As the end drew near, Johnson accepted the inevitable like a man. After spending most of the latter months of 1784 in the country with the friends who, after the loss of the Thrales, could give him most domestic comfort, he came back to London to die. He made his will, and settled a few matters of business, and was pleased to be told that he would be buried in Westminster Abbey. He uttered a few words of solemn advice to those who came near him, and took affecting leave of his friends. Langton, so warmly loved, was in close attendance. Johnson said to him tenderly, Te teneam moriens deficiente manu. Windham broke from political occupations to sit by the dying man; once Langton found Burke sitting by his bedside with three or four friends. “I am afraid,” said Burke, “that so many of us must be oppressive to you.” “No, sir, it is not so,” replied Johnson, “and I must be in a wretched state indeed when your company would not be a delight to me.” “My dear sir,” said Burke, with a breaking voice, “you have always been too good to me;” and parted from his old friend for the last time. Of Reynolds, he begged three things: to forgive a debt of thirty pounds, to read the Bible, and never to paint on Sundays. A few flashes of the old humour broke through. He said of a man who sat up with him: “Sir, the fellow’s an idiot; he’s as awkward as a turnspit when first put into the wheel, and as sleepy as a dormouse.” His last recorded words were to a young lady who had begged for his blessing: “God bless you, my dear.” The same day, December 13th, 1784, he gradually sank and died peacefully. He was laid in the Abbey by the side of Goldsmith, and the playful prediction has been amply fulfilled:—
Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis.
The names of many greater writers are inscribed upon the walls of Westminster Abbey; but scarcely any one lies there whose heart was more acutely responsive during life to the deepest and tenderest of human emotions. In visiting that strange gathering of departed heroes and statesmen and philanthropists and poets, there are many whose words and deeds have a far greater influence upon our imaginations; but there are very few whom, when all has been said, we can love so heartily as Samuel Johnson.