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May it not offend your Majesty, that the most miserable of men applies himself to your clemency, as his last hope and his last refuge; that your mercy is most earnestly aud humbly implored by a clergyman, whom your Laws and Judges have condemned to the horror and ignominy of a public execution.
I confess the crime, and own the enormity of its consequences, and the danger of its example. Nor have I the confidence to petition for impunity; but humbly hope, that public security may be established, without the spectacle of a clergyman dragged through the streets, to a death of infamy, amidst the derision of the profligate and profane; and that justice may be satisfied with irrevocable exile, perpetual disgrace, and hopeless penury.
My life, Sir, has not been useless to mankind. I have benefited many. But my offences against God are numberless, and I have had little time for repentance. Preserve me, Sir, by your prerogative of mercy, from the necessity of appearing unprepared at that tribunal, before which Kings and Subjects must stand at last together. Permit me to hide my guilt in some obscure corner of a foreign country, where, if I can ever attain confidence to hope that my prayers will be heard, they shall be poured with all the fervour of gratitude for the life and happiness of your Majesty.
I am, Sir,
Your Majesty's, &c.
Subjoined to it was written as follows:
TO DR. DODD.
I most seriously enjoin you not to let it be at all known that I have written this letter, aod to return the copy to Mr. Allen in a cover to me, I hope I need not tell you, that I wish it success. But do not indulge hope.-Tell nobody.
It happened luckily that Mr. Allen was pitched on to assist in this melancholy office, for he was a great friend of Mr. Akerman, the keeper of Newgate. Dr. Johnson never went to see Dr. Dodd. He said to me, “it would have done him more harm, than good to Dodd, who once expressed a desire to see him, but not earnestly."
Dr. Johnson, or the eoth of June, wrote the following letter :
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES JENKINSON,
Since the conviction and condemnation of Dr. Dodd, I have had, by the intervention of a friend, some intercourse with him, and I am sure I shall lose nothing in your opinion by tenderness and commiseration. Whatever be the crime, it is not easy to have any knowledge of the delinquent, without a wish that his life may be spared ; at least when no life has been taken away by him. I will, therefore, take the liberty of suggesting some reasons for which I wish this unhappy being to escape the utmost rigour of his seutence.
He is, so far as I can recollect, the first clergymau of our church who has suffered public execution for immorality; and I know not whether it would not be more for the interests of religion to bury such an offender in the obscurity of perpetual exile, than to expose him in a cart, and on the gallows, to all who for any reason are enemies to the clergy. The supreme power has, in all ages, paid some attention to the voice of the people; and that voice does not least deserve to be heard, when it calls out for mercy. There is now a very general desire that Dodd's life should be spared. More is not wished; and, perhaps, this is not too much to be granted.
If you, Sir, have any opportunity of enforcing these reasons, you may, perhaps, thiuk them worthy of consideration : but whatever you determine, I most respectfully intreat that you will be pleased to pardon for this intrusion, Sir,
Your most obedient,
It has been confidently circulated, with invidious remarks, that to this letter no attention whatever was paid by Mr. Jenkinson, (afterwards Earl of Liverpool), and that he did not even deign to shew the common civility of owning the receipt of it. I could not but wonder at such con. duct in the noble Lord, whose own character and just elevation in life, I thought, must have impressed him with all due regard for great abilities and attainments. As the story had been much talked of, and apparently from goud authority, I could not but have animadverted upon it in this work, had it been as was alleged; but from my earnest love of truth, and having found reason to think that there might be a mistake, I presumed to write to his Lordship, requesting an explanation : and it is with the sincerest pleasure that I am enabled to assure the world, that there is no foundation for it, the fact being, that owing to some neglect, or accident, Johnson's letter never came to Lord Liverpool's hands, I should have thought it strange indeed, if that noble Lord bad under. valged my illustrious friend; but instead of this being the case, his Lordship, in the very polite answer with which he was pleased immediately to honour me, tbus expresses bimself: "I have always respected the me mory of Dr. Johnson, and admire his writings; and I frequently read many parts of them with pleasure and great improvement."
All applications for the Royal Mercy having failed, Dr. Dodd prepared hiinself for death ; and, with a warmth of gratitude, wrote to Dr. Johnsou as follows:
June 25, Midnight, Accept thou great and good heart, my earnest and fervent thanks and prayers for all thy benevolent and kind efforts in my behalf.-Oh! Dr. Johnson ! as I sought your knowledge at an early hour in life, would to heaven I had cultivated the love and acquaintance of so excellent a man! I pray God most sincerely to bless you with the highest transports—the infelt satisfaction of humane and benevolent exertions !-And admitted, as I trust I shall be, to the realms of bliss before you, I shall bail your arrival there with transports and rejoice to acknowledge that you was my Comforter, my Advocate, and my Friend ! God be ever with you .'"
Dr. Johnson lastly wrote to Dr. Dodd this solemn and soothing letter :
TO THE REVEREND DR DODD.
That which is apppointed to all men is now coming upon you. Outward circumstances, the eyes and the thoughts of men, are below the notice of an immortal being about to stand the trial for eternity, before the Supreme Judge of heaven and earth. Be comforted; your criine, morally or religiously considered, has no very deep dye of turpitude. It corrupted no man's principles; it attacked no man's life. It involved only a temporary aud reparable injury. Of this, and of all other sins, you are earnestly to repent; and may God, who knoweth our frailty, and desireth not our death, accept your repentance, for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In requital of those well intended offices which you are pleased so emphatically to acknowledge, let me beg that you make in your devotions one petition for my eternal welfare.
I amn, dear Sir,
SAM. JOHNSON. June 26, 1777
Under the copy of this letter I found written, in Johnson's own hand, “Next day, June 27, he was executed."
To conclude this interesting episode with an useful application, let us now attend to the reflections of Johnson at the end of the “Occasioval Papers,” concerning the uufortunate Dr. Dodd.—“Such were the last thoughts of a man whom we have seen exulting in popularity, and sunk in shame. For his reputation, which no man can give to bimself, those who conferred it are to answer. of his public ministry the means of judging were sufficiently attainable. He must be allowed to preach well, whose sermons strike his audience with forcible conviction. Of his life, those who thought it consistent with his doctrine, did not originally form false notions. He was at first what he endeavoured to make others; but the world broke down bis resolution, and he in time ceased to exemplify his own instructions."
Let those who are tempted to his faults, tremble at his pupishment; and those whom he impressed from the pulpit with religious sentiments,
endeavour to confirm them, by considering the regret and self-ab, horrence with which he reviewed in prison his deviations from rec
Johoson gave us this evening, in his happy discriminative manner, a portrait of the late Mr. Fitzherbert of Derbyshire.
6. There was (said he) 10 sparkle, no brilliancy, in Fitzherbert ; but I never knew a man who was so generally acceptable. He made every body quite easy, overpowered nobody by the superiority of his talents, made no man think worse of himself by being his rival, seemed always to listen, did not oblige you to hear much from him, and did not oppose what you said. Every body liked him; but he had no friend, as I understand the word, nobody with whoin he exchanged intimate thoughts. People were willing to think well of every thing about him.' A gentleman was making an alfected rant, as many people do, of great feelings about “his dear son," who was at school near London; how anxious he was, lest he might be ill, and what he would give to see him. Can't you said Fitzherbert, take a post-chaise and go to him. This, to be sure, finished the affected ran, but there was not much in it. llowever, this was circulated as wit for a whole winter, and I believe part of summer too; a proof that he was no very witty man. He was an instance of the truth of the obser. vation, thut a man will please more upon the whole by negative qualities than by positive; by never offending, than by giving a great deal of delight. In the first place, nien hate more steadily than they love; and if I huve suid something to hurt a man once, I shall not get the better of this, by saying many things to please him.”
Tuesday, September 16, Dr. Johnson having mentioned to me the extraordinary size and price of some cattle reared by Dr. Taylor, I rode out with our host, surveyed his furm, and was shewn one cow which he had sold for a hundred and twenty guineas, and another for which he had been offered a hundred and thirty. Taylor thus described to me his old school-fellow and friend, Johnsoo : “He is a man of a very clear head, great power of words, and a very gay imagination : but there is no disputing with him. He will not hear you, and having a louder voice than you, must roar you down.”
In the afternoon I tried to get Dr. Johnson to like the Poems of Mr. Hamilton of Bangour, which I had brought with me: 1 had been much pleased with them at a very early age: the impression still remained on my mind; it was confirmed by the opinion of my friend the Honourable Andrew Erskine, himself both a good poet and a good critic, who thought Hamilton as true a poet as ever wrote, and that his not having fame was unaccountable. Johnson, upon repeated occasions, while I was at Ashbourne, talked slightingly of Hamilton. He said, there was no power of thinking in his verses, nothing that strikes one, nothing better than what you generally find in magazines; and that the highest praise they deserved was, that they were very well for a gentleman to hand about among his friends, He said the imitation of Ne sit ancillæ tibi amor, &c. was too solemn; he read part of it at the beginning. He read the beautiful pathetic song " Ah, the poor shepherd's mouroful fate," and did not seem to give attention to what I had been used to think tender elegant strains, but laughed at the rhyme, in Scotch pronunciation, wishes and blushes, reading wushes-and there he stopped. He owned that the epitaph on Lord Newhall was pretty well done. He read the “Inscription in a Summer-house," and a little of the imitation of Horace's Epistles; but said he found nothing to make him desire to read
When I urged that there were some good poetical passages in the book, “Where (said be), will you find so large a collection without some !" I thought the description of Winter might obtain his appro. bation :
“ See Winter, from the frozen north
Drives his iron chariot forth!
He asked why an “iron chariot ?" and said "icy chains” was an old image. I was struck with the uncertainty of taste, and somewhat sorry that a poet whoin I had long read with fondness, was not approved by Dr. Johnson. I comforted myself with thinking that the beauties were too delicate for his robust perceptions. Garrick maintained that he had Dot a taste for the finest productions of genius : but I was sensible, that when he took the trouble to analyse critically, he generally convinced us that he was right.
Io the evening the Reverend Mr. Seward, of Lichfield, who was praco sing through Ashbourne in his way home, drank tea with us. Juhuson