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length, and depth and height were far beyond his measure. With his writings even he shows few signs of being familiar. Boswell's genius, a genius which even to Lord Macaulay was foolishness, was altogether hidden from his dull eye. No one surely but a “blockhead,' a 'barren rascal ',' could with scissors and paste - pot have mangled the biography which of all others is the delight and the boast of the English-speaking world. He is careless in small matters, and his blunders are numerous. These I have only noticed in the more important cases, remembering what Johnson somewhere points out, that the triumphs of one critic over another only fatigue and disgust the reader. Yet he has added considerably to our knowledge of Johnson. He knew men who had intimately known both the hero and his biographer, and he gathered much that but for his care would have been lost for ever. He was diligent and successful in his search after Johnson's letters, of so many of which Boswell with all his persevering and pushing diligence had not been able to get a sight. The editor of Mr. Croker's Correspondence and Diaries' goes, however, much too far when, in writing of Macaulay's criticism, he says: “The attack defeated itself by its very violence, and therefore it did the book no harm what
Between forty and fifty thousand copies have been sold, although Macaulay boasted with great glee that he had smashed it.' The book that Macaulay attacked was withdrawn. That monstrous medley reached no second edition. In its new form all the worst excrescences had been cleared away, and though what was left was not Boswell, still less was it unchastened Croker. His repentance, however, was not thorough. He never restored the text to its old state; wanton transpositions of passages still remain, and numerous insertions break the narrative. It was my good fortune to become a sound Boswellian before I even looked at his
: vol, ii. p. 47
edition. It was not indeed till I came to write out my notes for the press that I examined his with any thoroughness.
Notes,' says Johnson, are often necessary, but they are necessary evils?'
To the young reader who for the first time turns over Boswell's delightful pages I would venture to give the advice Johnson gives about Shakespeare:
'Let him that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play from the first scene to the last with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let him read on through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased let him attempt exactness and read the commentators ?' So too let him who reads the Life of Johnson for the first time read it in one of the Pre-Crokerian editions. They are numerous and good. With his attention undiverted by notes he will rapidly pass through one of the most charming narratives that the world has ever seen, and if his taste is uncorrupted by modern extravagances, will recognise the genius of an author who, in addition to other great qualities, has an admirable eye for the just proportions of an extensive work, and who is the master of a style that is as easy as it is inimitable.
Johnson, I fondly believe, would have been pleased, perhaps would even have been proud, could he have foreseen this edition. Few distinctions he valued more highly than those which he received from his own great University. The honorary degrees that it conferred on him, the gown that it entitled him to wear, by him were highly esteemed. In the Johnson's Works, ed. 1825, vol. v. p. 152.
Clarendon Press he took a great interest'. The efforts which that famous establishment has made in the excellence of the typography, the quality of the paper, and the admirably-executed illustrations and facsimiles to do honor to his memory and to the genius of his biographer would have highly delighted him. To his own college he was so deeply attached that he would not have been displeased to learn that his editor had been nursed in that once famous 'nest of singing birds.' Of Boswell's pleasure I cannot doubt. How much he valued any tribute of respect from Oxford is shown by the absurd importance that he gave to a sermon which was preached before the University by an insignificant clergyman more than a year and a half after Johnson's death'. When Edmund Burke witnessed the long and solemn procession entering the Cathedral of St. Paul's, as it followed Sir Joshua Reynolds to his grave, he wrote: ‘Everything, I think, was just as our deceased friend would, if living, have wished it to be ; for he was, as you know, not altogether indifferent to this kind of observances.' It would, indeed, be presumptuous in me to flatter myself that in this edition everything is as Johnson and Boswell would, if living, have wished it. Yet to this kind of observances, the observances that can be shown by patient and long labour, and by the famous press of a great University, neither man was altogether indifferent.
Should my work find favour with the world of readers, I hope again to labour in the same fields. I had indeed at one time intended to enlarge this edition by essays on Boswell, Johnson, Mrs. Thrale, and perhaps on other subjects. Their composition, would, however, have delayed publication more than seemed advisable, and their length might have rendered the volumes bulky beyond all reason. A more " See post, ii. 39, 486–8, 504.
? See post, iv. 486. Correspondence of Edmund Burke, ii. 425.
favourable opportunity may come.
I have in hand a Selection of the Wit and Wisdom of Dr. Johnson. I purpose, moreover, to collect and edit all of his letters that are not in the Life. Some hundreds of these were published by Mrs. Piozzi; many more are contained in Mr. Croker's edition ; while others have already appeared in Notes and Queries', Not a few, doubtless, are still lurking in the desks of the collectors of autographs. As a letter - writer Johnson stands very high. While the correspondence of David Garrick has been given to the world in two large volumes, it is not right that the letters of his far greater friend should be left scattered and almost neglected. “He that sees before him to his third dinner,' says Johnson, ‘has a long prospect? My prospect is still longer; for, if health be spared, and a fair degree of public favour shown, I see before me to my third book. When I have published my Letters, I hope to enter upon a still more arduous task in editing the Lives of the Poets.
In my work I have received much kind assistance, not only from friends, but also from strangers to whom I had applied in cases where special knowledge could alone throw light on some obscure point. My acknowledgments I have in most instances made in my notes. In some cases, either through want of opportunity or forgetfulness, this has not been done. I gladly avail myself of the present opportunity to remedy this deficiency. The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres I have to thank for so liberally allowing the original of the famous Round Robin, which is in his Lordship's possession, to be reproduced by a photographic process for this edition. It is by the kindness of Mr. J. L. G. Mowat, M.A., Fellow and Bursar of Pembroke College, Oxford, that I have been able to make a careful examination of the Johnsonian manuscripts
'To this interesting and accurate publication I am indebted for many valuable notes.
Post, iii. 59, n. 3.
in which our college is so rich. If the vigilance with which he keeps guard over these treasures while they are being inspected is continued by his successors in office, the college will never have to mourn over the loss of a single leaf. To the Rev. W. D. Macray, M.A., of the manuscript department of the Bodleian, to Mr. Falconer Madan, M.A., Sub-Librarian of the same Library, and to Mr. George Parker, one of the Assistants, I am indebted for the kindness with which they have helped me in my inquiries. To Mr. W. H. Allnutt, another of the Assistants, I owe still more. When I was abroad, I too frequently, I fear, troubled him with questions which no one could have answered who was not well versed in bibliographical lore. It was not often that his acuteness was baffled, while his kindness was never exhausted. My old friend Mr. E. J. Payne, M.A., Fellow of University College, Oxford, the learned editor of the Select Works of Burke published by the Clarendon Press, has allowed me, whenever I pleased, to draw on his extensive knowledge of the history and the literature of the eighteenth century. Mr. C. G. Crump, B.A., of Balliol College, Oxford, has traced for me not a few of the quotations which had baffled my search. To Mr. G. K. Fortescue, Superintendent of the Reading Room of the British Museum, my most grateful acknowledgments are due. His accurate and extensive knowledge of books and his unfailing courtesy and kindness have lightened many a day's heavy work in the spacious room over which he so worthily presides. But most of all am I indebted to Mr. C. E. Doble, M.A., of the Clarendon Press. He has read all my proofsheets, and by his almost unrivalled knowledge of the men of letters of the close of the seventeenth and of the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, he has saved my notes from some blunders and has enriched them with much valuable information. In my absence abroad he has in more instances than I care to think of consulted for me the Bodleian