Kill him for the book he wrote

These fragments come from the published account of an attempted murder of the Reverend Samuel Johnson (1649-1703) a Whig pamphleteer. In 1682, Johnson published a political treatise, Julian the Apostate, which transformed him into an overnight sensation. The treatise drew parallels between the fourth-century apostate emperor, Julian, and James duke of York, the Catholic successor to the English crown. Johnson justified the efforts of the whigs to exclude James from the monarchy, and called on active resistance to James’s ascension to the English throne. As a result, Johnson was imprisoned for four years in the king’s bench. While in gaol, Johnson continued to write seditious material, and in 1686 he was convicted of high misdemeanour, sentenced to pay 500 marks, to stand in the pillory for three days, and to be flogged from Newgate to Tyburn. In the early 1690s, he wrote An Argument proving that the abrogation of King James by the people of England, which caused such a scandal that in November 1692, seven men broke into Johnson’s house near Piccadilly and attempted to kill him.

Upon the Sunday Morning (the 27th of November 1692) seven persons broke into the House of the Reverend Mr Samuel Johnson, in Bond-street near Piccadilly; and five of them with a Lanthorn came into the Room where Mr Johnson with his Wife were in Bed, and their young Son lying in a Bed by them. Mrs Johnson hearing them open the Door, cried out to her Husband (who was fast asleep) My Dear, Thieves, Thieves. The Villains instantly threw open the Curtains, three of them placing themselves by that side of the Bed where Mr Johnson lay, with drawn Swords, and Clubs in their Hands; and two at the Bed’s Feet with Pistols. Whereupon Mr Johnson started upon his Bed, and waved his Arms to keep off Blows, but gave them not one word.  One of the three who stood by the Bed-side, gave him a great blow on the Head with an Oaken-stick, with a great Knob on the top (which stick was left behind and there may be seen) that struck him back to the Bed, and then instantly clap’d on a black Vizor Mask. Upon which Mrs Johnson cried out, over and over again with great earnestness, How can you strike a sick Man? At which they stood pausing over him. Which she observing, said We have no Money, we have no Money.  One of the Miscreants then called to Mr Johnson, saying Hold up your Face. At which Mrs Johnson, jogging her husband said, My Dear they would Gag you; prethee be gagg’d, hoping that then they would leave him and rifle the House.

Some time after, the Rogues still standing over him, Mr Johnson sat upright again and roared out, not being able to speak. Upon which one of the Rogues said, Pistol him, kill him, kill him for the Book he wrote. And then cut him with a Sword over the Eye-brow. And those who stood with Pistols at the Bed’s Feet presented their Pistols towards him: Which Mrs Johnson seeing, cried out O Christ do not do it.  How can you use a sick Man thus? After this they stood sometimes as amazed, demurring over him; and at length one of them said to the rest, Draw him under the Bed. Then a little after another said, Damn, where’s his Breeches?  And Mrs Johnson replying, Upon the feet of the Bed. They not instantly finding them ask’d again for them, and she replying as before, they found them and carried them off with them, not ransacking further, nor taking any other thing out of the House, though a Chest of Drawers stood open by them.

When the bloody Villains went out of the Room, Mrs Johnson imagining they were gone up to the Room over their Heads, where her daughter with a Maid-Servant were in Bed, cried out to Mr Johnson, My poor Girls, what will become of them? Mr Johnson got out of Bed to Follow them, but Mrs Johnson begg’d him not to go, saying You will sure be killed, but can do them no service; go to the Window and cry out Thieves, which he did. And the Watch and others being by that time got to the House, found that instead of going up the Stairs, as Mr Johnson and his Wife imagined, they went down Stairs and made their Escape.

The two young Women at first hearing the Noise in the House got to their Chamber-Window and cried out Thieves, upon which two of the Rogues who were left Sentinels at the Street-door, held up two Blunderbusses, saying If you cry out we will shoot you. Upon which they pull’d in their Heads, but continued to cry as loud as they could; which being heard by the Watch they made towards Mr Johnson’s House, but came too late to seize any of the Assassins. A Chirurgion being called found Mr Johnson greatly bleeding from two Wounds, one a cross Wound to his Skull, three inches long and an inch and a half across; and the other a Cut with a Sword on his left Eye-brow. The Chirurgion also found his Head greatly bruised, and declared that he imagined that there might be more danger in the Bruises than the Cuts, but through God’s blessing there is good hopes of his Recovery.

Source for Johnson’s lifeL Melinda Zook, DNB

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