him for neglect.
“I am, with respect, which I neither owe nor pay to any other, madam, your most obedient and most humble servant,
“Sam. Johnson."] On the first day of this year we find, from his private devotions, that he had then recovered from sickness, and in February that his eye was restored to its use. The pious gratitude with which he acknowledges mercies upon every occasion is very edifying; as is the humble submission which he breathes, when it is the will of his heavenly Father to try him with afflictions. As such dispositions become the state of man here, and are the true effect of religious discipline, we cannot but venerate in Johnson one of the most exercised minds that our holy religion hath ever formed. If there be any thoughtless enough to suppose such exercise the weakness of a great understanding, let them look up to Johnson, and be convinced that what he so earnestly practised must have a rational foundation.
[The two next letters are 'melancholy evidence of Ed. the pecuniary distress in which he was at this period involved. It is afflicting to contemplate the author of the Rambler and the Dictionary reduced to such precarious means of existence as the casual profits froin magazines and reviews, and subjected to all the evils and affronts of a state of penury; but it, at the same time, raises our admiration and esteem to recollect that even in this season of distress he continued to share his mite with Miss Williams, Mr. Levett, and the other objects of his charitable regard.] [“ DR. JOHNSON TO MR. RICHARDSON.
Rich, “ Tuesday, 19th Feb. 1756.
Cor. “DEAR SIR, I return you my sincerest thanks for the favour' vol. 5. which you were pleased to do me two nights ago.
· [“ This letter was written in consequence of Mr. Richardson's having given VOL. I.