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After the declaration he had made of his intention to provide for his servant Frank, and before his going into the country, I had frequently pressed him to make a will, and had gone so far as to make a draft of one, with blanks for the names of the executors and residuary legatee, and directing in what manner it was to be executed and attested; but he was exceedingly averse to this business; and, while he was in Derbyshire, I repeated my solicitations, for this purpose, by letters. When he arrived in town, he had done nothing in it, and, to what I formerly said, I now added, that he had never mentioned the disposal of the residue of his estate, which, after the purchase of an annuity for Frank, would be something considerable, and that he would do well to bequeath it to his relations. His answer was, “I care not what becomes of the residue.” A few days after, it appeared that he had executed the draft, the blanks remaining, with all the solemnities of a real will. I could get bim no further; and thus, for some time, the matter rested.
His complaints still increasing, I continued pressing him to make a will; but he still procrastinated that busi
On the 27th of November, in the morning, I went to his house, with a purpose still farther to urge him not to give occasion, by dying intestate, for litigation among his relations; but finding that he was gone to pass the day with the Rev. Mr. Strahan, at Islington, I followed him thither, and found there our old friend Mr. Ryland, and Mr. Hoole. Upon my sitting down, he said, that the prospect of the change he was about to undergo, and the thought of meeting his Saviour, troubled him, but that he had hope that he would not reject him.
I then began to discourse with him about his will, and the provision for Frank, till he grew angry.
He told me,
These say, that reason is a sufficient rule of action, and that God needs not to be supplicated, nor requires our thanks. Of this class of individuals I take Annet to have been one, he who wrote against the miracles, and was some years ago convicted of blasphemy, and sentenced to imprisonment. The wife of Jackson, the bookseller, in Clare Court, Drury Lane, once told me, that this man would often call in at their shop; and if he happened to see a Bible lying on the counter, would entreat her to take it away, for that he could not bear the sight of it.
that he had signed and sealed the paper I left him : “But that,” said I, “had blanks in it, which, as it seems, you have not filled up with the names of the executors.” “You should have filled them up yourself,” answered he. I replied, that such an act would have looked as if I meant to prevent his choice of a fitter
person. “Sir,” said he, " these minor virtues are not to be exercised in matters of such importance as this.” At length he said, that on his return home he would send for a clerk, and dictate a will to him. “ You will then,” said I, “be inops consilii ; rather do it now. With Mr. Strahan's permission I will be his guest at dinner; and, if Mr. Hoole will please to hold the pen, I will, in a few words, make such a disposition of your estate as you shall direct.” To this he assented; but such a paroxysm of the asthma seized him, as prevented our going on. As the fire burned up, he found himself relieved, and grew cheerful. - The fit," said he, “was very sharp; but I am now easy."
After I had dictated a few lines, I told him, that the ancient form of wills contained a profession of the faith of the testator; and that he being a man of eminence for learning and parts, it would afford an illustrious example, and well become him, to make such an explicit declaration of his belief, as might obviate all suspicions that he was any
other than a Christian. He thanked me for the hint, and, calling for paper, wrote on a slip, that I had in my hand and gave him, the following words : _“I humbly commit to the infinite and eternal goodness of Almighty God, my soul, polluted with many sins — but, as I hope, purified by repentance, and redeemed, as I trust, by the death of Jesus Christ ('); and returning it to me, said, “ This I commit to your custody.”
Upon my calling on him for directions to proceed, he told me that his father, in the course of his trade of a
(1) The will of the other great luminary of that age, Mr. Burke, is throughout strikingly characteristic, and was no doubt chiefly drawn up by himself. Those who revere bis memory will read with satisfaction the opening declaration. “ First, according to the ancient, good, and laudable custom, of which my heart and understanding recognise the propriety, I bequeath my soul to God, hoping for his mercy through the only merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”. MARKLAND.
bookseller, had become bankrupt, and that Mr. William Innys had assisted him with money or credit to continue his business. “ This,” said he, “I consider as an obligation on me to be grateful to his descendants, and I therefore mean to give 2001. to his representative.” He then meditated a devise of his house at Litchfield to the corporation of that city for a charitable use; but, it being freehold, he said, “I cannot live a twelvemonth, and the last statute of mortmain stands in the way: I must therefore, think of some other disposition of it.” His next consideration was, a provision for Frank, concerning the amount whereof I found he had been consulting Dr. Brocklesby; to whom he had put this question, "What would be a proper annuity to bequeath to a favourite servant?” The doctor answered, that the circumstances of the master were the truest measure ; and that, in the case of a nobleman, 501. a year was deemed an adequate reward for many years' faithful service. " Then shall 1,” said Johnson, “be nobilissimus; for I mean to leave Frank 701. a year, and I desire you to tell him so."
And now, at the making of the will, a devise, equivalent to such a provision, was therein inserted. The residue of his estate and effects, which took in, though he intended it not, the house at Litchfield, he bequeathed to his executors, in trust for a religious association ; which it is needless to describe.
Having executed the will with the necesary formalities, he would have come home; but being pressed by Mr. and Mrs. Strahan to stay, he consented, and we all dined together. Towards the evening he grew cheerful ; and I having promised to take him in my coach, Mr. Strahan and Mr. Ryland would accompany him home. In the way thither he appeared much at ease, and told stories. At eight I set him down, and Mr. Strahan and Mr. Ryland betook themselves to their respective homes.
Sunday, Nov. 28th. I saw him about noon : he was dozing ; but waking, he found himself in a circle of his friends. Upon opening his eyes, he said, that the prospect of his dissolution was very terrible to him, and addressed himself to us all, in nearly these words : “ You see the state in which I am ; conflicting with bodily pain and mental distraction : while you are in health and strength, labour to do good, and avoid evil, if ever you hope to escape the distress that now oppresses me.”
A little while after,—“ I had, very early in my life, the seeds of goodness in me: I had a love of virtue, and a reverence for religion ; and these, I trust, have brought forth in me fruits meet for repentance ; and, if I have repented as I ought, I am forgiven. I have, at times, entertained a loathing of sin and of myself, particularly at the beginning of this year, when I had the prospect of death before me; and this has not abated when my
fears of death have been less; and, at these times, I have had such rays of hope shot into my soul, as have almost persuaded me that I am in a state of reconciliation with God.”
29th. Mr. Langton, who had spent the evening with him, reported that his hopes were increased, and that he was much cheered upon being reminded of the general tendency of his writings, and of his example.
30th. I saw him in the evening, and found him cheerful. Was informed that he had, for his dinner, eaten heartily of a French duck pie and a pheasant. Dec. 1. He was busied in destroying papers.
Gave to Mr. Langton and another person ('), to fair-copy, some translations of the Greek epigrams, which he had made in the preceding nights, and transcribed the next morning, and they began to work on them.
3rd. Finding his legs continue to swell, he signified to his physicians a strong desire to have them scarified; but they, unwilling to put him to pain, and fearing a mortification, declined advising it. He afterwards consulted his surgeon, and he preformed the operation on one leg.
4th. I visited him : the scarification made yesterday in his leg appeared to have had little effect.
He said to me, that he was easier in his mind, and as fit to die at that instant as he could be a year hence. He requested me to receive the sacrament with him on Sunday, the
(1) (Young Mr. Desmoulins.-C.]
next day. Complained of great weakness, and of phantoms that haunted his imagination.
5th. Being Sunday, I communicated with him and Mr. Langton, and other of his friends, as many as nearly filled the room. Mr. Strahan, who was constant in his attendance on him throughout his illness, performed the office. Previous to reading the exhortation, Johnson knelt, and, with a degree of fervour that I had never been witness to before, uttered the following most eloquent and energetic prayer :
Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now, as to human eyes it 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 in thy mercy : forgive and accept my late conversion ; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance ; make this commemoration of him 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 effectual to my redemption. Have mercy upon me, and pardon the multitude of my offences. Bless my friends : have mercy upon all men. Support me by the grace of 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."
Upon rising from his knees, after the office was concluded, he said, that he dreaded to meet God in a state of idiotcy, or with opium in his head ; and, that having now communicated with the effects of a dose upon him, he doubted if his exertions were the genuine operations of his mind, and repeated from Bishop Taylor this sentiment,
6. That little that has been omitted in health can be done to any purpose in sickness.” ()
While he was dressing and preparing for this solemnity, an accident happened which went very near to disarrange his mind. He had mislaid, and was very anxious to find a paper that contained private instructions to his execu
(1) He very much admired, and often in the course of his illness recited, from the conclusion of old Isaac Walton's Life of Bishop Sanderson, the following pathetic request :-“ Thus this pattern of meekness and primitive innocence changed this for a better life: -'tis now too late to wish that mine may be like bis; for I am in the eighty-fifth year of my age, and God knows it hath not : but, I most humbly beseech Almighty God, that my death may; and I do as earnestly beg, that, if any reader shall receive any satisfaction from this very plain, and as true, relation, he will be so charitable as to say Amen."