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Johnson's SHAKSPEARE published.
to cheerfulness and exertion, even when they were alone. But this was not often the case ; for he found here a constant succes sion of what gave him the highest enjoyment: the society of the learned, the witty, and the eminent in every way, who were assembled in numerous companies', called forth his wonderful powers, and gratified him with admiration, to which no man could be insensible.
In the October of this year” he at length gave to the world his edition of Shakspeare}, which, if it had no other merit but that of producing his Preface', in which the excellencies and defects of that immortal bard are displayed with a masterly hand, the nation would have had no reason to complain. A blind indiscriminate admiration of Shakspeare had exposed the
· Boswell wrote to Temple in year. I believe that Johnson is 1775:- I am at present in a tour speaking of the year 1762, when, on billon of conversations; but how his way to Devonshire, he passed come you to throw in the Thrales two nights in that town.
See Tay among the Reynoldses and the Beau lor's Reynolds, i. 214. clerks? Mr. Thrale is a worthy, 3 It was in 1745 that he published sensible man, and has the wits much his Observations on Macbeth, as a about his house ; but he is not one specimen of his projected edition himself. Perhaps you mean Mrs. (ante, p. 175). In 1756 he issued Thrale.' Letters of Boswell, p. 192. Proposals undertaking that his work Murphy (Life, p. 141) says :--- should be published before Christwas late in life before Johnson had mas, 1757 (p. 318). On June 21, 1757, the habit of mixing, otherwise than he writes :-I am printing my new occasionally, with polite company. edition of Shakspeare' (p. 322). On At Mr. Thrale's he saw a constant Dec. 24 of the same year he says, succession of well - accomplished 'I shall publish about March' (p. visitors. In that society he began 323). On March 8, 1758, he writes : to wear off the rugged points of his -It will be published before own character. The time was then summer. ... I have printed many expected when he was cease of the plays' (p. 327). In June of being what George Garrick, brother the same year Langton took some to the celebrated actor, called him of the plays to Oxford (p. 336;. the first time he heard him converse. Churchill's Ghost (Parts 1 and 2) was “A TREMENDOUS COMPANION."> published in the spring of 1762 (p.
Johnson wrote to Dr. Warton 319). On July 20, 1762, Johnson on Oct. 9:--'Mrs. Warton uses me wrote to Baretti, I intend that you hardly in supposing that I could for shall
receive Shakspeare' get so much kindness and civility (p. 369). In October 1765 it was as she showed me at Winchester.' published. Wooll's Warton, p. 309. Malone on According to Mr. Seward (Ance. this remarks :- It appears that ii. 464), “Adam Smith styled it the Johnson spent some time with that most manly piece of criticism that gentleman at Winchester in this was ever published in any country.'
British nation to the ridicule of foreigners'. Johnson, by candidly admitting the faults of his poet, had the more credit in bestowing on him deserved and indisputable praise ; and doubtless none of all his panegyrists have done him half so much honour. Their praise was, like that of a counsel, upon his own side of the cause : Johnson's was like the grave, well-considered, and impartial opinion of the judge, which falls from his lips with weight, and is received with reverence. What he did as a commentator has no small share of merit, though his researches were not so ample, and his investigations so acute as they might have been, which we now certainly know from the labours of other able and ingenious criticks who have followed him?. He has enriched his edition with a concise account of each play, and of its characteristick excellence. Many of his notes have illustrated obscurities in the text, and placed passages eminent for beauty in a more conspicuous light; and he has in general exhibited such a mode of annotation, as may be beneficial to all subsequent editors?.
His Shakspeare was virulently attacked by Mr. William Kenrick, who obtained the degree of LL.D. from a Scotch University, and wrote for the booksellers in a great variety of branches.
i George III, at all events, did task with no slight solicitude. Not a not share in this blind admira single passage in the whole work tion. Was there ever,' cried he, has appeared to me corrupt which I 'such stuff as great part of Shake have not attempted to restore ; or speare? only one must not say obscure which I have not attempted
But what think you? What? to illustrate. Is there not sad stuff? What ? 3 Steevens wrote to Garrick:-'To What?' 'Yes, indeed, I think so, Sir, say the truth, the errors of Warburthough mixed with such excellencies ton and Johnson are often more that “O!' cried he, laughing meritorious than such corrections of good - humouredly, I know it is them as the obscure industry of Mr. not to be said ! but it's true. Only Farmer and myself can furnish. it's Shakespeare, and nobody dare Disdaining crutches, they have someabuse him.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, times had a fall; but it is my duty ii. 398.
to remember, that I, for my part, ? That Johnson did not slur his could not have kept on my legs at all work, as has been often said, we without them.' Garrick Corres. ii. have the best of all evidence-his 130. “Johnson's preface and notes own word. I have, indeed, he are distinguished by clearness of writes (Works, v. 152), 'disappointed thought and diction, and by masterly no opinion more than my own; yet common sense.' Cambridge ShakeI have endeavoured to perform my
speare, i. xxxvi. VOL. I.
Johnson's attack on Voltaire.
Though he certainly was not without considerable merit, he wrote with so little regard to decency and principles, and decorum', and in so hasty a manner, that his reputation was neither extensive nor lasting. I remember one evening, when some of his works were mentioned, Dr. Goldsmith said, he had never heard of them ; upon which Dr. Johnson observed, 'Sir, he is one of the many who have made themselves publick, without making themselves known??
A young student of Oxford, of the name of Barclay, wrote an answer to Kenrick’s review of Johnson's Shakspeare. Johnson was at first angry that Kenrick's attack should have the credit of an answer. But afterwards, considering the young man's good intention, he kindly noticed him, and probably would have done more, had not the young man died 3.
In his Preface to Shakspeare, Johnson treated Voltaire very contemptuously, observing, upon some of his remarks, *These are the petty criticisms of petty wits? Voltaire, in revenge,
Kenrick later on was the gross libeller of Goldsmith, and the far grosser libeller of Garrick. When proceedings were commenced against him in the Court of King's Bench [for the libel on Garrick], he made at once the most abject submission and retractation.' Prior's Goldsmith,
In the Garrick Corres. (ii. 341) is a letter addressed to Kenrick, in which Garrick says :- I could have honoured you by giving the satisfaction of a gentleman, if you could (as Shakespeare says) have screwed your courage to the sticking place, to have taken it.'
It is endorsed :-“This was not sent to the scoundrel Dr. Kenrick. ... It was judged best not to answer any more of Dr. Kenrick's notes, he had behaved so unworthily.'
* Ephraim Chambers, in the epitaph that he made for himself (ante, p. 219), had described himself as multis pervulgatus paucis notus.' Gent. Mag. x. 262.
3 See Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 1, 1773.
* Johnson had joined Voltaire with Dennis and Rymer. 'Dennis and Rymer think Shakespeare's Romans not sufficiently Roman; and Voltaire censures his kings as not completely royal. Dennis is offended that Menenius, a senator of Rome, should play the buffoon ; and Voltaire, perhaps, thinks decency violated when the Danish usurper is represented as a drunkard. But Shakespeare always makes nature predominate over accident. . . . His story requires Romans or kings, but he thinks only
He knew that Rome, like every other city, had men of all dispositions; and wanting a buffoon, he went into the senate-house for that which the senate-house would certainly have afforded him. He was inclined to show an usurper and a murderer, not only odious, but despicable; he therefore added drunkenness to his other qualities, knowing that kings love wine like other men, and that wine exerts its natural power upon kings. These are the petty cavils of petty minds; a poet over
made an attack upon Johnson, in one of his numerous literary sallies, which I remember to have read ; but there being no general index to his voluminous works, have searched in vain, and therefore cannot quote it'.
Voltaire was an antagonist with whom I thought Johnson should not disdain to contend. I pressed him to answer. He said, he perhaps might; but he never did.
Mr. Burney having occasion to write to Johnson for some receipts for subscriptions to his Shakspeare, which Johnson had omitted to deliver when the money was paid, he availed himself of that opportunity of thanking Johnson for the great pleasure which he had received from the perusal of his Preface to Shakspeare; which, although it excited much clamour against him at first, is now justly ranked among the most excellent of his writings. To this letter Johnson returned the following answer :
looks the casual distinction of country mauvais plaisant, et d'aimer trop le and condition, as a painter, satisfied vin; mais je trouve un peu extrawith the figure, neglects the drapery.' ordinaire qu'il compte la bouffonJohnson's Works, v. 109. Johnson nerie et l'ivrognerie parmi les beautés had previously attacked Voltaire, in du théâtre tragique ; la raison qu'il his Memoirs of Frederick the Great. en donne n'est pas moins singulière. (Ante, i.435, note 2.) In these Memoirs Le poète, dit-il, dédaigne ces distinche writes :-Voltaire has asserted tions accidentelles de conditions et de that a large sum was raised for her pays, comme un peintre qui, content (the Queen of Hungary's) succour by d'avoir peint la figure, néglige la voluntary subscriptions of the English draperie. La comparaison serait ladies. It is the great failing of a plus juste, s'il parlait d'un peintre strong imagination to catch greedily qui, dans un sujet noble, introduirait at wonders. He was misinformed, des grotesques ridicules, peindrait and was perhaps unwilling to learn, dans la bataille d'Arbelles Alexandreby a second enquiry, a truth less le-Grand monté sur un âne, et la splendid and amusing. Ib. vi. 455. femme de Darius buvant avec des See post, Oct. 27, 1779.
goujats dans un cabaret.' Johnson, ''Voltaire replied in the Diction perhaps, had this attack in mind naire Philosophique. (Works, xxxiii. when, in his Life of Pope (Ivorks, 566.) “J'ai jeté les yeux sur viii. 275), he thus wrote of Voltaire:édition de Shakespeare, donnée par *He had been entertained by Pope le sieur Samuel Johnson. J'y ai vu at his table, when he talked with so qu'on y traite de petits esprits les much grossness, that Mrs. Pope was étrangers qui sont étonnés que dans driven from the room. Pope disles pièces de ce grand Shakespeare covered by a trick that he was a spy un sénateur romain fasse le bouffon; for the court, and never considered et qu'un roi paraisse sur le théâtre him as a man worthy of confidence.' en ivrogne. Je ne veux point soup ? See post, under May 8, 1781. çonner le sieur Johnson d'être un K k 2
Resolutions at church.
"To CHARLES BURNEY, Esq., IN POLAND-STREET. "Sir,
'I am sorry that your kindness to me has brought upon you so much trouble, though you have taken care to abate that sorrow, by the pleasure which I receive from your approbation. I defend my criticism in the same manner with you. We must confess the faults of our favourite, to gain credit to our praise of his excellencies. He that claims, either in himself or for another, the honours of perfection, will surely injure the reputation which he designs to assist. * Be pleased to make my compliments to your family.
I am, Sir,
'SAM. JOHNSON.' Oct. 16, 1765.
From one of his journals I transcribed what follows:
*To come in before service, and compose my mind by meditation, or by reading some portions of scriptures. Tetty.
'If I can hear the sermon, to attend it, unless attention be more troublesome than useful.
"To consider the act of prayer as a reposal of myself upon God, and a resignation of all into his holy hand.'
· See post, ii. 74.
? He was probably proposing to himself the model of this excellent
person, who for his piety was named the Seraphic Doctor. BOSWELL.