1784 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 54 (December 1784) 883-84.



Monday, the 13th December, 1784, closed the remarkably affectionate suspense of the publick, during the long and painful illness, by the removal of Dr. Samuel Johnson; who was born at Lichfield in September 1709.

A splendid series of almost 50 years, devoted to the literature of his native country, with unparalleled elegance and success, renders all praise superfluous; and will, perhaps, perpetuate the language he was thus destined to exalt.

His observation, in 1775, on losing the Author he so long loved [Dr. Hawkesworth], we must now appropriate to himself, with exquisite propriety and regret. "This man has left a gap in our world, which, to supply, we must for ever look around in vain."

If, in his convivial, or private conversation, any individuals, that enjoyed it, became not wiser or better, the fault was entirely their own. Impurity or infidelity never escaped his lips; and generally found severe reprehension, when obtruded by others, during "The Feast of Reason and the Flow of Soul."

Dr. Johnson rejoiced to share his present property, be it little or be it much, with every child of distress that sought his door; becoming literally "Eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame."

Bred in the ecclesiastical discipline, and politics, which distinguished the Royalists in the last century, he never abandoned them.

Fearing God as a man, and loving him as a Christian, perfectly equal to his former self in the most solemn moments of his declining life, he met death at last with dignity and comfort; not only knowing, but declaring, "in whom he trusted."

Of his descent Samuel Johnson had no cause to be ashamed; and, for the only partner of his life and fortune, of whom he had been deprived 30 years, an epitaph, inscribed on a black marble grave stone in Bromley church, Kent, can best relate her merit, and his affection:

Hic conduntor reliquiae
ELIZIBETHAE
Antiqua JARVISTIORUM gente,
Peatlingae, apud Leicestrenses, ortae
Formosae, cultae, ingeniosae, piae;
Uxoris, primis nuptiis, HENRICI PORTER,
secundis, SAMUELIS JOHNSON,
Qui multum amatam, diuque defletam,
Hoc lapide contexit.
Obiit Londini, mense Mart.
A.D. MDCCLIII.

On the Monday after his decease, he was interred in Westminster Abbey, at the foot of Shakespeare's monument, and close to the remains of his beloved pupil David Garrick.

His friends, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir John Hawkins, and Dr. Scott, attended as executors.

Sir Charles Burnbury, Sir Joseph Banks, Edmund Burke, William Windham, Stephen Langton, and George Colman esqrs, as pall-bearers; and the several other gentlemen whose names appear in p. 947. with his faithful black servant for whom he has amply provided, as mourners.

The Rev. Dr. Taylor performed the burial office, attended by SOME gentlemen of the Abbey — but, it must be regretted by all who continue to reverence the hierarchy, that the cathedral service was withheld from it's invariable friend; and the omission was truly offensive to the audience at large.