« PreviousContinue »
the dialogue, are terse, appropriate, and picturesque—we not merely hear his company, we see them!
Yet his father was, we are told, by no means satisfied with the life he led, nor his eldest son with the kind of reputation he attained; neither liked to hear of his connexion even with Paoli or Johnson; and both would have been better pleased if he had contented himself with a domestic life of sober respectability.
The public, however, the dispenser of fame, has judged differently, and considers the biographer of Johnson as the most eminent branch of the family pedigree. With less activity, less indiscretion, less curiosity, less enthusiasm, he might, perhaps, have been what the old lord would, no doubt, have thought more respectable; and have been pictured on the walls of Auchinleck (the very name of which we never should have heard) by some stiff provincial painter in a lawyer's wig or a squire's hunting cap; but his portrait, by Reynolds?, would not have been ten times engraved; his name could never have become-as it is likely to be-as far spread and as lasting as the English language; and “ the world had wanted” a work to which it refers as a manual of amusement, a repository of wit, wisdom, and morals, and a lively and faithful history of the manners and literature of England, during a period hardly second in brilliancy, and superior in importance, even to the Augustan age of Anne. 1st May, 1831.
J. W. C.
See vol. i. p. 458, n. This feeling is less surprising in old Lord Auchinleck than in Sir Alexander, who was himself a man of the world, clever, literary, and social.--Ed.
· The following letter (in the Reynolds papers) from Mr. Boswell to Sir Joshua, on the subject of this portrait, ought not to be lost.
“ London, 7th June, 1785. “MY DEAR SIR,—The debts which I contracted in my father's lifetime will not be cleared off by me for some years. I therefore think it unconscientious to indulge myself in any expensive article of elegant luxury. But in the mean time, you may die, or I may die; and I should regret very much that there should not be at Auchinleck my portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, with whom I have the felicity of living in social intercourse.
“ I have a proposal to make to you. I am for certain to be called to the English bar next February. Will you now do my picture, and the price shall be paid out of the first fees which I receive as a barrister in Westminster Hall. Or if that fund should fail, it shall be paid at any rate in five years hence, by myself or my representatives.
“ If you are pleased to approve of this proposal, your signifying your concurrence underneath, upon two duplicates, one of which shall be kept by each of us, will be a sufficient voucher of the obligation. I ever am, with very sincere regard, my dear sir, your faithful and affectionate humble servant,
“ JAMES BOSWELL." “I agree to the above conditions.
“J. Reynolds.' “ London, 10th Sept. 1785.”
An engraving from Sir Joshua's portrait is prefixed to one of these volumes: but the editor has been favoured by Mrs. Denham with a pencil sketch of Mr. Boswell in later life, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, which, although bordering on caricature, is so evidently characteristic, and (as the editor is assured) so identically like, that he has had it copied, and thinks it will be acceptable as a lively illustration of both the mind and manners of Mr. Boswell— busy self-importance and dogmatical good-nature were never more strongly expressed.—ED.
L I F E
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.
Quò fit ut OMNIS
M DCC XCI.
“ After my death I wish no other herald,
No other speaker of my living actions,
SHAKSPEARE, Henry VIII. 1 See Dr. Jonnson's letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated Ostick in Skie, September 30, 1773: “ Boswel. writes a regular Journal of our travels, which I think contains as much of what I say and do, as of all other occurrences together; • for such a faithful chronicler is Griffith.'” - Boswell.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
MY DEAR SIR,-Every liberal motive that with the greatest propriety, dedicated to can actuate an authour in the dedication Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was the intimate of his labours concurs in directing me to and beloved friend of that great nian; the you, as the person to whom the following friend whom he declared to be “the most work should be inscribed.
invulnerable man he knew; whom, if he If'there be a pleasure in celebrating the dis- should quarrel with him, he should find the tinguished merit of a contemporary, mixed most dilliculty how to abuse.” You, my with a certain degree of vanity, not alto- dear sir, studied him, and knew him well; gether inexcusable, in appearing fully sen- you venerated and admired him. Yet lusible of it, where can I find one, in compli- minous as he was upon the whole, you permenting whom I can with more general ap- ceived all the shades which mingled in the probation gratify those feelings? Your ex- grand composition, all the little peculiarities cellence not only in the art over which you and slight blemishes which marked the litehave long presided with unrivalled fame, but rary Colossus. Your very warm commenalso in philosophy and elegant literature, is dation of the specimen which I gave in my well known to the present, and will continue “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,” of to be the admiration of future ages. Your my being able to preserve his conversation equal and placid temper, your variety of in an authentick and lively manner, which conversation, your true politeness, by which opinion the publick has confirmed, was the you are so amiable in private society, and best encouragement for me to persevere in that enlarged hospitality which has long my purpose of producing the whole of my made your house a common centre of union stores. for the great, the accomplished, the learned, In one respect, this work will in some and the ingenious; all these qualities I can, passages be different from the former. In in perfect confidence of not being accused of my « Tour,” I was almost unboundedly fattery, ascribe to you.
open in my communications; and from my If a man may indulge an honest pride, in eagerness to display the wonderful fertility having it known to the world that he has and readiness of Johnson's wit, freely been thought worthy of particular attention showed to the world its dexterity, even by a person of the first eminence in the age when I was myself the object of it. I in which he lived, whose company has been trusted that I should be liberally understood, universally courted, I am justified in availing as knowing very well what I was about, myself of the usual privilege of a dedication, and by no means as simply unconscious of when I mention that there has been a long the pointed effects of the satire. I own, and uninterrupted friendship between us. indeed, that I was arrogant enough to sup
If gratitude should be acknowledged for pose that the tenour of the rest of the book favours received, I have this opportunity, would sufficiently guard me against such a my dear sir, most sincerely to thank you strange imputation. But it seems I judged for the many happy hours which I owe to too well of the world; for, though I could your kindness,—for the cordiality with scarcely believe it, I have been undoubtedly which you have at all times been pleased to informed, that many persons, especially in welcome me,—for the number of valuable distant quarters, not penetrating enough acquaintances to whom you have introduced into Johnson's character, so as to underme,- for the noctes cæñæque Deûm, which stand his mode of treating his friends, have I have enjoyed under your roof.
arraigned my judgment, instead of seeing If a work should be inscribed to one who that I was sensible of all that they could is master of the subject of it, and whose ap- observe. probation, therefore, must ensure it credit It is related of the great Dr. Clarke, that and success, the Life of Dr. Johnson is, when in one of his leisure hours he was unVOL. I.