Imagens das páginas

as it has been charged to be, is not for us to enquire; we have merely to discuss the general utility of this out-spoken species of biography. If veracity is the precedent qualification of the historian, we cannot recognize the justice of those who impute this very virtue to our author as a fault for Boswell, who was so heedless of any thing like the suppression of the true, can never be suspected of a suggestion of the false. The value of this candour may be best estimated, by considering the important effects it would have produced had the historians and biographers of every age been under its influence. "How

happy would the learned world have been," says the present bishop Huntingford, "had Pericles, Plato, or Socrates possessed such a friend and companion as Boswell was to Dr. Johnson."

As a picture of men and manners, the chief charm of Boswell's work would have been destroyed by a more artificial structure. And it is in this that the merit of the book before us mainly consists; for in its miscellaneous pages there is ever-and-again sketched some pleasing homescene in the landscape of human life, on which the eye, wearied with the huge masses of history, may repose in tranquil enjoyment. We may see, in distinct portraiture, Johnson's companions clustered around their venerated master in all the grotesque variety of their undisguised character,

listening to conversations of which Athens might have been justly proud. And if amidst those conversations we are sometimes surprised at lively paradox, on subjects too grave for trifling; let us not forget that the wisest men in their own peculiar circle have indulged in this playful sophistry without offence. Boswell too, who did not readily apprehend irony, has occasionally recorded as arguments of serious intent, mere sallies of humorous pleasantry, with which Johnson sometimes delighted to puzzle his unsuspecting friend. But from those loose conversations, many a hint of Johnson's has been expanded into copious argument by subsequent writers; and the truth of many an observation, apparently uttered on the moment, has been confirmed by subsequent experience. Where so many merits shine, surely it is cynical to pry out half hidden blemishes.

In conclusion to this already too-lengthened advertisement, we beg leave to subjoin some few words on the present edition. The industry of Boswell in searching for materials was such, that not even the vivacious enquiries of Craddock, and the minute research of Polwhele, have added much to the original life. We have carefully perused most of the memoirs of Johnson's contemporaries, his life by Hawkins, Anderson, and Piozzi, and all the papers relating to him dis

persed through the Gentleman's Magazine. We have also before us a mass of original papers, purchased at the Boswell sale; and have even taken pains to court conversations with some old servants who remembered Johnson, in the anxious desire of gleaning something illustrative of his peculiarities. The result of our diligence must be judged of by a candid publick. In pursuance of the same plan as we adopted in editing Johnson's works, we have left no portion of the original narrative unsifted; but, in scrupulous avoidance of tedious and redundant annotation, we have added nothing of our own after having satisfied ourselves of the accuracy of Boswell. At the same time we beg leave to assure our readers that they will discover many fresh anecdotes, and many important corrections, in this edition. After his decease many letters, poems, translations, and minor essays appeared in the St. James's Chronicle, and other publications of the day, purporting to be from the pen of Johnson. We have carefully examined these, but admitted none except on the best internal and external evidence. With regard to the typography, we presume that it will not be found inferiour in beauty to any of the books that we have hitherto published; and as to the text, we have used every care to render it accurate.

Oxford, January, 1827.


THE following verbal alterations in some of Johnson's letters to T. Warton, have been kindly communicated to us by the learned President of Trinity college, who possesses the originals. We beg to offer them here, as they were discovered too late for insertion in their proper places.

Vol. I. p. 204. 1. 25. Which I therefore hope to see in about a fortnight. Ib. p. 208. In the letter to Mr. Chambers, the last two paragraphs but one are transposed.

Ib. P. 209. 1. 14. I have not been able yet to procure.

Ib. P. 211. 1. 16. I shall be extremely glad to hear from you soon.



212. Whether I shall find upon the coast a Calypso that will court, or a Polypheme that will eat me. But if Polypheme comes to me, have at his





p. 213. 1. 19. Nor know in what state my little affair stands.

P. 217. 1. 24. Remember that you have subscribed a sheet a year.


217. 1. 27. What will be its fate I know not, nor much think. Ib. P. 224. 1. 20. The word willingly is not in the original.


p. 225. 1. 6. Whether they are yet unpublished.

Ib. p. 247. The superscription to the original letter is, To Mr. Warton, Professor of Poetry in Oxford. The last paragraph of the letter explains the reason of this official formality, which Johnson evidently adopted playfully. Ib. p. 257. 1. 4. Your notes upon my poet were very acceptable to me. Ib. p. 258. 1. 7. I shall be very glad of them.

The above alterations, with the exception of that relating to Polypheme, may seem to some too minute. We trust, at all events, that our readers will accept them as evidence of our vigilant attention to our duty.

Oxford, March, 1827.




To write the life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary 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 Dr. 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 the most perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition. Of these memorials 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 apprized of this circumstance, and from time to time obligingly satisfied my inquiries, by communicating to me the incidents of his early years; as I acquired a facility


a Idler, No. 84.


« AnteriorContinuar »