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1755]

THE CHANCELLOR'S LETTER

187 'P.S. I have enclosed a letter to the Vice-Chancellor 1, which you will read; and, if you like it, seal and give him. [London,] Feb. 1755.'

As the Publick will doubtless be pleased to see the whole progress of this well-earned academical honour, I shall insert the Chancellor of Oxford's letter to the University 2, the diploma, and Johnson's letter of thanks to the ViceChancellor.

'To the Reverend Dr. HUDDESFORD, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford; to be communicated to the Heads of Houses, and proposed in Convocation.

'MR. VICE-CHANCELLOR, AND GENTLEMEN,-Mr. Samuel Johnson, who was formerly of Pembroke College, having very eminently distinguished himself by the publication of a series of essays, excellently calculated to form the manners of the people, and in which the cause of religion and morality is every where maintained by the strongest powers of argument and language; and who shortly intends to publish a Dictionary of the English Tongue, formed on a new plan, and executed with the greatest labour and judgement; I persuade myself that I shall act agreeably to the sentiments of the whole University, in desiring that it may be proposed in convocation to confer on him the degree of Master of Arts by diploma, to which I readily give my consent; and am, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Gentlemen, your affectionate friend and servant,

'Grosvenor-street, Feb. 4, 1755.'

Term. Scti
Hilarii.

1755.

'ARRAN.'

'DIPLOMA MAGISTRI JOHNSON.

'CANCELLARIUS, Magistri et Scholares Universitatis Oxoniensis omnibus ad quos hoc presens scriptum pervenerit, salutem in Domino sempiternam.

'Cùm eum in finem gradus academici à majoribus nostris instituti fuerint, ut viri ingenio et doctrinâ præstantes titulis quoque præter cæteros insignirentur; cùmque vir doctissimus Samuel Johnson è Collegio Pembrochiensi, scriptis suis popu

1 'Dr. Huddesford, President of Trinity College.' WARTON.
2 Extracted from the Convocation-Register, Oxford.

188

JOHNSON'S LETTER OF THANKS

[1755 larium mores informantibus dudum literato orbi innotuerit ; quin et linguæ patriæ tum ornandæ tum stabillendæ (Lexicon scilicet Anglicanum summo studio, summo à se judicio congestum propediem editurus) etiam nunc utilissimam impendat operam; Nos igitur Cancellarius, Magistri, et Scholares antedicti, nè virum de literis humanioribus optimè meritum diutius inhonoratum prætereamus, in solenni Convocatione Doctorum, Magistrorum, Regentium, et non Regentium, decimo die Mensis Februarii Anno Domini Millesimo Septingentesimo Quinquagesimo quinto habita, præfatum virum Samuelem Johnson (conspirantibus omnium suffragiis) Magistrum in Artibus renunciavimus et constituimus; eumque, virtute præsentis diplomatis, singulis juribus privilegiis et honoribus ad istum gradum quàquà pertinentibus frui et gaudere jussimus. 'In cujus rei testimonium sigillum Universitatis Oxoniensis præsentibus apponi fecimus.

'Datum in Domo nostra Convocationis die 20° Mensis Feb. Anno Dom. prædicto.

'Diploma supra scriptum per Registrarium lectum erat, et ex decreto venerabilis Domûs communi Universitatis sigillo munitum1.'

'DOM. DOCTORI HUDDESFORD, OXONIENSIS ACADEMIÆ VICE-CANCELLARIO.

2

'INGRATUS planè et tibi et mihi videar, nisi quanto me gaudio affecerint, quos nuper mihi honores (te credo auctore) decrevit Senatus Academicus, literarum, quo tamen nihil levius, officio, significem ingratus etiam, nisi comitatem, quâ vir eximius mihi vestri testimonium amoris in manus tradidit, agnoscam et laudem. Si quid est undè rei tam gratæ accedat gratia, hoc ipso magis mihi placet, quod eo tempore in ordines Academicos denuo cooptatus sim, quo tuam imminuere auctoritatem, famamque Oxonii lædere, omnibus modis conantur homines vafri, nec tamen acuti: quibus ego, prout viro umbratico licuit, semper restiti, semper restiturus. Qui enim, inter has rerum procellas, vel Tibi vel Academiæ defuerit, illum virtuti et literis, sibique et posteris, defuturum existimo.

1 The original is in my possession.

'S. JOHNSON.'

2 We may conceive what a high gratification it must have been to Johnson to receive his diploma from the hands of the great Dr. KING, whose principles were so congenial with his own.

1755]

A PROJECTED REVIEW

189

'TO THE REVEREND MR. THOMAS WARTON. 'DEAR SIR,-After I received my diploma, I wrote you a letter of thanks, with a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, and sent another to Mr. Wise; but have heard from nobody since, and begin to think myself forgotten. It is true, I sent you a double letter, and you may fear an expensive correspondent; but I would have taken it kindly, if you had returned it treble and what is a double letter to a petty king, that having fellowship and fines, can sleep without a Modus in his head 1?

'Dear Mr. Warton, let me hear from you, and tell me something, I care not what, so I hear it but from you. Something I will tell you :—I hope to see my Dictionary bound and lettered, next week;-vasta mole superbus. And I have a great mind to come to Oxford at Easter; but you will not invite me. Shall I come uninvited, or stay here where nobody perhaps would miss me if I went ? A hard choice! But such is the world to, dear Sir, your, &c.

'[London,] March 20, 1755.'

TO THE SAME.

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'DEAR SIR, Though not to write, when a man can write so well, is an offence sufficiently heinous, yet I shall pass it by. I am very glad that the Vice-Chancellor was pleased with my note. I shall impatiently expect you at London, that we may consider what to do next. I intend in the winter to open a Bibliothèque, and remember, that you are to subscribe a sheet a year; let us try, likewise, if we cannot persuade your brother to subscribe another. My book is now coming in luminis oras. What will be its fate I know not, nor think much, because thinking is to no purpose. It must stand the censure of the great vulgar and the small; of those that understand it, and that understand it not. But in all this, I suffer not alone every writer has the same difficulties, and, perhaps, every writer talks of them more than he thinks.

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You will be pleased to make my compliments to all my friends and be so kind, at every idle hour, as to remember, dear Sir, your, &c.

[London,] March 25, 1755.'

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

1 'The words in Italicks are allusions to passages in Mr. Warton's poem, called The Progress of Discontent, now lately published.' WARTON.

190

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Dr. Adams told me, that this scheme of a Bibliothèque was a serious one for upon his visiting him one day, he found his parlour floor covered with parcels of foreign and English literary journals, and he told Dr. Adams he meant to undertake a Review. How, Sir, (said Dr. Adams,) can you think of doing it alone? All branches of knowledge must be considered in it. Do you know Mathematicks? Do you know Natural History?" Johnson answered, 'Why, Sir, I must do as well as I can. My chief purpose is to give my countrymen a view of what is doing in literature upon the continent; and I shall have, in a good measure, the choice of my subject, for I shall select such books as I best understand.' Dr. Adams suggested, that as Dr. Maty had just then finished his Bibliothèque Britannique, which was a well-executed work, giving foreigners an account of British publications, he might, with great advantage, assume him as an assistant. 'He, (said Johnson) the little black dog! I'd throw him into the Thames.' The scheme, however, was dropped.

In one of his little memorandum-books I find the following hints for his intended Review or Literary Journal :

'The Annals of Literature, foreign as well as domestick. Imitate Le Clerk-Bayle-Barbeyrac. Infelicity of Journals in England. Works of the learned. We cannot take in all. Sometimes copy from foreign Journalists. Always tell.'

'SIR,

'To DR. BIRCH.

'March 29, 1755.

'I have sent some parts of my Dictionary, such as were at hand, for your inspection. The favour which I beg is, that if you do not like them, you will say nothing. I am, Sir, your most affectionate humble servant, 'SAM. JOHNSON.'

6

'To MR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.

'SIR, 'Norfolk-street, April 23, 1755. The part of your Dictionary which you have favoured me with the sight of has given me such an idea of the whole, that I most sincerely congratulate the publick upon the acquisition of a work long wanted, and now executed with an industry, accuracy, and judgement, equal to the importance of the subject. You might, perhaps, have chosen one in which your genius would have appeared to more advantage;

1755]

DR. BIRCH'S LETTER

191

but you could not have fixed upon any other in which your labours would have done such substantial service to the present age and to posterity. I am glad that your health has supported the application necessary to the performance of so vast a task; and can undertake to promise you as one (though perhaps the only) reward of it, the approbation and thanks of every well-wisher to the honour of the English language. I am, with the greatest regard, Sir, your most faithful and most affectionate humble servant, 'THO. BIRCH.'

Mr. Charles Burney, who has since distinguished himself so much in the science of Musick, and obtained a Doctor's degree from the University of Oxford, had been driven from the capital by bad health, and was now residing at Lynne Regis, in Norfolk. He had been so much delighted with Johnson's Rambler and the Plan of his Dictionary, that when the great work was announced in the news-papers as nearly finished, he wrote to Dr. Johnson, begging to be informed when and in what manner his Dictionary would be published; intreating, if it should be by subscription, or he should have any books at his own disposal, to be favoured with six copies for himself and friends.

In answer to this application, Dr. Johnson wrote the following letter, of which (to use Dr. Burney's own words) 'if it be remembered that it was written to an obscure young man, who at this time had not much distinguished himself even in his own profession, but whose name could never have reached the authour of The Rambler, the politeness and urbanity may be opposed to some of the stories which have been lately circulated of Dr. Johnson's natural rudeness and ferocity.'

'TO MR. BURNEY, IN LYNNE REGIS, NORFOLK.

SIR,-If you imagine that by delaying my answer I intended to shew any neglect of the notice with which you have favoured me, you will neither think justly of yourself nor of me. Your civilities were offered with too much elegance not to engage attention; and I have too much pleasure in pleasing men like you, not to feel very sensibly the distinction which you have bestowed upon me.

'Few consequences of my endeavours to please or to

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