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SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
Dr. Johnson's monument stands against the north-east pier in St. Paul's Cathedral: it is a single statue, in an attitute of deep thought, chiselled with strong freedom, but no very pleasing effect. The costume is Roman and inappropriate ; it was erected in 1775 ; and is the work of John Bacon, the sculptor, who received 1100 guineas for the labour. Dr. Parr wrote the Latin epitaph, of which the following is a translation :
* To Samuel Johnson,
A Grammarian and Critic
A Poet truly admirable
The gravest preceptor of virtue, And a singular example of the best of men; Who lived 75 years, two months, and fourteen days, Died on the Ides of December, in the year of Christ, 1784,
* A. 2.
Grammatico. Et. Critico
Poetæ. Luminibus. Sententiorum
Magistro. Virtutis. Gravissimo,
Qui. Vixit. Ann. Lxxv. Mens. il. Dieb. xiiil.
And was buried in the Church of St. Peter, in Westminster,
His friends and literary companions
By a pecuniary subscription
Samuel Johnson was born on the 7th of September, 1709, at Litchfield, in which place his father was a bookseller, and must have enjoyed reputation, for he more than once filled the duties of Chief Magistrate. At eight years of age young Sam entered the grammar-school of his native city, then taught by Mr. Hunter, and at fifteen, after an interval spent under the tuition of Cornelius Ford, a cousin and a minister, he passed into Mr. Wentworth's academy, at Stourbridge, for two years. Returning home he stopped with his father for two years, during which he was, so far initiated into business, that he made a good humoured boast, when an old man, of being able to bind a book. It is related that the progress of his acquirements up to this period of his life was slow, but that his memory was admirably retentive, and his investigation deep; so that whatever he undertook to acquire he mastered thoroughly.
In 1728, Mr. Corbet, a country gentleman of fortune in the neighbourhood, sent the future critic to Pembroke College, Oxford, as a companion for his son; but the boon eventually proved defective, and led to much personal degradation. His first disgust was provoked by Mr.Jourderi, the tutor he was appointed to, a man of narrow mind, and poor information, faults rendered still more disagreeable by a bad temper. Johnson soon detected his deficiences, and naturally despised him as a superior; and no sooner was he exposed to the sallies of his humour, than he retorted even with insolence. It was to these as the more probable circumstances, that Johnson's biographers should have attributed that negligence of study and contempt of discipline for which he soon
Sepult. In. Æd. Sanct. Petr. Westmonasterieus. ,
became censurable. Indeed it is hard to think what other impressions could have been made in such a case upon a mind vigorous and expansive as his must have been at the age of twenty.
. This adversity of things was still farther increased after the lapse of two years, by young Corbet's departure from the University, an event which subjected him to severer trials, inasmuch as his pecuniary resources were almost exclusively drawn from this friend, and entirely ceased with his absence. There are few examples of more injurious cruelty to be found in life, than where some hasty impulse of ill-weighed generosity excites a person of wealth to exalt a youth from his natural sphere, because, at a first view, it does not appear provided with those essentials which may be the best and most favourable for the developement of his budding talents. To work any early improvement in the station of another, without maturely considering how the means are to come which will be imperatively required for the enlarged views and increased comforts that must ensue, is a miserable piece of imprudence; and when the strong appetite for them isonce confirmed, and a second nature established, then to throw back the grieving object of giddy patronage upon all the wants and vexations of primitive poverty, rendered doubly galling by the transitory experience he has had of better things, and the memory of kinder hopes, is a social outrage almost involving moral assassination. Yet such was the extreme of embarrassment, both in feelings and facts, to which Johnson was now reduced. It was out of his father's power to make him any thing like a competent allowance for his support, so that after struggling through another year, in debt to his tutor, and so poor that he generally lounged about with his feet worn through his shoes and stockings, and his thread-bare coat ripping into pieces; he started from the seat of religion and learning in all the recklessness of broken fortune, and returned to the home from which he had been so wretchedly diverted.
In 1731 his father died, and he inherited a sum of 201. Thus straitened, he attempted the office of usher in the grammarschool at Market Bosworth, but was soon compelled, by the insolence of the patron, to throw it up in disgust. About this juncture the invitation of an old schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, who was practising as a surgeon at Birmingham, led him to that busy