« AnteriorContinuar »
His body was opened on Wednesday, December 15, in the presence of Drs. Heberden and Brocklesby, where the causes which produced his last disorder were discoverable, but found impracticable to have been removed by medicine. His heart was uncommonly large, as if analogous to the extent and liberality of his mind: and what was very extraordinary, one of his kidnies was entirely consumed, though he never once complained of any nephritic, or gravelly disorder. It is however to be conjectured, that he had some presentiment of this circumstance, as a few months before his death he had an argument with his physicians on the possibility of a man's living after the loss of one of his kidnies.
Some time previous to his death he made a will, subscribed only by two witnesses; but telling the circumstance to some friend, who knew he had a freehold of about twelve pounds a year, in Litchfield, in right of his father, another was drawn; but so tardy are some of the wisest of men, even in the most necessary acts, when they awaken the fears of death--it was only a few weeks before he died that the blanks were filled up. On the same principle of delay, the revision of many manuscripts was postponed, some of which were burned by the Doctor the week before he died, to avoid being left in an imperfect state. Among the rest was one book, out of two, wherein he had noted hints for writing his life, which he committed to the flames by mistake.
Though I have subjoined an authentic copy of the Doctor's will to these Memoirs, there are two clauses which in justice to him, ought particularly to be explained and commented on. By the first he has left an annuity of seventy pounds to his old faithful black servant, Francis Barber, who had lived with him near forty years, and who, by a faithful and diligent discharge of his duty, had deserved this mark of his master's generosity and friendship. When he had determined on this legacy for him, he asked Dr. Brocklesby, who happened to be sitting with him, how much people in general left to their favourite servants? The other answered him,
from twenty to fifty pounds a year, but that no nobleman gave more than the last sum: Why, then," says
the Doctor, I'll be Nobilissimus, for I have left Frank seventy pounds a year; and as it probably will make the poor fellow's mind easy, to know that he will be provided for after my death, I will be obliged to you to tell him of it."
If we compare this generous action with that of his brother poet, Pope, how superior Dr. Johnson rises in generous feelings and grateful remembrance of faithful services! When the bard of Twickenham died, he left but one hundred pounds to his faithful servant, John Searle, and one more on the death of Mrs. Martha Blount, which was eventual; and yet he distinguishes this man, in his Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, under the character of good John:
"Shut, fhut the door, good John, fatigu'd, I faid,
And Dr. Warburton, who had an opportunity of knowing the fact, calls him, in a note "his this upon passage, old and faithful servant." But compliments pass from the head, generous actions arise from the heart.
The other clause does his memory equal honour. When Dr. Johnson's father died, which is now above thirty years ago, he owed Mr. Innys, a bookseller, who lived in Pater-noster Row, thirty pounds; after many enquiries, the Doctor found out the descendant of this man, and has left him the sum of two hundred pounds, as a compensation for the loss of the principal, and interest, for so many years.
So anxious was this good man to discharge every part of his moral character with punctuality, that some time before his death he sat down to recollect what little sums he might owe in the early part of his life to particular friends, which were never given with a view to be restored. Among this number he sent a guinea to the son of an eminent printer, which he had borrowed of his father many years before, to pay his reckoning at
He likewise recollected borrowing thirty pounds of Sir Joshua Reynolds, at a great distance of time; “but this sum (said the Doctor to Sir Joshua, with a manli
́ness of mind, which answered for the feelings of his friend being similar to his own) I intend to bestow on a charity, which I know you'll approve of."
Dr. Johnson's figure, even in his youth, could never have been calculated either "to make women false," or give him a preference in the schools of manly or military exercises. His face was formed of large coarse features, which, from a studious turn, when composed, looked sluggish, yet awful and contemplative. He had likewise nearly lost the sight of one of his eyes, which made him course every object he looked at in so singular a manner, as often to create pity, sometimes laugh The head at the front of this book is esteemed a good likeness; it was etched from à drawing made by Mr. Trotter after the Doctor had dined, when he was inclined to take his afternoon nap.
His face, however, was capable of great expression, both in respect to intelligence and mildness, as ail those can witness who have seen him in the glow of conversation, or under the influence of grateful feelings. am the more confirmed in this opinion by the authority of a celebrated French physiognomist, who has, in a late publication on his art, given two different etchings of Dr. Johnson's head, to show the correspondence between the countenance and the mind.
In respect to person, he was rather of the heroic stature, being above the middle size; but though strong, broad, and muscular, his parts were slovenly put together. When he walked the streets, what with the constant roll of his head, and the concomitant motion of his body, he appeared to make his way by that motion independent of his feet. At other times he was subject to be seized with sudden convulsions, which so agitated his whole frame, that to those who did not know his disorder, it had the appearance of madness-Indeed, to see him in most situations, he was not favourably distinguished either by nature or his habits.
His domestic arrangements were always frugal, and he never aspired, even when his fame and reputation were at the highest, to exhibit either in his dress or establishment,
establishment, what the world calls a genteel appear
He visited none of his friends so constantly as the late Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. In the family of this gentleman he lived a considerable part of the year, and they perfectly understood his habits, and had such a proper relish for his conversation, that he seemed more at home there than any where else. He had a suit of apartments for himself, both at their town and countryhouse-formed a library principally of his own selection-directed the education of the young ladies, and was, in every respect, so much" the guide, philosopher, and friend" of the family, that Mr. Thrale, on his death, left him two hundred pounds, and appointed him one of his executors.
From the largeness of his person, the demands of nature were expected to be considerable, and nature was true to herself. He fed without much delicacy, either in choice or quantity, but then his dinner was his last meal for the day. He formerly drank his bottle, it is said, with a view to dispel that apprehension, which he dreaded through life, of approaching insanity. But afterwards suspecting danger from that habit, he almosst totally abandoned it. "For, said he, in that moral and philosophic strain which generally distinguished his remarks," what ferments the spirits, may also derange the intellects; and the means employed to counteract dejection may hasten the approach of madness."
In his traffic with booksellers, he shewed no great regard to money-matters. By his Dictionary he no more than barely supported himself during the many years that he was employed in that great undertaking. By his Ramblers, I have before observed, he did not get much above two guineas per week; and though it is reasonable to suppose he might, on a representation of the increasing fame of those valuable papers, have got his stipend increased-he did not solicit it "his wants being few, they were competently supplied."
CHARACTER-BY MR. BOSWELL..
"His figure was large and well formed, and his countenance of the cast of an ancient statue; yet his appearance was rendered strange, and somewhat uncouth, by convulsive cramps, by the scars of that distemper which it was once imagined the royal touch, could cure, and by a slovenly mode of dress.. He had the use only of one eye; yet so much does mind govern, and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his. visual perceptions, as far as they extended, were uncommonly quick and accurate. So morbid was his temperament, that he never knew the natural joy of a free and vigorous use of his limbs; when he walked, it was like the struggling gait of one in fetters; when he rode, he had no command or direction of his horse, but was carried as if in a balloon. That with his constitution and habits of life he should have lived seventyfive years, is a proof that an inherent vivida vis is a powerful preservative of the human frame.
"He was prone to superstition, but not to credulity. Though his imagination might incline him to a belief of the marvellous and the mysterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy He was a sincere and zealous Christian, of High Church of England and monarchical principles, which he would not tamely suffer to be questioned: and had,. perhaps at an earlier period, narrowed his mind somewhat too much both as to religion and politics. His. being impressed with the danger of extreine latitude ins either, though he was of a very independent spirit, occasioned his appearing somewhat unfavourable to the prevalence of that noble freedom of sentiment which is the best possession of man.. Nor can it be denied, that he had many prejudices, which however frequently suggested many of his pointed sayings, that rather shewed a playfulness of fancy than any settled malignity.
"He was steady and inflexible in maintaining the obligations of religion and morality, both from a regard for the order of society, and from a veneration. E. 5.