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Miss SEWARD. “I think, Dr. Johnson, you applied to see Mr. Jenkinson in his behalf.” Johnson. “Why, yes, Madam ; I knew it was a man having no interest writing to a man who had no interest ; but I thought with myself, when Dr. Dodd comes to the place of execution, he may say, “Had Dr. Johnson written in my behalf, I had not been here;' and (with great emphasis) I could not bear the thought !” (') Miss SEWARD. “ But, Dr. Johnson, would
you have pardoned Dr. Dodd ?” Johnson. “ Madam, had I been placed at the head of the legislature, I should certainly have signed his death-warrant; though no law, either human or divine, forbids our deprecating punishment, either from ourselves or others.”
648. “ Heerd or Hard?" In one of his visits to Lichfield, Dr. Johnson called upon Mrs. Gastrell, of Stowe, near that city. She opened the Prayer-book, and pointed out a passage, with the wish that he would read it. He began : “We have heard (hēërd) with our ears” -- she stopped him, saying, “Thank you, Doctor ! you have read all I wish. I merely wanted to know whether you pronounced that word heerd or hard.” “ Madam,” he replied, “ heard' is nonsense ; there is but one word of that sound (hard) in the language.”
649. Johnson's Willow. (2) This remarkable tree has been long distinguished as a favourite object of Dr. Johnson, and which he never failed to examine, whenever, after his settlement in the metropolis, he revisited his native city. The great size it had attained at that period, and its delightful situation between the cathedral and the beautiful vale of Stowe, rendered it likely to attract notice ; and, from the attachment shown to it by the Doctor, it has ever since been regarded as little inferior in celebrity to Shakspeare's Mulberry, or the Boscobel Oak, and specimens of its wood have been worked into vases and other ornaments. In 1815, a great
(1) (For Dr. Johnson's letter to the Right Honourable Charles Jenkinson, afterwards Earl of Liverpool, see Life, vol. iii. p. 509.)
(2) (Nos. 649-655. are from the Gentleman's Magazine.]
portion of the tree gave way, and since then several very large boughs have fallen. The Doctor once took an admeasurement of the tree with a piece of string, assisted by a little boy, to whom he gave half-a-crown for his trouble. The dimensions of the willow in 1781, when in its most flourishing condition, taken by Dr. Trevor Jones, and communicated in a letter to Dr. Johnson, are as follows :-" The trunk rises to the height of twelve feet eight inches, and is then divided into fifteen large ascending branches, which, in very numerous and crowded subdivisions, spread at the top in a circular form, not unlike the appearance of a shady oak, inclining a little towards the east. The circumference of the trunk at the bottom is sixteen feet, in the middle eleven feet, and at the top, immediately below the branches, thirteen feet. The entire height of the tree is forty-nine feet, overshadowing a plain not far short of four thousand feet.” (')
650. Citations from Garrick. Boswell relates (says a correspondent), that Garrick being asked by Johnson what people said of his Dictionary, told him, that among other animadversions, it was objected that he cited the authorities which were beneath the dignity of such a work, and mentioned Richardson. “Nay,” said Johnson, “I have done worse than that: I have cited thee, David.” This anecdote induced me to turn over the leaves of his Dictionary, that I might note the citations from each writer. Two only I found from Garrick, viz.
“Our bard's a fabulist, and deals in fiction."
Some formal lecture, spoke with prudish face." The quotations from Richardson are at least eighty in number ; almost all from his Clarissa.
651. Johnsonian Words, In Kett's “ Elements of General Knowledge,” I read (says another correspondent) as follows : -" Our litera
(1) [For a drawing of Johnson's Willow, see Shaw's Staffordshire, and Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lv.)
ture, indeed, dates a new era from the publication of Johnson's Works : many of his words are rarely to be met with in former writers, and some are purely of his own fabrication. Note,– Resuscitation, orbity, volant, fatuity, divaricate, asinine, narcotic, vulnirary, empireumatic, obtund, disruption, sensory, cremation, horticulture, germination, decussation, eximious,' &c. If these words be not peculiarly Johnson's, I know not where they are to be found !” Now, upon turning over Johnson's Dictionary, I find all the above words occur in Pope, Bacon, Wilkins, Milton, Arbuthnot, Grew, Quincy, Wiseman, Harvey, Woodward, Newton, Glanville, and Ray : except horticulture, which may be found in Tusser's Husbandry; eximious, in Lodge's Letters; and cremation, for which, at present, I have no authority. So much for the research of Mr. Kett!
652. “ Prayers and Meditations.” The brightest feature in Johnson's character was the perfect consciousness of his failings. This the Doctor seems to have had in the nicest degree : it always accompanied him, and, joined to his irresolution, embittered many of his days and nights. If the publication of his Prayers and Meditations still wants to be justified, let it be on this score, that they prove Johnson to have been a man whose inward struggles were always directed to overcome habits of which he was painfully conscious ; that he did not seek to excuse those failings by the delusions of scepticism or sophistry, but that he prayed, resolved, and earnestly contended against them. What more have the greatest and best men in all ages done, though, perhaps, with better success ? (') (1) This and the following prayer are not in Mr. Strahan's collection :
“ Easter-day, 15th April, 1759. “ Almighty and most merciful Father, look down with pity upon my sins. I am a sinner, good Lord; but let not my sins hurthen me for ever. Give me thy grace to break the chain of evil custom. Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth : to will and to do what thou hast commanded, grant me chaste in thoughts, words, and actions; to love and frequent thy worship, to study and understand thy word; to be diligent in my calling, that I may support myself and relieve others.
“ Forgive me, O Lord, whatever my mother has suffered by my fault, whatever I have done amiss, and whatever duty I have neglected. Let me not sink into - Not
653. « Ocean." A gentleman once told Dr. Johnson, that a friend of his, looking into the Dictionary which the Doctor had lately published, could not find the word ocean. find ocean !” exclaimed our Lexicographer ; “Sir, I doubt the veracity of your information!” He instantly stalked into his library; and, opening the work in question with the utmost impatience, at last triumphantly put his finger upon the subject of research, adding, “ There, Sir; there is ocean!” The gentleman was preparing to apologise for the mistake ; but Dr. Johnson good-naturedly dismissed the subject, with “Never mind it, Sir ; perhaps your friend spells ocean with an s.”
654. Johnson's “ Limæ labor.” (1) The general opinion entertained by Dr. Johnson's friends was, that he wrote as correctly and elegantly in haste, and under various obstructions of person and situation, as other men can, who have health and ease and leisure for the limæ labor. Mr. Boswell says, with great truth, that “posterity will be astonished when they are told, upon the authority of Johnson himself, that many of these discourses, which we should suppose had been laboured with all the slow attention of literary leisure, were written in haste as the moment pressed, without even being read over by him before they were printed.” And Sir John Hawkins informs us, that these essays hardly ever underwent a revision before they were sent to the press ; and adds, “the original manuscripts of the Rambler' have passed through my hands, and by the perusal of them I am warranted to say, as was said of Shakspeare by the players of his time, that he never blotted a line, and I believe without the risk of that retort which Ben Jonson made to them, “Would he had blotted out a thousand !""
useless dejection; but so sanctify my affliction, O Lord, that I may be converted, and healed ; and that, by the help of thy Holy Spirit, I may obtain everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“ And, O Lord, so far as it may be lawful, I commend unto thy fatherly goodness my father, brother, wife, and mother, beseeching thee to make them happy for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
“ O Lord, who wouldst that all men should be saved, and who knowest that without thy grace we can do nothing acceptable to thee, have mercy upon me. Enable me to break the chains of my sins, to reject sensuality in thought, and to overcome and suppress vain scruples; and to use such diligence in lawful employment as may enable me to support myself and do good to others. O Lord, forgive me the time lost in idleness ; pardon the sins which I have committed, and grant that I may redeem the time misspent, and be reconciled to thee by true repentance, that I may live and die in peace, and be received to everlasting happiness. Take not from me, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit, but let me have support and comfort for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
" Transc. June 26. 1768. Of this prayer there is no date, nor can I conjecture when it was composed.”
(1) (From Alexander Chalmers's Historical and Biographical Preface to The Rambler : British Essayists, vol. xvii.]
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Such are the opinions of those friends of Dr. Johnson who had long lived in his society, had studied his writings, and were eager to give to the public every information by which its curiosity to know the history of so eminent a character might be gratified. But by what fatality it has happened, that they were ignorant of the vast labour Dr. Johnson employed in correcting this work after it came from the first press, it is not easy to determine. This circumstance indeed might not fall within the scope of Mr. Murphy's elegant essay; but had it been known to Sir John Hawkins or to Mr. Boswell, they would undoubtedly have been eager to bring it forward as a prominent part of Dr. Johnson's literary history. Mr. Boswell has given us some various readings of the “ Lives of the Poets ;” and the reader will probably agree with him, that although the author's “ amendments in that work are for the better, there is nothing of the pannus assutus : the texture is uniform, and indeed what had been there at first is
very seldom unfit to have remained.” (') At the conclusion of these various readings he offers an apology, of which I may be permitted to avail myself : • Should it be objected, that many of my various readings are inconsiderable, those who make the objection will be pleased to
(1) These were the alterations made by the author the manuscript, or in the proof before publication for the second edition. Mr. Boswell does not seem to have known that Dr. Johnson made so many alterations for the third edition, as to induce Mr. Nichols to collect them in an octavo pamphlet of three sheets closely printed, which was given to the purchasers of the second octavo edition.CHALMERS.