The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 24. Closing years and death
Unhappily, by this time, his affairs had reached a stage of complication from which little short of a miracle could extricate him; and there is no doubt that his involved circumstances affected his health, as he had already been seriously ill in 1772. During the few months of life that remained to him, he did not publish anything, his hands being full of promised work. His last metrical effort was Retaliation, a series of epitaph-epigrams, left unfinished at his death, and prompted by some similar, though greatly inferior, efforts directed against him by Garrick and other friends. In March, 1774, the combined effects of work and worry, added to a local disorder, brought on a nervous fever which he aggravated by the unwise use of a patent medicine, James’s powder, on which, like many of his contemporaries, he placed too great a reliance. On the 10th, he had dined with Percy at the Turk’s Head. Not many days after, when Percy called on him, he was ill. A week later, the sick man just recognised his visitor. On Monday, 4 April, he died; and he was buried on the 9th in the burial ground of the Temple church. Two years subsequently, a memorial was erected to him in Westminster abbey, with a Latin epitaph by Johnson, containing, among other things, the oft-quoted affectuum potens, at lenis dominator. An even more suitable farewell is, perhaps, to be found in the simpler “valediction cum osculo” which his rugged old friend inserted in a letter to Langton: “Let not his frailities be remembered; he was a very great man.”