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lived in; were far from common then; indeed, in such a degree, were almost unexampled ; not recognisable therefore by every one ; nay, apt, even (so strange had they grown) to be confounded with the very vices they lay contiguous to, and had sprung out of That he was a wine-bibber and gross liver; gluttonously fond of whatever would yield him a little solacement, were it only of a stomachic character, is undeniable enough. That he was vain, heedless, a babbler; had much of the sycophant, alternating with the braggadocio, curiously spiced too with an all-pervading dash of the coxcomb; that he gloried much when the Tailor, by a court-suit, had made a new man of him; that he appeared at the Shakespeare Jubilee with a riband, imprinted ‘CoRSICA Boswell, round his hat; and in short, if you will, lived no day of his life without doing and saying more than one pretentious ineptitude; all this unhappily is evident as the sun at noon. The very look of Boswell seems to have signified so much. In that cocked nose, cocked partly in triumph over his weaker fellow-creatures, partly to snuff-up the smell of coming pleasure and scent it from afar; in those bagcheeks, hanging like half-filled wine-skins, still able to contain more; in that coarsely-protruded shelf-mouth, that fat dewlapped chin; in all this, who sees not sensuality, pretension, boisterous imbecility enough ; much that could not have been ornamental in the temper of a great man's overfed great man (what the Scotch name flunky), though it had been more natural there P The under part of Boswell's face is of a low, almost brutish character. “Unfortunately, on the other hand, what great and genuine good lay in him was nowise so self-evident. That Boswell was a hunter after spiritual Notabilities, that he loved such, and longed, and even crept and crawled to be near them; that he first (in old Touchwood Auchinleck's phraseology) ‘took on with Paoli;’ and then being off with ‘the Corsican landlouper, took on with a schoolmaster, ‘ane that keeped a schule, and ca'd it an academy:” that he did all this, and could not help doing it, we account a very singular merit. The man, once for all, had an ‘open sense,’ an open loving heart, which so few have: where Excellence existed, he was compelled to acknowledge it; was drawn towards it, and (let the old sulphurbrand of a Laird say what he liked) could not but walk with it,-if not as superior, if not as equal, then as inferior and lackey, better so than not at all. If we reflect now that this love of Excellence had not only such an evil nature to triumph over; but also what an education and social position withstood it and weighed it down, its innate strength, victorious over all these things, may astonish us. Consider what an inward impulse there must have been, how many mountains of impediment hurled aside, before the Scottish Laird could, as humble servant, embrace the knees (the bosom was not permitted him) of the English Dominiel Your Scottish Laird, says an English naturalist of these days, may be defined as the hungriest and vainest of all bipeds yet known. Boswell too was a Tory; of quite peculiarly feudal, genealogical, pragmatical temper; had been nurtured in an atmosphere of Heraldry, at the feet of a very Gamaliel in that kind ; within bare walls, adorned only with pedigrees, amid serving-men in threadbare livery; all things teaching him, from birth upwards, to remember that a Laird was a Laird. Perhaps there was a special vanity in his very blood: old Auchinleck had, if not the gay, tail-spreading, peacock vanity of his son, no little of the slow-stalking, contentious, hissing vanity of the gander; a still more fatal species. Scottish Advocates will yet tell you how the ancient man, having chanced to be the first sheriff appointed (after the abolition of “hereditary jurisdiction') by royal authority, was wont, in dull-snuffling pompous tone, to preface many a deliverance from the bench with these words: “I, the first King's Sheriff in Scotland' . . . .
“Doubtless the man was laughed at, and often heard himself laughed at for his Johnsonism. To be envied is the grand and sole aim of vulgar vanity; to be filled with good things is that of sensuality: for Johnson perhaps no man living envied poor Bozzy ; and of good things (except himself paid for them) there was no vestige in that acquaintanceship. Had nothing other or better than vanity and sensuality been there, Johnson and Boswell had never come together, or had soon and finally separated again.
“In fact, the so copious terrestrial dross that welters chaotically, as the outer sphere of this man's character, does but render for us more remarkable, more touching, the celestial spark of goodness, of light, and Reverence for Wisdom, which dwelt in the interior, and could struggle through such encumbrances, and in some degree illuminate and beautify them. There is much lying yet undeveloped in the love of Boswell for Johnson. A cheering proof, in a time which else utterly wanted and still wants such, that living Wisdom is quite infinitely precious to man, is the symbol of the Godlike to him, which even weak eyes may discern; that Loyalty, Discipleship, all that was ever meant by Hero-worship, lives perennially in the human bosom, and waits, even in these dead days, only for occasions to unfold it, and inspire all men with it, and again make the world alive . . . .
“Consider, too, with what force, diligence and vivacity he has rendered back all this which, in Johnson's neighbourhood, his ‘open sense' had so eagerly and freely taken in. That looseflowing, careless-looking Work of his is as a picture by one of Nature's own Artists; the best possible resemblance of a Reality; like the very image thereof in a clear mirror. Which indeed it was: let but the mirror be clear, this is the great point; the picture must and will be genuine. How the babbling Bozzy, inspired only by love, and the recognition and vision which love can lend, epitomises nightly the words of Wisdom, the deeds and aspects of Wisdom, and so, by little and little, unconsciously works together for us a whole Johnsoniad; a more free, perfect, sunlit and spirit-speaking likeness than for many centuries has been drawn by man of man | Scarcely since the days of Homer has the feat been equalled; indeed, in many senses this also is a kind of Heroic Poem. The fit Odyssey of our unheroic age was to be written, not sung ; of a Thinker, not of a Fighter; and (for want of a Homer), by the first open soul that might offer, —looked such even through the organs of a Boswell. We do the man's intellectual endowment great wrong, if we measure it by its mere logical outcome; though here, too, there is not wanting a light ingenuity, a figurativeness and fanciful sport, with glimpses of insight far deeper than the common. But Boswell's grand intellectual talent was, as such ever is, an unconscious one, of far higher reach and significance than Logic, and showed itself in the whole, not in parts. Here again we have that old saying verified, “The heart sees farther than the head’. . . . “The world, as we said, has been but unjust to him ; discerning only the outer terrestrial and often sordid mass; without eye, as it generally is, for his inner divine secret ; and thus figuring him nowise as the god Pan, but simply of the bestial species, like the cattle on a thousand hills. Nay, sometimes a strange enough hypothesis has been started of him; as if it were in virtue even of these same bad qualities that he did his good work; as if it were the very fact of his being among the worst men in this world that had enabled him to write one of the best books therein I Falser hypothesis, we may venture to say, never rose in human soul. Bad is by its nature negative, and can do nothing, whatsoever enables us to do anything is by its very nature good. Alas, that there should be teachers in Israel, or even learners, to whom this worldancient fact is still problematical, or even deniable ! Boswell wrote d Book because he had a heart and an eye to discern Wisdom, and an utterance to render it forth ; because of his free insight, his lively talent, above all, of his Love and childlike Open-mindedness. His sneaking sycophancies, his greediness and forwardness, whatever was bestial and earthly in him, are so many blemishes in his Book, which still disturb us in its clearness; wholly hindrances, not helps. Towards Johnson, however, his feeling was not Sycophancy, which is the lowest, but Reverence, which is the highest of human feelings. None but a reverent man (which so unspeakably few are), could have found his way from Boswell's environment to Johnson's : if such worship for real God-made superiors showed itself also as worship for apparent Tailor-made superiors, even as hollow interested mouth-worship for such,-the case, in this composite human nature of ours, was not miraculous, the more was the pity! But for ourselves, let every one of us cling to this last article of Faith, and know it as the beginning of all knowledge worth the name: That neither James Boswell's good Book, nor any other good thing, in any time or in any place, was, is or can be performed by any man in virtue of his badness, but always and solely in spite thereof.
“As for the Book itself, questionless the universal favour entertained for it is well merited. In worth as a Book we have rated it beyond any other product of the eighteenth century: all Johnson's own Writings, laborious and in their kind genuine above most, stand on a quite inferior level to it; already, indeed, they are becoming obsolete for this generation; and for some future generation may be valuable chiefly as Prolegomena and expository Scholia to this Johnsoniad of Boswell. Which of us but remembers, as one of the sunny spots in his existence, the day when he opened these airy volumes, fascinating him by a true natural magic 1 It was as if the curtains of the past were drawn aside, and we looked mysteriously into a kindred country, where dwelt our Fathers; inexpressibly dear to us, but which had seemed forever hidden from our eyes. For the dead Night had engulfed it; all was gone, vanished as if it had not been. Nevertheless, wondrously given back to us, there once more it lay; all bright, lucid, blooming; a little island of Creation amid the circumambient Void. There it still lies; like a thing stationary, imperishable, over which changeful Time were now accumulating itself in vain, and could not, any longer, harm it, or hide it.”
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Malone's advertisements or prefaces to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th editions of the Life, tell us how far the text was changed after the death of Boswell. In the first of these prefaces he says— “Several valuable letters, and other curious matter, having been communicated to the Authour 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 they 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 Authour 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. B. Blakeway, of Shrewsbury, and the letters J. B– O. are annexed to some remarks furnished by the Authour'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 Authour, 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.” In the advertisement to the fourth edition, Malone speaks again of the insertion of some new letters and some new notes. “The letter M. is now subjoined,” he adds, “to his own notes and remarks; and the letter K. to those of his learned friend, the Reverend Doctor KEARNEY, formerly Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and now beneficed in the diocese of Raphoe, in Ireland, of which he is Archdeacon.” Again, in the fifth edition, Malone writes, that “two letters written by DR. JoHNSON, and several new notes, have been added.” And finally, the proofs for the sixth edition, he tells us, “have been read over by the authour's second son, JAMES Boswell, of