Samuel Johnson

Mary Russell Mitford, "Authors associated with Places. Samuel Johnson" Recollections of a Literary Life; or Books, Places, and People (1852) 127-141.

Most undoubtedly I was a spoilt child. When I recollect certain passages of my thrice happy early life, I can not have the slightest doubt about the matter, although it contradicts all foregone conclusions, all nursery and school-room morality, to say so. But facts are stubborn things. Spoilt I was. Every body spoilt me, most of all the person whose power in that way was greatest, the dear papa himself. Not content with spoiling me indoors, he spoilt me out. How well I remember his carrying me round the orchard on his shoulder, holding fast my little three-year-old feet, while the little hands hung on to his pig-tail, which I called my bridle (those were days of pig-tails), hung so fast, and tugged so heartily, that sometimes the ribbon would come off between my fingers, and send his hair floating, and the powder flying down his back. That climax of mischief was the crowning joy of all. I can hear our shouts of laughter now.

Nor were these my only rides. This dear papa of mine, whose gay and careless temper all the professional etiquette of the world could never tame into the staid gravity proper to a doctor of medicine, happened to be a capital horseman; and abandoning the close carriage, which, at that time, was the regulation conveyance of a physician, almost wholly to my mother, used to pay his country visits on a favorite blood-mare, whose extreme docility and gentleness tempted him, after certain short trials round our old course, the orchard, into having a pad constructed, perched upon which I might occasionally accompany him, when the weather was favorable, and the distance not too great. A groom, who had been bred up in my grandfather's family, always attended us; and I do think that both Brown Bess and George liked to have me with them almost as well as my father did. The old servant proud, as grooms always are, of a fleet and beautiful horse, was almost as proud of my horsemanship; for I, cowardly enough, Heaven knows, in after-years, was then too young and too ignorant for fear, — if it could have been possible to have had any sense of danger when strapped so tightly to my father's saddle, and inclosed so fondly by his strong and loving arm. Very delightful were those rides across the breezy Hampshire downs on a sunny summer morning; and grieved was I when a change of residence from a small town to a large one, and going among strange people who did not know our ways, put an end to this perfectly harmless, if somewhat unusual, pleasure.

But the dear papa was not my only spoiler. His example was followed, as bad examples are pretty sure to he, by the rest of the household. My maid Nancy, for instance, before we left Hampshire, married a young farmer; and nothing would serve her but I must be bridesmaid. And so it was settled.

She was married from her own home, about four miles from our house, and was to go to her husband's after the ceremony. I remember the whole scene as if it were yesterday! How my father took me himself to the churchyard-gate, where the procession was formed, and how I walked next to the young couple hand in hand with the bridegroom's man, no other than the village blacksmith, a giant of six-feet-three, who might have served as a model for Hercules. Much trouble had he to stoop low enough to reach down to my hand; and many were the rustic jokes passed upon the disproportioned pair, who might fitly have represented Brobdignag and Lilliput. My tall colleague proved, however, as well-natured as giants commonly are everywhere but in fairy tales, and took as good care of his little partner as if she had been a proper match for him in age and size.

In this order, followed by the parents on both sides, and a due number of uncles, aunts, and cousins, we entered the church, where I held the glove with all the gravity and importance proper to my office; and so contagious is emotion, and so accustomed was I to sympathize with Nancy, that when the bride cried, I could not help crying for company. But it was a love-match, and between smiles and blushes Nancy's tears soon disappeared, and so by the same contagion did mine. The happy husband helped his pretty wife into her own chaise-cart, my friend the blacksmith lifted me in after her, and we drove gayly to the large, comfortable farm-house where her future life was to be spent.

It was a bright morning in May, and I still remember when we drove up to the low wall which parted the front garden from the winding village road, the mixture of affection and honest pride which lighted up the face of the owner. The square, substantial brick house, covered with a vine, the brick porch garlanded with honeysuckles and sweet-brier, the espalier apple-trees on either side the path in full flower, the double row of thrift with its dull pink bloom, the stocks and wallflowers under the window, the huge barns full of corn, the stacks of all shapes and sizes in the rick-yard, cows and sheep and pigs and poultry told a pleasant tale of rural comfort and rural affluence.

The bride was taken to survey her new dominions by her proud bridegroom, and the blacksmith finding me, I suppose, easier to carry than to lead, followed close upon their steps with me in his arms.

Nothing could exceed the good-nature of my country beau; he pointed out bantams and pea-fowls, and took me to see a tame lamb, and a tall, staggering calf, born that morning; but for all that, I do not think I should have submitted so quietly to the indignity of being carried, I, who had ridden thither on Brown Bess, and was at that instant filling the ostensible place of bridesmaid, if it had not been for the chastening influence of a little touch of fear. Entering the poultry-yard I had caught sight of a certain turkey-cock, who erected that circular tail of his, and swelled out his deep-red comb and gills after a fashion familiar to that truculent bird, but which up to the present hour I am far from admiring. A turkey at Christmas well roasted with bread sauce, may have his merits; but if I meet him alive in his feathers, especially when he swells them out and sticks up his tail, I commonly get out of his way even now, much more sixty years ago. So I let the blacksmith carry me.

Then we went to the dairy, so fresh and cool and clean — glittering with cleanliness! overflowing with creamy riches! and there I had the greatest enjoyment of my whole day, the printing with my own hands a pat of butter, and putting it up in a little basket covered with a vine leaf, to take home for the dear mamma's tea. Then we should have gone to the kitchen, the back kitchen, the brew-house, the wash-house, and the rest of the bride's new territories, but this part of the domicil was literally too hot to hold us; the cooking of the great wedding dinner was in full activity, and the bridegroom himself was forced to retreat before his notable mother, who had come to superintend all things for the day.

So back we drew to the hall, a large square brick apartment, with a beam across the ceiling, a wide yawning chimney, and wooden settles with backs to them; where many young people being assembled, and one of them producing a fiddle, it was agreed to have a country dance until dinner should be ready, the bride and bridegroom leading off, and I following with the bridegroom's man.

Oh, the blunders, the confusion, the merriment of that country dance! No two people attempted the same figure; few aimed at any figure at all; each went his own way; many stumbled; some fell, and every body capered, laughed and shouted at once. My partner prudently caught me up in his arms again, for fear of my being knocked down and danced over, which, considering some of the exploits of some of the performers, seemed by no means impossible, and would have been a worse catastrophe than an onslaught of the turkey-cock.

A summons to dinner put an end to the glee. Such a dinner! The plenty of Camacho's wedding was but a type of my Nancy's. Fish from the great pond, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, boiled fowls and a gammon of bacon, a green goose and a sucking pig, plum puddings, apple pies, cheesecakes and custards, formed a part of the bill of fare, followed by home-brewed beer and homemade wine, by syllabub, and by wedding cake. Every body ate enough for four, and there was four times more than could by any possibility be eaten. I have always thought it one of the strongest proofs of sense and kindness in my pretty maid, that she rescued me from the terrible hospitality of her mother-in-law, and gave me back unscathed into my father's hands, when about three o'clock he arrived to reclaim me.

The affluence and abundance of that gala day — the great gala of a life-time — in that Hampshire farm-house, I have never seen surpassed.

This was my first appearance as a bridesmaid. My next, which took place about a twelvemonth after, was of a very different description.

A first cousin of my father, the daughter of his uncle and guardian, had, by the death of her mother's brother, become a wealthy heiress; and leaving her picturesque old mansion in Northumberland, Little Harle Tower, a true border keep overhanging the Warsbeck, for a journey to what the Northumbrians of that day emphatically called "the South," came after a season in London to pass some months with us. At our house she became acquainted with the brother of a Scotch Duke, an Oxford student, who, passing the long vacation with his mother, had nothing better to do than to fall in love. Each had what the other wanted — the lady money, the gentleman rank; and as his family were charmed with the match, and hers, had neither the power nor the wish to oppose it, every thing was arranged with as little delay as lawyers, jewelers, coach-makers, and mantua-makers would permit.

How the first step in the business, the inevitable and awful ceremonial of a declaration of love and a proposal of marriage, was ever brought about, has always been to me one of the most unsolvable of mysteries — an enigma without the word.

Lord Charles, as fine a young man as one should see in a summer's day, tall, well made, with handsome features, fair capacity, excellent education, and charming temper, had an infirmity which went nigh to render all these good gifts of no avail: a shyness, a bashfulness, a timidity most painful to himself, and distressing to all about him. It is not uncommon to hear a quiet, silent man of rank, unjustly suspected of pride and haughtiness; but there could be no such mistake here, — his shamefacedness was patent to all men. I myself, a child not five years old, one day threw him into an agony of blushing, by running up to his chair in mistake for my papa. Now I was a shy child, a very shy child, and as soon as I arrived in front of his Lordship, and found that I had been misled by a resemblance of dress, by the blue coat and buff waistcoat, I first of all crept under the table, and then flew to hide my face in my mother's lap; my poor fellow-sufferer, too big for one place of refuge, too old for the other, had nothing for it but to run away, which, the door being luckily open, he happily accomplished.

That a man with such a temperament, who could hardly summon courage enough to say "How d'ye do?" should ever have wrought himself up to the point of putting the great question, was wonderful enough; that he should have submitted himself to undergo the ordeal of what was called in those days a public wedding, was more wonderful still.

Perhaps the very different temper of the lady may offer some solution to the last of these riddles; perhaps (I say it in all honor, for there is no shame in offering some encouragement to a bashful suitor) it may assist us in expounding them both.

Of a certainty, my fair cousin was pre-eminently gifted with those very qualities in which her lover was deficient. Every thing about her was prompt and bright, cheerful and self-possessed. Nearly as tall as himself; and quite as handsome, it was of the beauty that is called showy — a showy face, a showy figure, a showy complexion. We felt at a glance that these radiant, well-opened hazel eyes, had never quailed before mortal glance, and that that clear round cheek, red and white like a daisy, had never been guilty of a blush in its whole life. Handsome as she was, it was a figure that looked best in a riding-habit, and a face that of all head-dresses, best became a beaver hat; just a face and figure for a procession; she would not have minded a coronation on the contrary, she would have been enchanted to have been a queen-regent; but as a coronation was out of the question, she had no objection, taking the publicity as a part of the happiness, to a wedding as grand as the resources of a country town could make it.

So a wedding procession was organized, after the fashion of Sir Charles Grandison, comprising the chief members of each family, especially of the ducal one; an infinite number of brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, cousins and clansfolk, friends and acquaintances, all arranged in different carriages, according to their rank; ladies, gentlemen, servants, and horses, decorated with white and silver favors, in so long a line, that it extended from Coley Avenue to St. Mary's Church. The first carriage, a low phaeton, drawn by ponies led by grooms, containing three children, two of five and six years old, niece and nephew of the bridegroom, who, with myself (already a lady of experience in that line), were to officiate as bride-maidens and bridegroom's man; the last, also an open carriage, with only the bride and my dear papa, who gave her away.

How well I recollect the crowd of the street, the crowd of the church-yard, the crowd of the church! There was no crying at this wedding though; no crying, and far fewer smiles.

The young couple proceeded to Bath and Clifton from the church door; and the rest of the procession returned to our house to eat bride-cake, drink to the health of the new-married pair, and be merry at their leisure; after which many dispersed, but the members of the two families and the more intimate friends remained to dinner; and in the confusion of preparing to entertain so large a party, the servants, even those belonging to the nursery, were engaged in different ways, and we children left to our own devices, and finding nearly the whole house free to our incursions, betook ourselves to a game at hide-and-seek.

Now in honor of the day, and of the grand part we had filled in the grand ceremony of the morning, we small people had been arrayed in white from top to toe, Master Martin in a new suit of jean, richly braided, his sister and myself in clear muslin frocks, edged with lace, and long Persian sashes, the whole width of the silk, fringed with silver, while all parties, little boy and little girls, had white beaver hats and heavy ostrich plumes. We young ladies had, as matter of course, that instinctive respect for our own finery which seems an innate principle in womankind; moreover, we were very good children, quiet, orderly, and obedient. Master Martin, on the other hand, our elder by a year, had some way or other imbibed the contempt at once for fine clothes and for the authorities of the nursery, which is not uncommon among his rebellious sex; so the first time it fell to his lot to hide, he ensconced himself in the very innermost recesses of the coal-hole, from which delightful retirement he was dragged, after a long search, by his own maid, who had at last awakened from the joys of gossiping and making believe to help in the housekeeper's room, to the recollection that Lady Mary might possibly inquire after her children. The state of his apparel and of her temper may be more easily imagined than described. He, Duke's grandson though he were, looked like nothing better or worse than a chimney-sweeper. She stormed like a fury. But as all the storming in the world would not restore the young gentleman or his bridal suit to their pristine state of cleanliness, she took wit in her auger and put him to bed, as a measure partly of punishment, partly of concealment; — the result of which was that he, the culprit, thoroughly tired with excitement and exercise, with play and display, and well stuffed with dainties to keep him quiet, was consigned to his comfortable bed, while we pattern little girls had to undergo the penalty of making our appearance and our courtesies in the drawing-room, among all the fine folks of our Camacho's wedding, and to stay there, weariest of the many weary, two or three hours beyond our accustomed time. With so little justice are the rewards and punishments of this world distributed — even in the nursery!

Not long after this I made my first visit to London, under the auspices and in company of the dear papa. Business called him thither in the middle of July, and he suddenly announced his intention of driving me up in his gig — such was the then word for a high, open carriage holding two persons! — unencumbered by any other companion, male or female. George only, the old groom, was sent forward with a spare horse over-night to Maidenhead Bridge (ah! that charming inn is un-inned now-a-days by the railways!), and the dear papa, conforming to my nursery hours, we dined at Cranford Bridge (I dare say that that hotel, with its pretty garden and its Portugal laurels, has disappeared also), and reached Hatchett's Hotel, Piccadilly (the New White Horse Cellar of the old stage-coaches) early in the afternoon. There a steady, civil barmaid undertook the care of me during our stay; but, as he had foreseen, I was too much awake and alive with novelty and amusement, too strong in my happiness, to want any body to take care of me, except the dear papa himself.

I had enjoyed the drive past all expression, chattering all the way, and falling into no other mistakes than those common to larger people than myself, of thinking that London began at Brentford, and wondering in Piccadilly when the crowd would go by; and I was so little tired when we arrived, that, to lose no time, we betook ourselves that night to the Haymarket Theater, the only one then open. I had been at plays in the country, in a barn in Hampshire, and at a regular theater at our new home, and I loved them dearly with that confiding and uncritical pleasure which is the wisest and the best. But the country play was nothing to the London play — a lively comedy, with the rich cast of those days — one of the comedies that George III. enjoyed so heartily. I enjoyed it as much as he, and laughed and clapped my hands, and danced on my father's knee, and almost screamed with delight, so that a party in the same box, who had begun by being half-angry at my restlessness, finished by being amused with my amusement.

The next day, my father having an appointment at the Bank, took the opportunity of showing me St. Paul's and the Tower.

At St. Paul's, I saw all the wonders of the place: whispered in the whispering-gallery, and walked up the tottering wooden stairs, not into the ball itself, but to the circular balustrade of the highest gallery beneath it. I have never been there since, but I can still recall most vividly that wonderful panorama, the strange diminution produced by the distance, the toy-like carriages and horses, and men and women moving noiselessly through the toy-like streets; and (although not frightened then) still more vividly do I recall the dangerous state of the decaying stairs, the swaying rope to hold by, the light showing through the crevices of the wood. My father held me carefully by the hand; and I have no recollection of having felt the slightest fear; nevertheless the impression of danger must have been very great since, for many years of my life falling through those stairs was my bad dream, the dream that gives such sure warning of physical ill, when fever is impending, or any derangement occurs in the system. Then we proceeded to the Tower, that place so striking by force of contrast; its bright lights and strong shadows; the jewels, the armor, the armory, glittering in stern magnificence amid the gloom of the old fortress, and the stories of great personages imprisoned, beheaded, buried within its walls; — a dreary thing it seemed to be a Queen! But at night I went to Astley's, and I forgot the sorrows of Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn in the wonders of the horsemanship and the tricks of the clown. After all, Astley's, although very well in its way, was not the play, and we agreed that the next night, the last we were to spend in London, we should go again to the Haymarket.

Into that last day we crowded all the sight-seeing possible, the Houses of Lords and Commons, where I sat upon the woolsack and in the Speaker's chair, about the smallest person, I suppose, that ever filled those eminent seats. Then Westminster Abbey, where, besides the glorious old building and the tombs, figured at that time certain figures in waxwork, Queen Anne and Queen Elizabeth as ugly as life, and General Monk holding out his cap for money. I remember my father giving me a shilling to drop in as our share of the contribution, and my wondering what became of it (are those figures in existence now? and does the General still hold forth the eleemosynary cap?) Thence we proceeded to Cox's Museum in Spring Gardens, and saw and heard a little bird, who seemed made of diamonds and rubies, who clapped his wings and sang. There, too (it was a place full of strange deceptions), I sat down upon a chair, and the cushion forthwith began to squeak like a cat and kittens, so like a cat and kittens that I more than half expected to be scratched. And then to the Leverian Museum in the Blackfriars Road, a delightful abode of birds and butterflies, where I saw dead and stuffed with a reality that wanted nothing but life, nearly all the beautiful creatures that little girls see now alive at the Zoological. The promised visit to the Haymarket Theater formed a fit conclusion to this day of enchantment. We saw another capital comedy (I think Colman's "Heir at Law") capitally acted, and laughed until we could laugh no longer. And then the next day we drove home without a moment's weariness of mind or body.

Such was my first journey to London.

Upon looking back to that journey of nearly sixty years ago, what strikes me most is the small dimensions to which the capital of England was then confined, compared with those which it now covers. When I stood on the topmost gallery of St. Paul's, I saw a compact city, spreading along the river, it is true, from Billingsgate to Westminster, but clearly defined to the north and to the south, the West End beginning at Hyde Park Corner, and bordered by Hyde Park on the one side and the Green Park on the other. Then, in spite of my mistaking the stones of Brentford for the stones of London, Belgravia was a series of pastures, and Paddington a village. Now squares and terraces are closing round the terminus of the Great Western, and the stateliest mansions of the metropolis cover the green fields which separated Sloane-street from Pimlico. People wonder at the size of the Great Exhibition, but the town of which it forms a part, that throbbing heart of a great nation, seems to me more wonderful far. To describe London as it is, or even in a few pages to enumerate the sights which we should show to a child now, would be as impossible a task as to crowd into the same space the marvels contained in Mr. Paxton's wonderful house of glass.

Far more impossible for a very few lines would comprise the chief impression produced upon me when escorted by my excellent friend Mr. Lucas, and guided by the fine taste of that most tasteful of painters, I walked through the Great Exhibition this summer. Next perhaps to the building itself, with the statues and hangings to which it owes its distinctive character, and the fountains and people who give to it movement and life; — next to the vastness, the lightness, the exquisite fitness of the building; and excepting perhaps only that triumph of modern sculpture — Kiss's bold, expressive, impassioned group — that which most filled the eye and the mind, seemed to me to be the Indian tissues, however called, with their delicious harmony of color, and their strange power of interweaving the precious metals with their silken textures. There is one shawl where upon a white ground the same pattern is repeated now in gold and now in silver, which seems to me actually to emit light. Those Indian draperies are poems which have no need of words, forms invented thousands of years ago, and repeated from dynasty to dynasty, from empire to empire. So are those Tunisian vases, forms of ineffable grace such as may have been carried to the fountain or the well by the captive queens of Grecian fable or the Hebrew maidens of sacred history. Is it that those ancient nations of the East and of the South have in them the great principle of permanence which is a sort of earthly immortality? that having once seized the Beautiful, they are content to abide by it and to produce and reproduce the same grace of form and harmony of color, just as nature herself is content to produce and reproduce her marvels of vegetable life, her lotus on the river, her magnolia in the wood? If so, let us strive to copy them, not in such a combination of hues, or such lines of contour, but in the greater wisdom of loving and admiring beauty because it is beautiful, and not because according to the caprice of the hour it happens to be new or to be old.

It is now full time to come to Dr. Johnson.

The London which I saw sixty years ago was not materially different from that in which he had lived and reigned — the king of conversation and almost of literature. One proof of this supremacy was afforded at that very time when my father, by no means a bookish man and a most ardent Whig, stopped the coach two or three times during our drive to the Bank, to show me Bolt Court and various other courts distinguished by the residence of the great lexicographer. Boswell's inimitable life had of course its share in this interest; but independently of that remarkable book the feeling was deep and was general; and when we consider that the society of which he was the acknowledged head comprised such names as Burke, and Fox, and Reynolds, and Goldsmith, we can not doubt but in spite of his virulent prejudices, his absurd superstition, and his latinized English, Samuel Johnson was not only a good man but a great man.

One who was pre-eminently both, Dr. Channing, Republican by nation and opinion, Unitarian by creed, has a passage relating to Johnson, which, while alledging nearly all that can be said against him, always struck me as admirable for justice and for candor — the candor of an adversary and an opponent. It occurs in a "Review of the Writings and Character of Milton," in which the American author had, as matter of course, controverted the decisions of the English critic. He says — I omit much that relates only to Milton — he says:

"We wish not to disparage Johnson. We could find no pleasure in sacrificing one great man to the manes of another. He did not and he could not appreciate Milton. We doubt whether two other minds, having so little in common as those of which we are now speaking, can be found in the higher walks of literature. Johnson was great in his own sphere, but that sphere was comparatively of the earth, while Milton's was only inferior to that of angels. It was customary in the day of Johnson's glory to call him a giant, to class him with a mighty but still an earthborn race. Milton we should rank among seraphs. Johnson's mind acted chiefly on man's actual condition, on the realities of life, on the springs of human action, on the passions which now agitate society, and he seems hardly to have dreamed of a higher state of the human mind than was then exhibited. * * In religion, Johnson was gloomy and inclined to superstition, and on the subject of government leaned to absolute power, and the idea of reforming either never entered his mind but to disturb and provoke it. How could Johnson be just to Milton? The comparison which we have instituted has compelled us to notice Johnson's defects: but we trust we are not blind to his merits. His stately march, his pomp and power of language, his strength of thought, his reverence for virtue and religion, his vigorous logic, his practical wisdom, his insight into the springs of human action, and the solemn pathos which occasionally pervades his descriptions of life and his references to his own history command our willing admiration. That he wanted enthusiasm and creative imagination and lofty sentiment was not his fault. We do not blame him for not being Milton. We would even treat what we deem the faults of Johnson with a tenderness approaching respect; for they were results to a degree which man can not estimate of a diseased, irritable, nervous, unhappy, physical temperament, and belonged to the body more than to the mind." So far the great American. Would that all critics had his charity!

In none of Dr. Channing's praises of Johnson do I join more cordially than in the admiration with which he speaks of his occasional references to his own history. I subjoin the letter to Lord Chesterfield which comprises so many of the distinguishing characteristics of his style, together with a pungency, a truth, and a pathos which belong even more to personal character than to literary power. It explains itself:

"My Lord,

"I have lately been informed by the proprietor of 'The World,' that two papers in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public were written by your Lordship. To be so distinguished is an honor which, being very little accustomed to favors from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

"When upon some slight encouragement I first visited your Lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address; and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vain queuer du vainqueur de la terre, that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

"Seven years, my Lord, have now passed since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it at last to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favor. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.

"The Shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.

"Is not a patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labors, had it been early had been hind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and can not enjoy it; till I am solitary, and can not impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.

"Having carried on my work, therefore, with so little obligation to any favorer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,

My Lord,

Your Lordship's most humble,

Most obedient servant,


My concluding extract is of a very different description-as different as the character and situation of the two persons to whom the letter and the stanzas relate. These verses again tell their own story, though they do not tell the whole, for Johnson, poor himself, was to the poor apothecary a generous patron and an unfailing friend. The poem has much of the homely pathos, the graphic truth of Crabbe, and is so free from manner, that it might rather pass for his than for Dr. Johnson's.

Condemned to Hope's delusive mine,
As on we toil from day to day,
By sudden blast or slow decline
Our social comforts drop away.

Well tried through many a varying year,
See Levett to the grave descend
Officious, innocent, sincere,
Of every friendless name the friend.

Yet still he fills Affection's eye
Obscurely wise and coarsely kind,
Nor lettered arrogance deny
Thy praise to merit undefined.

When fainting Nature called for aid,
And hovering Death prepared the blow,
His vigorous remedy displayed
The power of Art without the show.

In misery's darkest caverns known,
His ready help was ever nigh,
Where helpless anguish poured his groan,
And lonely want retired to die.

No summons mocked by chill delay,
No petty gains disdained by pride;
The modest wants of every day,
The toil of every day supplied.

His virtues walked their narrow round,
Nor made a pause nor left a void;
And sure the Eternal Master found,
His single talent well employed.

The busy day, the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by;
His frame was firm, his powers were bright,
Though now his eightieth year was nigh.

Then with no throbs of fiery pain,
No cold gradations of decay,
Death broke at once the vital chain,
And freed his soul the nearest way.