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easy respiration, would have undergone any degree of temporary pain. He dreaded neither punctures nor incisions, and, indeed, defied the trochar and the lancet; he had often reproached his physicians and surgeon with cowardice; and when Mr. Cruikshank scarified his leg, he cried out, “Deeper, deeper ; I will abide the consequence : you are afraid of your reputation, but that is nothing to me.” To those about him he said, “You all pretend to love me, but you do not love me as well as I myself do.”
I have been thus minute in regarding the particulars of his last moments, because I wished to attract attention to the conduct of this great man, under the most trying circumstances human nature is subject to. Many persons have appeared possessed of more serenity of mind in this awful scene; some have remained unmoved at the dissolution of the vital union; and it may be deemed a discouragement from the severe practice of religion, that Dr. Johnson, whose whole life was a preparation for his death, and a conflict with natural infirmity, was disturbed with terror at the prospect of the grave. (') Let not this relax the circumspection of any one. It is true, that natural firmness of spirit, or the confidence of hope, may buoy up
the mind to the last; but however heroic an undaunted death may appear, it is not what we should pray for. As Johnson lived the life of the righteous, his end was that of a Christian ; he strictly fulfilled the injunction of the apostle, to work out his salvation with fear and trembling ; and though his doubts and scruples were certainly very distressing to himself, they give his friends a pious hope, that he who added to almost all the virtues of Christianity that religious humility which its great teacher inculcated, will, in the fulness of time, receive the reward promised to a patient continuance in well-doing.
(1) (Hawkins seems to confound two different periods. At the first appear. ance of danger, Dr. Johnson exhibited great, and perhaps gloomy anxiety, which, however, under the gradual effect of religious contemplations and devotional exercises, gave way to more comfortable hopes suggested by a lively faith in the propitiatory merits of his Redeemer. In this tranquillising disposition the last days of his life seem to have been passed, and in this christian confidence it is believed that he died.-C.]
BY THOMAS TYERS, ESQ. (1)
286. Christopher Smart. CHRISTOPHER SMART was at first well received by Johnson. I owe my acquaintance with him (), which lasted thirty years, to the introduction of that bard. Johnson, whose hearing was not always good, understood Smart to call me by the name of Thyer, that eminent scholar, librarian of Manchester, and a nonjuror.
nonjuror. This mistake was rather beneficial than otherwise to me. Johnson had been much indisposed all that day, and repeated psalm he had just translated, during his affliction, into Latin verse, and did not commit it to paper.
For so re(1) (From a biographical sketch of Dr. Johnson, published in 1785. Mr. Tyers very modestly calls his pamphlet a Sketch ; and he certainly writes, as Mr. Boswell says, in a careless and desultory style; but there seems, on examination, no reason to doubt the accuracy of his facts; indeed, all the other biographers have either borrowed from Tyers, or have told the same stories in the same way as he has done, and thus vouched for his general accuracy.-C.)
(2) [For an account of “ Tom Tyers," as Johnson always called him, see Croker, Vol. I. p. 304. His literary qualitications are thus pleasantly described in the 48th number of “ The Idler," a circumstance pointed out to Mr. Nichols by Dr. Johnson himself: “ Learning is generally confessed to be desirable, and there are some who fancy themselves always busy in acquiring it. Of these ambulatory students, one of the most busy is my friend Tom Restless. Tom has long bad a mind to be a man of knowledge : but he does not care to spend much time among authors ; for he is of opinion that few books deserve the labour of perusal. Tom has, therefore, found another way to wisdom. When he rises, he goes into a coffee-house, where he creeps so near to men whom he takes to be reasoners, as to hear their discourse; and endeavours to remember something, which, when it has been strained through Tom's head, is so near to nothing, that what it once was cannot be discovered. This he carries round from friend to friend, through a circle of visits, till, hearing what each says upon the question, he becomes able, at dinner, to say a little himself; and, as every great genius relaxes himself anong his inferiors, he meets with some who wonder how any mortal man can talk so wisely. At night, he has a new feast prepared for his intellects; he always runs to some society, or club, where he half hears what he would but half understand; goes home pleased with the consciousness of a day well spent ; lies down full of ideas, and rises in the morning, empty as before.")
tentive was his memory, that he could always recover whatever he lent to that faculty. Smart, in return, recited some of his own Latin compositions. He had translated with success, and to Mr. Pope's satisfaction, his “St. Cecilian Ode."
287. Music. — Painting. Though Johnson composed so harmoniously in Latin and English, he had no ear for music ; and though he lived in such habits of intimacy with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and once intended to have written the lives of the painters, he had no eye, nor perhaps taste, for a picture or a landscape.
288. Reading Johnson preferred conversation to books ; but when driven to the refuge of reading by being left alone, he then attached himself to that amusement. By his innumerable quotations, one would suppose, that he must have read more books than any man in England; but he declared that supposition was a mistake in his favour. He owned he had hardly read a book through. Churchill used to say, having heard perhaps of his confession, as a boast, that “if Johnson had only read a few books, he could not be the author of his own works.” His opinion, however, was, that he who reads most, has the chance of knowing most ; but he declared, that the perpetual task of reading was as bad as the slavery in the mine, or the labour at the oar.
289. Greek. He owned that many knew more Greek than himself ; but his grammar, he said, would show that he had once taken pains.
Sir William Jones, one of the most enlightened of the sons of men, as Johnson described him, has often declared that he knew a great deal of Greek.
290. Churchill.- Cock Lane Ghost. Churchill challenged Johnson to combat; satire the weapon. Johnson never took up the gauntlet or replied ; for he thought it unbecoming him to defend himself
against an author who might be resolved to have the last word. He was content to let his enemies feed upon him as long as they could. I have heard Churchill declare, that he thought Johnson's poems of · London,' and the • Vanity of Human Wishes,' full of admirable verses, and that all his compositions were diamonds of the first water ; but he wanted a subject for his pen and for raillery, and so introduced Pomposo into his descriptions ; “for, with other wise folks, he sat up with the Ghost.”
291. Tea. Come when you would, early or late (for he desired to be called from bed, when a visitor was at the door), the tea-table was sure to be spread. “TE veniente die, TE decedente." With tea he cheered himself in the morning ; with tea he solaced himself in the evening ; for in these, or in equivalent words, he expressed himself in a printed letter to Jonas Hanway (), who had just told the public, that tea was the ruin of the nation, and of the nerves of every one who drank it. The pun upon his favourite liquor he heard with a smile.
292. Streatham. - Mrs. Thrale. Johnson formed at Streatham a room for a library, and increased by his recommendation the number of books. Here he was to be found (himself a library), when a friend called upon him ; and by him the friend was sure to be introduced to the dinner-table, which Mrs. Thrale knew how to spread with the utmost plenty and elegance; and which was often adorned with such guests, that to dine there was epulis accumbere divum. Of Mrs. Thrale, if mentioned at all, less cannot be said, than that, in one of the latest opinions of Dr. Johnson, “if she was not the wisest woman in the world, she was undoubtedly one of the wittiest.” Besides a natural vivacity in conversation, she had reading enough, and the “gods had made her
(1) (Johnson, in his review of Hanway's “ Essay on Tea,” describes himself as “ a hardened and shameless tea-drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant, whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.")