Immagini della pagina

length changed this design, and determined to give the manuscripts, without revision, in charge to me, as I had long shared his intimacy, and was at this time his daily attendant. Accordingly, one morning, on my visiting him by desire at an early hour, he put these papers into my hands, with instructions for committing them to the press, and with a promise to prepare a sketch of his own life to accompany them. But the performance of this promise also was prevented, partly by his hasty destruction of some private memoirs, which he afterwards lamented, and partly by that incurable sickness, which soon ended in his dissolution.

As a biographer, he is allowed to have excelled without a rival; and we may justly regret that he who had so advantageously transmitted to posterity the memories of other eminent men, should have been thus prevented doing equal honour to his own.

But the particulars of this venerable man's personal history may still, in great measure, be preserved; and the public are authorised to expect them from some of his many friends, who are zealous to augment the monument of his fame by the detail of his private virtues *.

That the authenticity of this work may never be called in question, the original manuscript will be deposited in the library of Pembroke College in Oxford. Dr. Bray's associates are to receive the profits of the first edition, by the author's appointment; and any further advantages that accrue, will be distributed among his relations f.

Since this Preface was written, the following publications hare appeared, viz.

Anecdotes of the late Dr. Johnson, during the last Twenty Years of his Life, by Hester Lynch Piozzi. 3rd edit. 1786, small 8vo.

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. published with his Works, by sir John Hawkins, 8vo. 1787.

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL. D. by James Boswell, esq. first published in 2 vols. 4to. afterwards (1793) in three. A new edition, with Notes, &c. is preparing by the editor of this edition of his Works, with which it will be printed uniform.

An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. by Arthur Murphy, esq. 8vo. 1792, prefixed to this edition.

+ The profits of the first edition were accordingly paid to Dr. Bray's associates ; and those of the second have been distributed among Dr.

I have now discharged the trust reposed in me by that friend, whose labours entitle him to lasting gratitude and veneration from the literary, and still more from the christian world. His Lives of the English Poets" are written," as he justly hopes,*

* “ in such a manner as may tend to the promotion of piety." This merit may be ascribed, with equal truth, to most of his other works; and doubtless to his Sermons, none of which indeed have yet been made public, nor is it known where they are extant; though it be certain, from, his own acknowledgement, both in conversation and writing, t that he composed many.

As he seems to have turned his thoughts with peculiar earnestness to the study of religious subjects, we may presume these remains would deserve to be numbered among his happiest productions. It is, therefore, hoped they have fallen into the hands of those, who will not withhold them in obscurity, but consider them as deposits, the seclusion of which, from general use, would be an injurious diminution of their author's fame, and retrenchment from the eommon stock of serious instruction. I

But the integrity of his mind was not only speculatively shadowed in his writings, but substantially exemplified in his life. His prayers and his alms, like those of the good Cornelius, went up for an incessant memorial; and always, from

Johnson's poor relations and connexions, all of whom are since dead, except Humphrey Hely, who married Ford, sister to the Rev. Cor. nelius Ford, and first cousin to our author. This poor man, who has seen better days is now a tenant of Whicher's Alms-houses, Chapel street, Westminster. [It is now, April 1817, about twenty years since he died in these Alms-houses, and was buried in the adjoining burial-ground belonging to St. Margaret's Chapel.]

• See p. 265. + P. 264.

In 1788 appeared one volume, and in 1789 a second, of Sermons on different subjects, left for publication by John Taylor, LL.D. late Prebendary of Westminster, &c. published by the Rev. Samuel Hayes, A. M. Usher of Westminster School. To the second volume is added a Sermon avowedly written by Dr. Johnson, for the funeral of his wife : and from internal and other evidence, the whole contents of both volumes are now generally ascribed to the same author. They are, for the first time, placed among his collected works in this edition.


a heart deeply impresserl with piety, never insensible to the calls of friendship or compassion, and prone to melt in effusions of tenderness on the slightest incitement.

When, among other articles in his Dictionary, Lichfield presents itself to his notice, he salutes that place of his nativity in these words of Virgil, Salve, magna parens. Nor was the salutation adopted without reason; for well might he denominate his parent city great, who, by the celebrity of his name, bath for ever made it som

Salve, magna parens frugum, Staffordia tellus,
Magna virûm.

VIRG. Georg. lib. ii. 1. 173. More decisive testimonies of his affectionate sensibility are exhibited in the following work, where he bewails the successive depredations of death on his relations and friends; whose virtues, thus mournfully suggested to his recollection, he seldom omits to recite, with ardent wishes for their acquittal at the throne of mercy. In praying, however, with restriction, * for these regretted tenants of the grave, he indeed conformed to a practice, which, though it has been retained by other learned members of our church, her liturgy no longer admits, and many, who adhere to her communion, avowedly disapprove. That such prayers are, or may be, efficacious, they who sincerely offer them must believe. But may not a belief in their efficacy, so far as it prevails, be attended with danger to those who entertain it? May it not incline them to carelessness: and promote a neglect of repentance by inducing a per


Our author informs us that his prayers for deceased friends were offered up on several occasions as far as might be lawful for him ; and once (p214) vità Preface of Permission : whence it should seem that he had some doubt concerning the lawfulness of such prayers, though it does not appear that he ever discontinued the use of them. It is also observable, that in his reflections on the death of his wife, (p. 262,) and again of Mr. Thrale, (p. 271,) he wishes that the Almighty not may have, but may have had, mercy on them; evidently supposing their sentence to have been already passed in the Divine Mind. This supposition, indeed, may seem not very consistent with his recommending them to the Divine Merey afterwards. It proves, however, that he had no belief in a state of Purgatory, and consequently no reason for praying for the dead, that could upeach the sincerity of his profession as a Protestant.


suasion, that, without it, pardon may be obtained through these vicarious intercessions ? Indeed the doctrine (I speak with deference to the great names that have espoused it) seems inconsistent with some principles generally allowed among us. If, “where the tree falleth, there it shall be;" if, as Protestants maintain, our state at the close of life is to be the measure of our final sentence; then prayers for the dead, being visibly fruitless, can be regarded only as the vain oblations of superstition. But of all superstitions, this, perhaps, is one of the least unamiable, and most incident to a good mind. If our sensations of kindness be intense, those whom we have revered and loved during life, death, which removes them from sight, cannot wholly exclude from our

The fondness, kindled by intercourse, will still glow from memory, and prompt us to wish, perhaps to pray, that the valued dead, to whose felicity our friendship can no longer minister, may find acceptance with Him,“ who giveth us,” and them,“ richly all things to enjoy." It is true, for the reason just mentioned, such evidences of our surviving affection may be thought illjudged; but surely they are generous; and some natural tenderness is due even to a superstition, which thus originates in piety and benevolence.

We see our author, in one place,* purposing with seriousness to remember his brother's dream; in another t owing his embarrassment from needless stipulations; and, on many occasions, noting, with a circumstantial minuteness, the process of his religious fasts. But these peculiarities, if they betray some tincture of the propensity already observed, prove, for the most part, the pious tenour of his thoughts. They indicate a mind ardently zealous to please God, and anxious to evince its alacrity in his service, by a scrupulous observance of more than enjoined duties.

But however the soundness of his principles might, in general, be apparent, he seems to have lived with a perpetual conviction that his conduct was defective; lamenting past neg. lects, forming purposes of future diligence, and constantly

[blocks in formation]

acinowiedging their failure in the event. It was natural for

him who possessed such powers of usefulness, to consider the Faste of his time as a peculiar delinquency; with which, bow. ever, he appears to have been far less frequently, and less culpazes chargeable, than his own tender sense of duty disposed him to apprebend. That he meritoriously redeemed many ders and years from indolence, is evinced by the number and esce jence of his works; Dor can we doubt that his literary exertions wonld have been still more frequent, bad not morbid me.mainly, which, as be informs us, was the infirmity of his Isje, repressed them. To the prevalence of this infirmity, we mat certainly ascribe that anxious fear, which seized him on the approach of his dissolution, and which his friends, who Lew bis integrity, observed with equal astonishment and concerz Bat the strength of religion at length prerailed against the fra.lty of nature; and his foreboding dread of the Divine Justice by degrees subsided into a pious trust and humble hope in the Divine mercy.

He is now gone to await his eternal sentence; and as his lite exhibited an illustrious example, so his death suggests an interesting admonition. It concerns us to reflect, that hofce ay may find it impossible to rival his intellectual excellence, yet to imitate his virtues is both possible and necessary to all; tbat the current of time now hastens to plunge es ia tzat gulf of death, where we have so lately seen him absorbed, wbere there is no more place of repentance, and wżerce, according to our innocence or guilt, we shall rise to an immortality of bliss or torment.


ISLINGTON, August á 1781

• P. 253.

« IndietroContinua »