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Prose Works of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.
Additions to the Life and Character of that Prelate; pre-
Various Papers and Letters in Favour of the Reverend Dr.
1780. Advertisement for his Friend Mr. Thrale to the Worthy Electors of the Borough of Southwark. acknowl.
The first Paragraph of Mr. Thomas Davies's Life of Garrick. acknowl.
1781. Prefaces Biographical and Critical to the Works of the most eminent English Poets; afterwards published with the Title of Lives of the English Poets'. acknowl.
Argument on the Importance of the Registration of Deeds; dictated to me for an Election Committee of the House of Commons. acknowl.
On the Distinction between TORY and WHIG; dictated to me. acknowl.
On Vicarious Punishments, and the great Propitiation for the Sins of the World, by JESUS CHRIST; dictated to me. acknowl.
Argument in favour of Joseph Knight, an African Negro,
who claimed his Liberty in the Court of Session in Scotland, and obtained it; dictated to me. acknowl. Defence of Mr. Robertson, Printer of the Caledonian Mercury, against the Society of Procurators in Edinburgh, for having inserted in his Paper a ludicrous Paragraph against them; demonstrating that it was not an injurious Libel; dictated to me. acknowl.
1782. The greatest part, if not the whole, of a Reply, by the Reverend Mr. Shaw, to a Person at Edinburgh, of the Name of Clark, refuting his arguments for the authenticity of the Poems published by Mr. James Macpherson as Translations from Ossian. intern, evid.
1784. List of the Authours of the Universal History, deposited in the British Museum, and printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, this year. acknowl.
'The first four volumes of the Lives were published in 1779, the last six in 1781.
A Chronological Catalogue, &c.
Letters to Mrs. Thrale. acknowl.
Prayers and Meditations, which he delivered to the Rev.
Such was the number and variety of the Prose Works of this extraordinary man, which I have been able to discover, and am at liberty to mention; but we ought to keep in mind, that there must undoubtedly have been many more which are yet concealed; and we may add to the account, the numerous Letters which he wrote, of which a considerable part are yet unpublished. It is hoped that those persons in whose possession they are, will favour the world with them.
'After my death I wish no other herald,
SHAKSPEARE, Henry VIII. [Act IV. Sc. 2.]
'See Dr. Johnson's letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated Ostick in Skie, September 30, 1773- Boswell writes a regular Journal of our travels, which I think contains as much of what I say and do, as of all other occurrences together; "for such a faithful chronicler is Griffith."' BOSWELL. See Piozzi Letters, i. 159, where however we read 'as Griffith.
THE LIFE OF
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
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
1 Idler, No. 84. BOSWELL.-In this paper he says: 'Those relations are commonly of most value in which the writer tells his own story. He that recounts the life of another . . . lessens the familiarity of his tale to increase its dignity... and endeavours to hide the man that he may produce a hero.'
''It very seldom happens to man that his business is his pleasure. What is done from necessity is so often to be done when against the present inclination, and so often fills the mind with anxiety, that an habitual dislike steals upon us, and we shrink involuntarily from the remembrance of our task.... From this unwillingness to perform more than is required of that which is commonly performed with reluctance it proceeds that few authors write their own lives.' Idler, No. 102. See also post, May 1, 1783.
The author's qualifications.
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 honor 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 apprised of this circumstance1, and from time to time obligingly satisfied my inquiries, by communicating to me the incidents of his early years; as I acquired a facility in recollecting, and was very assiduous in recording, his conversation, of which the extraordinary vigour and vivacity constituted one of the
1 Mrs. Piozzi records the following conversation with Johnson, which, she says, took place on July 18, 1773. 'And who will be my biographer,' said he, 'do you think?' Goldsmith, no doubt,' replied I; and he will do it the best among us.' 'The dog would write it best to be sure,' replied he; 'but his particular malice towards me, and general disregard for truth, would make the book useless to all, and injurious to my character.' 'Oh! as to that,' said I, 'we should all fasten upon him, and force him to do you justice; but the worst is, the Doctor does not know your life; nor can I tell indeed who does, except Dr. Taylor of Ashbourne.' 'Why Taylor,' said he, is better acquainted with my heart than any man or woman now alive; and the history of my Oxford exploits lies all between him and Adams; but Dr. James knows my very early days better than he. After my coming to London to drive the world about a little, you must all go to Jack Hawkesworth for anecdotes: I lived in great familiarity with him (though I think there was not much affection) from the year 1753 till the time Mr. Thrale and you took me up. I intend, however, to disappoint the rogues, and either make you write the life, with Taylor's intelligence; or, which is better, do it myself after outliving you all. I am now,' added he, 'keeping a diary, in hopes of using it for that purpose some time.' Piozzi's Anec. p. 31. How much of this is true cannot be known. Boswell some time before this conversation had told Johnson that he intended to write his Life, and Johnson had given him many particulars (see post, March 31, 1772, and April 11, 1773). He read moreover in manuscript most of Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides, and from it learnt of his intention. It is no small satisfaction to me to reflect,' Boswell wrote, 'that Dr. Johnson, after being apprised of my intentions, communicated to me, at subsequent periods, many particulars of his life.' Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 14, 1773.
The Life by Sir J. Hawkins.
first features of his character; and as I have spared no pains in obtaining materials concerning him, from every quarter where I could discover that they were to be found, and have been favoured with the most liberal communications by his friends; I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon such a work as this, with more advantages; independent of literary abilities, in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with some great names who have gone before me in this kind of writing.
Since my work was announced, several Lives and Memoirs of Dr. Johnson have been published', the most voluminous of which is one compiled for the booksellers of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight', a man, whom, during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never saw in his company, I think but once, and I am sure not above twice. Johnson might have esteemed him for his decent, religious demeanour, and, his knowledge of books and literary history; but from the rigid formality of his manners, it is evident that they never could have lived together with companionable ease and familiarity'; nor had Sir John Hawkins that nice
''It may be said the death of Dr. Johnson kept the public mind in agitation beyond all former example. No literary character ever excited so much attention.' Murphy's Johnson, p. 3.
'The greatest part of this book was written while Sir John Hawkins was alive; and I avow, that one object of my strictures was to make him feel some compunction for his illiberal treatment of Dr. Johnson. Since his decease, I have suppressed several of my remarks upon his work. But though I would not 'war with the dead' offensively, I think it necessary to be strenuous in defence of my illustrious friend, which I cannot be without strong animadversions upon a writer who has greatly injured him. Let me add, that though I doubt I should not have been very prompt to gratify Sir John Hawkins with any compliment in his lifetime, I do now frankly acknowledge, that, in my opinion, his volume, however inadequate and improper as a life of Dr. Johnson, and however discredited by unpardonable inaccuracies in other respects, contains a collection of curious anecdotes and observations, which few men but its author could have brought together. BOSWELL.
''The next name that was started was that of Sir John Hawkins; and Mrs. Thrale said, "Why now, Dr. Johnson, he is another of those