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To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extra| ordinary 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 Ijr. 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 to a not perfect example of biography...th, after all his tedio the moon, are niche...Y different firsr -** Was ever exhibited. But althougirigour, - ... ames, in a desultory manner, committed to writing *†. of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he | never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a

regular composition. Of these memorias a few have been
preserved; but the greater part was consigned by him to the
flames, a few days before his death.
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
enquiries, 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 extra-
ordinary 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

1 Idler, No. 84.

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. 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 .. very successful, as I haye * i. to Of those nar-r; . whi een since transferre po..o. laos I must acknow*--8%,”lt a farrago, of which a considerable Artion is n devoid of *tertainment to the lovers of literary gossipiń > Oll besides its being swelled out with long unnecessary extra. from YouS Works, (even one of several leaves from Osborneo Harleian Catalogué, and those not compiled by Johnson, bu by Oldys) a very small part of it relates to the person who i the subject of the book; and, in that, there is such an in accuracy in the statement of facts, as in so solemn an authou is hardly excusable, and certainly makes his narrative ver, unsatisfactory. But what is still worse, there is throughou the whole of it a dark uncharitable cast, by which the mos

1 The greatest part of this book was written while Sir John Hawkins was alive: and I avow, that one object of my strictures was to make him feel some compunction for hi illiberal treatment of Dr. Johnson. Since his decease, I have suppressed several of m remarks upon his work. But though I would not war with the dead", offensively, think it necessary to be strenuous in defence of my illustrious friend, which I cannot be without strong animadversions upon a writer who greatly injured him. Let me add that though I doubt I should not have been very prompt to gratify Sir John Hawkin with any compliment in his life-time, I do now frankly acknowledge, that, in my opinion his volume, however inadequate and improper as a life of Dr. {...} and however dis credited by unpardonable inaccuracies in other respects, contains a collection of curious anecdotes and observations, which few men but its authour could have brought together. gether. - A

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unfavourable construction is put upon almost every circum-
stance 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.
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 endeavour, (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 Frenchmān 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 (and I speak it without a compliment,) that by the vigour *our stile and sentiments, and the real importance of your \rials, have the art, (which one would imagine no one could | missed,) of adding agreements to the most agreeable

... but ct in the world, which is literary history.” who is sov. 24, 1737.”

an in- tead of melting down my materials into one mass, and 1thour atly speaking in my own person, by which I might have

2 very 2d to have more merit in the execution of the work, I ghout asolved to adopt and enlarge upon the excellent plan of most ason, in his Memoirs of Gray. Wherever narrative is ve: and ury to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it to the §: my abilities; but in the chronological series of Johnson's sively, I lich I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I pro... wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or o: sation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, ... - * Brit. Mus. 43ao, Ayscough's Catal. Sloane MSS.

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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. “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 a 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 judgement 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. If authority be required, let us appeal to Plutarch, the prince of ancient biographers. Oire rats μpaved rárats wrpáčoori trčvros évéort 8%Nooris àpersis # kaksas, dAAä rpāyua Apaxi troXMáxis, kai sãpa, Kai traoui tts outbaorw #60us érotmorew ăMAov # oxal pupióverpol, traparééets ai Peytotal, kai troxtopkia ov. “Nor is it always in the most distinguished atchieve

1 Rambler. No. 6o.

often an action of small note, a short saying, or a jest, } distinguish a person's real character more than the East sieges, or the most important battles.” Fo this may be added the sentiments of the very man whdose life I am about to exhibit. “The business of the £rapher is often to pass slightly over those performances incidents which produce vulgar greatness, to lead the ughts into domestick privacies, and display the minute ails of daily life, whose exteriour appendages are cast idle, and men excel each other only by prudence and by t e. The account of Thuanus is with great propriety said byłts authour to have been written, that it might lay open to osterity the private and familiar character of that man, cujus onium et candorem ex ipsius scriptis sunt olim semper miraturi,

ings preserved in admiration. * There are many invisible circun, noes, which whether we 1 Plutarch's Life of Alexander.—Langhorne's Translation.

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