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THE LIFE OF
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
N 1764 and 1765 it should seem that Dr. Johnson was so busily employed with his edition of Shakspeare, as to have had little leisure for any other literary exertion, or, indeed, even for private correspondence'. He did not favour me with a single letter for more than two years, for which it will appear that he afterwards apologised.
He was, however, at all times ready to give assistance to his friends, and others, in revising their works, and in writing for them, or greatly improving their Dedications. In that courtly species of composition no man excelled Dr. Johnson. Though the loftiness of his mind prevented him from ever dedicating in his own person 2, he wrote a very great number of Dedications
Had he been 'busily employed' he would, no doubt, have finished the edition in a few months. He himself had recorded at Easter, 1765: 'My time has been unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left nothing behind.' Pr. and Med., p. 61.
2 Dedications had been commonly used as a means of getting money by flattery. I. D'Israeli in his Calamities of Authors, i. 64, says :-'Fuller's Church History is disgraced by twelve particular dedications. It was an expedient to procure dedication fees; for publishing books by subscription was an art not yet discovered.' The price of the dedication of a play was, he adds, in the time of George I, twenty guineas. So much then, at least, Johnson lost by not dedicating Irene. However, when he addressed the Plan of his Dictionary to Lord Chesterfield (ante, i. 183) he certainly came very near a VOL. II.
dedication. Boswell, in the Hypochondriack, writes:-'For my own part, I own I am proud enough. But I do not relish the stateliness of not dedicating at all. I prefer pleasure to pride, and it appears to me that there is much pleasure in honestly expressing one's admiration, esteem, or affection in a public manner, and in thus contributing to the happiness of another by making him better pleased with himself.' London Mag. for 1782, P. 454. His dedications were dedications of friendship, not of flattery or servility. He dedicated his Tour to Corsica to Paoli, his Tour to the Hebrides to Malone, and his Life of Johnson to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Goldsmith, in like manner, distrest though he so often was, dedicated his Traveller to his brother, the Deserted Village to Sir Joshua, and She Stoops to Conquer to John
for others. Some of these, the persons who were favoured with them are unwilling should be mentioned, from a too anxious apprehension, as I think, that they might be suspected of having received larger assistance1; and some, after all the diligence I have bestowed, have escaped my enquiries. He told me, a great many years ago, ‘he believed he had dedicated to all the Royal Family round 2;' and it was indifferent to him what was the subject of the work dedicated, provided it were innocent. He once dedicated some Musick for the German Flute to Edward, Duke of York. In writing Dedications for others, he considered himself as by no means speaking his own sentiments.
Notwithstanding his long silence, I never omitted to write to him when I had any thing worthy of communicating. I generally kept copies of my letters to him, that I might have a full view of our correspondence, and never be at a loss to understand any reference in his letters 3. He kept the greater part of mine very carefully; and a short time before his death was attentive enough to seal them up in bundles, and order them to be delivered to me, which was accordingly done. Amongst them I found one, of which I had not made a copy, and which I own I read with pleasure at the distance of almost twenty years. It is dated November, 1765, at the palace of Pascal Paoli, in Corte,
A passage in Boswell's letter to Malone of Jan. 29, 1791 (Croker's Boswell, p. 829), shows that it is Reynolds of whom he is writing. 'I am,' he writes, 'to cancel a leaf of the first volume, having found that though Sir Joshua certainly assured me he had no objection to my mentioning that Johnson wrote a dedication for him, he now thinks otherwise. In that leaf occurs the mention of Johnson having written to Dr. Leland, thanking the University of Dublin for their diploma.' In the first edition, this mention of the letter is followed by the passage above about dedications. It was no doubt Reynolds's Dedication of his Discourses to the King in the year 1778 that Johnson wrote. The first sentence is in a high degree Johnsonian. 'The
regular progress of cultivated life is from necessaries to accommodations, from accommodations to ornaments.'
2 That is to say,' he added, 'to the last generation of the Royal Family.' See post, April 15, 1773. We may hope that the Royal Family were not all like the Duke of Gloucester, who, when Gibbon brought him the second volume of the Decline and Fall, 'received him with much good nature and affability, saying to him, as he laid the quarto on the table, "Another d-d thick, square book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?"" Best's Memorials, p. 68.
3 Such care was needless. Boswell complained (post, June 24, 1774), that Johnson did not answer his letters, but only sent him returns.
Boswell in Corsica.
the capital of Corsica, and is full of generous enthusiasm. After giving a sketch of what I had seen and heard in that island, it proceeded thus: 'I dare to call this a spirited tour.
challenge your approbation.'
This letter produced the following answer, which I found on my arrival at Paris.
A Mr. Mr. BoSWELL, chez Mr. WATERS, Banquier, à Paris. 'DEAR SIR,
'Apologies are seldom of any use. We will delay till your arrival the reasons, good or bad, which have made me such a sparing and ungrateful correspondent. Be assured, for the present, that nothing has lessened either the esteem or love with which I dismissed you at Harwich. Both have been increased by all that I have been told of you by yourself or others; and2 when you return, you will return to an unaltered, and, I hope, unalterable friend.
'All that you have to fear from me is the vexation of disappointing No man loves to frustrate expectations which have been formed in his favour; and the pleasure which I promise myself from your
'On one of the days that my ague disturbed me least, I walked from the convent to Corte, purposely to write a letter to Mr. Samuel Johnson. I told my revered friend, that from a kind of superstition agreeable in a certain degree to him as well as to myself, I had, during my travels, written to him from Loca Solennia, places in some measure sacred. That, as I had written to him from the tomb of Melancthon (see post, June 28, 1777), sacred to learning and piety, I now wrote to him from the palace of Pascal Paoli, sacred to wisdom and liberty.' Boswell's Tour to Corsica, p. 218. How delighted would Boswell have been had he lived to see the way in which he is spoken of by the biographer of Paoli : 'En traversant la Méditerranée sur de frêles navires pour venir s'asseoir au foyer de la nationalité Corse, des hommes graves tels que Boswel et Volney obéissaient sans doute à un sentiment bien plus élevé qu'au
besoin vulgaire d'une puérile curiosité.' Histoire de Pascal Paoli, par A. Arrighi, i. 231. By every Corsican of any education the name of Boswell is known and honoured. One of them told me that it was in Boswell's pages that Paoli still lived for them. He informed me also of a family which still preserved by tradition the remembrance of Boswell's visit to their ancestral home.
2 The twelve following lines of this letter were published by Boswell in his Corsica (p. 219) without Johnson's leave. (See post, March 23, 1768.) Temple, to whom the book had been shewn before publication, had, it should seem, advised Boswell to omit this extract. Boswell replied :'Your remarks are of great service to me... but I must have my great preceptor, Mr. Johnson, introduced.' Letters of Boswell, p. 122. In writing to excuse himself to Johnson (post, April 26, 1768), he says, 'the temptation to publishing it was so strong.' journals
Boswell's return to London.
journals and remarks is so great, that perhaps no degree of attention or discernment will be sufficient to afford it.
I long to see you,
'Come home, however, and take your chance. and to hear you; and hope that we shall not be so long separated again. Come home, and expect such a welcome as is due to him 'whom a wise and noble curiosity has led, where perhaps no native of this country ever was before 1.
'I have no news to tell you that can deserve your notice; nor would I willingly lessen the pleasure that any novelty may give you at your return. I am afraid we shall find it difficult to keep among us a mind which has been so long feasted with variety. But let us try what esteem and kindness can effect.
'As your father's liberality has indulged you with so long a ramble, I doubt not but you will think his sickness, or even his desire to see you, a sufficient reason for hastening your return. The longer we live, and the more we think, the higher value we learn to put on the friendship and tenderness of parents and of friends. Parents we can have but once; and he promises himself too much, who enters life with the expectation of finding many friends. Upon some motive, I hope, that you will be here soon; and am willing to think that it will be an inducement to your return, that it is sincerely desired by, dear Sir, 'Your affectionate humble servant,
'Johnson's Court, Fleet-street,
January 14, 1766.'
I returned to London in February, and found Dr. Johnson in
''Tell your Court,' said Paoli to Boswell, what you have seen here. They will be curious to ask you. A man come from Corsica will be like a man come from the Antipodes.' Boswell's Corsica, p. 188. He was not indeed the first 'native of this country' to go there. He found in Bastia 'an English woman of Penrith, in Cumberland. When the Highlanders marched through that country in the year 1745, she had married a soldier of the French picquets in the very midst of all the confusion and danger, and when she could hardly understand one word he said.' Ib., p. 226. Boswell nowhere quotes Mrs. Barbauld's fine
lines on Corsica. Perhaps he was
'Such were the working thoughts
And views beyond the narrow
By trivial fancy trod, he turned his course
From polished Gallia's soft delicious vales,' &c.
Mrs. Barbauld's Poems, i. 2.