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distinction. And the editor thought that he was only fulfilling the duties of courtesy in requesting from Mr. Boswell's representative any information which he might be disposed to afford on the subject. To that request the editor has never received any answer: though the same inquiry was afterwards, on his behalf, repeated by Sir Walter Scott, whose influence might have been expected to have produced a more satisfactory result'.
But the editor was more fortunate in other quarters. The Reverend Doctor Hall, Master of Pembroke College, was so good as to collate the printed copy of the Prayers and Meditations with the original papers, now (most appropriately) deposited in the library of that college, and some, not unimportant, light has been thrown on that publication by the personal inspection of the papers which he permitted the editor to make.
Doctor Hall has also elucidated some facts and corrected some mistatements in Mr. Boswell's account of Johnson's earlier life, by an examination of the college records; and he has found some of Johnson's college exercises, one or two specimens of which have been selected as likely to interest the classical reader. He has also been so obliging as to select and copy several letters written by Dr. Johnson to his early and constant friends, the daughters of Sir Thomas Aston, which, having fallen into the hands of Mrs. Parker, were by her son, the Reverend S. H. Parker, presented to Pembroke College. The papers derived from this source are marked Pemb. MSS. Dr. Hall, feeling a fraternal interest in the most illustrious of the sons of Pembroke, has continued (as will appear in the course of the work), to favour the editor with his valuable assistance.
The Reverend Dr. Harwood, the historian of Lichfield, procured for the editor, through the favour of Mrs. Pearson, the widow of the legatee of Miss Lucy Porter, many letters addressed to this lady by Dr. Johnson; for which, it seems, Mr. Boswell had inquired in vain. These papers are marked Pearson MSS. Dr. Harwood supplied also some other papers, and much information collected by himself.
Lord Rokeby, the nephew and heir of Mrs. Montagu, has been so kind as to communicate Dr. Johnson's letters to that lady.
Mr. Langton, the grandson of Mr. Bennet Langton, has furnished the editor with some of his grandfather's papers, and several original MSS. of. Dr. Johnson's Latin poetry, which have enabled the editor to explain some errors and obscurities in the published copies of those compositions.
Mr. J. F. Palmer, the grand-nephew of Sir Joshua Reynolds and of Miss Reynolds, has most liberally communicated ail the papers of that lady, containing a number of letters or rather notes of Dr. Johnson to her, which, however trivial in themselves, tend to corroborate all that the biographers have stated of the charity and kindness of his private life. Mr. Palmer has also contributed a paper of more importance-a MS. of about seventy pages, written by Miss Reynolds, and entitled Recollections of Dr. Johnson3 The authenticity and general accuracy of these Recollections cannot be doubted, and the editor has therefore admitted extracts from them into the text; but as he did not receive the paper till a great portion of the work had been printed, he has given the parts which he could not incorporate with the text, in the General Appendix.
Sir Walter Scott and Sir James Boswell to whom, as the grandson of Mr. Boswell, the inquiries were addressed, unfortunately missed one another in mutual calls; but the editor has heard from another quarter that the original journals do not exist at Auchinleck: perhaps to this fact the silence of Sir James Boswell may be attributed. The manuscript of the TOUR was, it is known, fairly transcribed, and so, probably, were portions of the LIFE; but it appears from a memorandum book and other papers in Mr. Anderdon's possession, that Mr. Boswell's materials were in a variety of forms; and it is feared that they have been irretrievably dispersed.-Ed.
2 Dr. Harwood has also favoured the editor with permission to engrave, for this edition, the earliest known portrait of Dr. Johnson-a miniature worn in a bracelet by his wife, which Dr. Harwood purchased from Francis Barber, Dr. Johnson's servant and legatee.—ED.]
A less perfect copy of these Recollections was also communicated by Mr. Gwatkin, who married one of Sir Joshua's nieces, for which the editor begs leave to offer his thanks.-ED.
Mr. Markland has, as the reader will, in some degree, see by the notes to which his name is affixed, contributed a great deal of zealous assistance and valuable information.
He also communicated a copy of Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes, copiously annotated, propriâ manu, by Mr. Malone. These notes have been of use in explaining some obscurities; they guide us also to the source of many of Mr. Boswell's charges against Mrs. Piozzi; and have had an effect that Mr. Malone could neither have expected or wished-that of tending rather to confirm than to impeach that lady's veracity.
Mr. J. L. Anderdon favoured the editor with the inspection of a portfolio bought at the sale of the library of Mr. James Boswell, junior, which contained some of the original letters, memoranda, and note books, which had been used as materials for the LIFE. Their chief value, now, is to show that as far as we may judge from this specimen, the printed book is a faithful transcript from the original notes, except only as to the suppression of names. Mr Anderdon's portfolio also contains Johnson's original draft of the Prospectus of the Dictionary, and a fair copy of it (written by an amanuensis, but signed, in form, by Johnson), addressed to Lord Chesterfield, on which his lordship appears to have made a few critical notes1.
Macleod, the son of the young gentleman who, in 1773, received Dr. Johnson and Mr. Boswell at his ancient castle of Dunvegan, has communicated a fragment of an autobiography of his father, which, on account as well of the mention of that visit as of the interest which the publications of both Johnson and Boswell excited about this young chieftain, the editor has preserved in the appendix to the first volume.
Through the obliging interposition of Mr. Appleyard, private secretary of Lord Spencer, Mrs. Rose, the daughter of Dr. Strahan, has favoured the editor with copies of several letters of Dr. Johnson to her father, one or two only of which Mr. Boswell had been able to obtain.
In addition to these contributions of manuscript materials, the editor has to acknowledge much and valuable assistance from numerous literary and distinguished friends.
The venerable Lord Stowel, the friend and executor of Dr. Johnson, was one of the first persons who suggested this work to the editor: he was pleased to take a great interest in it, and kindly endeavoured to explain the obscurities which were stated to him; but he confessed, at the same time, that the application had in some instances come rather too late, and regretted that an edition on this principle had not been undertaken when full light might have been obtained. His lordship was also so kind as to dictate, in his own happy and peculiar style, some notes of his recollections of Dr. Johnson. These, by a very unusual accident 2, were lost, and his lordship's great age and increasing infirmity have deterred the editor from again troubling him on the subject. A few points, however, in which the editor could trust to his recollection, will be found in the notes.
To his revered friend, Dr. Elrington, Lord Bishop of Ferns, the editor begs leave to offer his best thanks for much valuable advice and assistance, and for
1 This attention on the part of Lord Chesterfield renders still more puzzling Johnson's conduct towards his lordship (see vol. i. p. 110, et seq.), and shows that there was some mistake in the statement attributed to Doctor Taylor (v. i. p. 74) that the manuscript had reached Lord Chesterfield accidentally, and without Dr. Johnson's knowledge or consent.-ED.
2 They were transmitted by post, addressed to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh for his perusal; after a considerable lapse of time, Sir Walter was written to to return them-he had never had them. It then appeared that the post office bag which contained this packet and several others had been lost, and it has never been heard of. Some of the editor's friends have reproached him with want of due caution in having trusted this packet to the post, but he thinks unjustly. There is, perhaps, no individual now alive who has despatched and received so great a number of letters as the editor, and he can scarcely recollect an instance of a similar loss.-ED.
a continuance of that friendly interest with which his lordship has for many years, and in more important concerns, honoured him.
Sir Walter Scott, whose personal kindness to the editor and indefatigable good-nature to every body are surpassed only by his genius, found time from his higher occupations to annotate a considerable portion of this work—the Tour to the Hebrides-and has continued his aid to the very conclusion.
The Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh, whose acquaintance with literary men and literary history is so extensive, and who, although not of the Johnsonian circle, became early in life acquainted with most of the survivors of that society, not only approved and encouraged the editor's design, but has, as the reader will see, been good enough to contribute to its execution. It were to be wished, that he himself could have been induced to undertake the worktoo humble indeed for his powers, but which he is, of all men now living, perhaps, the fittest to execute.
Mr. Alexander Chalmers, the ingenious and learned editor of the last London edition, has, with great candour and liberality, given the present editor all the assistance in his power-regretting and wondering, like Lord Stowel and Sir James Mackintosh, that so much should be forgotten of what, at no remote pcriod, every body must have known.
To Mr. D'Israeli's love and knowledge of literary history, and to his friendly assistance, the editor is very much indebted; as well as to Mr. Ellis of the British Museum, for the readiness he has on this and all other occasions shown to afford the editor every information in his power.
The Marquis Wellesley has taken an encouraging interest in the work, and has improved it by some valuable observations; and the Marquis of Lansdowne, Earl Spencer, Lord Bexley, and Lord St. Helens, the son of Dr. Johnson's early friend Mr. Fitzherbert, have been so obliging as to answer some inquiries with which it was found necessary to trouble them.
How the editor may have arranged all these materials, and availed himself of so much assistance, it is not for him to decide. Situated as he was when he began and until he had nearly completed this work, he could not have ventured to undertake a more serious task; and he fears that even this desultory and gossiping kind of employment will be found to have suffered from the weightier occupations in which he was engaged, as well as from his own deficiencies.
If unfortunately he shall be found to have failed in his attempt to improve the original work, he will still have the consolation of thinking that there is no great harm done. For, as he has retrenched nothing from the best editions of the LIFE and the TOUR, and has contrived to compress all his additions within the same number of volumes, he trusts that the purchasers of this edition can have no reasonable cause to complain. The additions are carefully discriminated', and hardly a syllable' of Mr. Boswell's text or of the notes in Mr. Malone's editions have been omitted. So that the worst that can happen is that all the present editor has contributed may, if the reader so pleases, be rejected as sur plusage.
Of the value of the notes with which his friends have favoured him, the editor can have no doubt; of his own, he will only say, that he has endeavoured to make them at once concise and explanatory. He hopes he has cleared up some obscurities, supplied some deficiencies, and, in many cases, saved the reader the trouble of referring to dictionaries and magazines for notices of the various persons and facts which are incidentally mentioned3.
1 By being inserted between brackets, thus [ ]. In a few instances, one or other of these marks has been by an error of the press omitted, but it is hoped that the context will always enable the reader to rectify the mistake.-ED.
In two or three places an indelicate expression has been omitted; and, in half a dozen instances (always, however, stated in the notes), the insertion of new matter has occasioned the omission or alteration of a few words in the text.-ED
3 As some proof of diligence, the editor may be allowed to state that the Variorum notes to the former edition were fewer than 1100, while the number of his additional notes is nearly 2500.-ED
In some cases he has candidly confessed, and in many more he fears he will have shown, his own ignorance; but he can say, that when he has so failed, it has not been for want of diligent inquiry after the desired information.
He has not considered it any part of his duty to defend or to controvert the statements or opinions recorded in the text; but in a few instances, in which either a matter of fact has been evidently mistated, or an important principle has been heedlessly invaded or too lightly treated, he has ventured a few words towards correcting the error.
The desultory nature of the work itself, the repetitions in some instances and the contradictions in others, are perplexing to those who may seek for Dr. Johnson's final opinion on any given subject. This difficulty the editor could not hope, and has, therefore, not attempted, to remove; it is inevitable in the transcript of table-talk, so various, so loose, and so extensive; but he has endeavoured to alleviate it by occasional references to the different places where the same subject is discussed, and by a copious, and he trusts, satisfactory index. With respect to the spirit towards Dr. JOHNSON himself by which the editor is actuated, he begs leave to say that he feels and has always felt a great, but, he hopes, not a blind admiration of Dr. Johnson. For his writings he feels that admiration undivided and uninterrupted. In his personal conduct and conversation there may be occasionally something to regret and (though rarely) something to disapprove, but less, perhaps, than there would be in those of any other man, whose words, actions, and even thoughts should be exposed to public observation so nakedly as, by a strange concurrence of circumstances, Dr. Johnson's have been.
Having no domestic ties or duties, the latter portion of his life was, as Mrs. Piozzi observes, nothing but conversation, and that conversation was watched and recorded from night to night and from hour to hour with zealous attention and unceasing diligence. No man, the most staid or the most guarded, is always the same in health, in spirits, in opinions. Human life is a series of inconsistencies; and when Johnsons' early misfortunes, his protracted poverty, his strong passions, his violent prejudices, and, above all, his mental infirmities are considered, it is only wonderful that a portrait so laboriously minute and so painfully faithful does not exhibit more of blemish, incongruity, and error.
The life of Dr. Johnson is indeed a most curious chapter in the history of man; for certainly there is no instance of the life of any other human being having been exhibited in so much detail, or with so much fidelity. There are, perhaps, not many men who have practised so much self-examination as to know themselves as well as every reader knows Dr. Johnson.
We must recollect that it is not his table-talk or his literary conversations only that have been published: all his most private and most trifling correspondence-all his most common as well as his most confidential intercourses-all his most secret communion with his own conscience-and even the solemn and contrite exercises of his piety, have been divulged and exhibited to the "garish eye" of the world without reserve-I had almost said, without delicacy. Young, with gloomy candour, has said
"Heaven's Sovereign saves all beings but himself
What a man must Johnson have been, whose heart, having been laid more bare than that of any other mortal ever was, has passed almost unblemished through so terrible an ordeal!
The editor confesses, that if he could have had any voice as to the original publications, he probably might have shrunk from the responsibility incurred by Mrs. Piozzi, Mr. Boswell, and, above all, Dr. Strahan-even though they appear to have had (at least, in some degree) Dr. Johnson's own sanction for the disclosures they have made. But such disclosures having been made, it has appeared to the editor interesting and even important to concentrate into one full and perfect view every thing that can serve to complete a history-so extraordinary-so unique.
But while we contemplate with such interest this admirable and perfect portrait, let us not forget the painter: pupils and imitators have added draperies and back grounds, but the head and figure are by Mr. Boswell!
Mr. Burke told Sir James Mackintosh that he thought Johnson showed more powers of mind in company than in his writings; and on another occasion said, that he thought Johnson appeared greater in Mr. Boswell's volumes than even in his own.
It was a strange and fortunate concurrence, that one so prone to talk and who talked so well, should be brought into such close contact and confidence with one so zealous and so able to record. Dr. Johnson was a man of extraordinary powers, but Mr. Boswell had qualities, in their own way, almost as rare. He united lively manners with indefatigable diligence, and the volatile curiosity of a man about town with the drudging patience of a chronicler. With a very good opinion of himself, he was quick in discerning, and frank in applauding, the excellencies of others. Though proud of his own name and lineage, and ambitious of the countenance of the great, he was yet so cordial an admirer of merit, wherever found, that much public ridicule, and something like contempt, were excited by the modest assurance with which he pressed his acquaintance on all the notorieties of his time, and by the ostentatious (but, in the main, laudable) assiduity with which he attended the exile Paoli and the low-born Johnson! These were amiable, and, for us, fortunate inconsistencies. His contemporaries indeed, not without some colour of reason, occasionally complained of him as vain, inquisitive, troublesome, and giddy; but his vanity was inoffensivehis curiosity was commonly directed towards laudable objects-when he meddled, he did so, generally, from good-natured motives-and his giddiness was only an exuberant gaiety, which never failed in the respect and reverence due to literature, morals, and religion: and posterity gratefully acknowledges the taste, temper, and talents with which he selected, enjoyed, and described that polished and intellectual society which still lives in his work, and without his work had perished!
"Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro."
Such imperfect though interesting sketches as Ben Jonson's visit to Drummond, Selden's Table Talk, Swift's Journal, and Spence's Anecdotes, only tantalise our curiosity and excite our regret that there was no Boswell to preserve the conversation and illustrate the life and times of Addison, of Swift himself, of Milton, and, above all, of Shakspeare! We can hardly refrain from indulging ourselves with the imagination of works so instructive and delightful; but that were idle, except as it may tend to increase our obligation to the faithful and fortunate biographer of Dr. Johnson.
Mr. Boswell's birth and education familiarized him with the highest of his acquaintance, and his good-nature and conviviality with the lowest. He describes society of all classes with the happiest discrimination. Even his foibles assisted his curiosity; he was sometimes laughed at, but always well received; he excited no envy, he imposed no restraint. It was well known that he made notes of every conversation, yet no timidity was alarmed, no delicacy demurred; and we are perhaps indebted to the lighter parts of his character for the patient indulgence with which every body submitted to sit for their pictures.
Nor were his talents inconsiderable. He had looked a good deal into books, and more into the world. The narrative portion of his works is written with good sense, in an easy and perspicuous style, and without (which seems odd enough) any palpable imitation of Johnson. But in recording conversations he is unrivalled: that he was eminently accurate in substance, we have the evidence of all his contemporaries; but he is also in a high degree characteristic -dramatic. The incidental observations with which he explains or enlivens