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NOTICE OF THE LIFE OF THE LATE DR. JOHNSON.
WITH A VIEW OF HIS RETREAT IN STREATHAM PARK. The father of Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON, was a respectable bookseller at Litchfield, England, in which place the subject of this notice was born, March, 1709. In 1728 he was entered at Pembroke College, Oxford, but withdrew himself from the University before any degree was conferred upon him. He afterwards went to London, where he met with repeated disappointments. In 1740, he began to write the “ Debates in the Senate of Lilliput," printed in the Gentleman's Magazine ; and, after producing some poems, translations, and biographical works, which met with a good reception, (particularly “London," the “ Vanity of Human Wishes,” and “ The Life of Savage,”) he brought forth “ Irene,” in 1749. This not meeting, with the success that he expected, he set about his “ Dictionary," the execution of which cost him the labour of many years; but he was amply repaid by the fame which he acquired. During the recesses of this stupendous labor, he published his “Ramblers." The reputation of these works gained him the honorary degree of doctor of laws, in the University of Dublin, which was soon after followed by the same degree from Oxford. 'To this succeeded his “ Idlers.” His next publication was “Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia,” a beautiful little book, in the Eastern style, abounding with the most useful and moral maxims, suited to the several conditions of life. Of his political works, which followed
at distant intervals, the public are more divided about the merits: it is, however, but fair to presume that they were his candid opinions upon the subjects, and as such, deserving of no censure from the judgment of impartiality. His last undertaking, “ The Lives of the British Poets," would alone have been sufficient to immortalize his name, as it by far excels any thing executed upon a similar plan, by others; and, though the critical remarks, in a few instances, incorporate a little too much with political opinions, their general excellence must always give them deserved celebrity. It is said, that he was executing a second part of “ The Prince of Abyssinia," and was in hopes to have finished it before his death, which event happened Dec. 13, 1784. The editor of the “Biographia Dramatica,” after bestowing many just encomiums on the genius of Dr. J., says," it would be the highest injustice, were I not to observe, that nothing but that genius can possibly exceed the extent of his erudition; and it would be adding a greater injury to his still more valuable qualities, were we to stop here; since, together with the ablest head, he seems to have been possessed of the very best heart at present existing. Every line, every sentiment that issues from his pen, tends to the great centre of all his views, the promotion of virtue, religion, and humanity: nor are his actions less pointed toward the same great end. Benevolence, charity, and piety, are the most striking features of his character ; and while his writings point out to us what a good man ought to be, his own conduct sets us an example of what he is.” A statue to Dr. Johnson's memory has been erected in St. Paul's Cathedral.
The “Retreat of Dr. Johnson," is an interesting relic of genius, though its claims are of an unostentatious character. The Engraving with which the present number of the Repository is embellished, represents a secluded site in a beautiful park attached to a villa at Streatham, formerly inhabited by Gabriel Piozzi, who married the accomplished widow of Mr. Thrale. Du
ing the lifetime of the latter, Dr. Johnson frequently resided here; and this rustic retreat was the favourite
resort of the philosopher during his hours of meditation; for
-Tis most true,
and the fact of Streatham House having been a hospi. table asylum for Johnson, and a “peaceful hermitage” for his “ weary age,” leads us to one of the most interesting portions of the illustrious man's biography.
Johnson's introduction to the Thrales, about the year 1765, was a good piece of fortune for the former. Mr. Thrale was an opulent brewer, and M. P. for Southwark ; both he and Mrs. T. conceived such a partiality for Johnson, that he soon came to be considered as one of their family, and had an apartment appropriated to him, both in their town-house and their villa at Streatham. Boswell says :-“ Nothing could be more fortunate for Johnson than this connexion. He had at Mr. Thrale’s all the comforts and even luxuries of life; his melancholy was diverted and his irregular habits lessened by association with an agreeable and well ordered family. He was treated with the utmost respect, and even affection.—The vivacity of Mrs. Thrale's literary talk roused him to cheerfulness and exertion even when they were alone. But this was not often the case, for he found here a constant succession of what gave him the highest enjoyment, the society of the learned, the witty, and the eminent in every way, who were assembled in numerous companies, called forth his wonderful powers, and gratified him with admiration to which no man could be insensible.” Mr. Thrale died in 1781, and the loss of his friend deeply affected Johnson; his health declined; and after a lingering illness he died happy.
Make for yourself good friends, that you may dwell in the shadow of their protection; they will be a joy to you in prosperity, and a solace in distress.