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'The customs of Nations with regard to Trade, and receptions of strangers, their domestic Customs, as Rites of Marriage and Burial. Their particular Laws. Their habits, recreations and
'The religious Opinions of all Nations.
'These and many other heads of observation will be collected, not merely from the Dictionaries now extant in many Languages, but from the best Surveys, Local Histories, Voyages, and particular accounts*, among which care will be taken to select those of the best authority, as the basis of the Work, and to extract from them such observations as may best promote Knowledge and gratify Enquiry, so that it is to be hoped, there will be few remarkable places in the known World, of which the Politician, the Merchant, the Sailor, or the Man of Curiosity may not find a useful and pleasing account, of the credit of which the Reader may always judge, as the Authours from whom it is taken will be regularly quoted, a caution which if some, who have attempted such general works, had observed, their labours would have deserved, and found more favour from the Publick.'
This letter must have been written about the year 1753, for Bathurst is described as a physician of about eight years' standing. He took his degree as Bachelor of Medicine at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1745, and did not, it should seem, proceed to the higher degree. In 1757 he was at the Havannah, where he died (ante, i. 280, n. 2). He was Johnson's beloved friend, of whom ' he hardly ever spoke without tears in his eyes' (ante, i. 220, n. 2). The Proposal, I have no doubt, was either written, or at all events revised, by Johnson. It is quite in his style. It may be assumed that it is in Bathurst's handwriting.
That this is done will appear from the authours' names exactly quoted.
An apologetical letter about some work that was passing through the press; undated, but probably written about the years 1753-5'. 'DEAR SIR,
'What you tell me I am ashamed never to have thought on
'In the possession of Mr. Frederick Barker.
-I wish I had known it sooner-Send me back the last sheet; and the last copy for correction. If you will promise me henceforward to print a sheet a day, I will promise you to endeavour that you shall have every day a sheet to print, beginning next Tuesday.
'To Mr. Strahan.'
'I am Sir, Your most, &c.
In all likelihood Johnson is writing about the Dictionary. The absence of a date, as I have already said, is strong evidence that the letter was written comparatively early. As the first edition of the Dictionary was in folio a sheet consisted of four pages. Johnson writing on April 3, 1753, says, 'I began the second vol. of my Dictionary, room being left in the first for Preface, Grammar, and History, none of them yet begun' (ante, i. 296). As the book was published on April 15, 1755 (ante, i. 335, n. 3), the printing must have gone on very rapidly, when a start was once made. By copy he means his manuscript for printing.
Two undated letters about printing the Dictionary.'.
'I must desire you to add to your other civilities this one, to go to Mr. Millar and represent to him the manner of going on, and inform him that I know not how to manage. I pay three and twenty shillings a week to my assistants, in each instance having much assistance from them, but they tell me they shall be able to pull better in method, as indeed I intend they shall. The Point is to get two Guineas.
'Sir, Your humble servant,
(Address on back.) To Mr. Strahan.'
'I have often suspected that it is as you say, and have told Mr. Dodsley of it. It proceeds from the haste of the amanuensis
In the possession of Mr. John Waller, 2, Artesian Road, Westbourne Grove.
to get to the end of his day's work. I have desired the passages to be clipped close, and then perhaps for two or three leaves it is done. But since poor Stuart's time I could never get that part of the work into regularity, and perhaps never shall. I will try to take some more care but can promise nothing; when I am told there is a sheet or two I order it away. You will find it sometimes close; when I make up any myself, which never happens but when I have nobody with me, I generally clip it close, but one cannot always be on the watch.
'I am Sir, Your most, &c.
These letters refer to the printing of the Dictionary, of which Dodsley and Millar were two among the proprietors, and Strahan the printer. Francis Stuart or Stewart was one of Johnson's amanuenses (ante, i. 216). In 1779 Johnson paid his sister a guinea for an old pocket-book of her brother's (ante, iii. 475), and wrote on April 8, 1780 (ante, iii. 478):—‘The memory of her brother is yet fresh in my mind; he was an ingenious and worthy man.' In February 1784 he gave her another guinea for a letter relating to himself that he had found in the pocket-book (ante, iv. 302). A writer in the Gent. Mag. for 1799, p. 1171, who had been employed in Strahan's printing-works, says that 'Stewart was useful to Johnson in the explanation of low cant phrases; all words relating to gambling and card-playing, such as All-Fours, Catch-honours [not in Johnson's Dictionary], Cribbage [merely defined as A game at cards], were said to be Stewart's corrected by the Doctor.' He adds that after the printing had gone on some time the proprietors of the Dictionary paid Johnson through Mr. Strahan at the rate of a guinea for every sheet of MS. copy delivered. The copy was written upon quarto post, and in two columns each page. Johnson wrote in his own hand the words and their explanation, and generally two or three words in each column, leaving a space between each for the authorities, which were pasted on as they were collected by the different amanuenses employed: and in this mode the MS. was so regular that the sheets of MS. which made a sheet of print could be very exactly ascertained.' The same writer states that Stewart in a night ramble in Edinburgh with some of his drinking companions met with the mob conducting Captain Porteous to be hanged; they were next day examined
about it before the Town Council, when, as Stewart used to say, "we were found to be too drunk to have any hand in the business." He gave an accurate account of it in the Edinburgh Magazine of that time.'
A letter about Miss Williams, taxes due, and a journey; undated, but perhaps written at Oxford in 1754'.
'I shall not be long here, but in the mean time if Miss Williams wants any money pray speak to Mr. Millar and supply her, they write to me about some taxes which I wish you would pay.
'My journey will come to very little beyond the satisfaction of knowing that there is nothing to be done, and that I leave few advantages here to those that shall come after me.
'My compliments to Mrs. Strahan.
'To Mr. Strahan.'
'I am, Sir, &c.
Miss Williams came to live with Johnson after his wife's death in 1752 (ante, i. 269). The fact that Strahan is asked to supply her with money after speaking to Mr. Millar seems to show that this letter was written some time before the publication of the Dictionary in April 1755. Millar 'took the principal charge of conducting its publication,' and Johnson had received all the copy-money, by different drafts, a considerable time before he had finished his task' (ante, i. 332).
His 'journey' may have been his visit to Oxford in the summer of 1754. He went there, because, 'I cannot,' he said, 'finish my book [the Dictionary] to my mind without visiting the libraries' (ante, i. 314). According to Thomas Warton 'he collected nothing in the libraries for his Dictionary' (ib. n. 4). It is perhaps to this failure that the latter part of the letter refers. Johnson's visit, however, was one of five weeks, while the first line of the letter shows that he intended to be away from London but a short time.
In the possession of Mr. Frederick Barker.
A letter about Rasselas, dated Jan. 20, 1759'.
'When I was with you last night I told you of a story which I was preparing for the press. The title will be
"The Choice of Life
The History of . . . . . Prince of Abissinia."
'It will make about two volumes like little Pompadour, that is about one middling volume. The bargain which I made with Mr. Johnson was seventy five pounds (or guineas) a volume, and twenty five pounds for the second edition. I will sell this either at that price or for sixty', the first edition of which he shall himself fix the number, and the property then to revert to me, or for forty pounds, and I have the profit that is retain half the copy. I shall have occasion for thirty pounds on Monday night when I shall deliver the book which I must entreat you upon such delivery to procure me. I would have it offered to Mr. Johnson, but have no doubt of selling it, on some of the terms mentioned.
'I will not print my name, but expect it to be known. 'I am Dear Sir, Your most humble servant, 'SAM. JOHNSON.'
'Jan. 20, 1759.
'Get me the money if you can.'
This letter is of unusual interest, as it proves beyond all doubt that Rasselas was written some weeks before Candide was published (see ante, i. 396, n. 2). Baretti, as I have shewn (i. 395, n. 3), says that any other person with the degree of reputation Johnson then possessed would have got £400 for the work, but he never understood the art of making the most of his productions.' We see, however, by this letter that Johnson did ask for a larger sum than the booksellers allowed him. He received but one hundred pounds for the first edition, but he had made a bargain for one hundred and fifty pounds or guineas. Johnson, the bookseller, seems
'In the possession of Mr. Frederick Barker.
Fifty-five pounds' written first and then scored over.