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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 a worthy man and an obliging friend.
See Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare.
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. 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 examplar 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 Duke's 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 handwriting, an inscription of such high commendation, that even I, vain as I am, cannot prevail on myself to publish it. [July 1, 1793.]
. Beattie's Minstrel (Book I.), and Smollett's Humphrey
. The Letters of Junius (first collected edition)...toSir
. Johnson visits Scotland with Boswell (Aug. 14 to Nov.
the first proposer of it, and obers. Burke, and Goldsmith among t most "me Goldsmith's Traveller, Walpole's Caste of Q and Chatterton's Elinour and Juga. Johnson receives the degree of LL.D. from Trinity Coo lege, Dublin. He is introduced to the Thrales...ch, edition of Shakspeare published. Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry. - o Boswell returns to England (February). Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield. [...so Johnson has a conversation with George III. in the library at Buckingham Palace. Sterne's Sentimental Journey, Goldsmith's Good-Matured Man, Gray's Poems (the first collected edition), and Boswell's Account of Corsica. Sterne died. : or, Burke's Observations on the Present State of the Wation, the first Letter of “Junius,” and Robertson's History of Charles V. ! E: | Johnson publishes his pamphlet, The False Alarm, on the Middlesex election. Burke's Thoughts on the Present Discontent and Goldsmith's Deserted Villas: Chatterton died. Wordsworth born.
Clinker. Gray and Smollett died. Walter Scott born.
Joshua Reynolds's Discourses. Coleridge born.
22). Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, and Fergusson's Poems.
Lord Chesterfield's Zetters to his Son, and Vol. I. of Thomas Warton's History of English Poetry. Goldsmith died. Southey born. o Johnson receives the degree of D.C.L. from Oxford University. He visits France with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale." (October and November). His Journey to the West. ern Islands of Scotland and Taxation no Tyranny, published. Burke's Speech on Conciliation with orica, and Sheridan's Rivals. Jane A amb, Landor born. o - - * *