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-the grapes were sour--and he took every opportunity of representing the anecdotes of his rivals as extremely inaccurate and generally undeserving of credit.
It is certain that none of them have attained-indeed they do not pretend to—that extreme verbal accuracy with which Mr. Boswell had, by great zeal and diligence, learned to record conversations ; nor in the details of facts are they so precise as Mr. Boswell with good reason claims to be.
Mr. Boswell took, indeed, extraordinary and most laudable pains to attain accuracy'. Not only did he commit to paper at night the conversation of the day, but even in general society he would occasionally take a note of any thing remarkable that occurred; and he afterwards spared no trouble in arranging and supplying the inevitable deficiencies of these hasty memoranda.
Mr. Wordsworth has obligingly furnished the editor with the following copy of a note in a blank page of his copy of Boswell's work, dictated and signed in Mr. Wordsworth's presence by the late Sir George Beaumont, whose own accuracy was exemplary, and who lived very much in the society of Johnson's latter days.
“ Rydal Mount, 12th Sept. 1826. “Sir Joshua Reynolds told me at his table, immediately after the publication of this book, that every word of it might be depended upon as if given on oath. Boswell was in the habit of bringing the proof sheets to his house previously to their being struck off, and if any of the company happened to have been present at the conversation recorded, he requested him or them to correct any error, and not satisfied with this, he would run over all London for the sake of verifying any single word which might be disputed.
“ G. H. BEAUMONT."
Although it cannot escape notice, that Sir Joshua is here reported to have drawn a somewhat wider inference than the premises warranted, the general testimony is satisfactory, and it is to a considerable extent corroborated by every kind of evidence external and internal.--ED.
But, after all, Mr. Boswell himself is not exempt from those errors
quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit natura; and an attentive examination and collation of the authorities (and particularly of Mr. Boswell's own) have convinced the editor that the minor biographers are entitled not merely to more credit than Mr. Boswell allows them, but to as much as any person writing from recollection, and not from notes made at the moment, can be.
As Mr. Boswell had borrowed much from Sir J. Hawkins and Mrs. Piozzi, the editor has thought himself justified in borrowing more ; and he has therefore (as he thinks Mr. Boswell would have done if he could) incorporated with the text nearly the whole of Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes, and such passages of Hawkins' “ Life” and “ Collection of anecdotes" as relate to circumstances which Mr. Boswell had either not mentioned at all, or touched upon imperfectly.
The same use has been made of several other publications, particularly Murphy's Essay on the Life of Dr. Johnson, Mr. Tyers' eccentric but amusing Sketch, and Mr. Nichols' contributions to the Gentleman's Magazine, a publication which, under that gentleman's superintendence, was of peculiar authority in all that relates to Dr. Johnson.
The editor had another important object in adopting this incorporation. Notwithstanding the diligence and minuteness with which Mr. Boswell detailed what he saw of Dr. Johnson's life, his work
left large chasms. It must be recollected that they never resided in the same neighbourhood, and that the detailed account of Johnson's domestic life and conversation is limited to the opportunities afforded by Mr. Boswell's occasional visits to London—by the Scottish Tour-and by one meeting at Dr. Taylor's in Derbyshire. Of above twenty years, therefore, that their acquaintance lasted, periods equivalent in the whole to about three-quarters of a year only fell under the personal notice of Boswell-and thus has been left many a long hiatus--valde deflendus, but now, alas, quite irreparable !
Mr. Boswell endeavoured, indeed, to fill up these chasms as well as he could with Johnson's letters to his absent friends, but much the largest, and, for this purpose, the most valuable part of his correspondence was out of his reach, namely, that which Dr. Johnson for twenty years maintained with Mrs. Thrale, and which she published in 1788, in two volumes octavo. For the copyright of these, Mr. Boswell says, in a tone of admiring envy, “she received five hundred pounds.” The publication, however, was not very successful-it never reached a second edition, and is now almost forgotten. But
It appears from the Life, that Mr. Boswell visited England a dozen times during his acquaintance with Dr. Johnson, and that the number of days on which they met were about 180, to which is to be added the time of the Tour, during which they met daily from the 18th August, to the 228 November, 1773; in the whole about 276 days. The number of pages in the late editions of the two works is 2528, of which, 1320 are occupied by the history of these 276 days ; so that little less than an hundredth part of Dr. Johnson's life occupies above one half of Mr. Boswell's works. Every one must regret that his personal intercourse with his great friend was not more frequent or more continued; but the editor could do but little towards rectifying this disproportion, except by the insertion of the correspondence with Mrs. Thrale.-ED.
through these letters are scattered almost the only information we have relative to Johnson during the long intervals between Mr. Boswell's visits; and from them he has occasionally but cautiously (having the fear of the copyright law before his eyes) made interesting extracts.
These letters being now public property, the editor has been at liberty to follow up Mr. Boswell's imperfect example, and he has therefore made numerous and copious selections from them, less as specimens of Johnson's talents for letter-writing, than as notices of his domestic and social life during the intervals of Mr. Boswell's narrative. Indeed, as letters, few of Johnson's can have any great charm for the common reader; they are full of good sense and goodnature, but in forms too didactic and ponderous to be
very amusing. If the editor could have ventured to make so great an alteration in Mr. Boswell's original plan, he would-instead of adding so many letters ---have been inclined to have omitted all, except those which might be remarkable for some peculiar merit, or which might tend to complete the history of Johnson's life. In the large extracts which have been made from Mrs. Thrale's correspondence, he has been guided entirely by this latter object.
The most important addition, however, which the editor has made is one that needs no apology_he has incorporated with the LIFE the whole of the Tour TO THE HEBRIDES, which Mr. Boswell published in
· The number of original letters in this edition is about 100—the number of those collected from various publications (including the extracts from Mrs. Piozzi's) is about 200.-En.
one volume in 1785, and which, no doubt, if he could legally have done so, he would himself have incorporated in the LIFE- of which indeed he expressly tells us, he looks on the Tour but as a portion. It is only wonderful, that since the copyright has expired, any edition of the life of Johnson should have been published without the addition of this, the most original, curious, and amusing portion of the whole biography
The Prayers and Meditations, published with rather too much haste after Johnson's death by Dr. Strahan, have also been made use of to an extent which was forbidden to Mr. Boswell. What Dr. Strahan calls meditations are, in fact, nothing but diaries of the author's moral and religious state of mind, intermixed with some notices of his bodily health and of the interior circumstances of his domestic life. Mr. Bos. well had ventured to quote some of these: the pre
1 These Meditations have been the cause of much ridicule and some obloquy, which would be not wholly undeserved if it were true, as Dr. Strahan thoughtlessly gave the world to suppose, that they were arranged by Dr. Johnson, and delivered to Dr. Strahan for the express purpose of publication. An inspection of the original manuscripts (now properly and fortunately lodged in Pembroke College) has convinced the editor, (and, as he is glad to find, every body else who has examined them), that the opinion derived from Dr. Strahan's statement echoed by Mr. Boswell, is wholly unfounded. In the confusion of a mind which the approach of death was beginning to affect, and in the agitation which a recent attempt to spoliate two of his note books had occasioned, Dr. Johnson seems to have given Dr. Strahan a confused bundle of loose papers—scraps, half-sheets, and a few leaves stitched together. The greater part of these papers were the Prayers, the publication of which, no doubt, (for Dr. Strahan says so) Dr. Johnson sanctioned; but mixed with them were those diaries to which it is probable that Dr. Johnson did not advert, and which there is every reason to suppose he never could have intended to submit to any human eye but his own. Well understood, as the secret confessions of his own contrite conscience, they do honour to Dr. Johnson's purity and piety; but very different would be their character, if it appeared that he had ostentatiously prepared them for the press. See more on this subject in the notes, vol. i. p. 213, and vol. v. p. 259.-Ed.