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Scientific improvements are rated at their utmost value, he rested not in the applause which these procured him; but adorned the character of a scholar and a philosopher with that of a christian.
Justified, as I trust, thus far in the opinion of the reader, I may, nevertheless, stand in need of his excuse; for that, in the narration of facts that respect others, I have oftener spoke of myself, and in my own person, than the practice of some writers will war
To this objection, if any shall please to make it, I answer, that the reverse of wrong is not always right. By the office I have undertaken I stand engaged to relate facts to which I was a witness, conversations in which I was a party, and to record memorable sayings uttered only to myself. Whoever attends to these circumstances, must, besides the disgust which such an affectation of humility would excite, be convinced, that in some instances, the avoiding of egotisins had been extremely difficult, and in many impossible.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, the subject of the following memoirs, was the elder of the two sons of Michael Johnson, of the city of Lichfield bookseller, and of Sarah his wife, a sister of Dr. Joseph Ford, a physician of great eminence, and father of the famous Cornelius otherwise called Parson Ford.* He was born, as I
* Of this person, who yet lives in the remembrance of a few of his associates, little can be related but from oral tradition. He was, as I have heard Johnson fay, a man of great wit and stupendous parts, but of very profligate manners. He was chaplain to Lord Chesterfield during his residence at the Hague ; but, as his lordship
find it noted in his diary, on the seventh day of September, 1709: his brother, named Nathanael, was born some years after. Mr. Johnson was a man of eminence in his trade, and of such reputation in the city abovementioned, that he, more than once, bore, for a year, the office of bailiff or chief magistrate thereof, and discharged the duties of that exalted ftation with honour and applause. It may here be proper, as it will account for some particulars respecting the character of his son Samuel, to mention, that his political principles led him to favour the pretenfions of the exiled family, and that though a very honest and sensible man, he, like many others inhabiting the county of Stafford, was a Jacobite.
It may farther be supposed, that he was poffeffed of some amiable qualities either moral or personal, from a circumstance in his early life, of which evidence is yer remaining. While he was an apprentice at Leek in Staffordshire, a young woman of the fame town fell in love with him, and upon his removal to Lichfield followed him, and took lodgings opposite his house. Her paffion was not unknown to Mr. Johnson, but he had no inclination to return it, till he heard that it so affected her mind that her life was in danger, when he visited her, and made her a tender of his hand, but feeling the approach of death, she declined it, and shortly after died, and was interred in Lichfield cathedral. In pity
was used to tell him, precluded all hope of preferment by the want of a vice, namely, hypocrisy. It was supposed that the parlon in Hogarth's modern midnight conversation, was intended to represent him in his hour of festivity, four in the morning.
to her sufferings, Mr. Johnfon caused a stone to be placed over her grave with this inscription :
Here lies the body of
She departed this life,
2d of September, 1694. The first born child of Mr. Johnson and his wife, their fon Samuel, had the misfortune to receive, together with its nutriment derived from a hired nurte, the feeds of that disease which troubled him through life, the struma, or, as it is called, the king's-evil; for the cure whereof his mother, agreeable to the opinion then entertained of the efficacy of the royal touch, presented him to Queen Anne, who, for the last time, as it is said, that she ever performed that office, with her accustomed grace and benignity administered to the child as much of that healing quality as it was in her power to dispense, and hung about his neck the usual amulet of an angel of gold, with the impress of St. Michael the archangel on the one side, and a ship under full fail on the other. * It was probably this disease that deprived him of the light of his left eye, for he has been heard to say, that he never remembered to have enjoyed the use of it.
this * This healing gift is said to have been derived to our princes from Edward the Confessor, and is recorded by his historian, Alured Rivallensis. In Stow's annais we have a relation of the first cure of this kind which Edward performed; but, as it is rather disgusting to read it, I chuse to give it in the words of the author from whence it is apparently taken, with this remark, that the kings of France lay claim to the same miraculous
power. Adolescentula quædam tradita • nuptiis duplici laborabat incommodo. Nam faciem ejus morbus de• formaverat, amorem viri fterilitas prolis ademerat: fub faucibus : quippe quasi glandes ei succreverant, quæ totam faciem deformi tu• more fædantes, putrefactis sub cute humoribus, fanguinem in faniem
verterant, inde nati vermes odorem teterrimum exhalabant. Ita « viro incutiebat morbus horrorem, fterilitas minuebat affectum. • Vivebat infelix mulier odiosa marito, parentibus onerosa. Rarus • ad eam vel amicorum accessus propter fætorem, vel aspectus viri
propter horrorem. Hinc dolor, hinc lacrimæ, hinc die noctuque
fiuspiria, cum ei vel fterilitas opprobrium, vel contemptum infir• mitas generaret. Industriam medicorum avertebat inopia. Quid
ageret misera ? Quod folum fupererat, ubi humanum deerat divinum precabatur auxilium, quafi in illam illius æque miseræ mulieris vocem erumpens, Peto, Domine, ut de vinculo improperii hujus abfolvas me, aut certe fuper terram eripias me. Jubetur tandem in fomnis adire palacium, ex regiis manibus fperare remedium, quibus fi lota, fi tacta, fi fignata foret, reciperet ejus meritis fani.
tatem. Expergefacta mulier, sexus fimul et conditionis oblita, • prorumpit in curiam, regis fe repræsentat obtutibus, exponit oracu• lum, auxilium deprecatur. Ille more suo victus pietate, nec fordes • cavit, nec fætorem exhorruit. Allata denique aqua, partes corporis
quas morbus fedaverat propriis manibus lavit, locaque tumentia • contrectans digitis fignum fanctæ crucis impreffit. Quid plura ? « Subito rupta cute, cum sanie vermes ebulliunt, refedit tumor, dolor « omnis abcessit: ammirantibus qui aderant tantam sub purpura • fanctitatem, tantam sceptrigeris manibus inesse virtutem. Paucis • vero diebus substitit in curia mulier regiis miniftris necessaria mi« niftrantibus, donec obducta vulneribus cicatrice incolumis rediret * ad propria. Verum ut nichil deeffet regi ad gloriam, pauperculæ • nichil ad gratiam, donatur fterili inopina fæcunditas, ventrisque sui < desiderato fructu ditata, facile fibi mariti gratiam conciliavit.'
The reader will find much curious matter relating to the royal touch, in Mr. Barrington's observations on ancient statutes 107, and in Chambers's dictionary, art. evil, to which I shall add, that the vindication of this power, as inherent in the pretender, by Mr. Çarte, destroyed the credit of his intended history of England, and put a stop to the completion of it.
The ritual for this is to be found in Bishop Sparrow's collection of articles, canons, &c. and also in all or most of the impressions of the Common Prayer Book, printed in Queen Anne's reign, but in these latter with great variations.
It may seem a ridiculous attempt to trace the dawn of his poetical faculty so far back as to his very
infancy; but the following incident I am compelled to mention, as it is well attested, and therefore makes part of his history. When he was about three years old, his mother had a brood of eleven ducklings, which she permitted him to call his own. pened that in playing about he trod on and killed one of them, upon which running to his mother, he, in great emotion bid her write. Write, child? said she, what must I write ? Why write, answered he, so :
Here lies good Master Duck,
That Samuel Johnson trod on,
For then there'd been an odd one. and she wrote accordingly.
Being arrived at a proper age for grammatical instruction, he was placed in the free school of Lichfield, of which Mr. Hunter was then master. The progress he made in his learning soon attracted the notice of his teachers ; and among other discernible qualities that distinguished him from the rest of the school, he was bold, active and enterprising, so that without affecting it, the seniors in the school looked on him as their head and leader, and readily acquiesced in whatever he proposed or did. There dwelt at Lichfield a gentleman of the name of Butt, the father of the reverend Mr. Butt, now a King's Chaplain, to whole house on holidays and in school-vacations he was ever welcome. The children in the family, perhaps offended with the rudeness of his behaviour, would frequently call him the great boy, which the father once overhearing, said,