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THE

LIFE

OF

SA MUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

The

He events of the life of JohnSON, who has written the lives of so many eminent persons, and so much enriched our national stock of biography, criticism, and moral instruction, have been related by friend and foe, by panegyrists and satirical defamers, by the lovers of anecdote, and the followers of party, with a diligence of research, a minuteness of detail, and a variety of illustration, unexampled in the records of literature.

Besides several slight sketches of his life by unknown authors, taken sometimes with a favourable flattering pencil, sometimes in the

A

broader style of caricature, ample biographical accounts of him have been given to the world by Mr Tyers, Mrs Piozzi, Dr Towers, Sir John Hawkins, Mr Boswell, and Mr Murphy, who were his most intimate friends, and wrote from personal knowledge. Their several publications, which place his character in very different and often opposite points of light, by exhibiting a:striking likeness of the features of his mind, wlrich were strong and prominent, and by recording so considerable a portion of his wisdom and wit, have exquisitely gratified the lovers of literary biography, and largely contributed to the instruction and entertainment of mankind.

The publications of Mr Tyers, Mrs Piozzi, Dr Towers,' and Mr Murphy, come under the description of Biographical Sketches,” •Anecdotes, and · Essays, composed with little regard to discrimination, but aspiring above the titles that are given to them, by felicity of narration and copiousness and variety of intelligence. Those of Sir John Hawkins and Mr Boswell are more elaborately composed, and

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entitle them to the exclusive appellation of his biographers.

The narrative of Sir John Hawkins contains a collection of curious anecdotes and useful observations, which few men but its author could have brought together; but a very small part of it relates to the person who is the subject of his biographical commemoration.. The ponderous incumbrance of foreign matter seems to overload the meinory of his deceased friend, and, in the account of his own life, to leave him scarcely visible. He appears to be a worthy and well-informed man; but he possesses

neither animation nor correctness, expansion of intellect, nor elegance of taste. He writes without much feeling or sentiment, and displays few marks of the desiderium chari capitis. His work is heavy, cold, and prolix; but there are discoverable 'in it a vein of pure morality, many valuable notices of contemporary biography, and many gleams of good sense, and openings of humanity, sometimes checked by ignorance, and sometimes by prejudice.

The narrative of Mr Boswell is written with more comprehension of mind, accuracy of intelligence, clearness of narration, and elegance of language; and is more strongly marked by the amiable features of affectionate remembrance. He was peculiarly fitted for the task of recording the sayings and actions of his illustrious friend, by his assiduous attention, and habitual reverence. From the commencement of his acquaintance with him, he had the scheme of writing his life constantly in view; and continued his collections, with persevering diligence, for upwards of twenty years. He gave a specimen of his being able to preserve his conversation, in a characteristic and lively manner, in his “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides." His veneration and esteem for his friend induced him, at a subsequent period, to go through the laborious task of digesting and arranging the immense mass of materials, which his own diligence and the kindness of others had furnished him, and of forming the history of his life; which was received by the world with most extraordinary avidity.

Xenophon's Memorabilia of Socrates may possibly have suggested to Mr Boswell the idea of preserving and giving to the world the Memorabilia of his venerable friend; but he professes to have followed the model of Mason in his “ Memoirs of Gray.” He has, however, the advantage of Mason, in the quantity, variety, and richness of his materials. To compare his collections with the most esteemed of that class of compilements known by the name of Books in Ana," would not be doing justice to them. The incidental conversations between so eminent an instructor of mankind and his friends, the numerous body of anecdotes, literary and biographical, and the letters which are oecasionally interspersed, and naturally introduced in the narrative part of his ample collections, open and disclose to the eager curiosity of rational and laudable inqui- . ry, an immense storehouse of mental treasure, which far exceeds, in merit and value,

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