The Life of Johnson
1784: AETAT. 75.]--And now I am arrived at the last year of the life of SAMUEL
JOHNSON, a year in which, although passed in severe indisposition, he nevertheless
gave many evidences of the continuance of those wondrous powers of mind, which raised
him so high in the intellectual world. His conversation and his letters of this year were in
no respect inferiour to those of former years.
In consequence of Johnson's request that I should ask our physicians about his case, and
desire Sir Alexander Dick to send his opinion, I transmitted him a letter from that very
amiable Baronet, then in his eighty-first year, with his faculties as entire as ever; and
mentioned his expressions to me in the note accompanying it: 'With my most affectionate
wishes for Dr. Johnson's recovery, in which his friends, his country, and all mankind
have so deep a stake:' and at the same time a full opinion upon his case by Dr. Gillespie,
who, like Dr. Cullen, had the advantage of having passed through the gradations of
surgery and pharmacy, and by study and practice had attained to such skill, that my father
settled on him two hundred pounds a year for five years, and fifty pounds a year during
his life, as an honorarium to secure his particular attendance.
I also applied to three of the eminent physicians who had chairs in our celebrated school
of medicine at Edinburgh, Doctors Cullen, Hope, and Monro.
All of them paid the most polite attention to my letter, and its venerable object. Dr.
Cullen's words concerning him were, 'It would give me the greatest pleasure to be of any
service to a man whom the publick properly esteem, and whom I esteem and respect as
much as I do Dr. Johnson.' Dr. Hope's, 'Few people have a better claim on me than your
friend, as hardly a day passes that I do not ask his opinion about this or that word.' Dr.
Monro's, 'I most sincerely join you in sympathizing with that very worthy and ingenious
character, from whom his country has derived much instruction and entertainment.'
'To The Reverend Dr. Taylor, Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
'DEAR SIR,--What can be the reason that I hear nothing from you? I hope nothing
disables you from writing. What I have seen, and what I have felt, gives me reason to fear
every thing. Do not omit giving me the comfort of knowing, that after all my losses I
have yet a friend left.
'I want every comfort. My life is very solitary and very cheerless. Though it has pleased
GOD wonderfully to deliver me from the dropsy, I am yet very weak, and have not
passed the door since the 13th of December. I hope for some help from warm weather,
which will surely come in time.
'I could not have the consent of the physicians to go to church yesterday; I therefore
received the holy sacrament at home, in the room where I communicated with dear Mrs.
Williams, a little before her death. O! my friend, the approach of death is very dreadful. I