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Arts°: but he was at the end of his resources. Those promises of support on which he had relied had not been kept. His family could do nothing for him. His debts to Oxford tradesmen were small indeed, 5 yet larger than he could pay. In the autumn of 1731, he was under the necessity of quitting the university without a degree. In the following winter his father died. The old man left but a pittance; and of that
pittance almost the whole was appropriated to the 10 support of his widow. The property to which Samuel succeeded amounted to no more than twenty pounds.
His life, during the thirty years which followed, was one hard struggle with poverty. The misery of that
struggle needed no aggravation, but was aggravated 15 by the sufferings of an unsound body and an unsound
mind. Before the young man left the university, his hereditary malady had broken forth in a singularly cruel form. He had become an incurable hypochon
driac. He said long after that he had been mad all 20 his life, or at least not perfectly sane; and, in truth,
eccentricities less strange than his have often been thought grounds sufficient for absolving felons, and for setting aside wills.° His grimaces, his gestures,
his mutterings, sometimes diverted and sometimes 25 terrified people who did not know him. At a dinner
table he would, in a fit of absence, stoop down and twitch off a lady's shoe. He would amaze a drawingroom by suddenly ejaculating a clause of the Lord's Prayer. He would conceive an unintelligible aversion to a particular alley, and perform a great circuit rather 5 than see the hateful place. He would set his heart on touching every post on the streets through which he walked. If by any chance he missed a post, he would go back a hundred yards and repair the omission. Under the influence of his disease, his senses 10 became morbidly torpid, and his imagination morbidly active. At one time he would stand poring on the town clock without being able to tell the hour. At another, he would distinctly hear his mother, who was many miles off, calling him by his name.
But 15 this was not the worst. A deep melancholy took possession of him, and gave a dark tinge to all his views of human nature and of human destiny. Such wretchedness as he endured has driven many men to shoot themselves or drown themselves. But he 20 was under no temptation to commit suicide. He was sick of life; but he was afraid of death; and he shuddered at every sight or sound which reminded him of the inevitable hour. In religion he found but little comfort during his long and frequent fits of dejection ; 25
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London into convulsions of laughter by mimicking the endearments of this extraordinary pair.
At length Johnson, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, determined to seek his fortune in the capital as a literary adventurer. He set out with a few guineas, 5 three acts of the tragedy of Ireneo in manuscript, and two or three letters of introduction from his friend Walmesley.
Never, since literature became a calling in England, had it been a less gainful calling than at the time 10 when Johnson took up his residence in London. In the preceding generation a writer of eminent merit was sure to be munificently rewarded by the governnent. The least that he could expect was a pension r a sinecure place; and, if he showed any aptitude 15 or politics, he might hope to be a member of parlialent, a lord of the treasury, an ambassador, a cretary of state. It would be easy, on the other and, to name several writers of the nineteenth intury of whom the least successful has received 20 rty thousand pounds from the booksellers. But vhnson entered on his vocation in the most dreary
ary interval which separated two ages
Literature had ceased to flourish unage of the great, and had not begun 25 for his religiono partook of his own character. The light from heaven shone on him indeed, but not in a direct line, or with its own pure splendour. The rays had to struggle through a disturbing medium : they 5 reached him refracted, dulled and discoloured by the thick gloom which had settled on his soul; and, though they might be sufficiently clear to guide him, were too dim to cheer him.°
With such infirmities of body and of mind, this 10 celebrated man was left, at two-and-twenty, to fight
his way through the world. He remained during about five years in the midland countries. At Lichfield, his birth-place and his early home, he had
inherited some friends and acquired others. He was 15 kindly noticed by Henry Hervey, a gay officer of
noble family, who happened to be quartered there. Gilbert Walmesley, registrar of the ecclesiastical court of the diocese, a man of distinguished parts,
learning, and knowledge of the world, did himself 20 honour by patronising the young adventurer, whose
repulsive person, unpolished manners, and squalid garb, moved many of the petty aristocracy of the neighbourhood to laughter or to disgust.
field, however, Johnson could find no way of earning 25 a livelihood. He became usher of a grammar schoolo