« PrécédentContinuer »
THE LAST DAYS AND RELIGIOUS CHA
RACTER OF DR. JOHNSON.
The second document is a journal, now for the first time published, by
the late Right Honourable William To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Windham, from the 7th to the 13th
S a sequel to the papers insert- of December. Like Mr. Hoole's
ed in the January and August diary, it is, although much shorter, Numbers of your volume for 1831, full of interest; and it derives much respecting the religious friends and of its impressiveness from the circharacter of Dr. Johnson, I beg leave cumstance of its containing a deto report such additional accounts of scription of the final interview behis last days, as have been lately tween two such men as Johnson and published, by the Right Honourable Windham. The dying moralist gave John Wilson Croker, in his variorum his friend a New Testament; and edition of Boswell.
“ then," says the narrator, “ proThe first of these is a diary of ceeded to observe that I was entering Johnson's last illness, by Mr. Hoole, upon a life which would lead me the translator of Tasso; from the 20th deeply into all the business of the of November to the 13th of Decem- world : that he did not condemn ber inclusive, 1784. A few extracts civil employment; but that it was from this were made in the original a state of great danger, and that work of Boswell ; and the whole of he had therefore one piece of advice the journal, which was afterwards earnestly to impress upon me; that printed in the European Magazine I would set apart every seventh day for September, 1799, is now copied for the care of my soul ; that one into the general appendix to Mr. day, the seventh, should be emCroker's digest. It is a highly im- ployed in repenting what was amiss pressive document; and remarkable in the six preceding, and fortifying for that detail of incident and con- my virtue for the six to come ; that versation which brings us, perhaps, such a portion of time was surely even into closer contact with its sub- little enough for the meditation of ject than the most circumstantial eternity *.” If this advice be correctly statements of Boswell himself. At reported, it will, I assume—however the same time, it does not appear excellent in its degreemjustify an to communicate more satisfactory opinion already given on the obnotices of Dr. Johnson's religious scurity of Dr. Johnson's religious character, than had previously been principles. But the whole of Mr. given. His manner and talk are Windham's report is unsatisfactory; described as having been very se- and with regard to himself, it may rious; but there is no direct indi. be observed, that if men are to be cation of a mind fully irradiated by the pure light of the Gospel.
• Vol. v. p. 326. CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 361.
estimated by their public conduct, Mr. Hoole and Dr. Strahan, clergythe future statesman would seem to
of the Established Church. have forgotten the dangers pointed Now, the facts of the case essentially out by his dying friend.
contradict Mr. La Trobe's account, But although the diaries of Hoole and any inference which might be and Windham are, properly, the deducible from it. Dr. Johnson, as only additions made to the previous it will be seen in the diaries of Sir accounts of Johnson's death, there J. Hawkins and Mr. Windham, was are other portions of Mr. Croker's not speechless the day before his work which demand notice and ex- death, nor did he die next morning amination; and particularly, as con- (which seems mentioned as the reanected with what has already ap- son why Mr. La Trobe's visit was peared in the pages of the Christian not repeated), but in the evening. Observer. At p. 323, Mr. Croker And, which is quite conclusive, it subjoins the following note :-“The appears from Mr. Hoole’s diary, that son of Mr. La Trobe has published, Mr. La Trobe's visit to Dr.Johnson's in the Christian Observer for January, residence (and his son admits there 1828, ' in order,' as he says, “ that was but one) took place about eleven the tradition may not be lost,'a cor- o'clock on the forenoon of the 10th, roboration of some re ks which three days before Dr. Johnson's appeared in that work for the October death; that Mr. La Trobe did not and November preceding, (namely, even see him ; and that it was in the a re-print of a paper in the Rev. course of that very day that Mr. S. C. Wilks's · Christian Essays,') Hoole read prayers to him, and a on the last days of Dr. Johnson. small congregation of friends. So Mr. La Trobe's statement tends, as little can anecdotes at second hand far as it goes, to confirm the opinion be trusted.” already, it is hoped, universally en- On this statement,—which, so far tertained, that Johnson's death was as it relates to facts, will, I trust, truly Christian. But Mr. La Trobe attract the notice of your accused had little to tell; and of that little, correspondent, Mr. La Trobe himunfortunately the prominent facts self, and, if necessary, draw from are indisputably erroneous. Mr. him an explanation,—I would obLa Trobe states, that · Dr. Johnson serve, myself, that Dr. Johnson, had, during his last illness, sent when approaching the shadows of every day to know when his father, death, did most probably prefer the who was then out of town, would spiritual assistance of the elder come back.
The moment he ar- Mr. La Trobe. And this opinion is rived he went to the Doctor's house, founded on the belief, that Dr. but found him speechless, though Strahan and the Rev. Mr. Hoole sensible. Mr. La Trobe addressed (son of the journalist) were much to him some religious exhortation; inferior, as religious advisers, to the which Johnson shewed, by pressing eminent Moravian thus forced into his hand and other signs, that he a kind of rivalry with them. Of Dr. understood and was thankful for. Strahan, I, indeed, know nothing, He expired the next morning, and except from his preface and adverMr. La Trobe always regretted not tisement to Johnson's Prayers and having been able to attend Dr. Meditations; which, in a spiritual Johnson sooner, according to his sense, are cold and gloomy as the wish. The reader will see that the winter's mist. Of Mr. Hoole, noinference suggested by this state- thing is said in his father's diary ment is, that Dr. Johnson wished which discovers any religious vitality. for the spiritual assistance of Mr. He appears to have attended, chiefly La Trobe, in addition (or it might as a mechanical reader of prayers. even be inferred, in preference) to On the other hand, Mr. La Trobe that of his near and dear friends, is well remembered by many as a
man of eminent piety; of sentiments fixed upon his society by the consort essentially coincident with the doc. of George the Third, was called the trinal Articles of the Established Queen's Mr. Hutton. Her majesty Church; and, altogether, such a wise frequently admitted him into her and excellent counsellor, as was want- circle; or rather, I believe, consulted ed at the death-bed of Dr. Johnson. him in private, He was generally If Mr. La Trobe really did not see known to the excellent Christians of his dying friend, I, for one, must his day, and, it seems, to numbers deeply regret that the latter had not also without; for Mrs. Piozzi somesuch efficient assistance. But I had where calls him"
dear, good, every always understood, and long before body's Mr. Hutton.” There is a the statement of the present Mr. La mezzotinto engraving of this gentleTrobe appeared in your pages, that man, who, in conjunction with Mr. his father had seen Johnson, and La Trobe-since both of them were had also expressed himself favourable intimate with Johnson before his as to the final state of his mind*. last days—doubtless contributed to
There was another minister of the regulate and correct his opinions. United Brethren who was acquainted I do not, I trust, bring forward these with Dr. Johnson; and this was names as pitting them against the Mr. Hutton, who, from the value two clergymen before mentioned, or • The writer has pleasure in recording
as panegyrizing the peculiarities of the following reminiscence of the late Moravianism ; but as defending the Mr. La Trobe, penned during a voyage memory of the just from what will by his son to the Moravian settlements at be generally regarded to be a slur the Cape of Good Hope :—“At home or abroad, by sea or land, wherever I am, I upon their religious competency. can never forget the mournful event of Let it be at least conceded that this day (the 29th of November), when Hutton and La Trobe were quite our family and church were bereft of that
as faithful monitors as Strahan and excellent man, my father, in the year 1786.
Hoole. Though now nearly thirty years are gone by, yet, when the return of this day brings
There is another circumstance his death to my recollection, I feel some bearing upon this discussion, which recurrence of the pangs which then seized deserves inquiry. In Mr. Hoole's in his last illness, calling me to his bed diary, under date of November 23, side, he expressed himself to the following it is said, that Johnson “spoke of his effect, in consequence of the lamentations design to invite a Mrs. Hall to be of a friend who had just left the room. with him, and to offer her Mrs. * There is nothing, my dear son, that Williams's room*.” This lady, who grieves me more than to hear such complaints ; not because, far from Hattering had been long known to Dr.Johnson, me, they only remind me the more forcibly was the sister of the Rev. John of my defects, but because they evince a Wesley, and of similar sentiments deplorable want of knowledge of, and .con- with him. My own impression is, that fidence in, the dealings of God with his church and servants. He wants' none of whatever might be Johnson's respect us; but if he is pleased to use us, surely for the clerical friends then attend. he kuows best when to put down one ant upon him, he secretly panted tool and take up another. And will he for more spiritual instruction than suffer any part of his work to stand still for want of instruments to work with ? they afforded. He much regarded No! he will find such as are suited to Wesley himself; and Mr. Croker hand, and to the times and circumstances has published the following original when they are to be employed.' This is, letter to this eminent person, furnished indeed, true ; but yet I believe that the concurrent testimony of all who knew in manuscriptbythe Rev.Dr.Harwood my late father will permit me to say, that, of Lichfield :-*i 6th Feb, 1776. Sir, taking his character in a general sense, When I received your Commentary and viewing him as a man and as a Chris
on the Bible,' I durst not at first tian, we shall not soon look upon his like again.”—Journal of a Visit to South Africa, in 1815.
• Vol. v. p. 465.
flatter myself that I was to keep it, were communicated by Colonel Pow. having so little claim to so valuable nall to Mr. Storey* of Colchester. a present; and, when Mrs. Hall In the near approach of death, informed me of your kindness, was Dr. Johnson expressed great dissahindered from time to time from re- tisfaction with himself and with the turning you those thanks which I state of his heart; and, in reply to now entreat you to accept. I have one of his friends, who, in order to thanks likewise to return you, for comfort him, had referred to his writthe addition of your important suf- ings in defence of virtue and relifrage to my argument on the Ame- gion, he said, ' Admitting for a morican question. To have gained such ment that all you say is true, yet a mind as yours may justly confirm how can I tell whether I have done me in my own opinion. What enough?' He therefore refused to be effect my paper has upon the public comforted by the ordinary topics of I know not; but I have no reason consolation which were proposed to to be discouraged. The lecturer him; and, in consequence, desired was surely in the right, who, though to see some clergyman, and deshe saw his audience slinking away, cribed the views and character of refused to quit the chair while Plato the person he wished to consult. staid.
A Mr. Winstanley was mentioned, “ I am, Reverend Sir,
as exactly answering to his wishes; your most humble servant, and the Doctor desired a note to be
SAM. JOHNSON*.” written in his name earnestly reThis is one of the most compli- questing his attendance as a minismentary letters to be found in the ter. Mr.Winstanley, who was in a whole Johnsonian collection; and most debilitated state of nerves, was other strong evidence of its writer's overpowered at receiving the note, admiration of the founder of Method- and was appalled at the thought of ism might be adduced from his various biographers. It is surely very Arminian Magazine, was begun by. Mr. credible that Mrs. Hall was about Wesley in 1778, and is now continued to be domesticated in Johnson's
family conducted with ability, and with good
under the title in the text. It is generally for the sake of her spiritual discern. temper towards all who love the Lord ment and character: he was, at least, Jesus Christ in sincerity.” In the volume aware of the strength of her intellect, for 1829 is an acute and dispassionate and was able to estimate the value analysis of Forster's untimely' book on of its combination with religion. He tian reader must be grateful.
Mohammedanism, for which every Chrisalways loved a mind which could * The names of Storey and Winstanley meet his own; and, oppressed though in this extract must be mistakes. The he was by ecclesiastical prejudice, the Rev. William Marsh, as incumbent of
Rev. Robert Storey was predecessor of frequently went out of bounds in St. Peter's, Colchester. Of Mr. Winstanley search of Christian instruction. And I have only a faint remembrance that his here, with far greater pleasure in name appears in some minor religious delivering the cheering statement, biographies as a man of great piety and
As there is in the than I have found in examining all Wesleyan statement the formal copy of a foregoing euthanasias, I will subjoin letter written to Dr. Johnson, it must be a much more satisfactory account presumed that the original, or a duplicate than had previously been published taken at the time, is accessible. The of the last days of Dr. Johnson. M. G. H. Why was this report so long
communicator of the paper signs himself The following circumstances, says delayed; and is there any representative a writer in the Wesleyan Metho- of Colonel Pownall, or of Mr. Storey, dist Magazinet for 1829 (p. 744), It is not, I hope, too late to ascertain its
who can authenticate what is asserted ?
validity by the exhibition of the writer's • Vol. iii. p. 309.
real name, or by such references as may + This periodical, originally called the remove every suspicion of error.
encountering the learning and ta- and this communication, together lents of the Doctor, being wholly with some conversations with the unaware of the meekness with which late Mr. Latrobe (who afterwards his heart was prepared to receive visited the Doctor), were evidently the words of salvation. In his per- blessed by God in bringing this great plexity he consulted with his friend man to a complete renunciation of Colonel Pownall, who urged him self, and a simple reliance on Jesus without delay to follow what ap- as his Saviour ; thus also communipeared such a remarkable call of cating to him that peace which he Providence. For a time his ner- could not find elsewhere, and which, vous apprehensions seemed to give when the world was fading from his way, but they soon returned : and, view, filled the aching void, and disabandoning all thoughts of a per- sipated the gloom even of the valley sonal interview, he determined on of the shadow of death. It is thus writing the following letter :- God puts honour upon the doctrine
“Dear Sir,-I beg to acknow- of faith in a crucified Redeemer." ledge the honour of your note. I Assuming this account to be correct, am sorry that the state of my health the reader will now judge how far prevents a compliance with your re- Johnson was satisfied with such adquest: my nerves are in so shat. visers as Strahan and Hoole. The tered a state I feel as if I should be mention of Mr. La Trobe's name in quite confounded in your presence; this paper is also very observable. and, instead of promoting, should To Mr. Croker it is now justly due only injure the cause in which you to say, that after all his own indusseek my aid: therefore permit me to trious investigation of the circumwrite what I should wish to say stances of Dr. Johnson's death, he were I present. I can conceive refers to the reprint of Mr. Wilks's what must be the subject of your in- Essay, in your work, in the following quiries : your views of yourself may candid manner :-"The quantity of be changed with your condition; evidence now brought together as and that, in the near approach of to the state of Dr.
Johnson's mind death, what you considered mere with regard to religion in general, peccadillos, have risen into moun- and his own salvation in particular, tains of guilt, while your best actions dispenses the editor from making have in your esteem dwindled into any observations on the subject; but nothing. Whatever side you look those who may wish to see a comat you only see positive transgres- mentary on the facts may turn to sion, or defective obedience; and the remarks in the Christian Ob. hence, in self-despair, you may be server for October and November, inquiring 'What shall I do to be 1827 *.”—You will allow me, sir, I saved?' I say to you in the language hope, to express the gratification I of the Baptist, ‘Behold the Lamb of have derived from Mr, Croker's li. God, that taketh away the sins of the beral appeal to your work. I am world!'—When Sir John Hawkins, confident that I am only repeating who read this letter to Dr. Johnson, your own sentiments when I add, came to this passage, the Doctor in that all my anxiety is to gather solid terrupted him, anxiously asking, proof that Dr. Johnson died well, by * Does he say so?' It was read again whatever instruments God was pleato him; upon which he said, “This sed to impart to his soul the peace is just the man I want to see ; write which passeth all understanding. to him again. A second note was
• Vol. v. p. 346.