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Plan, is evident from the enlarged, clear, and accurate views which it exhibits; and we find him mentioning in that tract, that many of the writers whose testimonies were to be produced as authorities, were selected by Pope; which proves that he had been furnished, probably by Mr. Robert Dodsley, with whatever hints that eminent poet had contributed towards a great literary project, that had been the subject of important consideration in a former reign.

The booksellers who contracted with Johnson, single and unaided, for the execution of a work which in other countries has not been effected but by the co-operating exertions of many, were Mr. Robert Dodsley, Mr. Charles Hitch, Mr. Andrew Millar, the two messieurs Longman, and the two messieurs Knapton. The price stipulated was fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds.

The Plan was addressed to Philip Dormer, earl of Chesterfield, then one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state; a nobleman who was very ambitious of literary distinction, and who, upon being informed of the design, had expressed himself in terms very favourable to its success. There is, perhaps, in every thing of any consequence, a secret history which it would be amusing to know, could we have it authentically communicated. Johnson told me, "Sir, the way in which the Plan of my Dictionary came to be inscribed to lord Chesterfield, was this: I had neglected to write it by the time appointed. Dodsley suggested a desire to have it addressed to lord Chesterfield. I laid hold of this as a pretext for delay, that it might be better done, and let Dodsley have his desire. I said to my friend Dr. Bathurst, Now if any good comes of my addressing to lord Chesterfield, it will be ascribed to deep policy, when, in fact, it was only a casual excuse for laziness.'

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It is worthy of observation, that the Plan has not only the substantial merit of comprehension, perspicuity, and precision, but that the language of it is unexceptionably

r September 22, 1777, going from Ashbourne in Derbyshire, to see Islam.

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excellent; it being altogether free from that inflation of style, and those uncommon, but apt and energetick words, which in some of his writings have been censured, with more petulance than justice; and never was there a more dignified strain of compliment than that in which he courts the attention of one who, he had been persuaded to believe, would be a respectable patron.

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With regard to questions of purity or propriety," says he, "I was once in doubt whether I should not attribute to myself too much in attempting to decide them, and whether my province was to extend beyond the proposition of the question, and the display of the suffrages on each side; but I have been since determined by your lordship's opinion, to interpose my own judgement, and shall therefore endeavour to support what appears to me most consonant to grammar and reason. Ausonius thought that modesty forbade him to plead inability for a task to which Cæsar had judged him equal:

Cur me posse negem posse quod ille putat? And I may hope, my lord, that since you, whose authority in our language is so generally acknowledged, have commissioned me to declare my own opinion, I shall be considered as exercising a kind of vicarious jurisdiction; and that the power which might have been denied to my own claim, will be readily allowed me as the delegate of your lordship."

This passage proves that Johnson's addressing his Plan to lord Chesterfield was not merely in consequence of the result of a report by means of Dodsley, that the earl favoured the design; but that there had been a particular communication with his lordship concerning it. Dr. Taylor told me that Johnson sent his Plan to him in manuscript, for his perusal; and that when it was lying upon his table, Mr. William Whitehead happened to pay him a visit, and being shown it, was highly pleased with such parts of it as he had time to read, and begged to take it home with him, which he was allowed to do; that from him it got into the hands of a noble lord, who carried it to lord Chesterfield.

When Taylor observed this might be an advantage, Johnson replied, "No, sir, it would have come out with more bloom, if it had not been seen before by any body."


The opinion conceived of it by another noble author, pears from the following extract of a letter from the earl of Orrery to Dr. Birch.

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I have just now seen the specimen of Mr. Johnson's Dictionary, addressed to lord Chesterfield. I am much pleased with the plan, and I think the specimen is one of the best that I have ever read. Most specimens disgust rather than prejudice us in favour of the work to follow; but the language of Mr. Johnson's is good, and the arguments are properly and modestly expressed. However, some expressions may be cavilled at, but they are trifles. I'll mention one: the barren' laurel. The laurel is not barren, in any sense whatever; it bears fruits and flowers. Sed hæ sunt nuga,' and I have great expectations from the performance."

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That he was fully aware of the arduous nature of the undertaking, he acknowledges; and shows himself perfectly sensible of it in the conclusion of his Plan; but he had a noble consciousness of his own abilities, which enabled him to go on with undaunted spirit.

Dr. Adams found him one day busy at his dictionary, . when the following dialogue ensued. "ADAMS. This is a great work, sir. How are you to get all the etymologies? JOHNSON, Why, sir, here is a shelf with Junius, and Skinner, and others; and there is a Welsh gentleman who has published a collection of Welsh proverbs, who will help me with the Welsh, ADAMS. But, sir, how can you do this in three years? JOHNSON. Sir, I have no doubt that I can do it in three years. ADAMS. But the French Academy, which consists of forty members, took forty years to compile their Dictionary. JOHNSON. Sir, thus it is. This

9 Birch, MSS. Brit. Mus. 4303.

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is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman." With so much ease and pleasantry could he talk of that prodigious labour which he had undertaken to execute.

The publick has had, from another pen', a long detail of what had been done in this country by prior lexicographers; and no doubt Johnson was wise to avail himself of them, so far as they went: but the learned yet judicious research of etymology; the various yet accurate display of definition, and the rich collection of authorities, were reserved for the superiour mind of our great philologist. For the mechanical part he employed, as he told me, six amanuenses; and let it be remembered by the natives of North Britain, to whom he is supposed to have been so hostile, that five of them were of that country. There were two messieurs Macbeans; Mr. Shiels, who, we shall hereafter see, partly wrote the Lives of the Poets to which the name of Cibber is affixed': Mr. Stewart, son of Mr. George Stewart, bookseller at Edinburgh; and a Mr. Maitland. The sixth of these humble assistants was Mr. Peyton, who, I believe, taught French, and published some elementary tracts.

To all these painful labourers Johnson showed a neverceasing kindness, so far as they stood in need of it. The elder Mr. Macbean had afterwards the honour of being librarian to Archibald, duke of Argyle, for many years, but was left without a shilling. Johnson wrote for him a

preface to A System of Ancient Geography; and, by the favour of lord Thurlow, got him admitted a poor brother of the Charter-house. For Shiels, who died of a consumption, he had much tenderness; and it has been thought that some choice sentences in the Lives of the Poets were

r See sir John Hawkins's Life of Johnson.

Sir John Hawkins's list of former English Dictionaries is, however, by no means complete.-MALONE.

• Alexander and William, both authors by profession, and both poor. See vol. iii. under April 10, 1776.

supplied by him. Peyton, when reduced to penury, had frequent aid from the bounty of Johnson, who at last was at the expense of burying him and his wife.

While the Dictionary was going forward, Johnson lived part of the time in Holborn, part in Gough-square, Fleetstreet; and he had an upper room fitted up like a countinghouse for the purpose, in which he gave to the copyists their several tasks. The words, partly taken from other dictionaries, and partly supplied by himself, having been first written down with spaces left between them, he delivered in writing their etymologies, definitions, and various significations". The authorities were copied from the books themselves, in which he had marked the passages with a black-lead pencil, the traces of which could easily be effaced. I have seen several of them, in which that trouble had not been taken; so that they were just as when used by the copyists. It is remarkable, that he was so attentive in the choice of the passages in which words were authorized, that one may read page after page of his Dictionary with improvement and pleasure; and it should

" This account of Johnson's mode of compiling is in many respects confused and erroneous. To write down an alphabetical arrangement of all the words in the English language, and then hunt through the whole compass of English literature for all their different significations, would have taken the whole life of any individual; but Johnson, who, among other peculiarities of his character, excelled most men in contriving the best means to accomplish any end, devised the following mode for completing his Dictionary, as he himself expressly described to bishop Percy, whose report is almost verbally followed in this note. He began his task by devoting his first care to a diligent perusal of all such English writers as were most correct in their language, and under every sentence which he meant to quote, he drew a line, and noted in the margin the first letter of the word under which it was to occur. He then delivered these books to his clerks, who transcribed each sentence on a separate slip of paper, and arranged the same under the word referred to. By these means he collected the several words and their different significations: and when the whole arrangement was alphabetically formed, he gave the definitions of their meanings, and collected their etymologies from Skinner, Junius, and other writers on the subject. In completing his alphabetical arrangement, he, no doubt, would recur to former dictionaries, to see if any words had escaped him; but this, which Mr. Boswell makes the first step in the business, was in reality the last; and, in bishop Percy's judgement, it was by this arrangement that Johnson effected in a few years, what employed the foreign academies nearly half a century.-ED.

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