The Life of Johnson HTML version

1777: AETAT. 68.]--In 1777, it appears from his Prayers and Meditations, that Johnson
suffered much from a state of mind 'unsettled and perplexed,' and from that constitutional
gloom, which, together with his extreme humility and anxiety with regard to his religious
state, made him contemplate himself through too dark and unfavourable a medium. It
may be said of him, that he 'saw GOD in clouds.' Certain we may be of his injustice to
himself in the following lamentable paragraph, which it is painful to think came from the
contrite heart of this great man, to whose labours the world is so much indebted: 'When I
survey my past life, I discover nothing but a barren waste of time with some disorders of
body, and disturbances of the mind, very near to madness, which I hope He that made me
will suffer to extenuate many faults, and excuse many deficiencies.' But we find his
devotions in this year eminently fervent; and we are comforted by observing intervals of
quiet, composure, and gladness.
On Easter-day we find the following emphatick prayer:
'Almighty and most merciful Father, who seest all our miseries, and knowest all our
necessities, look down upon me, and pity me. Defend me from the violent incursion
[incursions] of evil thoughts, and enable me to form and keep such resolutions as may
conduce to the discharge of the duties which thy providence shall appoint me; and so help
me, by thy Holy Spirit, that my heart may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be
found, and that I may serve thee with pure affection and a cheerful mind. Have mercy
upon me, O GOD, have mercy upon me; years and infirmities oppress me, terrour and
anxiety beset me. Have mercy upon me, my Creator and my Judge. [In all dangers protect
me.] In all perplexities relieve and free me; and so help me by thy Holy Spirit, that I may
now so commemorate the death of thy Son our Saviour JESUS CHRIST, as that when
this short and painful life shall have an end, I may, for his sake, be received to everlasting
happiness. Amen.'
'Prestonfield, Feb. 17, 1777.
'SIR, I had yesterday the honour of receiving your book of your Journey to the Western
Islands of Scotland, which you was so good as to send me, by the hands of our mutual
friend, Mr. Boswell, of Auchinleck; for which I return you my most hearty thanks; and
after carefully reading it over again, shall deposit in my little collection of choice books,
next our worthy friend's Journey to Corsica. As there are many things to admire in both
performances, I have often wished that no Travels or Journeys should be published but
those undertaken by persons of integrity and capacity to judge well, and describe
faithfully, and in good language, the situation, condition, and manners of the countries
past through. Indeed our country of Scotland, in spite of the union of the crowns, is still
in most places so devoid of clothing, or cover from hedges and plantations, that it was
well you gave your readers a sound Monitoire with respect to that circumstance. The