« ForrigeFortsæt »
pents, and will be such whilst it continues to beat. If God cover the mouth of that nest with his hand, they are hush and snug; but if he withdraw his hand, the whole family lift up their heads and hiss, are as active and venemous as ever. This I always professed to believe from the time that I had embraced the truth, but never knew it as I know it now. Το what end I have been made to know it as I do, whether for the benefit of others, or for my own, or for both, or for neither, will appear
hereafter. What I have written leads me naturally to the mention of a matter that I had forget. I should blame nobody, not even my intimate friends, and those who have the most favourable opinion of me, were they to charge the publication of John Gilpin, at the end of so much solemn and serious truth, to the score of the author's vanity; and to suspect that, however sober I may be upon proper occasions, I have yet that itch of popularity that would not suffer me to sink my title to a jest that had been so successful. But the case is not such. When I sent the copy of “ The Task” to Johnson, I desired, indeed, Mr. Unwin to ask him the question whether or not he would choose to make it a part of the volume ? This I did merely with a view to promote the sale of it. Johnson answered, “ By all means." Some months afterwards he enclosed a note to me in one of my packets, in which he expressed a change of mind, alleging, that to print John Gilpin would only be to print what had been hackneyed in every magazine, in every shop, and at the corner of
every street. I answered that I desired to be entirely governed by his opinion; and that if he chose to wave it, I should be better pleased with the omission. Nothing more passed between us upon the subject, and I concluded that I should never have the immortal honour of being generally known as the author of John Gilpin. In the last packet, however, down came John, very fairly printed, and equipped for public appearance.
The business having taken this turn, I concluded that Johnson had adopted my original thought, that it might prove advantageous to the sale; and as he had had the trouble and expense of printing it, I corrected the copy, and let it pass. Perhaps, however, neither the bouk nor the writer may be made much more famous by John's good company than they would have been without it; for the volume has never yet been advertised, nor can I learn that Johnson intends it. He fears the expense, and the consequence must be prejudicial. Many who would purchase will remain uninformed: but I am perfectly content.
I have considered your motto, and like the purport of it; but the best, because the most laconic manner of it, seems to be this —
Cùm talis sis, sis noster; utinam being, in my account of it, unnecessary.* Yours, my dear friend, most truly,
W. C. * The original passage
is as follows:Cùm talis sis, utinam noster esses. If intended, therefore, as a quotation, it should be quoted without alteration,
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, August 17, 1785. My dear Friend—I did very warmly and very sincerely thank Mr. Bacon for his most friendly and obliging letter ; but, having written my acknowledgments in the cover, I suppose that they escaped your notice. I should not have contented myself with transmitting them through your hands, but should have addressed them immediately to himself, but that I foresaw plainly this inconvenience: that in writing to him on such an occasion, I must almost unavoidably make self and self's book the subject. Therefore it was, as Mrs. Unwin can vouch for me, that I denied myself that pleasure. I place this matter now in the van of all that I have to say: first, that you may not overlook it; secondly, because it is uppermost in my consideration; and thirdly, because I am impatient to be exculpated from the seeming omission.
You told me, I think, that you seldom read the papers. In our last we had an extract from Johnson's Diary, or whatever else he called it. It is certain that the publisher of it is neither much a friend to the cause of religion, nor to the author's memory; for, by the specimen of it that has reached us, it seems to contain only such stuff as has a direct tendency to expose both to ridicule. His prayers for the dead, and his minute account of the rigour with which he observed church fasts, whether he drank tea or coffee, whether with sugar or without, and
* Private Correspondence.
whether one or two dishes of either, are the most important items to be found in this childish register of the great Johnson, supreme dictator in the chair of literature, and almost a driveller in his closet: a melancholy witness to testify how much of the wisdom of this world may consist with almost infantine ignorance of the affairs of a better. I remember a good man at Huntingdon, who, I doubt not, is now with God, and he also kept a Diary. After his death, through the neglect or foolish wantonness of his executors, it came abroad for the amusement of his neighbours. All the town saw it, and all the town found it highly diverting. It contained much more valuable matter than the
Doctor's journal seems to do; but it contained also a faithful record of all his deliverances from wind, (for he was much troubled with flatulence,) together with pious acknowledgments of the mercy. There is certainly a call for gratitude, whatsoever benefit we receive; and it is equally certain that we ought to be humbled under the recollection of our least offences; but it would have been as well if neither
old friend had recorded his eructations, nor the Doctor his dishes of sugarless tea, or the dinner at which he ate too much. I wonder, indeed, that any man of such learned eminence as Johnson, who knew that every
word he uttered was deemed oracular, and that every scratch of his pen was accounted a treasure, should leave behind him what he would have blushed to exhibit while he lived. If Virgil would have burnt his Æneid, how much more reason had these good men to have burnt their journals !
Mr. Perry will leave none such behind him. He is dying, as I suppose you have heard. Dr. Kerr, who I think has visited him twice or thrice, desired at his last visit to be no more sent for. He pronounced his case hopeless; for that his thigh and leg must mortify. He is however in a most comfortable frame of mind. So long as he thought it possible that he might recover, he was much occupied with a review of his ministry; and, under a deep impression of his deficiencies in that function, assured Mr.R- that he intended, when he should 'enter upon it again, to be much more diligent than he had been. He was conscious, he said, that many fine things had been said of him; but that, though he trusted he had found grace so to walk as not to dishonour his office, he was conscious at the same time how little he deserved them. This, with much more to the same purport, passed on Sunday last. On Thursday, Mr. R-- was with him again ; and at that time Mr. Perry knew that he must die. The rules and cautions that he had before prescribed to himself, he then addressed directly to his visitor. He exhorted him by all means to be earnest and affectionate in his applications to the unconverted, and not less solicitous to admonish the careless, with a head full of light, and a heart alienated from the ways of God; and those, no less, who being wise in their own conceit, were much occupied with matters above their reach, and very little with subjects of immediate and necessary concern. He added that he had received from God, during his illness, other views of sin than he had ever been favoured