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Soon after the accession of the late king, a grant of a pension of 3001. per annum was made him by His Majesty during the ministry of Lord Bute. A short struggle of repugnance to accept a favour from the House of Hanover was overcome by a sense of the honour and substantial benefit conferred by it, and he became that character, a pensioner, on which he had bestowed a sarcastic definition in his Dictionary. Much obloquy attended this circumstance of his life, which was enhanced when he published in several of his productions, arguments which seemed directly to oppose the rising spirit of liberty.
A long-promised edition of Shakspeare appeared in 1765; but though ushered in by a preface written with all the powers of his masterly pen, the edition itself disappointed those who expected much from his ability to elucidate the obscurities of the great dramatist. A tour to the Western Islands of Scotland in 1773, in which he was attended by his enthusiastic admirer and obsequious friend, James Boswell, Esq. was a remarkable incident of his life, considering that a strong antipathy to the natives of that country had long been conspicuous in his conversation. But when, two years afterwards, he published the account of his tour, under the title of “ A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland,” more candour and impartiality were found in it, than had been expected. In 1775, he was gratified, through the interest of Lord North, with the degree of Doctor of Laws, from the University of Oxford. He had some years before received the same honour
from Dublin, but did not then choose to assume the title. His last literary undertaking was the consequence of a request from the London booksellers, who had engaged in an edition of the principal English poets, and wished to prefix to each a biographical and critical preface from his hand. This he undertook; and though he will generally be thought to have laboured under strong prejudices in composing the work, its style will be found, in great measure, free from the stiffness and turgidity which marked his earlier compositions.
The concluding portion of Dr. Johnson's life was saddened by a progressive decline of health, and by the prospect of approaching death, which neither his religion nor his philosophy had taught him to bear with even decent composure. A paralytic stroke first gave the alarm; asthma, and dropsical symptoms, followed; and such was the tenacity with which he clung to life, that he expressed a great desire to seek for amendment in the climate of Italy. Still unable to reconcile himself to the thought of dying, he said to the surgeon who was making slight scarifications in his swollen legs, “ Deeper! deeper! I want length of life, and you are afraid of giving me pain, which I do not value.” The closing took place on December 13. 1785, in the 76th year of his age. His remains, attended by a respectable concourse of friends, were interred in Westminster Abbey; and a monumental statue has since been placed to his memory in St. Paul's cathedral. His works were published collectively in eleven volumes, 8vo., with
a copious life of the author, by Sir John Hawkins. A new edition, in twelve volumes, with a life, was given by Arthur Murphy. Of the conversations, and oral dictates of Johnson, a most copious collection has been published in the very entertaining volumes of Mr. Boswell. Upon the whole, it may be said, that at the time of his death, he was undoubtedly the most conspicuous literary character of his country.
IN IMITATION OF THE THIRD SATIRE OF JUVENAL.
- Quis ineptæ Tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus ut teneat se ? Juv. Tho'grief and fondness in my breast rebel, When injur'd Thales bids the town farewell, Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice commend, I praise the hermit, but regret the friend, Resolv'd at length from vice and London far To breathe in distant fields a purer air, And fix'd on Cambria's solitary shore, Give to St. David one true Briton more.
For who would leave, unbrib'd, Hibernia's land, Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand ? There none are swept by sudden fate away, But all, whom hunger spares, with age decay :
Here malice, rapine, accident, conspire,
dead. While Thales waits the wherry that contains Of dissipated wealth the small remains, On Thames's banks, in silent thought, we stood Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood; Struck with the seat that gave
Eliza * birth, We kneel, and kiss the consecrated earth; In pleasing dreams the blissful age renew, And call Britannia's glories back to view ; Behold her cross triumphant on the main, The guard of commerce, and the dread of Spain, Ere masquerades debauch'd, excise oppress’d, Or English honour grew a standing jest.
A transient calm the happy scenes bestow, And for a moment lull the sense of woe. At length awaking, with contemptuous frown, Indignant Thales eyes the neighb’ring town.
Since worth, he cries, in these degenerate days Wants even the cheap reward of empty praise ; In those curs'd walls, devote to vice and gain, Since unrewarded science toils in vain; Since hope but soothes to double my distress, And every moment leaves my little less; While yet my steady steps no staff sustains, And life still vig'rous revels in my veins ;
* Queen Elizabeth, born at Greenwich.
Grant me, kind Heaven, to find some happier place,
Let such raise palaces, and manors buy,
Heroes, proceed! what bounds your pride shall What check restrain your thirst of pow'r and gold ? Behold rebellious virtue quite oʻerthrown, Behold our fame, our wealth, our lives your own,
To such, the plunder of a land is giv'n, When public crimes inflame the wrath of Heaven : But what, my friend, what hope remains for me, Who start at theft, and blush at perjury ? Who scarce forbear, tho' Britain's court he sing, To pluck a titled poet's borrow'd wing ; A statesman's logic unconvinc'd can hear, And dare to slumber o'er the Gazetteer ; Despise a fool in half his pension dress’d, And strive in vain to laugh at Clodio's jest.