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Etat. 19.

that he obtained great applause from it, which ever after kept him high in the eftimation of his College, and, indeed, of all the University.

It is faid, that Mr. Pope expreffed himself concerning it in terms of strong approbation. Dr. Taylor told me, that it was firft printed for old Mr. Johnson, without the knowledge of his fon, who was very angry when he heard of it. A mifcellany of Poems, collected by a person of the name of Hufbands, was published at Oxford in 1731. In that mifcellany Johnson's Translation of the Meffiah appeared, with this modest motto from Scaliger's Poeticks, "Ex alieno ingenio Poeta, ex fuo tantum verfificator."

I am not ignorant that critical objections have been made to this and other fpecimens of Johnson's Latin Poetry. I acknowledge myself not competent to decide on a queftion of fuch extreme nicety. But I am fatisfied with the juft and difcriminative eulogy pronounced upon it by my friend Mr. Courtenay.

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"Imbibes our fun through all its swelling veins,

"And grows a native of Britannia's plains 3."

The "morbid melancholy" which was lurking in his conftitution, and to which we may ascribe those particularities, and that averfion to regular life, which, at a very early period, marked his character, gathered fuch ftrength in his twentieth year, as to afflict him in a dreadful manner. While he was at Lichfield, in the College vacation of the year 1729, he felt himself overwhelmed with an horrible hypochondria, with perpetual irritation, fretfulness, and impatience; and with a dejection, gloom, and despair, which made existence mifery. From this difmal malady he never afterwards was perfectly relieved; and all his labours, and all his enjoyments, were but temporary interruptions of its baleful influence. How wonderful, how unfearchable are the ways of GOD! Johnson, who was bleft with all the powers of genius and understanding in a degree far above the ordinary state of human nature, was at the same time visited with a disorder so afflictive, that they who know it by dire experience, will not envy his exalted endowments. That it was, in fome degree, occafioned by a defect in his nervous system, that inexplicable part of our frame, appears highly probable. He told Mr. Paradife that he was fometimes fo languid and inefficient, that he could not distinguish the hour upon the town-clock.


Etat. 20.

Johnson, upon the first violent attack of this disorder, ftrove to overcome it by forcible exertions. He frequently walked to Birmingham and back again, and tried many other expedients, but all in vain. His expreffion concerning it to me was, "I did not then know how to manage it." His diftrefs became fo intolerable, that he applied to Dr. Swinfen, physician in Lichfield, his godfather, and put into his hands a state of his cafe, written in Latin. Dr. Swinfen was fo much ftruck with the extraordinary acutenefs, research, and eloquence of this paper, that in his zeal for his godfon he fhewed it to several people. His daughter, Mrs. Defmoulins, who was many years humanely fupported in Dr. Johnson's house in London, told me, that upon his discovering that Dr. Swinfen had communicated his cafe, he was fo much offended, that he was never afterwards fully reconciled to him. He indeed had good reafon to be offended; for though Dr. Swinfen's motive was good, he inconfiderately betrayed a matter deeply interefting and of great delicacy, which had been entrusted to him in confidence; and expofed a

3 Poetical Review of the Literary and Moral Character of Dr. Johnson, by John Courtenay, Efq. M. P.

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Ætat. 20.

complaint of his young friend and patient, which, in the fuperficial opinion of the generality of mankind, is attended with contempt and difgrace.

But let not little men triumph upon knowing that Johnson was an HYPOCHONDRIACK, was fubject to what the learned, philosophical, and pious Dr. Cheyne has fo well treated, under the title of "The English Malady.” Though he fuffered feverely from it, he was not therefore degraded. The powers of his great mind might be troubled, and their full exercife fufpended at times, but the mind itself was ever entire. As a proof of this, it is only neceffary to confider, that, when he was at the very worst, he composed that ftate of his own cafe, which fhewed an uncommon vigour, not only of fancy and tafte, but of judgement. I am aware that he himself was too ready to call fuch a complaint by the name of madness; in conformity with which notion, he has traced its gradations, with exquifite nicety, in one of the chapters of his RASSELAS. But there is furely a clear distinction between a diforder which affects only the imagination and fpirits, while the judgement is found, and a disorder by which the judgement itself is impaired. This distinction was made to me by the late Profeffor Gaubius of Leyden, phyfician to the Prince of Orange, in a converfation which I had with him. several years ago, and he expanded it thus: "If (faid he) a man tells me that he is grievously disturbed, for that he imagines he fees a ruffian coming against him with a drawn fword, though at the fame time he is conscious it is a delufion, I pronounce him to have a difordered imagination; but if a man tells me that he sees this, and in confternation calls to me to look at it, I pronounce him to be mad."

It is a common effect of low fpirits or melancholy, to make those who are afflicted with it imagine that they are actually fuffering thofe evils which happen to be most strongly prefented to their minds. Some have fancied themselves to be deprived of the use of their limbs, fome to labour under acute diseases, others to be in extreme poverty, when, in truth, there was not the least reality in any of the fuppofitions; so that when the vapours were dispelled, they were convinced of the delufion. To Johnson, whose supreme enjoyment was the exercife of his reafon, the disturbance or obfcuration of that faculty was the evil most to be dreaded. Infanity, therefore, was the object of his most dismal apprehenfion; and he fancied himself seized by it, or approaching to it, at the very time when he was giving proofs of a more than ordinary foundness and vigour of judgement. That his own diseased imagination fhould have fo far deceived him, is ftrange; but it is stranger ftill that fome of his friends fhould have given credit to his groundless opinion,



opinion, when they had fuch undoubted proofs that it was totally fallacious; though it is by no means furprising that those who wish to depreciate him, Etat. zo. fhould, fince his death, have laid hold of this circumstance, and infifted upon it with very unfair aggravation.

Amidst the oppreffion and distraction of a difeafe which very few have felt in its full extent, but many have experienced in a flighter degree, Johnson, in his writings, and in his conversation, never failed to display all the varieties of intellectual excellence. In his march through this world to a better, his mind still appeared grand and brilliant, and impreffed all around him with the truth of Virgil's noble fentiment- Igneus eft ollis vigor et cæleftis origo."

The history of his mind as to religion is an important article. I have mentioned the early impreffions made upon his tender imagination by his mother, who continued her pious care with affiduity, but, in his opinion, not with judgement. "Sunday (faid he) was a heavy day to me when I was a boy. My mother confined me on that day, and made me read The Whole Duty of Man,' from a great part of which I could derive no instruction. When, for instance, I had read the chapter on theft, which from my infancy I had been taught was wrong, I was no more convinced that theft was wrong than before; fo there was no acceffion of knowledge. A boy fhould be introduced to fuch books, by having his attention directed to the arrangement, to the stile, and other excellencies of compofition; that the mind being thus engaged by an amusing variety of objects, may not grow weary.'

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He communicated to me the following particulars upon the fubject of his religious progrefs. "I fell into an inattention to religion, or an indifference about it, in my ninth year. The church at Lichfield, in which we had a feat, wanted reparation, so I was to go and find a feat in other churches; and having bad eyes, and being aukward about this, I used to go and read in the fields on Sunday. This habit continued till my fourteenth year; and ftill I find a great reluctance to go to church. I then became a fort of lax talker against religion, for I did not much think against it; and this lasted till I went to Oxford, where it would not be fuffered. When at Oxford, I took up 'Law's Serious Call to the Unconverted,' expecting to find it a dull book, (as fuch books generally are,) and perhaps to laugh at it. But I found Law quite an overmatch for me; and this was the firft occafion of my thinking in earnest of religion, after I became capable of rational inquiry." From this time forward,

Mrs. Piozzi has given a ftrange fantastical account of the origin of Dr. Johnson's belief in our most holy religion. "At the age of ten years his mind was difturbed by fcruples of infidelity, which preyed

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forward, religion was the predominant object of his thoughts; though, with the just sentiments of a conscientious christian, he lamented that his practice of its duties fell far fhort of what it ought to be.

This inftance of a mind fuch as that of Johnfon being firft difpofed, by an unexpected incident, to think with anxiety of the momentous concerns of eternity, and of "what he should do to be faved," may for ever be produced in oppofition to the fuperficial and sometimes profane contempt that has been thrown upon those occafional impreffions which it is certain many christians have experienced; though it must be acknowledged that weak minds, from an erroneous fuppofition that no man is in a ftate of grace who has not felt a particular converfion, have, in fome cafes, brought a degree of ridicule upon them; a ridicule, of which it is inconfiderate or unfair to make a general application.

How seriously Johnson was impreffed with a sense of religion, even in the vigour of his youth, appears from the following paffage in his minutes kept by way of diary: "Sept. 7, 1736. I have this day entered upon my 28th year. Mayeft thou, O GOD, enable me, for JESUS CHRIST's fake, to spend this in such a manner, that I may receive comfort from it at the hour of death, and in the day of judgement! Amen."

preyed upon his spirits, and made him very uneafy, the more fo, as he revealed his uneafiness to none, being naturally (as he faid) of a fullen temper, and referved difpofition. He fearched, however, diligently, but fruitlessly, for evidences of the truth of revelation; and, at length, recollecting a book he had once feen [I suppose at five years old] in his father's fhop, intitled De veritate Religionis, &c. he began to think himself highly culpable for neglecting such a means of information, and took himself severely to task for this fin, adding many acts of voluntary, and, to others, unknown pennance. The firft opportunity which offered, of courfe, he feized the book with avidity; but, on examination, not finding himself scholar enough to perufe its contents, fet his heart at reft; and not thinking to enquire whether there were any English books written on the subject, followed his ufual amusements, and confidered his confcience as lightened of a crime. He redoubled his diligence to learn the language that contained the information he most wished for; but from the pain which guilt [namely, having omitted to read what he did not understand] had given him, he now began to deduce the foul's immortality, [a fenfation of pain in this world being an unquestionable proof of exiflence in another] which was the point that belief first stopped at; and from that moment refolving to be a Chriftian, became one of the moft zealous and pious ones our nation ever produced." Anecdotes, p. 17.

This is one of the numerous mifrepresentations of this lively lady, which it is worth while to correct; for if credit fhould be given to fuch a childish, irrational, and ridiculous statement of the foundation of Dr. Johnson's faith in Chriftianity, how little credit would be due to it. Mrs. Piozzi feems to wish, that the world should think Dr. Johnson also under the influence of that eafy logick, Stet pro ratione voluntas.


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