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shake hands with an infidel!” At another time, I remember asking him, if he did not think the Dean of Derry a very agreeable man, to which he made no answer ; and on my repeating my question, “ Child,” said he, “I will not speak any thing in favour of a Sabbath-breaker, to please you, nor any one else.”
ANECDOTES AND REMARKS,
BY BISHOP HORNE.()
473. Johnson and his Writings. WHEN a friend told Johnson that he was much blamed for having unveiled the weakness of Pope, “Sir," said he, “if one man undertake to write the life of another, he undertakes to exhibit bis true and real character ; but this can be done only by a faithful and accurate delineation of the particulars which discriminate that character.”
The biographers of this great man seem conscientiously to have followed the rule thus laid down by him, and have very fairly communicated all they knew, whether to his advantage, or otherwise. Much concern, disquietude, and offence have been occasioned by this their conduct in the minds of many, who apprehend that the cause in which he stood forth will suffer by the infirmities of the advocate being thus exposed to the prying and malignant eye of the world.
But did these persons then ever suppose, or did they imagine that the world ever supposed, Dr. Johnson to have been a perfect character ? Alas! no: we all know how that matter stands, if we ever look into our own hearts, and duly watch the current of our own thoughts, works, words, and actions. Johnson was honest, and kept a faithful diary of these, which is before the public. Let any
(1) (From Olla Podrida,” a collection of Essays, published at Oxford in 1787.)
man do the same for a fortnight, and publish it; and if, after that, he should find himself so disposed, let him “ cast a stone.' At that hour when the failings of all shall be made manifest, the attention of each individual will be confined to his own.
It is not merely the name of Johnson that is to do service to any cause. It is his genius, his learning, his good sense, the strength of his reasonings, and the happiness of his illustrations. These all are precisely what they were ; once good, and always good. His arguments in favour of self-denial do not lose their force because he fasted, nor those in favour of devotion because he said his prayers. Grant his failings were, if possible, still greater than these;
; will a man refuse to be guided by the sound opinion of a counsel, or resist the salutary prescription of a physician, because they who give them are not without their faults? A man may
do but he will never be accounted a wise man for doing it.
Johnson, it is said, was superstitious. But who shall exactly ascertain to us what superstition is ? The Romanist is charged with it by the Church of England man ; the churchman by the presbyterian, the presbyterian by the independent, all by the deist, and the deist by the atheist. With some it is superstitious to pray ; with others, to receive the sacrament; with others, to believe in God. In some minds it springs from the most amiable disposition in the world — “a pious awe, and fear to have offended; ” a wish rather to do too much than too little. Such a disposition one loves, and wishes always to find in a friend; and it cannot be disagreeable in the sight of Him who made us.
argues a sensibility of heart, a tenderness of conscience, and the fear of God. Let him who finds it not in himself beware, lest in flying from superstition he fall into irreligion and profaneness.
That persons of eminent talents and attainments in literature have been often complained of as dogmatical, boisterous, and inattentive to the rules of good breeding, is well known. But let us not expect every thing from any man.
There was no occasion that Johnson should teach us to dance, to make bows or turn compliments; he
could teach us better things. To reject wisdom because the person of him who communicates it is uncouth, and his manners are inelegant, -- what is it but to throw away a pineapple, and assign for a reason the roughness of its coat? Who quarrels with a botanist for not being an astronomer? or with a moralist for not being a mathematician? As it is said, in concerns of a much higher nature, “ Every man hath his gift ---- one after this manner, and another after that." It is our business to profit by all, and to learn of each that in which each is best qualified to instruct us.
That Johnson was generous and charitable, none can deny. But he was not always judicious in the selection of his objects : distress was a sufficient recommendation ; and he did not scrutinise into the failings of the distressed. May it be always my lot to have such a benefactor! Some are so nice in a scrutiny of this kind, that they can never find any proper objects of their benevolence, and are necessitated to save their money. It should doubtless be distributed in the best manner we are able to distribute it; but what would become of us all, if He on whose bounty all depend, should be extreme to mark that which is done ainiss?
It is hard to judge any man, without a due consideration of all circumstances. Here were stupendous abilities and suitable attainments; but then here were hereditary disorders of body and mind reciprocally aggravating each other - a scrofulous frame, and a melancholy temper : here was a life, the greater part of which passed in making provision for the day, under the pressure of poverty and sickness, sorrow and anguish. So far to gain the ascendant over these as to do what Johnson did, required very great strength of mind indeed. Who can say that, in a like situation, he should long have possessed or been able to exert it?
From the mixture of power and weakness in the composition of this wonderful man, the scholar should learn humility. It was designed to correct that pride which great parts and great learning are apt to produce in their possessor. In him it had the desired effect.
For though consciousness of superiority might sometimes induce him to carry it high with man (and even this was much abated in the latter part of life), his devotions have shown to the whole world how humbly he walked at all times with his God.
His example may likewise encourage those of timid and gloomy dispositions not to despond. When they reflect that the vigour of such an intellect could not preserve its possessor from the depredations of melancholy, they will cease to be surprised and alarmed at the degree of their own sufferings : they will resolve to bear with patience and resignation the malady to which they find a Johnson subject as well as themselves : and if they want words in which to ask relief from Him who alone can give it, the God of mercy and Father of all comfort, language affords no finer than those in which his prayers are conceived. Child of sorrow, whoever thou art, use them; and be thankful that the man existed by whose means thou hast them to use.
His eminence and his fame must of course have excited envy and malice ; but let envy and malice look at his infirmities and his charities, and they will quickly melt into pity and love.
That he should not be conscious of the abilities with which Providence had blessed him was impossible. He felt his own powers; he felt what he was capable of having performed ; and he saw how little, comparatively speaking, he had performed. Hence his apprehensions on the near prospect of the account to be made, viewed through the medium of constitutional and morbid melancholy, which often excluded from his sight the bright beams of divine mercy. May those beams ever shine upon us ! But let them not cause us to forget, that talents have been bestowed of which an account must be rendered, and that the fate of
unprofitable servant” may justly beget apprehensions in the stoutest mind. The indolent man who is without such apprehensions has never yet considered the subject as he ought. For one person who fears death too much, there are a thousand who do not fear enough, nor have thought in earnest about it. Let us only put in practice