The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 28. Johnsons last years and death
With the revision of The Lives of the Poets, Johnson’s career as an author closed. In the three years of failing health which were left to him, he lived his accustomed life, honoured for the authority of his opinion, generous in his help to younger writers, and active in domestic benevolence. He revised Crabbe’s Village, and dictated much to Boswell. Death removed some who had played a great part in his later life—Thrale, whose house at Streatham had been a second home, and two of the pensioners in his own house at Bolt-court, Levett and Mrs. Williams. The tribute to Levett, noble in its restrained emotion, is the most tender of his poems. The sadness of loss was embittered by Mrs. Thrale’s marriage to Piozzi and the irreparable break in the long and happy friendship. He had so far recovered from a paralytic seizure as to be able, at the close of 1783, to found the Essex-Head club. By its ease of access, the old man sought to supply the need of new company. He dined at The Club, for the last time, in June, 1784. Next month, he set out for his native city, and returned by Birmingham and Oxford, the cities of his youth. His health had not found any relief, and, when he reached London in November, was rapidly declining. He died 13 December, and, on the 20th, was buried in Westminster abbey. Shortly before his death, he had destroyed his papers.