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not with judgment. “ Sunday," said he, '" was a heavy day to me when I was a boy. My mother confined me on Sundays, and made me read “ The Whole Duty of Man;" from a great part of which I could derive, no instruction. When, for instance, I read the chapter on theft, which, from infancy, I had been taught was wrong, I was no more convinced that theft was wrong than before; so there was no accession of knowledge. A boy should be introduced to such books, by having his attention directed to the arrangement, to the style, and other excellencies of composition, that the mind, being thus engaged by an amusing variety of objects, may not grow weary.” That which is read without pleasure is not often recollected, nor infixed by conversation; and, therefore, in a great measure, drops from the memory.'. Yet the practice of being cheated into learning our duties by the ornaments of style, by means of which error may be equally inculcated, is liable to many objections.
He communicated to Mr Boswell the following account of “ the first occasion of his thinking in earnest of religion. I fell into an inattention to religion, or an indifference about it, in my ninth year. The church at Lichfield, in which we had a seat, wanted reparation; so I was to go and find a seat in other churches ; and having bad eyes, and being awkward about this, I used to go and read in the fields on Sunday. This habit continued till my fourteenth year; and still I find a great reluctance to go to church. I then became a sort of lax talker against religion, for I did not much think about it; and this lasted till I went to Oxford, where it would not be suffered. When at Oxford, I took up Law's “ Serious Call to a Holy Life,” expecting to find it a dull book (as such books generally are), and perhaps to laugh at it. But I found Law quite an over-match for me *. And this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest of religion, after I became capable of rational inquiry.”
* In a letter from Miss Hill Boothby to Johnson, dated 1755, is the following passage : “ Have you read Mr Law, not cursorily, but with attention? I wish you
Serious impressions of religion, from partioular incidents, it is certain, have been experienced by many pious persons ; though it must be acknowledged, that weak minds, from an erroneous supposition that no man is in a state of grace who has not felt a particular conversion, have, in some cases, brought a degree of ridicule upon them; a ridicule of which it is inconsiderate or unfair to make a general application. How seriously Johnson was impressed with a sense of religion from this time forward, appears from the whole tenor of his life and writings. Religion was the predominant object of his thoughts ; though he seems not to have attained all the tranquillity and assurance in his practice of its duties that are so earnestly to be desired. His sentiments, upon points of abstract virtue
would consider him; “ His appeal to all that doubt, &c.” I think the most clear of all his later writings; and in recommending it to you, I shall say no more or less than what you will see he says in his Advertisement to the Reader.” A few days before her death, 1756, he writes to her, “ I have returned your Law; which, however, I earnestly intreat you to give me.” Annals, Appendix, p. 140.
and rectitude, were in the highest degree elevated and generous; but he was unfortunate enough to have the sublimity of his mind degraded by the hypochondriacal propensities of his animal constitution. The serenity, the in. dependence, and the exultation of religion, were sentiments to which he was a stranger, He saw the Almighty in a different light from what he is represented in the purer page of the gospel ; and he trembled in the presence of Infinite Goodness. Those tenets of the church of England, which are most nearly allied to Calvinism, were congenial to his general feelings; and they made an early impression, which habit confirmed, and which reason, if ever exerted, could not efface. At the latter part of his life these terrors had a considerable effect; nor was their influence lost, till disease had weakened his powers, and blunted his feelings.
The year following, 1730, Mr Corbet left the university; and his father, to whom, according to Sir John Hawkins, he trusted for support, declined contributing any farther to
Johnson's maintenance, than paying for his commons. His father's business was by no means lucrative. His remittances, consequently, were too small even to supply the decencies of external appearance; and the very shoes that he wore were so much torn, that they could no longer conceal his feet. So jealous, however, was be of appearing an object of eleemosynary contribution, that a new pair having been placed at his door, by some unknown hand, he flung them away with indignation.
While thus oppressed by want, he seems to have yielded to that indifference to fame and improvement, which is the offspring of despair. “ He was generally seen,” says Bishop Percy, · “ lounging at the college gate, with a circle of young students round him, whom he was entertaining with wit, and keeping from their studies, if not spiriting them up to rebellion against the college discipline, which, in his maturer years, he so much extolled.” The account of his conduct given by Dr Adams, who was his nominal tutor for some time be-