The person, whose name he thus rashly and criminally presumed to falsify, was the Earl of Chesterfield, to whom he had been tutor, and who, he perhaps, in the warmth of his feelings, flattered himself would have generously paid the money in case of an alarm being taken, rather than suffer him to fall a victim to the dreadful consequences of violating the law against forgery, the most dangerous crime in a commercial country; but the unfortunate divine had the mortification to find that he was mistaken. His noble pupil appeared against him, and he was capitally convicted.
Johnson told me that Dr. Dodd was very little acquainted with him, having been but once in his company, many years previous to this period (which was precisely the state of my own acquaintance with Dodd); but in his distress he bethought himself of Johnson's persuasive power of writing, if haply it might avail to obtain for him the Royal Mercy. He did not apply to him, directly, but, extraordinary as it may seem, through the late Countess of Harrington, who wrote a letter to Johnson, asking him to employ his pen in favour of Dodd. Mr. Allen, the printer, who was Johnson's landlord and next neighbour in Bolt-court, and for whom he had much kindness, was one of Dodd's friends, of whom to the credit of humanity be it recorded, that he had many who did not desert him, even after his infringement of the law had reduced him to the state of a man under sentence of death. Mr. Allen told me that he carried Lady Harrington's letter to Johnson, that Johnson read it walking up and down his chamber, and seemed much agitated, after which he said, 'I will do what I can;'--and certainly he did make extraordinary exertions.
He this evening, as he had obligingly promised in one of his letters, put into my hands the whole series of his writings upon this melancholy occasion, and I shall present my readers with the abstract which I made from the collection; in doing which I studied to avoid copying what had appeared in print, and now make part of the edition of Johnson's Works, published by the Booksellers of London, but taking care to mark Johnson's variations in some of the pieces there exhibited.
Dr. Johnson wrote in the first place, Dr. Dodd's Speech to the Recorder of London, at the Old-Bailey, when sentence of death was about to be pronounced upon him.
He wrote also The Convict's Address to his unhappy Brethren, a sermon delivered by Dr. Dodd, in the chapel of Newgate.
According to Johnson's manuscript it began thus after the text, What shall I do to be saved?--
'These were the words with which the keeper, to whose custody Paul and Silas were committed by their prosecutors, addressed his prisoners, when he saw them freed from their bonds by the perceptible agency of divine favour, and was, therefore, irresistibly convinced that they were not offenders against the laws, but martyrs to the truth.'
Dr. Johnson was so good as to mark for me with his own hand, on a copy of this sermon which is now in my possession, such passages as were added by Dr. Dodd. They are not many: whoever will take the trouble to look at the printed copy, and attend to what I mention, will be satisfied of this.
There is a short introduction by Dr. Dodd, and he also inserted this sentence, 'You see with what confusion and dishonour I now stand before you;--no more in the pulpit of instruction, but on this humble seat with yourselves.' The notes are entirely Dodd's own, and Johnson's writing ends at the words, 'the thief whom he pardoned on the cross.' What follows was supplied by Dr. Dodd himself.
The other pieces mentioned by Johnson in the above-mentioned collection, are two letters, one to the Lord Chancellor Bathurst, (not Lord North, as is erroneously supposed,) and one to Lord Mansfield;--A Petition from Dr. Dodd to the King;--A Petition from Mrs. Dodd to the Queen;-- Observations of some length inserted in the news-papers, on occasion of Earl Percy's having presented to his Majesty a petition for mercy to Dodd, signed by twenty thousand people, but all in vain. He told me that he had also written a petition from the city of London; 'but (said he, with a significant smile) they mended it.' The last of these articles which Johnson wrote is Dr. Dodd's last solemn Declaration, which he left with the sheriff at the place of execution. Here also my friend marked the variations on a copy of that piece now in my possession. Dodd inserted, 'I never knew or attended to the calls of frugality, or the needful minuteness of painful oeconomy;' and in the next sentence he introduced the words which I distinguish by Italicks; 'My life for some few unhappy years past has been dreadfully erroneous.' Johnson's expression was hypocritical; but his remark on the margin is 'With this he said he could not charge himself.'
Having thus authentically settled what part of the Occasional Papers, concerning Dr. Dodd's miserable situation, came from the pen of Johnson, I shall proceed to present my readers with my record of the unpublished writings relating to that extraordinary and interesting matter.