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TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
I write to be left at Carlisle, as you direct me; but you cannot have it. Your letter, dated Sept. 6, was not at this place till this day, Thursday, Sept. 11; and I hope you will be here before this is at Caro lisle. However, what you have not going, you may have returning; and as I believe I shall not love you less after our interview, it will then be as true as it is now, that I set a very high value upon your friendship, and count your kindness as one of the chief felicities of my life. Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any mao at all times something to say:
That distrust which intrudes so often on your mind is a mode of melancholy, which, if it be the business of a wise man to be happy, it is foolish to indulge; and, if it be a duty to preserve our faculties entire for their proper use, it is criminal. Suspicion is very often an useless pain. From that, and all other pains, I wish you free and safe; for I am, dear Sir,
Most affectionately yours,
SAM. JOHNSON. Ashbourne, September 11, 1777.
On Sunday evening, Sept. 14, I arrived at Ashbourne, and drove directly up to Dr. Taylor's door. Dr. Johnson and he appeared before I had got out of the post-chaise, and welcomed me cordially.
I told them that I had travelled all the preceding night, and gone to bed at Leek, in Staffordshire; and that when I rose to go to church in the afternoon, I was informed there had been an earthquake, of which, it seems, the shock had been felt in some degree at Ashbourne. Johoson. Sir, it will be much exaggerated in public talk : for, in the first place, the common people do not accurately adapt their thoughts to the objects; nor, Secondly, do they accurately adapt their words to their thoughts : they do not inean to lie; but, taking no pains to be exact, they give you very false accounts. A great part of their language is proverbial. If any thing rocks at all, they suy it rocks like a cradle; and in this way they
The subject of grief for the loss of relatious and friends being introduced, l observed that it was strange to consider how soon it in general wears away. Dr. Taylor mentioned a gentleman of the neighbourhood as the only instance he had ever known of a person who had endeavoured to retain grief. He told Dr. Taylor, that after his Lady's death, which affected him deeply, he resolved that the grief, which he cherished with a kind of sacred fondness, should be lasting ; but that he found he could pot keep it long. Johnson. All grief for what cannot in the course of
nature be helped, soon wears away; in some sooner, indeed, in some later ; but it never continues very loug, unless where there is madness, such as will make a man have pride so fixed in his mind, as to imagine bimself a king; or any other passion in an unreasonable way: for all unnecessary grief is unwise, and therefore will not be long retained by a sound mind. If, indeed, the cause of our grief is occasioned by our own misconduct, if grief is mingled with remorse of conscience, it should be lasting. Boswell. But, Sir, we do not approve of a man who very soon forgets the loss of a wife or a friend. Johnson. Sir, we disapprove of him, not because he soon forgets his grief; for the sooner it is for. gotten the better, but because we suppose, that if he forgets his wife or his friend soon, he has not had much affection for them.
I was somewhat disappointed in finding that the edition of the English Poets, for which he was to write Prefaces and Lives, was not an undertaking directed by him : but that he was to furnish a Preface and Life to any poet the booksellers pleased. I asked him if he would do this to any dunce's works, if they should ask him. Johnson. Yes, Sir; and say he was a dunce. My friend seemed now not much to relish talking of this edition.
On Monday, September 15, Dr. Johnson observed, that every body commended such parts of his “ Journey to the Western Islands," as were in their own way. “For instance, (said he,) Mr. Jackson (the all-knowing) told me there was more good sepse upon trade in it, than he should hear in the House of Commons in a year, except from Burke. Jones commended the part which treats of language ; Burke that which describes the inhabitants of mountainous countries.”
After breakfast, Johnson carried me to see the garden belonging to the school of Ashbourne, which is very prettily formed upon a bank, rising gradually behind the house. The Reverend Mr. Langley, the head-master, accompanied us.
While we sat basking in the sun upon a seat here, I introduced a common subject of complaint, the very small salaries which many curates have, and I maiutained, that no man should be invested with the character of a clergyman, unless he has a security for such an income as will enable him to appear respectable; that, therefore, a clergyman should not be allowed to have a curate, unless he gives him a hundred pouods a year; if he cannot do that, let him perform the daty himself. Johnson. To be sure, Sir, it is wrong that any clergyman should be without a reasonable income ; but as the church revenues were sadly diminished at the Reformation, the clergy who have livings, cannot afford, in many instances, to give good salaries to curates, without leaving themselves too little; and, if no curate were to be permitted unless he had a hundred pounds a year, their number would be very small, which would be a disadvantage, as then there would not be such choice
in the nursery for the church, curates being candidates for the higher ecclesiastical offices, according to their merit and good behaviour." He explained the system of the English Hierarchy exceedingly well. is not thought fit (said be) to trust a inan with the care of a parish till he has given proof as a curate that he shall deserve such a trust.” This is an excellent theory: and if the practice were according to it, the Church of England would be admirable indeed. However, as I have heard Dr. Johnson observe as to Universities, bad practice does not infer that the constitution is bad.
We had with us at dinner several of Dr. Taylor's neighbours, good civil gentlemen, who seemed to understand Dr. Johnson very well, and not to consider him in the light that a certain person did, who being struck, or rather stunned by his voice and manner, when he was afterwards asked what he thought of him, answered, “ He's a tremendous companion.”
Johnson told me, that “ Taylor was a very sensible acute inan, and had a strong miud : that he had great activity in some respects, and yet such a sort of indolence, that if you should put a pebble upon his chimney-piece, you would find it there, in the same state, a year afterwards."
And here is a proper place to give an account of Johnson's humane and zealous interference in behalf of the Reverend Dr. William Dodd, formerly Prebendary of Brecon, and Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty: celebrated as a very popular preacher, an encourager of charitable institutions, and author of a variety of works, chiefly theological. 'Having unhappily contracted expensive habits of living ; partly occasioned by licentiousness of manners, he in an evil hour, when pressed by want of money, and dreading an exposure of his circumstances, forged a bond of which he attempted to avail himself to support his credit, flattering bimself with hopes that he might be able to repay its amount without being detected. The person, whose name he thus rashly aud criminally presumed to falsify, was the Earl of Chesterfield, to whom he had been tutor, and who, he perhaps, in the warmth of his feelings, Auttered himself would have generously paid the money in case of an alarro being taken, rather than suffer birn to fall a victim to the dreadful consequences of violating the law against forgery, the most dangerous crime in a com. mercial country; but the unfortunate divine had the mortification to find that he was mistaken. His noble popil appeared against him, and he was capitally convicted.
Johnson told me that Dr. Dodd was very little acquainted with him, having been but once in his company, many years previous to this period (which was precisely the state of my own acquaintance with Dodd); but in his distress he bethought himself of Johnson's persuasive power of writing, if haply it might avail to obtain for him the Royal Mercy. Ile did not apply to him directly, but, extraordinary as it may seem, through the late Countess of Harrington, who wrote a letter to Johnson,
asking him to employ his pen in favour of Dodd. Mr. Allen, the printer, who was Johnson's landlord and next neighbour in Bolt-court, and for whom he had much kindness, was one of Dodd's friends, of whom, to the credit of humanity be it recorded, that he had many who did not desert him, even after his infringement of the law had reduced him to the state of a man under sentence of death. Mr. Allen told me that he carried Lady Harrington's letter to Johnson, that Johnson read it walking up and down his chamber, and seemed much agitated, after which he said, “I will do what I can;" and certainly he did make extraordinary exertions.
He this evening, as he had obligingly promised in one of his letters, put into my hands the whole series of his writings upon this melancholy occasion, and I shall present my readers with the abstract which I made from the collection ; in doing which I studied to avoid copying what had appeared in print, and now make part of the edition of “Johnson's Works,” published by the Booksellers of London, but taking care to mark Johnson's variations in some of the pieces there exhibited.
Dr. Johnson wrote in the first place, Dr. Dodd's “Speech to the Recorder of London,” at the Old Bailey, when sentence of death was about to be pronounced upon him.
He wrote also “ The Convict's Address to his unhappy Brethren,” a sermon delivered by Dr. Dodd, in the chapel of Newgate. According to Johnsou’s manuscript it began thus after the text, What shall I do to be saved ?" These were the words with which the keeper, to whose custody Paul and Silas were committed by their persecutors, addressed bis prisoners, when he saw them freed from their bonds by the perceptible agency of divine favour, and was, therefore, irresistibly convinced that they were not offenders against the laws, but martyrs to the truth.”
Dr. Johnson was so good as to mark for me with his own hand, op a copy
of this sermon which is now in my possession, such passages as were added by Dr. Dodd. They are not many: whoever will take the trouble to look at the printed copy, and attend to what I mention, will be satisfied of this.
There is a short introduction by Dr. Dodd, and be also inserted this sentence, “ You see with what confusion and dishonour I now stand before you; no more in the pulpit of instruction, but on this humble seat with yourselves.” The notes are entirely Dodd's own, and Johnson's writing ends at the words, “the thief whom he pardoned on the cross." What follows was supplied by Dr. Dodd himself,
The other pieces mentioned by Johoson in the above-mentioned collection, are two letters, one to the Lord Chancellor Bathurst, (not Lord North, as is erroneously supposed,) and ove to Lord Mansfield ;-a Petition from Dr. Dodd to the King ;--a Petition from Mrs. Dodd to the Queen ;-Observations of some length inserted in the vews-papers, on occasion of Earl Percy's having presented to his Majesty a petition for mercy to Dodd, signed by twenty thousaud pcople, but all in vain. He told me that he had also written a petition from the city of London ; “ but (said he, with a significant smile) they mended it."
The last of these articles which Johnson wrote is “ Dr. Dodd's last solemn Declaration,” which he left with the sheriff at the place of execution. Here also my friend marked the variations on a copy of that piece now in my possession. Dodd inserted, “I never knew or attended to the calls of frugality, or the needful minuteness of painful economyAnd in the next sentence he introduced the words which I distin. guish by Italics ; “My life for some few unhappy years past has been dreadfully erroneous. Johnson's expression was hypocritical; but bis remark on the margin is “ With this he said he could not charge himself.”
Having thus authentically settled what part of the “Occasional Pa. pers," conceroing Dr. Dodd's miserable situation, came from the pen of Johnson, I shall proceed to present my readers with my record of the unpublished writings relating to that extraordinary and interesting inatter.
I found a letter to Dr. Johnson from Dr. Dodd, May 23, 1777, in which “ The Convict's Address" seems clearly to be meant:
“I am so penetrated, my ever dear Sir, with a sense of your extreme benevolence towards me, that I cannot find words equal to the sentiments of my heart.
“ You are too conversant in the world to need the slightest biot froin me, of what infinite utility the Speech on the awful day has been to me. I experience, every hour, some good effect from it. I am sure that ef. fects still more salutary and important, must follow from your kind and intended favour. I will labour-God being my helper,-to do justice to it from the pulpit. I am sure, had I your sentiments constantly to deliver from thence, in all their mighty force and power, not a soul could be left unconvinced and uppersuaded.”
He added, “May GOD ALMIGHTY bless and reward, with bis choicest comforts, your philanthropic actions, and enable me at all times to express what I feel of the high and uncommon obligations which I owe to the first man in our times.”
On Sunday, June 22, he writes, begging Dr. Johnson's assistance in framing a supplicatory letter to his Majesty:
“ If his Majesty could be moved of his royal clemency to spare me and my family the horrors and ignominy of a public death, which the public itself is solicitous to wave, and to grant me io some silent distant corber of the globe to pass the remainder of my days in penitence and prayer, I would bless his clemency and be humbled."
This letter was brought to Dr. Johnson when in church. He stooped down and read it; and wrote, when he went home, the following letter for Dr. Dodd to the King: