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TO EDMOND MALONE, ESQ.
MY DEAR SIR,
In every narrative, whether historical or biographical, authenticity is of the utmost consequence'. Of this I have ever been so firmly persuaded, that I inscribed a former work to that person who was the best judge of its truth. I need not tell you I mean General Paoli; who, after his great, though unsuccessful, efforts to preserve the liberties of his country, has found an honourable asylum in Britain, where he has now lived many years the object of Royal regard and private respect'; and whom I cannot name without expressing my very grateful sense of the uniform kindness which he has been pleased to shew me1.
The friends of Doctor Johnson can best judge, from internal evidence, whether the numerous conversations which form the most valuable part of the ensuing pages are correctly related. To them, therefore, I wish to appeal, for the accuracy of the portrait here exhibited to the world.
As one of those who were intimately acquainted with him, you have a title to this address. You have obligingly taken the trouble to peruse the original manuscript of this
1 See ante, ii. 497, note 1, and iii. 237.
"His Account of Corsica, published in 1768.
'Horace Walpole wrote on Nov. 6, 1769 (Letters, v. 200):-'I found Paoli last week at Court. The King and Queen both took great notice of him. He has just made a tour to Bath, Oxford, &c., and was everywhere received with much distinction.' See ante, ii. 81.
• Boswell, when in London, was his constant guest.' Ante, iii. 40.
Tour, and can vouch for the strict fidelity of the present publication'. Your literary alliance with our much lamented friend, in consequence of having undertaken to render one of his labours more complete, by your edition of Shakspeare', a work which I am confident will not disappoint the expectations of the publick, gives you another claim. But I have a still more powerful inducement to prefix your name to this volume, as it gives me an opportunity of letting the world know that I enjoy the honour and happiness of your friendship; and of thus publickly testifying the sincere regard with which I am,
My dear Sir,
20th September, 1785.
And obedient servant,
'Boswell's son James says that 'in 1785 Mr. Malone was shewn at Mr. Baldwin's printing-house a sheet of the Tour to the Hebrides which contained Johnson's character. He was so much struck with the spirit and fidelity of the portrait that he requested to be introduced to its writer. From this period a friendship took place between them, which ripened into the strictest and most cordial intimacy. After Mr. Boswell's death in 1795 Mr. Malone continued to shew every mark of affectionate attention towards his family.' Gent. Mag. 1813, p. 518.
'Malone began his edition of Shakespeare in 1782; he brought it out in 1790. Prior's Malone, pp. 98, 166.
ANIMATED by the very favourable reception which two large impressions of this work have had', it has been my study to make it as perfect as I could in this edition, by correcting some inaccuracies which I discovered myself, and some which the kindness of friends or the scrutiny of adversaries pointed out. A few notes are added, of which the principal object is, to refute misrepresentation and calumny.
To the animadversions in the periodical Journals of criticism, and in the numerous publications to which my book has given rise, I have made no answer. Every work must stand or fall by its own merit. I cannot, however, omit this opportunity of returning thanks to a gentleman who published a Defence of my Journal, and has added to the favour by communicating his name to me in a very obliging letter.
It would be an idle waste of time to take any particular notice of the futile remarks, to many of which, a petty national resentment, unworthy of my countrymen, has probably
1 Boswell in the Advertisement' to the second edition, dated Dec. 20, 1785, says that 'the whole of the first impression has been sold in a few weeks.' Three editions were published within a year, but the fourth was not issued till 1807. A German translation was published in Lübeck in 1787. I believe that in no language has a translation been published of the Life of Johnson. Johnson was indeed, as Boswell often calls him, ‘a trueborn Englishman'-so English that foreigners could neither understand him nor relish his Life.
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given rise, remarks which have been industriously circulated in the publick prints by shallow or envious cavillers, who have endeavoured to persuade the world that Dr. Johnson's character has been lessened by recording such various instances of his lively wit and acute judgment, on every topick that was presented to his mind. In the opinion of every person of taste and knowledge that I have conversed with, it has been greatly heightened; and I will venture to predict, that this specimen of the colloquial talents and extemporaneous effusions of my illustrious fellow-traveller will become still more valuable, when, by the lapse of time, he shall have become an ancient; when all those who can now bear testimony to the transcendent powers of his mind, shall have passed away; and no other memorial of this great and good man shall remain but the following Journal, the other anecdotes and letters preserved by his friends, and those incomparable works, which have for many years been in the highest estimation, and will be read and admired as long as the English language shall be spoken or understood.
LONDON, 15th Aug. 1786.