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George II. not an Augustus.
Yet, very soon after its commencement, there were who felt and acknowledged its uncommon excellence. Verses in its praise appeared in the newspapers; and the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine mentions, in October, his having received several letters to the same purpose from the learned'. The Student, or Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany, in which Mr. Bonnell Thornton and Mr. Colman were the principal writers, describes it as a work that exceeds anything of the kind ever published in this kingdom, some of the Spectators excepted— if indeed they may be excepted.' And afterwards, May the publick favours crown his merits, and may not the English, under the auspicious reign of GEORGE the Second, neglect a man, who, had he lived in the first century, would have been one of the greatest favourites of Augustus.' This flattery of the monarch had no effect. It is too well known, that the second George never was an Augustus to learning or genius'.
Rambler in the Carter Corres. :'May 28, 1750. The author ought to be cautioned not to use over many hard words. In yesterday's paper (a very pretty one indeed) we had equiponderant, and another so hard I cannot remember it [adscititious], both in one sentence.' 'Dec. 17, 1750: -Mr. Cave complains of him for not admitting correspondents; this does mischief. In the main I think he is to be applauded for it. But why then does he not write now and then on the living manners of the times?' In writing on April 22, 1752, just after the Rambler had come to an end, Miss Talbot says:- -'Indeed 'tis a sad thing that such a paper should have met with discouragement from wise and learned and good people too. Many are the disputes it has cost me, and not once did I come off triumphant.' Mrs. Carter replied:-'Many a battle have I too fought for him in the country, but with little success.' Murphy saysOf this excellent production the number sold on each day did not amount to five hundred; of course the bookseller, who paid the author
four guineas a week, did not carry on a successful trade.' Murphy's Johnson, p. 59.
1 Richardson wrote to Cave on Aug. 9, 1750, after forty-one numbers had appeared :-'I hope the world tastes them; for its own sake I hope the world tastes them. The author I can only guess at. There is but one man, I think, that could write them.' Rich. Corres. i. 165. Cave replied:-'Mr. Johnson is the Great Rambler, being, as you observe, the only man who can furnish two such papers in a week, besides his other great business.' He mentioned the recommendation it received from high quarters, and continued :— 'Notwithstanding, whether the price of two-pence, or the unfavourable season of their first publication hinders the demand, no boast can be made of it.' Johnson had not wished his name to be known. Cave says that Mr. Garrick and others, who knew the author's powers and style from the first, unadvisedly asserting their suspicions, overturned the scheme of secrecy.' Ib. pp. 168-170. 2 Horace Walpole, while justifying Johnson
Mrs. Johnson's praise of THE RAMBLER. [A.D. 1750.
Johnson told me, with an amiable fondness, a little pleasing circumstance relative to this work. Mrs. Johnson, in whose judgement and taste he had great confidence, said to him, after a few numbers of the Rambler had come out, I thought very well of you before; but I did not imagine you could have written any thing equal to this'.' Distant praise, from whatever quarter, is not so delightful as that of a wife whom a man loves and esteems. Her approbation may be said to 'come home to his bosom;' and being so near, its effect is most sensible and permanent.
Mr. James Elphinston2, who has since published various works, and who was ever esteemed by Johnson as a worthy man, happened to be in Scotland while the Rambler was coming out in single papers at London. With a laudable zeal at once for the improvement of his countrymen, and the reputation of his friend, he suggested and took the charge of an edition of those Essays at Edinburgh, which followed progressively the London publication3.
The following letter written at this time, though not dated, will show how much pleased Johnson was with this publication, and what kindness and regard he had for Mr. Elphinston.
'To MR. JAMES ELPHINSTON.
'I cannot but confess the failures of my correspondence, but hope the same regard which you express for me on every other occasion, will incline you to forgive me. I am often, very often, ill; and, when I am well, am obliged to work: and, indeed, have never much used myself
George II. against 'bookish men who have censured his neglect of literature,' says :—' In truth, I believe King George would have preferred a guinea to a composition as perfect as Alexander's Feast! Reign of George II, iii. 304.
'Dr. Johnson said to an acquaintance of mine, "My other works are wine and water; but my Rambler is pure wine." Rogers's Table Talk, p. 10.
See post, April 5, 1772; April 19, 1773; and April 9, 1778.
3 It was executed in the printingoffice of Sands, Murray, and Cochran, with uncommon elegance, upon writing-paper, of a duodecimo size, and with the greatest correctness; and Mr. Elphinston enriched it with translations of the mottos. When completed, it made eight handsome volumes. It is, unquestionably, the most accurate and beautiful edition of this work; and there being but a small impression, it is now become scarce, and sells at a very high price. BOSWELL.
Letters to Mr. Elphinston.
to punctuality. You are, however, not to make unkind inferences, when I forbear to reply to your kindness; for be assured, I never receive a letter from you without great pleasure, and a very warm sense of your generosity and friendship, which I heartily blame myself for not cultivating with more care. In this, as in many other cases, I go wrong, in opposition to conviction; for I think scarce any temporal good equally to be desired with the regard and familiarity of worthy men. I hope we shall be some time nearer to each other, and have a more ready way of pouring out our hearts.
'I am glad that you still find encouragement to proceed in your publication, and shall beg the favour of six more volumes to add to my former six, when you can, with any convenience, send them me. Please to present a set, in my name, to Mr. Ruddiman', of whom, I hear, that his learning is not his highest excellence. I have transcribed the mottos, and returned them, I hope not too late, of which I think many very happily performed. Mr. Cave has put the last in the magazine2, in which I think he did well. I beg of you to write soon, and to write often, and to write long letters, which I hope in time to repay you; but you must be a patient creditor. I have, however, this of gratitude, that I think of you with regard, when I do not, perhaps, give the proofs which I ought, of being, Sir,
'Your most obliged and
This year he wrote to the same gentleman another letter, upon a mournful occasion.
Mr. Thomas Ruddiman, the learned grammarian of Scotland, well known for his various excellent works, and for his accurate editions of several authours. He was also a man of a most worthy private character. His zeal for the Royal House of Stuart did not render him less
'TO MR. JAMES ELPHINSTON.
September 25, 1750.
'You have, as I find by every kind of evidence, lost an excellent mother; and I hope you will not think me incapable of partaking of your grief. I have a mother, now eighty-two years of age, whom,
estimable in Dr. Johnson's eye. BOSWELL.
In the Gent. Mag. for Sept. 1750, and for Oct. 1752, translations of many of the mottoes were given; but in each number there are several of Elphinston's. Johnson seems to speak of only one.
The death of a mother.
therefore, I must soon lose1, unless it please GOD that she rather should mourn for me. I read the letters in which you relate your mother's death to Mrs. Strahan2, and think I do myself honour, when I tell you that I read them with tears; but tears are neither to you nor to me of any further use, when once the tribute of nature has been paid. The business of life summons us away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise of those virtues of which we are lamenting our deprivation. The greatest benefit which one friend can confer upon another, is to guard, and excite, and elevate his virtues. This your mother will still perform, if you diligently preserve the memory of her life, and of her death a life, so far as I can learn, useful, wise, and innocent; and a death resigned, peaceful, and holy. I cannot forbear to mention, that neither reason nor revelation denies you to hope, that you may increase her happiness by obeying her precepts; and that she may, in her present state, look with pleasure upon every act of virtue to which her instructions or example have contributed. Whether this be more than a pleasing dream, or a just opinion of separate spirits, is, indeed, of no great importance to us, when we consider ourselves as acting under the eye of GOD: yet, surely, there is something pleasing in the belief, that our separation from those whom we love is merely corporeal; and it may be a great incitement to virtuous friendship, if it can be made probable, that that union that has received the divine approbation shall continue to eternity.
There is one expedient by which you may, in some degree, continue her presence. If you write down minutely what you remember of her from your earliest years, you will read it with great pleasure, and receive from it many hints of soothing recollection, when time shall remove her yet farther from you, and your grief shall be matured to veneration. To this, however painful for the present, I cannot but advise you, as to a source of comfort and satisfaction in the time to come; for all comfort and all satisfaction is sincerely wished you by, dear Sir,
'Your most obliged, most obedient,
The Rambler has increased in fame as in age. Soon after its first folio edition was concluded, it was published in six duodecimo volumes3; and its authour lived to see ten
Writing to Miss Porter on July 12, 1749, he said :-'I was afraid your letter had brought me ill news of my mother, whose death is one of the few calamities on which I think with
terror.' Croker's Boswell, p. 62.
2 Mr. Strahan was Elphinston's brother-in-law. Post, April 9, 1778.
3 In the Gent. Mag. for January, 1752, in the list of books published
Goldsmith's debt to Johnson.
numerous editions' of it in London, beside those of Ireland and Scotland 2.
I profess myself to have ever entertained a profound veneration for the astonishing force and vivacity of mind. which the Rambler exhibits. That Johnson had penetration enough to see, and seeing would not disguise the general misery of man in this state of being, may have given rise to the superficial notion of his being too stern a philosopher. But men of reflection will be sensible that he has given a true representation of human existence, and that he has, at the same time, with a generous benevolence displayed every consolation which our state affords us; not only those arising from the hopes of futurity, but such as may be attained in the immediate progress through life. He has not depressed the soul to despondency and indifference. He has every where inculcated study, labour, and exertion. Nay, he has shewn, in a very odious light, a man whose practice is to go about darkening the views of others, by perpetual complaints of evil, and awakening those considerations of danger and distress, which are, for the most part, lulled into a quiet oblivion. This he has done very strongly in his character of Suspirius3, from which Goldsmith took that of Croaker, in his comedy of The Good-Natured Man*, as Johnson told me he acknowledged to him, and which is, indeed, very obvious".
is: A correct and beautiful edition of the Rambler in 4 volumes, in 12mo. Price 12s.' The Rambler was not concluded till the following March. The remaining two volumes were published in July. Gent. Mag. xxii. 338.
According to Hawkins (Life, p. 269) each edition consisted of 1250 copies.
See post, July 20, 1763. 3 No. 55 . BOSWELL.
Miss Burney records in her Diary that one day at Streatham, while she and Mrs. Thrale 'were reading this Rambler, Dr. Johnson came in. We told him what we were about. "Ah, madam!" cried he, "Goldsmith was not scrupulous ;
but he would have been a great man had he known the real value of his own internal resources." Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 83. See post, beginning of 1768.
5 It is possible that Mrs. Hardcastle's drive in She Stoops to Conquer was suggested by the Rambler, No. 34. In it a young gentleman describes a lady's terror on a coach journey. 'Our whole conversation passed in dangers, and cares, and fears, and consolations, and stories of ladies dragged in the mire, forced to spend all the night on a heath, drowned in rivers, or burnt with lightning... We had now a new scene of terror, every man we saw was Το