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tion of a religious order, when they have found how unable they are to take care of themselves. For my own part, with out affecting to be a Socrates, I am sure I have a more than ordinary struggle to maintain with the evil principle;' and all the methods I can devise are little enough to keep me tolerably steady in the paths of rectitude.
“ I am ever, with the highest veneration,
It appears from Johnson's diary, that he was this year at Mr. Thrale's, from before Midsummer till after Michaelmas, and that he afterwards passed a month at Oxford. He had then contracted a great intimacy with Mr. Chambers of that university, afterwards sir Robert Chambers, one of the judges in India.
He published nothing this year in his own name; but the noble Dedication* to the King, of Gwyn's London and · Westminster Improved, was written by him; and he furnished the Preface,t and several of the pieces which compose a volume of Miscellanies by Mrs. Anna Williams, the blind lady who had an asylum in his house of
• In a paper already mentioned, (see vol. i. p. 362, and near the end of the year 1763,) the following account of this publication is given by a lady well acquainted with Mrs. Williams :
“ As to her poems, she many years attempted to publish them : the halfcrowns she had got towards the publication, she confessed to me, went for necessaries, and that the greatest pain she ever felt was from the appearance of defrauding her subscribers : ,' But what can I do? the Doctor [Johason] always puts me off with Well, we'll think about it; and Goldsmith says, Leave it to me. However, two of her friends, under her directions, made a new subscription at a crown, the whole price of the work, and in a very little time raised sixty pounds. Mrs. Carter was applied to by Mrs. Williams's desire, and she, with the utmost activity and kindness, procured a long list of
At length the work was published, in which is a fine-written but gloomy tale of Dr. Johnson. The money Mrs. Williams had various uses for, and a part of it was funded.”
Mrs. Williams is stated by the above lady and also by Malone, to have gained one hundred and fifty pounds by this publication.-Ed.
these, there are his Epitaph on Philips ;* Translation of a Latin Epitaph on sir Thomas Hanmer';+ Friendship, an ode ;* and, The Ant, * a paraphrase from the Proverbs, of which I have a copy in his own handwriting; and, from internal evidence, I ascribe to him, To Miss giving the Author a gold and silver network Purse of her own weaving ;t and The Happy Life. *-Most of the pieces in this volume have evidently received additions from his superiour pen; particularly, Verses to Mr. Richardson, on his Sir Charles Grandison; The Excursion; Reflections on a Grave digging in Westminster Abbey. There is in this collection a poem, On the Death of Stephen Grey the Electrician ;* which, on reading it, appeared to me to be undoubtedly Johnson's. I asked Mrs. Williams whether it was not his. Sir," said she, with some warmth,
I wrote that poem before I had the honour of Dr. Johnson's acquaintance.” I however was so much impressed with my first notion, that I mentioned it to Johnson, repeating at the same time what Mrs. Williams had said. His answer was, It is true, sir, that she wrote it before she was acquainted with me; but she has not told you that I wrote it all over again, except two lines.” The Fountains,f a beautiful little fairy tale in prose, written with exquisite simplicity, is one of Johnson's productions ; and I cannot withhold from Mrs. Thrale the praise of being the author of that admirable poem, The Three Warnings.
He wrote this year a letter, not intended for publication, which has, perhaps, as strong marks of his sentiment and style as any of his compositions. The original is in my possession. It is addressed to the late Mr. William Drummond, bookseller in Edinburgh, a gentleman of good family, but small estate, who took arms for the house of Stuart in 1745; and during his concealment in London till the act of general pardon came out, obtained the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson, who justly esteemed him as a very worthy man. It seems some of the members of the society in Scotland for propagating christian knowledge had opposed the scheme of translating the holy scriptures
into the Erse or Gaelic language, from political considerations of the disadvantage of keeping up the distinction between the highlanders and the other inhabitants of North Britain, Dr., Johnson being informed of this, I suppose by Mr. Drummond, wrote with a generous indignation as follows:
TO MR. WILLIAM DRUMMOND.
SIR,- I did not expect to hear that it could be, in an assembly convened for the propagation of christian knowledge, a question whether any nation uninstructed in religion should receive instruction; or whether that instruction should be imparted to them by a translation of the holy books into their own language. If obedience to the will of God be necessary to happiness, and knowledge of his will be necessary to obedience, I know not how he that withholds this knowledge, or delays it, can be said to love his, neighbour as himself. He that voluntarily continues ignorance, is guilty of all the crimes which ignorance produces; as to him that should extinguish the tapers of a lighthouse might justly be imputed the calamities of shipwrecks. Christianity is the highest perfection of humanity; and as no man is good but as he wishes the good of others, no man can be good in the highest degree, who wishes not to others the largest measures of the greatest good. To omit for a year, or for a day, the most efficacious method of advancing christianity, in compliance with any purposes that terminate on this side of the grave,
is a crime of which I know not that the world has yet had an example, except in the practice of the planters of America, a race of mortals whom, I suppose, no other man wishes to resemble.
“ The papists have, indeed, denied to the laity the use of the Bible ; but this prohibition, in few places now very rigorously enforced, is defended by arguments which have for their foundation the care of souls. To obscure, upon motives merely political, the light of revelation, is a prac
tice reserved for the reformed; and, surely, the blackest midvight of popery is meridian sunshine to such a reformation. I am not very willing that any language should be totally extinguished. The similitude and derivation of languages afford the most indubitable proof of the traduction of nations, and the genealogy of mankind. They add often physical certainty to historical evidence; and often supply the only evidence of ancient migrations, and of the revolutions of ages which left no written monuments behind them.
Every man's opinions, at least bis desires, are a little influenced by his favourite studies. My zeal for languages may seem, perhaps, rather over-heated, even to those by whom I desire to be well esteemed. To those who have nothing in their thoughts but trade or policy, present power, or present money, I should not think it necessary to defend my opinions; but with men of letters I would not unwillingly compound, by wishing the continuance of every language, however narrow in its extent, or however incommodious for common purposes, till it is reposited in some version of a known book, that it may be always hereafter examined and compared with other languages, and then permitting its disuse. For this purpose, the translation of the Bible is most to be desired. It is not certain that the same method will not preserve the highland language, for the purposes of learning, and abolish it from daily use. When the highlanders read the Bible, they will naturally wish to have its obscurities cleared, and to know the history, collateral or appendant. Knowledge always desires increase ; it is like fire, which must first he kindled by some external agent, but which will afterwards propagate itself. When they once desire to learn, they will naturally have recourse to the nearest language by which that desire can be gratified; and one will tell another, that if he would attain knowledge, he must learn English.
“This speculation may, perhaps, be thought more subtle than the grossness of real life will easily admit. Let it, however, be remembered, that the efficacy of ignorance has long been tried, and has not produced the consequence expected. Let knowledge, therefore, take its turn; and let the patrons of privation stand a while aside, and admit the operation of positive principles..
“ You will be pleased, sir, to assure the worthy man who is employed in the new translation P, that he has my wishes for his success; and if here or at Oxford I can be of any use, that I shall think it more than honour to promote his undertaking. “I am sorry that I delayed so long to write.
I am, sir,
- SAM. JOHNSON. “ Johnson's-court, Fleet-street,
Aug. 13, 1766.”
The opponents of this pious scheme being made ashamed of their conduct, the benevolent undertaking was allowed to go on,
The following letters, though not written till the year after, being chiefly upon the same subject, are here inserted.
TO MR. WILLIAM DRUMMOND.
“ DEAR SIR,- That my letter should have had such effects as you mention, gives me great pleasure. I hope
p The rev. Mr. John Campbell, minister of the parish of Kippen near Stirling, who has lately favoured me with a long, intelligent, and very obliging letter upon this work, makes the following remark. “ Dr. Johnson has alluded to the worthy man employed in the translation of the New Testament. Might not this have afforded you an opportunity of paying a proper tribute of respect to the memory of the rev. Mr. James Stuart, late minister of Killin, distinguished by his eminent piety, learning, and taste. The amiable simplicity of his life, his warm benevolence, his indefatigable and successful exertions for civilizing and improving the parish of which he was minister for upwards of fifty years, entitle him to the gratitude of his country, and the veneration of all good
It certainly would be a pity, if such a character should be permitted to sink into oblivion."-BOSWELL.