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own hard experience, but it is something more than that. It is Johnson's brief and epigrammatic statement of the unvarying relation between author and publisher. Though it has been cried out against as a wilful paradox, it is the creed of the professional author in all countries and at all times. Young poets may be satisfied with fame, rich amateurs with elegance, missionaries and reformers with influence. But the publisher who should depend for his livelihood on the labours of these three classes would be in a poor way, and indeed, if publishers would communicate to the world an account of their intimate transactions, they could tell how the author who is content with reputation for his first book talks of nothing but money when he comes to proffer his second. He has learnt wisdom. Only vapid sentiment can quarrel with Johnson's view, if his words be taken as he meant them. A publisher of books gains his livelihood by selling to the public that which the public wants, and the man who supplies him with the coveted merchandise, yet scorns to think of the price, is not inaptly described, in the rude vocabulary of colloquial psychology, as a blockhead. The dignity of literature, the high claims of the imagination, the call to advance knowledge and quicken thought-these things also are often regarded by the good publisher. They are still oftener regarded by the good author ; they are the motives of his work; and they make of him a bad servant. But why should he talk of these things in the marketplace, where he comes only to ask money for the supply of that which is sought that it may be sold for money? The vanity of authors, encouraged by the modesty of their employers and the superstition of the public, has imposed a kind of religious jargon on a purely commercial operation. If there are qualities in literature which are above price, these are also to be found in the world of manufacture and finance-in that huge pyramid of loyalty which is modern industry, and that vast network of fidelity which is modern commerce. Yet iron-founders and cotton-brokers do not, in discussing the operations of their profoundly beneficent trades, express themselves wholly in terms of genius and virtue.
The later history of Johnson's Shakespeare is soon told. It was received, says Boswell, with high approbation by the publick,' and after passing into a second edition, was in 1773 republished by George Steevens, 'a gentleman not only deeply skilled in ancient learning, and of very extensive reading in English literature, especially the early writers, but at the same time of acute discernment and elegant taste.' Dr. Birkbeck Hill throws some doubt on Steevens's claims to taste. It was Steevens who praised Garrick for producing Hamlet with alterations, 'rescuing that noble play from all the rubbish of the fifth act'; and who recommended that the condemned passages should be presented, as a kind of epilogue, in a farce to be entitled The Grave-Diggers ; with the pleasant Humours of Osric, the Danish Macaroni. But Steevens deserves praise for his antiquarian industry and knowledge. To procure him all possible assistance Johnson wrote letters to Dr. Farmer of Emmanuel College and to both the Wartons. He was frequently consulted by Steevens, but the extent of his own contributions is best stated by himself in his letter to Farmer: 'I have done very little to the book. He never took kindly to the labours of revision; and his first edition remains the authoritative text of his criticism.
His work on Shakespeare gave Johnson as good an opportunity as he ever enjoyed for exercising what he believed to be his chief literary talent. “There are two things,' he once said to Sir Joshua Reynolds,
which I am confident I can do very well : one is an introduction to any literary work, stating what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most perfect manner ; the other is a conclusion showing from various causes why the execution has not been equal to what the authour promised to himself and to the publick.' The first of these things he did to admiration in his Proposals ; the second he attempts in some parts of his Preface. It is plain that he had not been able to do as much as he had hoped by way of restoration and illustration, but it is no less plain that he took pleasure in the accomplished work. Macaulay's statement that it would be difficult to name a more slovenly, a more worthless, edition of any great classic', has nothing but emphasis to commend it. Its author was the inventor of that other tedious paradox, that Johnson's mind was a strange
composite of giant powers and low prejudices. A wiser man than Macaulay, James Boswell, had already answered Macaulay's condemnation, which is even better answered in Johnson's own words : 'I have endeavoured to perform my task with no slight solicitude. Not a single passage in the whole work has appeared to me corrupt, which I have not endeavoured to restore; or obscure, which I have not endeavoured to illustrate. In many I have failed like others; and from many, after all my efforts, I have retreated, and confessed the repulse.' Johnson is the most punctiliously truthful of all English writers, and from this statement there is no appeal. If his notes are not so considerable in bulk as those of some of his fellow critics it is because he had not, like Warburton, ' a rage for saying something when there was nothing to be said.' It is true that his knowledge of Elizabethan literature and Elizabethan manners cannot compare with the knowledge of Theobald before him or of Malone after him. It is true also that he undertook no special course of study with a view to his edition. He had read immensely for the Dictionary, but the knowledge of the English language which he had thus acquired was not always serviceable for a different purpose. , In some respects it was even a hindrance. Johnson's Dictionary was intended primarily to
Perhaps the lightness of the matter may conduce to the vehemence of the agency; when the truth to be investigated is so near to inexistence, as to escape attention, its bulk is to be enlarged by rage and exclamation.' Johnson, Preface 10 Sbakespeare.
furnish a standard of polite usage, suitable for the classic ideals of the new age. He was therefore obliged to forego the use of the lesser Elizabethans, whose authority no one acknowledged, and whose freedom and extravagance were enemies to his purpose. But for all this, and even in the explanation of archaic modes of expression, he can hold his own with the best of his rivals and successors. Most of the really difficult passages in Shakespeare are obscure not from the rarity of the words employed, but from the confused and rapid syntax. Johnson's strong grasp of the main thread of the discourse, his sound sense, and his wide knowledge of humanity, enable him, in a hundred passages, to go straight to Shakespeare's meaning, while the philological and antiquarian commentators kill one another in the dark, or bury all dramatic life under the far-fetched spoils of their learning. A reader of the new Variorum edition of Shakespeare soon falls into the habit, when he meets with an obscure passage, of consulting Johnson's note before the others. Whole pages of complicated dialectic and minute controversy are often rendered useless by the few brief sentences which recall the reader's attention to the main drift, or remind him of some perfectly obvious circumstance.
It must not be forgotten that Johnson was, after all, a master of the English language. He was not an Elizabethan specialist, but his brief account of the principal causes of Shakespeare's obscurities has never been bettered. Some of these obscurities are due to