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THE LIFE OF
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
COMPREHENDING AN ACCOUNT OF HIS STUDIES
AND WORKS, IN
CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER; A
SERIES OF HIS EPISTOLARY CORRESPONDENCE, CONVERSATIONS WITH MANY EMINENT PERSONS,
AND ORIGINAL PIECES OF HIS COMPOSITION:
THE WHOLE EXHIBITING A VIEW OF LITERATURE
AND LITERARY MEN IN GREAT BRITAIN, FOR NEAR HALF A CENTURY DURING WHICH HE FLOURISHED
BY JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
WITH MALONE'S NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS
MORE than sixty years ago, Carlyle, writing in Fraser's Magazine, observed in that manner of his which has now become part of our incorporate existence, that the new edition of Boswell, then lately undertaken by Mr. Croker, was a praiseworthy but no miraculous procedure in no way an event in universal history, and indeed in very truth one of the most insignificant of things.
If that were true in 1832 of so pretentious an edition of Boswell's Johnson as Mr. Croker's, the insignificance of the present publication is almost startling. Boswell's immortal biography has been re printed many times since the date of Carlyle's famous article, and in our own immediate hour we have had the advantage of re-reading it in the careful and interesting edition of the late Mr. Napier, as well as in the splendid volumes of my revered friend, Dr. Birkbeck Hill, whose eager and unresting toil and minute diligence has left scarce anything behind him for even the most humble-minded of gleaners in the Johnsonian fields.
When you know you must be beaten, the wisest course is to decline competition.
The merit of these volumes is all or nearly all Boswell's and the printers', a race of men whose services in the cause of letters Dr. Johnson, who knew 'The Trade' from top to bottom, never forgot. Who does not remember the famous occasion when he apologised to a compositor? 'Mr. Compositor, I ask your pardon. Mr. Compositor, I ask your pardon, again and again.' Any merit that is not Boswell's or the printers' belongs to Mr. Edmund Malone, whose Life, by Sir James Prior, is well worth the two or three shillings which is all the second-hand booksellers are in the habit of asking for it.
The biography itself first appeared in two comfortable quartos in 1791, no less than four years after the authorised biography by Johnson's literary executor, Sir John Hawkins. The second edition followed in 1793. Boswell died in 1795. The third edition was intrusted to Malone, and bears date 1799. Malone died in 1812, having lived to see the sixth (1811) edition through the press.
The notes in the present edition are for the most part to be found in Malone's editions: my own notes are few and far between. I made many notes, but on reflection I have struck most of them out, feeling myself convinced not of their worthlessness but of their unimportance. The unsigned and unbracketed notes are Boswell's. The notes signed M. are Malone's. Those signed A. B. are mine. The other notes bear the names of their makers.
The English-speaking race is only just beginning to