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THE VOYAGE OF LIFE.
My astonishment for a time repressed my curiosity; but soon
much to applaud ; but in which also the disciples of candor and impartiality, the votaries of creative fancy and of genuine poetry, will have much to regret and much to condemn.”
Scarcely had he finished his “Lives of the Poets," when in May, 1781, he lost his long-tried friend Mr. Thrale, in whose house he had been a constant resident for fifteen years: and the next year deprived him of his old and faithful friend Dr. Robert Levett,' upon whose character he wrote the beautiful and touching verses which do so much honor to his heart. But his own end was drawing near. In June, 1783, he had a paralytic stroke, which for some hours deprived him of the power of speech. From this, however, he recovered, but towards the end of the year he was seized with a violent fit of asthma, accompanied with dropsical swellings of the legs. These affer tions subsided by the beginning of the next year; but towards the autumn they so increased, that all hopes of his recovery were at an end. He had always entertained a great dread of death, and his hours of health were im. bittered by his apprehensions of dissolution. But when he saw his end actually approaching, he became entirely resigned, strong in his faith in Christ, joyful in the hope of his own salvation, and anxious for the salvation of his friends. “On the evening of the 13th of December, 1784, and in the 75th year of his age, he expired so calmly, that the persons who were sitting in the room only knew that he had ceased to breathe, by the sudden failure of the sound which had for some days accompanied bis respiration."
The great characteristic of Dr. Johnson was uncommon vigor and logical precision of intellect. His reasoning was sound, dexterous, and acute; his thoughts striking and original; and his imagination vivid. In conversation his style was keen and pointed, and his language appropriate; and he displayed such a comprehensive view of his subject, such accuracy of perception, such lucidity of discrimination, and such facility of illustration, as to throw light upon every question, however intricate, and to prove the best of all practical guides in the customary occurrences of life.
Besides these great qualities, he possessed others of a most humiliating littleness. In many respects he seemed a different person at different times. He was intolerant of particular principles, which he would not allow to be discussed within his hearing; of particular nations, and particular individuals He was superstitious; and his mind was at an early period narrowed upon many questions, religious and political. He was open to flattery, hard to please, easy to offend, impetuous and irritable. “The characteristic pecu. liarity of Johnson's intellect,” says a writer in the Edinburgh Review, “was the union of great powers with low prejudices. If we judged of him by the best parts of his mind, we should place him almost as high as he was placed by the idolatry of Boswell; if by the worst parts of his mind, we should place him even below Bos well himself." This short and imperfect view of lus character would convey a wrong impression, did we not add, that he was steady and inflexible in maintaining the obligations of religion, a sincere and zealous Christian, and possessed of a most kind and benevolent hearts
ready passed the straits of infancy, in which multitudes had per-
I then looked round with anxious eagerness; and first turning
Before me, and on each side, was an expanse of waters vion
This Dr. Levett " was the constant companion of Johnson at his morning's weal for wear forty years. He was a practitioner of physic among the lower orders of people in London: his fees were mau, but his business was extensive, and he always walked. This good man lived in great obsche rity, though continually and most conscientiously employed in mitigating the sorrows or poverty at diseaxe."
100 nis dying bed, he particularly exhorted Sir Joshua Reynolds "to read the Bible, and to keep boly the Sabbath-day;" that is, not to paint on that day.
The Earl of Eglintoune, of remarkablo elegance of maliners, once remarked at a supper party
Bare Dat be regretted that Johnson
A WL OCH
tudo with him what you would be would en la webred society. So, no, my lord," said Barettil,“ do with him what you wonla Amaya bave been a bear." "True," answered the Earl with a smile, but then be was dancing besar 78 tavate at the reflections which have gone round the world to Johnson's uteludis
to the epithat of a bar, let me impress upon my readers Just and appy saying of tead Coldits, who knew him well:-Johnson, to be sure, bas a rongliness in his manner:
tas alive has a more tender beurt. HR MAN SOTHING ON THE BEAR RET MIS SIIS
world to Johnson's prejudice, by apply
THE VOYAGE OF LIFE. · Life," says Seneca, “is a voyage, in the progress of which we are perpetually changing our scenes; we first leave childhood behind us, then youth, then the years of ripened manhood, then the better and more pleasing part of old age.” The perusal of this passage having incited in me a train of reflections on the state of man, the incessant fluctuation of his wishes, the gradual change of his disposition to all external objects, and the thoughtlessness with which he floats along the stream of time, I sunk into a slumber amidst my meditations; and, on a sudden, found my ears filled with the tumult of labor, the shouts of alacrity, the shrieks of alarm, the whistle of winds, and the dash of waters.
My astonishment for a time repressed my curiosity ; but soon recovering myself so far as to inquire whither we were going, and what was the cause of such clamor and confusion, I was told that they were launching out into the ocean of life; that we had already passed the straits of infancy, in which multitudes had perished, some by the weakness and fragility of their vessels, and more by the folly, perverseness, or negligence of those who undertook to steer them; and that we were now on the main sea, abandoned to the winds and billows, without any other means of security than the care of the pilot, whom it was always in our power to choose among great numbers that offered their direction and assistance.
I then looked round with anxious eagerness; and first turning my eyes behind me, saw a stream flowing through flowery islands, which every one that sailed along seemed to behold with pleasure; but no sooner touched, than the current, which, though not noisy or turbulent, was yet irresistible, bore him away. Beyond these islands all was darkness, nor could any of the passengers describe the shore at which he first embarked.
Before me, and on each side, was an expanse of waters violently agitated, and covered with so thick a mist, that the most perspicacious eye could see but a little way. It appeared to be full of rocks and whirlpools, for many sunk unexpectedly while they were courting the gale with full sails, and insulting those whom they had left behind. So numerous, indeed, were the dangers, and so thick the darkness, that no caution could confer security. Yet there were many, who, by false intelligence, beat Boswell's, that be regretted that Johnson had not been educated with more refinement and lived more in polished society. "No, no, my lord," said Baretti, “do with him what you would, he would always have been a bear." "True," answered the Earl with a smile, “but then be would have been a dancing bear."
"To obviate all the reflections which have gone round the world to Johnson's prejudice, by apply. ing to him the epithet of a bear, let me impress upon my readers a just and happy saying of my friend Goldsmith, who knew him well:- Johnson, to be sure, has a rougliness in his manner; but go man alve bas a more tender heart. HE XAS NOTHING OF THE BEAR BUT HIS SKIX.'"-Breweb.
should sink last; and with this promise every one was satis.
In the midst of the current of life was the gulf of Intemperance.
trayed their followers into whirlpools, or by violence pushed those whom they found in their way against the rocks.
The current was invariable and insurmountable; but though it was impossible to sail against it, or to return to the place that was once passed, yet it was not so violent as to allow no opportunities for dexterity or courage, since, though none could retreat back from danger, yet they might often avoid it by oblique direction.
It was, however, not very common to steer with much care or prudence; for by some universal infatuation, every man appeared to think himself safe, though he saw his consorts every moment sinking round him; and no sooner had the waves closed over them, than their fate and misconduct were forgotten; the voyage was pursued with the same jocund confidence; every man congratulated himself upon the soundness of his vessel, and believed himself able to stem the whirlpool in which his friend was swallowed, or glide over the rocks on which he was dashed: nor was it often observed that the sight of a wreck made any man change his course : if he turned aside for a moment, he soon forgot the rudder, and left himself again to the disposal of chance.
This negligence did not proceed from indifference, or from weariness of their present condition ; for not one of those who thus rushed upon destruction, failed, when he was sinking, to call loudly upon his associates for that help which could not now be given him; and many spent their last moments in cautioning others against the folly by which they were intercepted in the midst of their course. Their benevolence was soinetimes praised, but their admonitions were unregarded.
The vessels in which we had embarked, being confessedly un. equal to the turbulence of the stream of life, were visibly impaired in the course of the voyage ; so that every passenger was certain, that how long soever he might, by favorable accidents, or by in. cessant vigilance, be preserved, he must sink at last.
This necessity of perishing might have been expected to sad. den the gay, and intimidate the daring, at least to keep the melan choly and timorous in perpetual torments, and hinder them from any enjoyment of the varieties and gratifications which nature offered them as the solace of their labor; yet in effect none seemed less to expect destruction than those to whom it was most dreadful; they all had the art of concealing their dangers from themselves ; and those who knew their inability to bear the sight of the terrors that embarrassed their way, took care never to look forward, but found some amusement for the present moment, and generally entertained themselves by playing with Hope, who was The constant associate of the voyage of life.
Yet all that Hope ventured to promise, even to those whom she favored most, was, not that they should escape, but that they
might solace themselves with a short enjoyment of that delicious region, after which they always determined to pursue their course exhout any other deviation.
Reason was too often prevailed upon so far by these promises. 28 10 renture her charge within the eddy of the gulf of Intempera Llice, where, indeed, the circumvolution was weak, but yet interropted the course of the vessel, and drew it, by insensible rotations, towards the centre. She then repented her temerity, and with all ber force endeavored to retreat; but the draught of the gulf was generally too strong to be overcome; and the passenger, havin: danced in circles with a pleasing and giddy velocity, was at las oferwhelmed and lost. Those few whom Reason was able to ex tricate, generally suffered so many shocks upon the points which shit out from the rocks of Pleasure, that they were unable to con tinue their course with the same strength and facility as before but floated along timorously and feebly, endangered by ever breeze, and shattered by every ruffle of the water, till they sunl by slow degrees, after long struggles and innumerable expedient
always repining at their own folly, and warning others against
There were artists who professed to repair the breaches au
should sink last; and with this promise every one was satisfied, though he laughed at the rest for seeming to believe it. Hope, indeed, apparently mocked the credulity of her compa. nions ; for in proportion as their vessels grew leaky, she redoubled her assurances of safety; and none were more busy in making provisions for a long voyage, than they whom all but themselves saw likely to perish soon by irreparable decay.
In the midst of the current of life was the gulf of Intemperance, a dreadful whirlpool, interspersed with rocks, of which the pointed crags were concealed under water, and the tops covered with herbage, on which Ease spread couches of repose, and with . shades where Pleasure warbled the song of invitation. Within sight of these rocks all who sailed on the ocean of life must necessarily pass. Reason, indeed, was always at hand to steer the passengers through a narrow outlet by which they might escape ; but very few could, by her entreaties or remonstrances, be induced to put the rudder into her hand, without stipulating that she should approach so near unto the rocks of Pleasure, that they might solace themselves with a short enjoyment of that delicious region, after which they always determined to pursue their course without any other deviation.
Reason was too often prevailed upon so far by these promises, as to venture her charge within the eddy of the gulf of Intemperance, where, indeed, the circumvolution was weak, but yet interrupted the course of the vessel, and drew it, by insensible rotations, towards the centre. She then repented her temerity, and with all her force endeavored to retreat; but the draught of the gulf was generally too strong to be overcome; and the passenger, having danced in circles with a pleasing and giddy velocity, was at last overwhelmed and lost. Those few whom Reason was able to extricate, generally suffered so many shocks upon the points which shot out from the rocks of Pleasure, that they were unable to continue their course with the same strength and facility as before, but floated along timorously and feebly, endangered by every breeze, and shattered by every russle of the water, till they sunk, by slow degrees, after long struggles and innumerable expedients, always repining at their own folly, and warning others against the first approach to the gulf of Intemperance.
There were artists who professed to repair the breaches and stop the leaks of the vessels which had been shattered on the rocks of Pleasure. Many appeared to have great confidence in their skill, and some, indeed, were preserved by it from sinking, who had received only a single blow; but I remarked that few vessels lasted long which had been much repaired, nor was it found that the artists themselves continued afloat longer than those who had least of their assistance.
remove but a little dexterity of conduct and readiness of expe
The only advantage which, in the voyage of life, the cautious had above the negligent, was that they sunk later, and more suddenly; for they passed forward till they had sometimes seen all those in whose company they had issued from the straits of infancy, perish in the way, and at last were overset by a cross breeze, without the toil of resistance, or the anguish of expectation. But such as had often fallen against the rocks of Pleasure, commonly subsided by sensible degrees, contended long with the encroaching waters, and harassed themselves by labors that scarce Hope herself could flatter with success.
As I was looking upon the various fate of the multitude about me, I was suddenly alarmed with an admonition from some unknown Power, “Gaze not idly upon others when thou thyself art sinking. Whence is this thoughtless tranquillity, when thou and they are equally endangered ?" I looked, and seeing the gulf of Intemperance before me, started and awaked.
Rambler, No. 102.
No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him
By this descent from the pinnacles of art, no honor will be lost
Rambler, No. 197.
KNOWLEDGE TO BE ACCOMMODATED TO THE PURPOSES OF LIFE.
It is too common for those who have been bred to scholastic professions, and passed much of their time in academies where nothing but learning confers honors, to disregard every other qualification, and to imagine that they shall find mankind ready to pay homage to their knowledge, and to crowd about them for instruction. They therefore step out from their cells into the open world, with all the confidence of authority and dignity of importance; they look round about them, at once with ignorance and scorn, on a race of beings to whom they are equally unknown and equally contemptible, but whose manners they must imitate, and with whose opinions they must comply, if they desire to pass their time happily among them.
To lessen that disdain with which scholars are inclined to look on the common business of the world, and the unwillingness with which they condescend to learn what is not to be found in any system of philosophy, it may be necessary to consider that though admiration is excited by abstruse researches and remote discove. ries, yet pleasure is not given, nor affection conciliated, but by softer accomplishments, and qualities more easily communicable to those about us. He that can only converse upon questions about which only a small part of mankind has knowledge sufficient to make them curious, must lose his days in unsocial silence, and live in the crowd of life without a companion. He that can only be useful in great occasions, may die without exerting his abilities, and stand a helpless spectator of a thousand vexations which fret away bappiness, and which nothing is required 10
THE RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF TIME. It is usual for those who are advised to the attainment of an new qualification, to look upon themselves as required to chan the general course of their conduct, to dismiss business, and e clude pleasure, and to devote their days and nights to a particul attention. But all common degrees of excellence are attainable a lower price; he that should steadily and resolutely assign to ar science or language those interstitial vacancies which interve in the most crowded variety of diversion or employment, wou find every day new irradiations of knowledge, and discover he much more is to be hoped from frequency and perseverance, th from violent efforts and sudden desires ; efforts which are so remitted when they encounter difficulty, and desires which they are indulged too often, will shake off the authority of reas and range capriciously from one object to another.
The disposition to defer every important design to a time leisure and a state of settled uniformity, proceeds generally for
a false estimate of the human power. If we except those giga and stupendous intelligences who are said to grasp a system intuition, and bound forward from one series of conclusions to ther, without regular steps through intermediate propositions. most successful students make their advances in knowledge short flights, between each of which the mind may lie at For every single act of progression a short time is sufficient it is only necessary, that, whenever that time is afforded. well employed.
Few minds will be long confined to severe and laborion