LIFE OF JOHNSON
_INCLUDING BOSWELL'S JOURNAL OF A TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES
AND JOHNSON'S DIARY OF A JOURNEY INTO NORTH WALES_
GEORGE BIRKBECK HILL, D.C.L.
PEMBROKE COLLEGE, OXFORD
IN SIX VOLUMES
VOLUME I.—LIFE (1709-1765)
M DCCC LXXXVII
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
AN ACCOUNT OF HIS STUDIES AND NUMEROUS WORKS, IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER;
A SERIES OF HIS EPISTOLARY CORRESPONDENCE AND CONVERSATIONS WITH MANY EMINENT PERSONS;
VARIOUS ORIGINAL PIECES OF HIS COMPOSITION, NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED:
THE WHOLE EXHIBITING A VIEW OF LITERATURE AND LITERARY MEN IN GREAT-BRITAIN, FOR NEAR HALF A CENTURY, DURING WHICH HE FLOURISHED.
BY JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
—Quo fit ut OMNIS Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella VITA SENIS.—
THE THIRD EDITION, REVISED AND AUGMENTED, IN FOUR VOLUMES.
LONDON: PRINTED BY H. BALDWIN AND SON, FOR CHARLES DILLY, IN THE POULTRY.
* * * * *
M DCC XCIX.
THE REVEREND BENJAMIN JOWETT, M.A.,
MASTER OF BALLIOL COLLEGE
REGIUS PROFESSOR OF GREEK IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
HONORARY LL.D. OF THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
HONORARY D.D. OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LEYDEN
WHO IS NOT ONLY
'AN ACUTE AND KNOWING CRITIC'
IN GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT
KINDLY INTEREST THAT HE HAS THROUGHOUT TAKEN
IN THE PROGRESS OF THIS WORK
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON
CONTENTS OF VOL. I.
DEDICATION TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE THIRD EDITION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
CHRONOLOGICAL CATALOGUE OF THE PROSE WORKS OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON (SEPT. 18, 1709-OCTOBER 1765) . . . . 1-500
A. JOHNSON'S DEBATES IN PARLIAMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501
B. JOHNSON'S LETTERS TO HIS MOTHER AND MISS PORTER IN 1759 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 512
C. JOHNSON AT CAMBRIDGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 517
D. JOHNSON'S LETTER TO DR. LELAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . 518
E. JOHNSON'S 'ENGAGING IN POLITICKS WITH H——N'. . . . . . 518
F. JOHNSON'S FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE THRALES AND HIS SERIOUS ILLNESS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS, &c.
1. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the National Gallery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece to VOL. I.
2. FACSIMILE OF JOHNSON'S HANDWRITING IN HIS 20TH YEAR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. I, p. 60.
3. FACSIMILE OF A LETTER OF JOHNSON relating to Rasselas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. I, p. 340.
4. SAMUEL JOHNSON, from the Portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1756 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. I, p. 392.
5. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Bust by Nollekens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece to VOL. II.
6. FACSIMILE OF JOHNSON'S HANDWRITING IN HIS 54TH YEAR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. II, to follow Frontispiece.
7. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1770 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece to VOL. III.
8. FACSIMILE OF THE ROUND ROBIN ADDRESSED TO DR. JOHNSON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. III, p. 82.
9. OPIE'S PORTRAIT OF JOHNSON, from the Engraving in the Common Room of University College . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. III, to face p. 245.
10. FACSIMILE OF DR. JOHNSON'S HANDWRITING A MONTH BEFORE HIS DEATH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. IV, to face p. 377.
11. JAMES BOSWELL OF AUCHINLECK, Esq., from the painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece to VOL. V.
12. FACSIMILE OF BOSWELL'S HANDWRITING, 1792, from a Letter in the Bodleian Library . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. V, to follow Frontispiece.
13. MAP OF JOHNSON AND BOSWELL'S TOUR THROUGH SCOTLAND AND THE HEBRIDES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. V, to face p. 5.
14. CHART OF JOHNSON'S CONTEMPORARIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece to VOL. VI.
Fielding, it is said, drank confusion to the man who invented the fifth act of a play. He who has edited an extensive work, and has concluded his labours by the preparation of a copious index, might well be pardoned, if he omitted to include the inventor of the Preface among the benefactors of mankind. The long and arduous task that years before he had set himself to do is done, and the last thing that he desires is to talk about it. Liberty is what he asks for, liberty to range for a time wherever he pleases in the wide and fair fields of literature. Yet with this longing for freedom comes a touch of regret and a doubt lest the 'fresh woods and pastures new' may never wear the friendly and familiar face of the plot of ground within whose narrower confines he has so long been labouring, and whose every corner he knows so well. May-be he finds hope in the thought that should his new world seem strange to him and uncomfortable, ere long he may be called back to his old task, and in the preparation of a second edition find the quiet and the peace of mind that are often found alone in 'old use and wont.'
With me the preparation of these volumes has, indeed, been the work of many years. Boswell's Life of Johnson I read for the first time in my boyhood, when I was too young for it to lay any hold on me. When I entered Pembroke College, Oxford, though I loved to think that Johnson had been there before me, yet I cannot call to mind that I ever opened the pages of Boswell. By a happy chance I was turned to the study of the literature of the eighteenth century. Every week we were required by the rules of the College to turn into Latin, or what we called Latin, a passage from The Spectator. Many a happy minute slipped by while, in forgetfulness of my task, I read on and on in its enchanting pages. It was always with a sigh that at last I tore myself away, and sat resolutely down to write bad Latin instead of reading good English. From Addison in the course of time I passed on to the other great writers of his and the succeeding age, finding in their exquisitely clear style, their admirable common sense and their freedom from all the tricks of affectation, a delightful contrast to so many of the eminent authors of our own time. Those troublesome doubts, doubts of all kinds, which since the great upheaval of the French Revolution have harassed mankind, had scarcely begun to ruffle the waters of their life. Even Johnson's troubled mind enjoyed vast levels of repose. The unknown world alone was wrapped in stormy gloom; of this world 'all the complaints which were made were unjust.' Though I was now familiar with many of the great writers, yet Boswell I had scarcely opened since my boyhood. A happy day came just eighteen years ago when in an old book-shop, almost under the shadow of a great cathedral, I bought a second-hand copy of a somewhat early edition of the Life in five well-bound volumes. Of all my books none I cherish more than these. In looking at them I have known what it is to feel Bishop Percy's 'uneasiness at the thoughts of leaving his books in death.' They became my almost inseparable companions. Before long I began to note the parallel passages and allusions not only in their pages, but in the various authors whom I studied. Yet in these early days I never dreamt of preparing a new edition. It fell to my lot as time went on to criticise in some of our leading publications works that bore both on Boswell and Johnson. Such was my love for the subject that on one occasion, when I was called upon to write a review that should fall two columns of a weekly newspaper, I read a new edition of the Life from beginning to end without, I believe, missing a single line of the text or a single note. At length, 'towering in the confidence' of one who as yet has but set his foot on the threshold of some stately mansion in which he hopes to find for himself a home, I was rash enough more than twelve years ago to offer myself as editor of a new edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson. Fortunately for me another writer had been already engaged by the publisher to whom I applied, and my offer was civilly declined. From that time on I never lost sight of my purpose but when in the troubles of life I well-nigh lost sight of every kind of hope. Everything in my reading that bore on my favourite author was carefully noted, till at length I felt that the materials which I had gathered from all sides were sufficient to shield me from a charge of rashness if I now began to raise the building. Much of the work of preparation had been done at a grievous disadvantage. My health more than once seemed almost hopelessly broken down. Nevertheless even then the time was not wholly lost. In the sleepless hours of many a winter night I almost forgot my miseries in the delightful pages of Horace Walpole's Letters, and with pencil in hand and some little hope still in heart, managed to get a few notes taken. Three winters I had to spend on the shores of the Mediterranean. During two of them my malady and my distress allowed of no rival, and my work made scarcely any advance. The third my strength was returning, and in the six months that I spent three years ago in San Remo I wrote out very many of the notes which I am now submitting to my readers.
An interval of some years of comparative health that I enjoyed between my two severest illnesses allowed me to try my strength as a critic and an editor. In Dr. Johnson: His Friends and his Critics, which I published in the year 1878, I reviewed the judgments passed on Johnson and Boswell by Lord Macaulay and Mr. Carlyle, I described Oxford as it was known to Johnson, and I threw light on more than one important passage in the Life. The following year I edited Boswell's Journal of a Tour to Corsica and his curious correspondence with the Hon. Andrew Erskine. The somewhat rare little volume in which are contained the lively but impudent letters that passed between these two friends I had found one happy day in an old book-stall underneath the town hall of Keswick. I hoped that among the almost countless readers of Boswell there would be many who would care to study in one of the earliest attempts of his joyous youth the man whose ripened genius was to place him at the very head of all the biographers of whom the world can boast. My hopes were increased by the elegance and the accuracy of the typography with which my publishers, Messrs. De La Rue & Co., adorned this reprint. I was disappointed in my expectations. These curious Letters met with a neglect which they did not deserve. Twice, moreover, I was drawn away from the task that I had set before me by other works. By the death of my uncle, Sir Rowland Hill, I was called upon to edit his History of the Penny Postage, and to write his Life. Later on General Gordon's correspondence during the first six years of his government of the Soudan was entrusted to me to prepare for the press. In my Colonel Gordon in Central Africa I attempted to do justice to the rare genius, to the wise and pure enthusiasm, and to the exalted beneficence of that great man. The labour that I gave to these works was, as regards my main purpose, by no means wholly thrown away. I was trained by it in the duties of an editor, and by studying the character of two such men, who, though wide as the poles asunder in many things, were as devoted to truth and accuracy as they were patient in their pursuit, I was strengthened in my hatred of carelessness and error.
With all these interruptions the summer of 1885 was upon me before I was ready for the compositors to make a beginning with my work. In revising my proofs very rarely indeed have I contented myself in verifying my quotations with comparing them merely with my own manuscript. In almost all instances I have once more examined the originals. 'Diligence and accuracy,' writes Gibbon, 'are the only merits which an historical writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit indeed can be assumed from the performance of an indispensable duty.' By diligence and accuracy I have striven to win for myself a place in Johnson's school—'a school distinguished,' as Sir Joshua Reynolds said, 'for a love of truth and accuracy.' I have steadily set before myself Boswell's example where he says:—'Let me only observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that I have sometimes been obliged to run half over London, in order to fix a date correctly; which, when I had accomplished, I well knew would obtain me no praise, though a failure would have been to my discredit.' When the variety and the number of my notes are considered, when it is known that a great many of the authors I do not myself possess, but that they could only be examined in the Bodleian or the British Museum, it will be seen that the labour of revising the proofs was, indeed, unusually severe. In the course of the eighteen months during which they have been passing through the press, fresh reading has given fresh information, and caused many an addition, and not a few corrections moreover to be made, in passages which I had previously presumed to think already complete. Had it been merely the biography of a great man of letters that I was illustrating, such anxious care would scarcely have been needful. But Boswell's Life of Johnson, as its author with just pride boasts on its title-page, 'exhibits a view of literature and literary men in Great Britain, for near half a century during which Johnson flourished.' Wide, indeed, is the gulf by which this half-century is separated from us. The reaction against the thought and style of the age over which Pope ruled in its prime, and Johnson in its decline,—this reaction, wise as it was in many ways and extravagant as it was perhaps in more, is very far from having spent its force. Young men are still far too often found in our Universities who think that one proof of their originality is a contempt of authors whose writings they have never read. Books which were in the hands of almost every reader of the Life when it first appeared are now read only by the curious. Allusions and quotations which once fell upon a familiar and a friendly ear now fall dead. Men whose names were known to every one, now often have not even a line in a Dictionary of Biography. Over manners too a change has come, and as Johnson justly observes, 'all works which describe manners require notes in sixty or seventy years, or less.' But it is not only Boswell's narrative that needs illustration. Johnson in his talk ranges over a vast number of subjects. In his capacious memory were stored up the fruits of an almost boundless curiosity, and a wide and varied reading. I have sought to follow him wherever a remark of his required illustration, and have read through many a book that I might trace to its source a reference or an allusion. I have examined, moreover, all the minor writings which are attributed to him by Boswell, but which are not for the most part included in his collected works. In some cases I have ventured to set my judgment against Boswell's, and have refused to admit that Johnson was the author of the feeble pieces which were fathered on him. Once or twice in the course of my reading I have come upon essays which had escaped the notice of his biographer, but which bear the marks of his workmanship. To these I have given a reference. While the minute examination that I have so often had to make of Boswell's narrative has done nothing but strengthen my trust in his statements and my admiration of his laborious truthfulness, yet in one respect I have not found him so accurate as I had expected. 'I have,' he says, 'been extremely careful as to the exactness of my quotations.' Though in preparing his manuscript he referred in each case 'to the originals,' yet he did not, I conjecture, examine them once more in revising his proof-sheets. At all events he has allowed errors to slip in. These I have pointed out in my notes, for in every case where I could I have, I believe, verified his quotations.
I have not thought that it was my duty as an editor to attempt to refute or even to criticise Johnson's arguments. The story is told that when Peter the Great was on his travels and far from his country, some members of the Russian Council of State in St. Petersburgh ventured to withstand what was known to be his wish. His walking-stick was laid upon the table, and silence at once fell upon all. In like manner, before that editor who should trouble himself and his readers with attempting to refute Johnson's arguments, paradoxical as they often were, should be placed Reynolds's portrait of that 'labouring working mind.' It might make him reflect that if the mighty reasoner could rise up and meet him face to face, he would be sure, on which ever side the right might be, even if at first his pistol missed fire to knock him down with the butt-end of it. I have attempted therefore not to criticise but to illustrate Johnson's statements. I have compared them with the opinions of the more eminent men among his contemporaries, and with his own as they are contained in other parts of his Life, and in his writings. It is in his written works that his real opinion can be most surely found. 'He owned he sometimes talked for victory; he was too conscientious to make error permanent and pernicious by deliberately writing it.' My numerous extracts from the eleven volumes of his collected works will, I trust, not only give a truer insight into the nature of the man, but also will show the greatness of the author to a generation of readers who have wandered into widely different paths.
In my attempts to trace the quotations of which both Johnson and Boswell were somewhat lavish, I have not in every case been successful, though I have received liberal assistance from more than one friend. In one case my long search was rewarded by the discovery that Boswell was quoting himself. That I have lighted upon the beautiful lines which Johnson quoted when he saw the Highland girl singing at her wheel, and have found out who was 'one Giffard,' or rather Gifford, 'a parson,' is to me a source of just triumph. I have not known many happier hours than the one in which in the Library of the British Museum my patient investigation was rewarded and I perused Contemplation.
Fifteen hitherto unpublished letters of Johnson; his college composition in Latin prose; a long extract from his manuscript diary; a suppressed passage in his Journey to the Western Islands; Boswell's letters of acceptance of the office of Secretary for Foreign Correspondence to the Royal Academy; the proposal for the publication of a Geographical Dictionary issued by Johnson's beloved friend, Dr. Bathurst; and Mr. Recorder Longley's record of his conversation with Johnson on Greek metres, will, I trust, throw some lustre on this edition.
In many notes I have been able to clear up statements in the text which were not fully understood even by the author, or were left intentionally dark by him, or have become obscure through lapse of time. I would particularly refer to the light that I have thrown on Johnson's engaging in politics with William Gerard Hamilton, and on Burke's 'talk of retiring.' In many other notes I have established Boswell's accuracy against attacks which had been made on it apparently with success. It was with much pleasure that I discovered that the story told of Johnson's listening to Dr. Sacheverel's sermon is not in any way improbable, and that Johnson's 'censure' of Lord Kames was quite just. The ardent advocates of total abstinence will not, I fear, be pleased at finding at the end of my long note on Johnson's wine-drinking that I have been obliged to show that he thought that the gout from which he suffered was due to his temperance. 'I hope you persevere in drinking,' he wrote to his friend, Dr. Taylor. 'My opinion is that I have drunk too little.'
In the Appendices I have generally treated of subjects which demanded more space than could be given them in the narrow limits of a foot-note. In the twelve pages of the essay on Johnson's Debates in Parliament I have compressed the result of the reading of many weeks. In examining the character of George Psalmanazar I have complied with the request of an unknown correspondent who was naturally interested in the history of that strange man, 'after whom Johnson sought the most.' In my essay on Johnson's Travels and Love of Travelling I have, in opposition to Lord Macaulay's wild and wanton rhetoric, shown how ardent and how elevated was the curiosity with which Johnson's mind was possessed. In another essay I have explained, I do not say justified, his strong feelings towards the founders of the United States; and in a fifth I have examined the election of the Lord Mayors of London, at a time when the City was torn by political strife. To the other Appendices it is not needful particularly to refer.
In my Index, which has cost me many months' heavy work, 'while I bore burdens with dull patience and beat the track of the alphabet with sluggish resolution,' I have, I hope, shown that I am not unmindful of all that I owe to men of letters. To the dead we cannot pay the debt of gratitude that is their due. Some relief is obtained from its burthen, if we in our turn make the men of our own generation debtors to us. The plan on which my Index is made will, I trust, be found convenient. By the alphabetical arrangement in the separate entries of each article the reader, I venture to think, will be greatly facilitated in his researches. Certain subjects I have thought it best to form into groups. Under America, France Ireland, London, Oxford, Paris, and Scotland, are gathered together almost all the references to those subjects. The provincial towns of France, however, by some mistake I did not include in the general article. One important but intentional omission I must justify. In the case of the quotations in which my notes abound I have not thought it needful in the Index to refer to the book unless the eminence of the author required a separate and a second entry. My labour would have been increased beyond all endurance and my Index have been swollen almost into a monstrosity had I always referred to the book as well as to the matter which was contained in the passage that I extracted. Though in such a variety of subjects there must be many omissions, yet I shall be greatly disappointed if actual errors are discovered. Every entry I have made myself, and every entry I have verified in the proof-sheets, not by comparing it with my manuscript, but by turning to the reference in the printed volumes. Some indulgence nevertheless may well be claimed and granted. If Homer at times nods, an index-maker may be pardoned, should he in the fourth or fifth month of his task at the end of a day of eight hours' work grow drowsy. May I fondly hope that to the maker of so large an Index will be extended the gratitude which Lord Bolingbroke says was once shown to lexicographers? 'I approve,' writes his Lordship, 'the devotion of a studious man at Christ Church, who was overheard in his oratory entering into a detail with God, and acknowledging the divine goodness in furnishing the world with makers of dictionaries.'
In the list that I give in the beginning of the sixth volume of the books which I quote, the reader will find stated in full the titles which in the notes, through regard to space, I was forced to compress.
The Concordance of Johnson's sayings which follows the Index will be found convenient by the literary man who desires to make use of his strong and pointed utterances. Next to Shakespeare he is, I believe, quoted and misquoted the most frequently of all our writers. 'It is not every man that can carry a bon-mot.' Bons-mots that are miscarried of all kinds of good things suffer the most. In this Concordance the general reader, moreover, may find much to delight him. Johnson's trade was wit and wisdom, and some of his best wares are here set out in a small space. It was, I must confess, with no little pleasure that in revising my proof-sheets I found that the last line in my Concordance and the last line in my six long volumes is Johnson's quotation of Goldsmith's fine saying; 'I do not love a man who is zealous for nothing.'
In the 'forward' references in the notes to other passages in the book, the reader may be surprised at finding that while often I only give the date under which the reference will be found, frequently I am able to quote the page and volume. The explanation is a simple one: two sets of compositors were generally at work, and two volumes were passing through the press simultaneously.
In the selection of the text which I should adopt I hesitated for some time. In ordinary cases the edition which received the author's final revision is the one which all future editors should follow. The second edition, which was the last that was brought out in Boswell's life-time, could not, I became convinced, be conveniently reproduced. As it was passing through the press he obtained many additional anecdotes and letters. These he somewhat awkwardly inserted in an Introduction and an Appendix. He was engaged on his third edition when he died. 'He had pointed out where some of these materials should be inserted,' and 'in the margin of the copy which he had in part revised he had written notes.' His interrupted labours were completed by Edmond Malone, to whom he had read aloud almost the whole of his original manuscript, and who had helped him in the revision of the first half of the book when it was in type. 'These notes,' says Malone, 'are faithfully preserved.' He adds that 'every new remark, not written by the author, for the sake of distinction has been enclosed within crotchets.' In the third edition therefore we have the work in the condition in which it would have most approved itself to Boswell's own judgment. In one point only, and that a trifling one, had Malone to exercise his judgment. But so skilful an editor was very unlikely to go wrong in those few cases in which he was called upon to insert in their proper places the additional material which the author had already published in his second edition. Malone did not, however, correct the proof-sheets. I thought it my duty, therefore, in revising my work to have the text of Boswell's second edition read aloud to me throughout. Some typographical errors might, I feared, have crept in. In a few unimportant cases early in the book I adopted the reading of the second edition, but as I read on I became convinced that almost all the verbal alterations were Boswell's own. Slight errors, often of the nature of Scotticisms, had been corrected, and greater accuracy often given. Some of the corrections and additions in the third edition that were undoubtedly from his hand were of considerable importance.
I have retained Boswell's spelling in accordance with the wish that he expressed in the preface to his Account of Corsica. 'If this work,' he writes, 'should at any future period be reprinted, I hope that care will be taken of my orthography.' The punctuation too has been preserved.
I should be wanting in justice were I not to acknowledge that I owe much to the labours of Mr. Croker. No one can know better than I do his great failings as an editor. His remarks and criticisms far too often deserve the contempt that Macaulay so liberally poured on them. Without being deeply versed in books, he was shallow in himself. Johnson's strong character was never known to him. Its breadth and length, and depth and height were far beyond his measure. With his writings even he shows few signs of being familiar. Boswell's genius, a genius which even to Lord Macaulay was foolishness, was altogether hidden from his dull eye. No one surely but a 'blockhead,' a 'barren rascal,' could with scissors and paste-pot have mangled the biography which of all others is the delight and the boast of the English-speaking world. He is careless in small matters, and his blunders are numerous. These I have only noticed in the more important cases, remembering what Johnson somewhere points out, that the triumphs of one critic over another only fatigue and disgust the reader. Yet he has added considerably to our knowledge of Johnson. He knew men who had intimately known both the hero and his biographer, and he gathered much that but for his care would have been lost for ever. He was diligent and successful in his search after Johnson's letters, of so many of which Boswell with all his persevering and pushing diligence had not been able to get a sight. The editor of Mr. Croker's Correspondence and Diaries goes, however, much too far when, in writing of Macaulay's criticism, he says: 'The attack defeated itself by its very violence, and therefore it did the book no harm whatever. Between forty and fifty thousand copies have been sold, although Macaulay boasted with great glee that he had smashed it.' The book that Macaulay attacked was withdrawn. That monstrous medley reached no second edition. In its new form all the worst excrescences had been cleared away, and though what was left was not Boswell, still less was it unchastened Croker. His repentance, however, was not thorough. He never restored the text to its old state; wanton transpositions of passages still remain, and numerous insertions break the narrative. It was my good fortune to become a sound Boswellian before I even looked at his edition. It was not indeed till I came to write out my notes for the press that I examined his with any thoroughness.
'Notes,' says Johnson, 'are often necessary, but they are necessary evils.' To the young reader who for the first time turns over Boswell's delightful pages I would venture to give the advice Johnson gives about Shakespeare:—
'Let him that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play from the first scene to the last with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let him read on through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased let him attempt exactness and read the commentators.'
So too let him who reads the Life of Johnson for the first time read it in one of the Pre-Crokerian editions. They are numerous and good. With his attention undiverted by notes he will rapidly pass through one of the most charming narratives that the world has ever seen, and if his taste is uncorrupted by modern extravagances, will recognise the genius of an author who, in addition to other great qualities, has an admirable eye for the just proportions of an extensive work, and who is the master of a style that is as easy as it is inimitable.
Johnson, I fondly believe, would have been pleased, perhaps would even have been proud, could he have foreseen this edition. Few distinctions he valued more highly than those which he received from his own great University. The honorary degrees that it conferred on him, the gown that it entitled him to wear, by him were highly esteemed. In the Clarendon Press he took a great interest. The efforts which that famous establishment has made in the excellence of the typography, the quality of the paper, and the admirably-executed illustrations and facsimiles to do honour to his memory and to the genius of his biographer would have highly delighted him. To his own college he was so deeply attached that he would not have been displeased to learn that his editor had been nursed in that once famous 'nest of singing birds.' Of Boswell's pleasure I cannot doubt. How much he valued any tribute of respect from Oxford is shown by the absurd importance that he gave to a sermon which was preached before the University by an insignificant clergyman more than a year and a half after Johnson's death. When Edmund Burke witnessed the long and solemn procession entering the Cathedral of St. Paul's, as it followed Sir Joshua Reynolds to his grave, he wrote: 'Everything, I think, was just as our deceased friend would, if living, have wished it to be; for he was, as you know, not altogether indifferent to this kind of observances.' It would, indeed, be presumptuous in me to flatter myself that in this edition everything is as Johnson and Boswell would, if living, have wished it. Yet to this kind of observances, the observances that can be shown by patient and long labour, and by the famous press of a great University, neither man was altogether indifferent.
Should my work find favour with the world of readers, I hope again to labour in the same fields. I had indeed at one time intended to enlarge this edition by essays on Boswell, Johnson, Mrs. Thrale, and perhaps on other subjects. Their composition would, however, have delayed publication more than seemed advisable, and their length might have rendered the volumes bulky beyond all reason. A more favourable opportunity may come. I have in hand a Selection of the Wit and Wisdom of Dr. Johnson. I purpose, moreover, to collect and edit all of his letters that are not in the Life. Some hundreds of these were published by Mrs. Piozzi; many more are contained in Mr. Croker's edition; while others have already appeared in Notes and Queries. Not a few, doubtless, are still lurking in the desks of the collectors of autographs. As a letter-writer Johnson stands very high. While the correspondence of David Garrick has been given to the world in two large volumes, it is not right that the letters of his far greater friend should be left scattered and almost neglected. 'He that sees before him to his third dinner,' says Johnson, 'has a long prospect.' My prospect is still longer; for, if health be spared, and a fair degree of public favour shown, I see before me to my third book. When I have published my Letters, I hope to enter upon a still more arduous task in editing the Lives of the Poets.
In my work I have received much kind assistance, not only from friends, but also from strangers to whom I had applied in cases where special knowledge could alone throw light on some obscure point. My acknowledgments I have in most instances made in my notes. In some cases, either through want of opportunity or forgetfulness, this has not been done. I gladly avail myself of the present opportunity to remedy this deficiency. The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres I have to thank for so liberally allowing the original of the famous Round Robin, which is in his Lordship's possession, to be reproduced by a photographic process for this edition. It is by the kindness of Mr. J.L.G. Mowat, M.A., Fellow and Bursar of Pembroke College, Oxford, that I have been able to make a careful examination of the Johnsonian manuscripts in which our college is so rich. If the vigilance with which he keeps guard over these treasures while they are being inspected is continued by his successors in office, the college will never have to mourn over the loss of a single leaf. To the Rev. W.D. Macray, M.A., of the manuscript department of the Bodleian, to Mr. Falconer Madan, M.A., Sub-Librarian of the same Library, and to Mr. George Parker, one of the Assistants, I am indebted for the kindness with which they have helped me in my inquiries. To Mr. W.H. Allnutt, another of the Assistants, I owe still more. When I was abroad, I too frequently, I fear, troubled him with questions which no one could have answered who was not well versed in bibliographical lore. It was not often that his acuteness was baffled, while his kindness was never exhausted. My old friend Mr. E.J. Payne, M.A., Fellow of University College, Oxford, the learned editor of the Select Works of Burke published by the Clarendon Press, has allowed me, whenever I pleased, to draw on his extensive knowledge of the history and the literature of the eighteenth century. Mr. C.G. Crump, B.A., of Balliol College, Oxford, has traced for me not a few of the quotations which had baffled my search. To Mr. G.K. Fortescue, Superintendent of the Reading Room of the British Museum, my most grateful acknowledgments are due. His accurate and extensive knowledge of books and his unfailing courtesy and kindness have lightened many a day's heavy work in the spacious room over which he so worthily presides. But most of all am I indebted to Mr. C.E. Doble, M.A., of the Clarendon Press. He has read all my proof-sheets, and by his almost unrivalled knowledge of the men of letters of the close of the seventeenth and of the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, he has saved my notes from some blunders and has enriched them with much valuable information. In my absence abroad he has in more instances than I care to think of consulted for me the Bodleian Library. It is some relief to my conscience to know that the task was rendered lighter to him by his intimate familiarity with its treasures, and by the deep love for literature with which he is inspired.
There are other thanks due which I cannot here fittingly express. 'An author partakes of the common condition of humanity; he is born and married like another man; he has hopes and fears, expectations and disappointments, griefs and joys like a courtier or a statesman.' In the hopes and fears, in the expectations and disappointments, in the griefs and joys—nay, in the very labours of his literary life, if his hearth is not a solitary one, he has those who largely share.
I have now come to the end of my long labours. 'There are few things not purely evil,' wrote Johnson, 'of which we can say without some emotion of uneasiness, this is the last.' From this emotion I cannot feign that I am free. My book has been my companion in many a sad and many a happy hour. I take leave of it with a pang of regret, but I am cheered by the hope that it may take its place, if a lowly one, among the works of men who have laboured patiently but not unsuccessfully in the great and shining fields of English literature.
G. B. H.
CLARENS, SWITZERLAND: March 16, 1887.
Vol. I, page 140, n. 5, l. 2, read 'of.' " " 176, n. 2, l. 22, for 1774 read 1747. " " 262, n. 3 of p. 261, l. 3, for guineas read pounds. " " 480, l. 20, for language, read language.'
Vol. II, page 34, n. 1, l. 40, for proper. read proper.' " " 445, l. 8, for Masters read Master
Vol. III, page 18, l. 13, read accessary. " " 81, n. 1, l. 2, for 1784, read 1784. " " 312, n. 1, l. 1, for Mrs. Burney read Miss Burney
Vol. IV, page 323, n. 1, l. 21, for Wharton read Warton " " 379, l. 19, read after
Vol. V, page 49, n. 4, l. 2, for 'Boswell' read 'Johnson.' Vol. VI. " 74, col. 2, insert Eccles, Rev. W., i. 360.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
MY DEAR SIR,
Every liberal motive that can actuate an Authour in the dedication of his labours, concurs in directing me to you, as the person to whom the following Work should be inscribed.
If there be a pleasure in celebrating the distinguished merit of a contemporary, mixed with a certain degree of vanity not altogether inexcusable, in appearing fully sensible of it, where can I find one, in complimenting whom I can with more general approbation gratify those feelings? Your excellence not only in the Art over which you have long presided with unrivalled fame, but also in Philosophy and elegant Literature, is well known to the present, and will continue to be the admiration of future ages. Your equal and placid temper, your variety of conversation, your true politeness, by which you are so amiable in private society, and that enlarged hospitality which has long made your house a common centre of union for the great, the accomplished, the learned, and the ingenious; all these qualities I can, in perfect confidence of not being accused of flattery, ascribe to you.
If a man may indulge an honest pride, in having it known to the world, that he has been thought worthy of particular attention by a person of the first eminence in the age in which he lived, whose company has been universally courted, I am justified in availing myself of the usual privilege of a Dedication, when I mention that there has been a long and uninterrupted friendship between us.
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If gratitude should be acknowledged for favours received, I have this opportunity, my dear Sir, most sincerely to thank you for the many happy hours which I owe to your kindness,—for the cordiality with which you have at all times been pleased to welcome me,—for the number of valuable acquaintances to whom you have introduced me,—for the noctes coenaeque Deum, which I have enjoyed under your roof.
If a work should be inscribed to one who is master of the subject of it, and whose approbation, therefore, must ensure it credit and success, the Life of Dr. Johnson is, with the greatest propriety, dedicated to Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was the intimate and beloved friend of that great man; the friend, whom he declared to be 'the most invulnerable man he knew; whom, if he should quarrel with him, he should find the most difficulty how to abuse.' You, my dear Sir, studied him, and knew him well: you venerated and admired him. Yet, luminous as he was upon the whole, you perceived all the shades which mingled in the grand composition; all the little peculiarities and slight blemishes which marked the literary Colossus. Your very warm commendation of the specimen which I gave in my Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, of my being able to preserve his conversation in an authentick and lively manner, which opinion the Publick has confirmed, was the best encouragement for me to persevere in my purpose of producing the whole of my stores.
In one respect, this Work will, in some passages, be different from the former. In my Tour, I was almost unboundedly open in my communications, and from my eagerness to display the wonderful fertility and readiness of Johnson's wit, freely shewed to the world its dexterity, even when I was myself the object of it. I trusted that I should be liberally understood, as knowing very well what I was about, and by no means as simply unconscious of the pointed effects of the satire. I own, indeed, that I was arrogant enough to suppose that the tenour of the rest of the book would sufficiently guard me against such a strange imputation. But it seems I judged too well of the world; for, though I could scarcely believe it, I have been undoubtedly informed, that many persons, especially in distant quarters, not penetrating enough into Johnson's character, so as to understand his mode of treating his friends, have arraigned my judgement, instead of seeing that I was sensible of all that they could observe.
It is related of the great Dr. Clarke, that when in one of his leisure hours he was unbending himself with a few friends in the most playful and frolicksome manner, he observed Beau Nash approaching; upon which he suddenly stopped:—'My boys, (said he,) let us be grave: here comes a fool.' The world, my friend, I have found to be a great fool, as to that particular, on which it has become necessary to speak very plainly. I have, therefore, in this Work been more reserved; and though I tell nothing but the truth, I have still kept in my mind that the whole truth is not always to be exposed. This, however, I have managed so as to occasion no diminution of the pleasure which my book should afford; though malignity may sometimes be disappointed of its gratifications.
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My dear Sir,
Your much obliged friend,
And faithful humble servant,
April 20, 1791.
I at last deliver to the world a Work which I have long promised, and of which, I am afraid, too high expectations have been raised. The delay of its publication must be imputed, in a considerable degree, to the extraordinary zeal which has been shewn by distinguished persons in all quarters to supply me with additional information concerning its illustrious subject; resembling in this the grateful tribes of ancient nations, of which every individual was eager to throw a stone upon the grave of a departed Hero, and thus to share in the pious office of erecting an honourable monument to his memory.
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The labour and anxious attention with which I have collected and arranged the materials of which these volumes are composed, will hardly be conceived by those who read them with careless facility. The stretch of mind and prompt assiduity by which so many conversations were preserved, I myself, at some distance of time, contemplate with wonder; and I must be allowed to suggest, that the nature of the work, in other respects, as it consists of innumerable detached particulars, all which, even the most minute, I have spared no pains to ascertain with a scrupulous authenticity, has occasioned a degree of trouble far beyond that of any other species of composition. Were I to detail the books which I have consulted, and the inquiries which I have found it necessary to make by various channels, I should probably be thought ridiculously ostentatious. Let me only observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that I have sometimes been obliged to run half over London, in order to fix a date correctly; which, when I had accomplished, I well knew would obtain me no praise, though a failure would have been to my discredit. And after all, perhaps, hard as it may be, I shall not be surprized if omissions or mistakes be pointed out with invidious severity. I have also been extremely careful as to the exactness of my quotations; holding that there is a respect due to the publick which should oblige every Authour to attend to this, and never to presume to introduce them with,—'I think I have read;'—or,—'If I remember right;'—when the originals may be examined.
I beg leave to express my warmest thanks to those who have been pleased to favour me with communications and advice in the conduct of my Work. But I cannot sufficiently acknowledge my obligations to my friend Mr. Malone, who was so good as to allow me to read to him almost the whole of my manuscript, and make such remarks as were greatly for the advantage of the Work; though it is but fair to him to mention, that upon many occasions I differed from him, and followed my own judgement.
I regret exceedingly that I was deprived of the benefit of his revision, when not more than one half of the book had passed through the press; but after having completed his very laborious and admirable edition of Shakspeare, for which he generously would accept of no other reward but that fame which he has so deservedly obtained, he fulfilled his promise of a long-wished-for visit to his relations in Ireland; from whence his safe return finibus Atticis is desired by his friends here, with all the classical ardour of Sic te Diva potens Cypri; for there is no man in whom more elegant and worthy qualities are united; and whose society, therefore, is more valued by those who know him.
It is painful to me to think, that while I was carrying on this Work, several of those to whom it would have been most interesting have died. Such melancholy disappointments we know to be incident to humanity; but we do not feel them the less. Let me particularly lament the Reverend Thomas Warton, and the Reverend Dr. Adams. Mr. Warton, amidst his variety of genius and learning, was an excellent Biographer. His contributions to my Collection are highly estimable; and as he had a true relish of my Tour to the Hebrides, I trust I should now have been gratified with a larger share of his kind approbation. Dr. Adams, eminent as the Head of a College, as a writer, and as a most amiable man, had known Johnson from his early years, and was his friend through life. What reason I had to hope for the countenance of that venerable Gentleman to this Work, will appear from what he wrote to me upon a former occasion from Oxford, November 17, 1785:—'Dear Sir, I hazard this letter, not knowing where it will find you, to thank you for your very agreeable Tour, which I found here on my return from the country, and in which you have depicted our friend so perfectly to my fancy, in every attitude, every scene and situation, that I have thought myself in the company, and of the party almost throughout. It has given very general satisfaction; and those who have found most fault with a passage here and there, have agreed that they could not help going through, and being entertained with the whole. I wish, indeed, some few gross expressions had been softened, and a few of our hero's foibles had been a little more shaded; but it is useful to see the weaknesses incident to great minds; and you have given us Dr. Johnson's authority that in history all ought to be told.'
Such a sanction to my faculty of giving a just representation of Dr. Johnson I could not conceal. Nor will I suppress my satisfaction in the consciousness, that by recording so considerable a portion of the wisdom and wit of 'the brightest ornament of the eighteenth century.' I have largely provided for the instruction and entertainment of mankind.
London, April 20, 1791.
That I was anxious for the success of a Work which had employed much of my time and labour, I do not wish to conceal: but whatever doubts I at any time entertained, have been entirely removed by the very favourable reception with which it has been honoured. That reception has excited my best exertions to render my Book more perfect; and in this endeavour I have had the assistance not only of some of my particular friends, but of many other learned and ingenious men, by which I have been enabled to rectify some mistakes, and to enrich the Work with many valuable additions. These I have ordered to be printed separately in quarto, for the accommodation of the purchasers of the first edition. May I be permitted to say that the typography of both editions does honour to the press of Mr. Henry Baldwin, now Master of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, whom I have long known as a worthy man and an obliging friend.
In the strangely mixed scenes of human existence, our feelings are often at once pleasing and painful. Of this truth, the progress of the present Work furnishes a striking instance. It was highly gratifying to me that my friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom it is inscribed, lived to peruse it, and to give the strongest testimony to its fidelity; but before a second edition, which he contributed to improve, could be finished, the world has been deprived of that most valuable man; a loss of which the regret will be deep, and lasting, and extensive, proportionate to the felicity which he diffused through a wide circle of admirers and friends.
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In reflecting that the illustrious subject of this Work, by being more extensively and intimately known, however elevated before, has risen in the veneration and love of mankind, I feel a satisfaction beyond what fame can afford. We cannot, indeed, too much or too often admire his wonderful powers of mind, when we consider that the principal store of wit and wisdom which this Work contains, was not a particular selection from his general conversation, but was merely his occasional talk at such times as I had the good fortune to be in his company; and, without doubt, if his discourse at other periods had been collected with the same attention, the whole tenor of what he uttered would have been found equally excellent.
His strong, clear, and animated enforcement of religion, morality, loyalty, and subordination, while it delights and improves the wise and the good, will, I trust, prove an effectual antidote to that detestable sophistry which has been lately imported from France, under the false name of Philosophy, and with a malignant industry has been employed against the peace, good order, and happiness of society, in our free and prosperous country; but thanks be to GOD, without producing the pernicious effects which were hoped for by its propagators.
It seems to me, in my moments of self-complacency, that this extensive biographical work, however inferior in its nature, may in one respect be assimilated to the ODYSSEY. Amidst a thousand entertaining and instructive episodes the HERO is never long out of sight; for they are all in some degree connected with him; and HE, in the whole course of the History, is exhibited by the Authour for the best advantage of his readers.
'—Quid virtus et quid sapientia possit, Utile proposuit nobis exemplar Ulyssen.'
Should there be any cold-blooded and morose mortals who really dislike this Book, I will give them a story to apply. When the great Duke of Marlborough, accompanied by Lord Cadogan, was one day reconnoitering the army in Flanders, a heavy rain came on, and they both called for their cloaks. Lord Cadogan's servant, a good humoured alert lad, brought his Lordship's in a minute. The Dukes servant, a lazy sulky dog, was so sluggish, that his Grace being wet to the skin, reproved him, and had for answer with a grunt, 'I came as fast as I could,' upon which the Duke calmly said, 'Cadogan, I would not for a thousand pounds have that fellow's temper!'
There are some men, I believe, who have, or think they have, a very small share of vanity. Such may speak of their literary fame in a decorous style of diffidence. But I confess, that I am so formed by nature and by habit, that to restrain the effusion of delight, on having obtained such fame, to me would be truly painful. Why then should I suppress it? Why 'out of the abundance of the heart' should I not speak? Let me then mention with a warm, but no insolent exultation, that I have been regaled with spontaneous praise of my work by many and various persons eminent for their rank, learning, talents and accomplishments; much of which praise I have under their hands to be reposited in my archives at Auchinleck. An honourable and reverend friend speaking of the favourable reception of my volumes, even in the circles of fashion and elegance, said to me, 'you have made them all talk Johnson.'—Yes, I may add, I have Johnsonised the land; and I trust they will not only talk, but think, Johnson.
To enumerate those to whom I have been thus indebted, would be tediously ostentatious. I cannot however but name one whose praise is truly valuable, not only on account of his knowledge and abilities, but on account of the magnificent, yet dangerous embassy, in which he is now employed, which makes every thing that relates to him peculiarly interesting. Lord MACARTNEY favoured me with his own copy of my book, with a number of notes, of which I have availed myself. On the first leaf I found in his Lordship's hand-writing, an inscription of such high commendation, that even I, vain as I am, cannot prevail on myself to publish it.
July 1, 1793.
Several valuable letters, and other curious matter, having been communicated to the Author too late to be arranged in that chronological order which he had endeavoured uniformly to observe in his work, he was obliged to introduce them in his Second Edition, by way of ADDENDA, as commodiously as he could. In the present edition these have been distributed in their proper places. In revising his volumes for a new edition, he had pointed out where some of these materials should be inserted; but unfortunately in the midst of his labours, he was seized with a fever, of which, to the great regret of all his friends, he died on the 19th of May, 1795. All the Notes that he had written in the margin of the copy which he had in part revised, are here faithfully preserved; and a few new Notes have been added, principally by some of those friends to whom the Author in the former editions acknowledged his obligations. Those subscribed with the letter B were communicated by Dr. Burney: those to which the letters J B are annexed, by the Rev. J. Blakeway, of Shrewsbury, to whom Mr. Boswell acknowledged himself indebted for some judicious remarks on the first edition of his work: and the letters J B-O. are annexed to some remarks furnished by the Author's second son, a Student of Brazen-Nose College in Oxford. Some valuable observations were communicated by James Bindley, Esq., First Commissioner in the Stamp-Office, which have been acknowledged in their proper places. For all those without any signature, Mr. Malone is answerable.—Every new remark, not written by the Author, for the sake of distinction has been enclosed within crotchets: in one instance, however, the printer by mistake has affixed this mark to a note relative to the Rev. Thomas Fysche Palmer, which was written by Mr. Boswell. and therefore ought not to have been thus distinguished.
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I have only to add, that the proof-sheets of the present edition not having passed through my hands, I am not answerable for any typographical errours that may be found in it. Having, however, been printed at the very accurate press of Mr. Baldwin, I make no doubt it will be found not less perfect than the former edition; the greatest care having been taken, by correctness and elegance to do justice to one of the most instructive and entertaining works in the English language.
April 8, 1799.
PROSE WORKS OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
[N.B. To those which he himself acknowledged is added acknowl. To those which may be fully believed to be his from internal evidence, is added intern. evid.]
1735. Abridgement and translation of Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia, acknowl.
1738. Part of a translation of Father Paul Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent. acknowl.
[N.B. As this work after some sheets were printed, suddenly stopped, I know not whether any part of it is now to be found.]
For the Gentleman's Magazine.
Preface. intern. evid.
Life of Father Paul. acknowl.
1739. A complete vindication of the Licenser of the Stage from the malicious and scandalous aspersions of Mr. Brooke, authour of Gustavus Vasa. acknowl.
Marmor Norfolciense: or, an Essay on an ancient prophetical inscription in monkish rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk; by PROBUS BRITANNICUS. acknowl.
[Page 17: A Chronological Catalogue of Prose Works]
For the Gentleman's Magazine.
Life of Boerhaave. acknowl.
Address to the Reader. intern. evid.
Appeal to the Publick in behalf of the Editor. intern. evid.
Considerations on the case of Dr. Trapp's Sermons; a plausible attempt to prove that an authour's work may be abridged without injuring his property. acknowl.
1740. For the Gentleman's Magazine.
Preface. intern. evid.
Life of Admiral Drake. acknowl.
Life of Admiral Blake. acknowl.
Life of Philip Barretier. acknowl.
Essay on Epitaphs. acknowl.
1741. For the Gentleman's Magazine.
Preface. intern. evid.
A free translation of the Jests of Hierocles, with an introduction. intern. evid.
Debate on the Humble Petition and Advice of the Rump Parliament to Cromwell in 1657, to assume the Title of King; abridged, methodized and digested. intern. evid.
Translation of Abbe Guyon's Dissertation on the Amazons. intern. evid.
Translation of Fontenelle's Panegyrick on Dr. Morin. intern. evid.
1742. For the Gentleman's Magazine.
Preface. intern. evid.
Essay on the Account of the Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough. acknowl.
An Account of the Life of Peter Burman. acknowl.
The Life of Sydenham, afterwards prefixed to Dr. Swan's Edition of his Works. acknowl.
Proposals for printing Bibliotheca Harleiana, or a Catalogue of the Library of the Earl of Oxford, afterwards prefixed to the first Volume of that Catalogue, in which the Latin Accounts of the Books were written by him. acknowl.
Abridgement intitled, Foreign History. intern. evid.
Essay on the Description of China, from the French of Du Halde. intern. evid.
1743. Dedication to Dr. Mead of Dr. James's Medicinal Dictionary. intern. evid.
For the Gentleman's Magazine.
Preface, intern. evid.
Parliamentary Debates under the Name of Debates in the Senate of Lilliput, from Nov. 19, 1740, to Feb. 23, 1742-3, inclusive. acknowl.
Considerations on the Dispute between Crousaz and Warburton on Pope's Essay on Man. intern. evid.
A Letter announcing that the Life of Mr. Savage was speedily to be published by a person who was favoured with his Confidence. intern. evid.
Advertisement for Osborne concerning the Harleian Catalogue. intern. evid.
1744. Life of Richard Savage. acknowl.
Preface to the Harleian Miscellany. acknowl.
For the Gentleman's Magazine.
Preface. intern. evid.
1745. Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with remarks on Sir T.H.'s (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) Edition of Shakspeare, and proposals for a new Edition of that Poet. acknowl.
1747. Plan for a Dictionary of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE, addressed to Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield. acknowl.
For the Gentleman's Magazine.
1748. Life of Roscommon. acknowl.
Foreign History, November. intern. evid.
For Dodsley's PRECEPTOR.
Vision of Theodore the Hermit. acknowl.
1750. The RAMBLER, the first Paper of which was published 20th of March this year, and the last 17th of March 1752, the day on which Mrs. Johnson died. acknowl.
Letter in the General Advertiser to excite the attention of the Publick to the Performance of Comus, which was next day to be acted at Drury-Lane Playhouse for the Benefit of Milton's Grandaughter. acknowl.
Preface and Postscript to Lauder's Pamphlet intitled, 'An Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost.' acknowl.
1751. Life of Cheynel in the Miscellany called 'The Student.' acknowl.
Letter for Lauder, addressed to the Reverend Dr. John Douglas, acknowledging his Fraud concerning Milton in Terms of suitable Contrition. acknowl.
Dedication to the Earl of Middlesex of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox's 'Female Quixotte.' intern. evid.
1753. Dedication to John Earl of Orrery, of Shakspeare Illustrated, by Mrs. Charlotte Lennox. acknowl.
During this and the following year he wrote and gave to his much loved friend Dr. Bathurst the Papers in the Adventurer, signed T. acknowl.
1754. Life of Edw. Cave in the Gentleman's Magazine. acknowl.
1755. A DICTIONARY, with a Grammar and History, of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE. acknowl.
An Account of an Attempt to ascertain the Longitude at Sea, by an exact Theory of the Variations of the Magnetical Needle, with a Table of the Variations at the most remarkable Cities in Europe from the year 1660 to 1860. acknowl. This he wrote for Mr. Zachariah Williams, an ingenious ancient Welch Gentleman, father of Mrs. Anna Williams whom he for many years kindly lodged in his House. It was published with a Translation into Italian by Signor Baretti. In a Copy of it which he presented to the Bodleian Library at Oxford, is pasted a Character of the late Mr. Zachariah Williams, plainly written by Johnson. intern. evid.
1756. An Abridgement of his Dictionary. acknowl.
Several Essays in the Universal Visitor, which there is some difficulty in ascertaining. All that are marked with two Asterisks have been ascribed to him, although I am confident from internal Evidence, that we should except from these 'The Life of Chaucer,' 'Reflections on the State of Portugal,' and 'An Essay on Architecture:' And from the same Evidence I am confident that he wrote 'Further Thoughts on Agriculture,' and 'A Dissertation on the State of Literature and Authours.' The Dissertation on the Epitaphs written by Pope he afterwards acknowledged, and added to his 'Idler.'
Life of Sir Thomas Browne prefixed to a new Edition of his Christian Morals. acknowl.
In the Literary Magazine; or, Universal Review, which began in January 1756.
His Original Essays are
Preliminary Address, intern. evid..
An introduction to the Political State of Great Britain, intern. evid..
Remarks on the Militia Bill, intern. evid..
Observations on his Britannick Majesty's Treaties with the Empress of Russia and the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel. intern. evid..
Observations on the Present State of Affairs. intern. evid..
Memoirs of Frederick III. King of Prussia. intern. evid..
In the same Magazine his Reviews_ are of the following Books:
'Birch's History of the Royal Society.'—'Browne's Christian Morals.'—'Warton's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope, Vol. I.'—'Hampton's Translation of Polybius.'—'Sir Isaac Newton's Arguments in Proof of a Deity.'—'Borlase's History of the Isles of Scilly.'—'Home's Experiments on Bleaching.'—'Browne's History of Jamaica.'—'Hales on Distilling Sea Waters, Ventilators in Ships, and curing an ill Taste in Milk.'—'Lucas's Essay on Waters.'—'Keith's Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops.'—'Philosophical Transactions, Vol. XLIX.'—'Miscellanies by Elizabeth Harrison.'—'Evans's Map and Account of the Middle Colonies in America.'—'The Cadet, a Military Treatise.'—'The Conduct of the Ministry relating to the present War impartially examined.' intern. evid..
'Mrs. Lennox's Translation of Sully's Memoirs.'—'Letter on the Case of Admiral Byng.'—'Appeal to the People concerning Admiral Byng.'—'Hanway's Eight Days' Journey, and Essay on Tea.'—'Some further Particulars in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, by a Gentleman of Oxford.' acknowl.
Mr. Jonas Hanway having written an angry Answer to the Review of his Essay on Tea, Johnson in the same Collection made a Reply to it. acknowl. This is the only Instance, it is believed, when he condescended to take Notice of any Thing that had been written against him; and here his chief Intention seems to have been to make Sport.
Dedication to the Earl of Rochford of, and Preface to, Mr. Payne's Introduction to the Game of Draughts, acknowl.
Introduction to the London Chronicle, an Evening Paper which still subsists with deserved credit. acknowl.
1757. Speech on the Subject of an Address to the Throne after the Expedition to Rochefort; delivered by one of his Friends in some publick Meeting: it is printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for October 1785. intern. evid.
The first two Paragraphs of the Preface to Sir William Chambers's Designs of Chinese Buildings, &c. acknowl.
1758. THE IDLER, which began April 5, in this year, and was continued till April 5, 1760. acknowl.
An Essay on the Bravery of the English Common Soldiers was added to it when published in Volumes. acknowl.
1759. Rasselas Prince of Abyssinia, a Tale. acknowl.
Advertisement for the Proprietors of the Idler against certain Persons who pirated those Papers as they came out singly in a Newspaper called the Universal Chronicle or Weekly Gazette. intern. evid.
For Mrs. Charlotte Lennox's English Version of Brumoy,—'A Dissertation on the Greek Comedy,' and the General Conclusion of the Book. intern. evid.
Introduction to the World Displayed, a Collection of Voyages and Travels. acknowl.
Three Letters in the Gazetteer, concerning the best plan for Blackfriars Bridge. acknowl.
1760. Address of the Painters to George III. on his Accession to the Throne. intern. evid.
Dedication of Baretti's Italian and English Dictionary to the Marquis of Abreu, then Envoy-Extraordinary from Spain at the Court of Great-Britain. intern. evid.
Review in the Gentleman's Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and able Vindication of Mary Queen of Scots. acknowl.
Introduction to the Proceedings of the Committee for Cloathing the French Prisoners. acknowl.
1761. Preface to Rolfs Dictionary of Trade and Commerce. acknowl.
Corrections and Improvements for Mr. Gwyn the Architect's Pamphlet, intitled 'Thoughts on the Coronation of George III.' acknowl.
1762. Dedication to the King of the Reverend Dr. Kennedy's Complete System of Astronomical Chronology, unfolding the Scriptures, Quarto Edition. acknowl.
Concluding Paragraph of that Work. intern. evid.
Preface to the Catalogue of the Artists' Exhibition. intern. evid.
Character of Collins in the Poetical Calendar, published by Fawkes and Woty. acknowl.
Dedication to the Earl of Shaftesbury of the Edition of Roger Ascham's English Works, published by the Reverend Mr. Bennet. acknowl.
The Life of Ascham, also prefixed to that edition. acknowl.
Review of Telemachus, a Masque, by the Reverend George Graham of Eton College, in the Critical Review. acknowl.
Dedication to the Queen of Mr. Hoole's Translation of Tasso. acknowl.
Account of the Detection of the Imposture of the Cock-Lane Ghost, published in the Newspapers and Gentleman's Magazine. acknowl.
Part of a Review of Grainger's 'Sugar Cane, a Poem,' in the London Chronicle. acknowl.
Review of Goldsmith's Traveller, a Poem, in the Critical Review. acknowl.
The Plays of William Shakspeare, in eight volumes, 8vo. with Notes. acknowl.
The Fountains, a Fairy Tale, in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies. acknowl.
Dedication to the King of Mr. Adams's Treatise on the Globes. acknowl.
Character of the Reverend Mr. Zachariah Mudge, in the London Chronicle. acknowl.
The False Alarm. acknowl.
Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands. acknowl.
Defence of a Schoolmaster; dictated to me for the House of Lords. acknowl.
Argument in Support of the Law of Vicious Intromission; dictated to me for the Court of Session in Scotland. acknowl.
Preface to Macbean's 'Dictionary of Ancient Geography.' acknowl.
Argument in Favour of the Rights of Lay Patrons; dictated to me for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. acknowl.
The Patriot. acknowl.
A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. acknowl.
Proposals for publishing the Works of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox, in Three Volumes Quarto. acknowl.
Preface to Baretti's Easy Lessons in Italian and English. intern. evid.
Taxation no Tyranny; an Answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American Congress. acknowl.
Argument on the Case of Dr. Memis; dictated to me for the Court of Session in Scotland. acknowl.
Argument to prove that the Corporation of Stirling was corrupt; dictated to me for the House of Lords. acknowl.
Argument in Support of the Right of immediate, and personal reprehension from the Pulpit; dictated to me. acknowl.
Proposals for publishing an Analysis of the Scotch Celtick Language, by the Reverend William Shaw. acknowl.
Dedication to the King of the Posthumous Works of Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Rochester. acknowl.
Additions to the Life and Character of that Prelate; prefixed to those Works. acknowl.
Various Papers and Letters in Favour of the Reverend Dr. Dodd. acknowl.
Advertisement for his Friend Mr. Thrale to the Worthy Electors of the Borough of Southwark. acknowl.
The first Paragraph of Mr. Thomas Davies's Life of Garrick, acknowl.
Prefaces Biographical and Critical to the Works of the most eminent English Poets; afterwards published with the Title of Lives of the English Poets. acknowl.
Argument on the Importance of the Registration of Deeds; dictated to me for an Election Committee of the House of Commons. acknowl.
On the Distinction between TORY and WHIG; dictated to me. acknowl.
On Vicarious Punishments, and the great Propitiation for the Sins of the World, by JESUS CHRIST; dictated to me. acknowl.
Argument in favour of Joseph Knight, an African Negro, who claimed his Liberty in the Court of Session in Scotland, and obtained it; dictated to me. acknowl.
Defence of Mr. Robertson, Printer of the Caledonian Mercury, against the Society of Procurators in Edinburgh, for having inserted in his Paper a ludicrous Paragraph against them; demonstrating that it was not an injurious Libel; dictated to me. acknowl.
The greatest part, if not the whole, of a Reply, by the Reverend Mr. Shaw, to a Person at Edinburgh, of the Name of Clark, refuting his arguments for the authenticity of the Poems published by Mr. James Macpherson as Translations from Ossian. intern. evid.
1784. List of the Authours of the Universal History, deposited in the British Museum, and printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, this year, acknowl.
Letters to Mrs. Thrale. acknowl.
Prayers and Meditations, which he delivered to the Rev. Mr. Strahan, enjoining him to publish them, acknowl.
Sermons left for Publication by John Taylor, LL.D. Prebendary of Westminster, and given to the World by the Reverend Samuel Hayes, A.M. intern. evid.
Such was the number and variety of the Prose Works of this extraordinary man, which I have been able to discover, and am at liberty to mention; but we ought to keep in mind, that there must undoubtedly have been many more which are yet concealed; and we may add to the account, the numerous Letters which he wrote, of which a considerable part are yet unpublished. It is hoped that those persons in whose possession they are, will favour the world with them.
* * * * *
'After my death I wish no other herald, No other speaker of my living actions, To keep mine honour from corruption, But such an honest chronicler as Griffith.'
SHAKSPEARE, Henry VIII. [Act IV. Sc. 2.]
THE LIFE OF
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments, or his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task.
Had Dr. Johnson written his own life, in conformity with the opinion which he has given, that every man's life may be best written by himself; had he employed in the preservation of his own history, that clearness of narration and elegance of language in which he has embalmed so many eminent persons, the world would probably have had the most perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition. Of these memorials a few have been preserved; but the greater part was consigned by him to the flames, a few days before his death.
[Page 26: The Author's qualifications.]
As I had the honour and happiness of enjoying his friendship for upwards of twenty years; as I had the scheme of writing his life constantly in view; as he was well apprised of this circumstance, and from time to time obligingly satisfied my inquiries, by communicating to me the incidents of his early years; as I acquired a facility in recollecting, and was very assiduous in recording, his conversation, of which the extraordinary vigour and vivacity constituted one of the first features of his character; and as I have spared no pains in obtaining materials concerning him, from every quarter where I could discover that they were to be found, and have been favoured with the most liberal communications by his friends; I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon such a work as this, with more advantages; independent of literary abilities, in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with some great names who have gone before me in this kind of writing.
[Page 27: The Life by Sir J. Hawkins.]
Since my work was announced, several Lives and Memoirs of Dr. Johnson have been published, the most voluminous of which is one compiled for the booksellers of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight, a man, whom, during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never saw in his company, I think but once, and I am sure not above twice. Johnson might have esteemed him for his decent, religious demeanour, and his knowledge of books and literary history; but from the rigid formality of his manners, it is evident that they never could have lived together with companionable ease and familiarity; nor had Sir John Hawkins that nice perception which was necessary to mark the finer and less obvious parts of Johnson's character. His being appointed one of his executors, gave him an opportunity of taking possession of such fragments of a diary and other papers as were left; of which, before delivering them up to the residuary legatee, whose property they were, he endeavoured to extract the substance. In this he has not been very successful, as I have found upon a perusal of those papers, which have been since transferred to me. Sir John Hawkins's ponderous labours, I must acknowledge, exhibit a farrago, of which a considerable portion is not devoid of entertainment to the lovers of literary gossiping; but besides its being swelled out with long unnecessary extracts from various works (even one of several leaves from Osborne's Harleian Catalogue, and those not compiled by Johnson, but by Oldys), a very small part of it relates to the person who is the subject of the book; and, in that, there is such an inaccuracy in the statement of facts, as in so solemn an authour is hardly excusable, and certainly makes his narrative very unsatisfactory. But what is still worse, there is throughout the whole of it a dark uncharitable cast, by which the most unfavourable construction is put upon almost every circumstance in the character and conduct of my illustrious friend; who, I trust, will, by a true and fair delineation, be vindicated both from the injurious misrepresentations of this authour, and from the slighter aspersions of a lady who once lived in great intimacy with him.
[Page 28: Warburton's view of biography.]
[Page 29: The author's mode of procedure.]
There is, in the British Museum, a letter from Bishop Warburton to Dr. Birch, on the subject of biography; which, though I am aware it may expose me to a charge of artfully raising the value of my own work, by contrasting it with that of which I have spoken, is so well conceived and expressed, that I cannot refrain from here inserting it:—
'I shall endeavor, (says Dr. Warburton,) to give you what satisfaction I can in any thing you want to be satisfied in any subject of Milton, and am extremely glad you intend to write his life. Almost all the life-writers we have had before Toland and Desmaiseaux, are indeed strange insipid creatures; and yet I had rather read the worst of them, than be obliged to go through with this of Milton's, or the other's life of Boileau, where there is such a dull, heavy succession of long quotations of disinteresting passages, that it makes their method quite nauseous. But the verbose, tasteless Frenchman seems to lay it down as a principle, that every life must be a book, and what's worse, it proves a book without a life; for what do we know of Boileau, after all his tedious stuff? You are the only one, (and I speak it without a compliment) that by the vigour of your stile and sentiments, and the real importance of your materials, have the art, (which one would imagine no one could have missed,) of adding agreements to the most agreeable subject in the world, which is literary history.'
'Nov. 24, 1737.'
[Page 30: Not a panegyrick, but a Life.]
Instead of melting down my materials into one mass, and constantly speaking in my own person, by which I might have appeared to have more merit in the execution of the work, I have resolved to adopt and enlarge upon the excellent plan of Mr. Mason, in his Memoirs of Gray. Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it to the best of my abilities; but in the chronological series of Johnson's life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I produce, wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, and will make my readers better acquainted with him, than even most of those were who actually knew him, but could know him only partially; whereas there is here an accumulation of intelligence from various points, by which his character is more fully understood and illustrated.
Indeed I cannot conceive a more perfect mode of writing any man's life, than not only relating all the most important events of it in their order, but interweaving what he privately wrote, and said, and thought; by which mankind are enabled as it were to see him live, and to 'live o'er each scene' with him, as he actually advanced through the several stages of his life. Had his other friends been as diligent and ardent as I was, he might have been almost entirely preserved. As it is, I will venture to say that he will be seen in this work more completely than any man who has ever yet lived.
And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write, not his panegyrick, which must be all praise, but his Life; which, great and good as he was, must not be supposed to be entirely perfect. To be as he was, is indeed subject of panegyrick enough to any man in this state of being; but in every picture there should be shade as well as light, and when I delineate him without reserve, I do what he himself recommended, both by his precept and his example.
[Page 31: Conversation best displays character.]
'If the biographer writes from personal knowledge, and makes haste to gratify the publick curiosity, there is danger lest his interest, his fear, his gratitude, or his tenderness overpower his fidelity, and tempt him to conceal, if not to invent. There are many who think it an act of piety to hide the faults or failings of their friends, even when they can no longer suffer by their detection; we therefore see whole ranks of characters adorned with uniform panegyrick, and not to be known from one another but by extrinsick and casual circumstances. "Let me remember, (says Hale,) when I find myself inclined to pity a criminal, that there is likewise a pity due to the country." If we owe regard to the memory of the dead, there is yet more respect to be paid to knowledge, to virtue and to truth.'
What I consider as the peculiar value of the following work, is, the quantity it contains of Johnson's conversation; which is universally acknowledged to have been eminently instructive and entertaining; and of which the specimens that I have given upon a former occasion, have been received with so much approbation, that I have good grounds for supposing that the world will not be indifferent to more ample communications of a similar nature.
That the conversation of a celebrated man, if his talents have been exerted in conversation, will best display his character, is, I trust, too well established in the judgment of mankind, to be at all shaken by a sneering observation of Mr. Mason, in his Memoirs of Mr. William Whitehead, in which there is literally no Life, but a mere dry narrative of facts. I do not think it was quite necessary to attempt a depreciation of what is universally esteemed, because it was not to be found in the immediate object of the ingenious writer's pen; for in truth, from a man so still and so tame, as to be contented to pass many years as the domestick companion of a superannuated lord and lady, conversation could no more be expected, than from a Chinese mandarin on a chimney-piece, or the fantastick figures on a gilt leather skreen.
[Page 32: Dr. Johnson on biography.]
If authority be required, let us appeal to Plutarch, the prince of ancient biographers. [Greek: Oute tais epiphanestatais praxesi pantos enesti daelosis aretaes ae kakias, alla pragma brachu pollakis, kai raema, kai paidia tis emphasin aethous epoiaesen mallon ae machai murionekroi, kai parataxeis ai megistai, kai poliorkiai poleon.] Nor is it always in the most distinguished atchievements that men's virtues or vices may be best discerned; but very often an action of small note, a short saying, or a jest, shall distinguish a person's real character more than the greatest sieges, or the most important battles.'
To this may be added the sentiments of the very man whose life I am about to exhibit.
'The business of the biographer is often to pass slightly over those performances and incidents which produce vulgar greatness, to lead the thoughts into domestick privacies, and display the minute details of daily life, where exteriour appendages are cast aside, and men excel each other only by prudence and by virtue. The account of Thuanus is with great propriety said by its authour to have been written, that it might lay open to posterity the private and familiar character of that man, cujus ingenium et candorem ex ipsius scriptis sunt olim semper miraturi, whose candour and genius will to the end of time be by his writings preserved in admiration.
'There are many invisible circumstances, which whether we read as enquirers after natural or moral knowledge, whether we intend to enlarge our science, or increase our virtue, are more important than publick occurrences. Thus Sallust, the great master of nature, has not forgot in his account of Catiline to remark, that his walk was now quick, and again slow, as an indication of a mind revolving with violent commotion. Thus the story of Melanchthon affords a striking lecture on the value of time, by informing us, that when he had made an appointment, he expected not only the hour, but the minute to be fixed, that the day might not run out in the idleness of suspence; and all the plans and enterprises of De Witt are now of less importance to the world than that part of his personal character, which represents him as careful of his health, and negligent of his life.
'But biography has often been allotted to writers, who seem very little acquainted with the nature of their task, or very negligent about the performance. They rarely afford any other account than might be collected from publick papers, but imagine themselves writing a life, when they exhibit a chronological series of actions or preferments; and have so little regard to the manners or behaviour of their heroes, that more knowledge may be gained of a man's real character, by a short conversation with one of his servants, than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral.
[Page 33: Reply to possible objections.]
'There are indeed, some natural reasons why these narratives are often written by such as were not likely to give much instruction or delight, and why most accounts of particular persons are barren and useless. If a life be delayed till interest and envy are at an end, we may hope for impartiality, but must expect little intelligence; for the incidents which give excellence to biography are of a volatile and evanescent kind, such as soon escape the memory, and are transmitted by tradition. We know how few can pourtray a living acquaintance, except by his most prominent and observable particularities, and the grosser features of his mind; and it may be easily imagined how much of this little knowledge may be lost in imparting it, and how soon a succession of copies will lose all resemblance of the original.'
I am fully aware of the objections which may be made to the minuteness on some occasions of my detail of Johnson's conversation, and how happily it is adapted for the petty exercise of ridicule, by men of superficial understanding and ludicrous fancy; but I remain firm and confident in my opinion, that minute particulars are frequently characteristick, and always amusing, when they relate to a distinguished man. I am therefore exceedingly unwilling that any thing, however slight, which my illustrious friend thought it worth his while to express, with any degree of point, should perish. For this almost superstitious reverence, I have found very old and venerable authority, quoted by our great modern prelate, Secker, in whose tenth sermon there is the following passage:
'Rabbi David Kimchi, a noted Jewish Commentator, who lived about five hundred years ago, explains that passage in the first Psalm, His leaf also shall not wither, from Rabbins yet older than himself, thus: That even the idle talk, so he expresses it, of a good man ought to be regarded; the most superfluous things he saith are always of some value. And other ancient authours have the same phrase, nearly in the same sense.'
[Page 34: Johnson's birth and baptism. A.D. 1709.]
Of one thing I am certain, that considering how highly the small portion which we have of the table-talk and other anecdotes of our celebrated writers is valued, and how earnestly it is regretted that we have not more, I am justified in preserving rather too many of Johnson's sayings, than too few; especially as from the diversity of dispositions it cannot be known with certainty beforehand, whether what may seem trifling to some and perhaps to the collector himself, may not be most agreeable to many; and the greater number that an authour can please in any degree, the more pleasure does there arise to a benevolent mind.
To those who are weak enough to think this a degrading task, and the time and labour which have been devoted to it misemployed, I shall content myself with opposing the authority of the greatest man of any age, JULIUS CAESAR, of whom Bacon observes, that 'in his book of Apothegms which he collected, we see that he esteemed it more honour to make himself but a pair of tables, to take the wise and pithy words of others, than to have every word of his own to be made an apothegm or an oracle.'
Having said thus much by way of introduction, I commit the following pages to the candour of the Publick.
* * * * *
SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Lichfield, in Staffordshire, on the 18th of September, N.S., 1709; and his initiation into the Christian Church was not delayed; for his baptism is recorded, in the register of St. Mary's parish in that city, to have been performed on the day of his birth. His father is there stiled Gentleman, a circumstance of which an ignorant panegyrist has praised him for not being proud; when the truth is, that the appellation of Gentleman, though now lost in the indiscriminate assumption of Esquire, was commonly taken by those who could not boast of gentility. His father was Michael Johnson, a native of Derbyshire, of obscure extraction, who settled in Lichfield as a bookseller and stationer.
[Page 35: His parentage. A.D. 1709]
His mother was Sarah Ford, descended of an ancient race of substantial yeomanry in Warwickshire. They were well advanced in years when they married, and never had more than two children, both sons; Samuel, their first born, who lived to be the illustrious character whose various excellence I am to endeavour to record, and Nathanael, who died in his twenty-fifth year.
[Page 36: Character of Michael Johnson. A.D. 1709]
Mr. Michael Johnson was a man of a large and robust body, and of a strong and active mind; yet, as in the most solid rocks veins of unsound substance are often discovered, there was in him a mixture of that disease, the nature of which eludes the most minute enquiry, though the effects are well known to be a weariness of life, an unconcern about those things which agitate the greater part of mankind, and a general sensation of gloomy wretchedness. From him then his son inherited, with some other qualities, 'a vile melancholy,' which in his too strong expression of any disturbance of the mind, 'made him mad all his life, at least not sober.' Michael was, however, forced by the narrowness of his circumstances to be very diligent in business, not only in his shop, but by occasionally resorting to several towns in the neighbourhood, some of which were at a considerable distance from Lichfield. At that time booksellers' shops in the provincial towns of England were very rare, so that there was not one even in Birmingham, in which town old Mr. Johnson used to open a shop every market-day. He was a pretty good Latin scholar, and a citizen so creditable as to be made one of the magistrates of Lichfield; and, being a man of good sense, and skill in his trade, he acquired a reasonable share of wealth, of which however he afterwards lost the greatest part, by engaging unsuccessfully in a manufacture of parchment. He was a zealous high-church man and royalist, and retained his attachment to the unfortunate house of Stuart, though he reconciled himself, by casuistical arguments of expediency and necessity, to take the oaths imposed by the prevailing power.