페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

rary friends, to enrich the present work with a very considerable supply of illustrative materials entirely new ; but of this it will become the Editors to say little, until their task shall have been completed.

It has been their ambition, and it is their earnest hope, to be instrumental in opening and familiarising to the greatly expanded, and hourly expanding circle of intelligent readers in the less affluent classes of the community, a mine of information and amusement, which may be said to have been hitherto accessible only to the purchasers of expensive books ; and even to these by no means so direetly or so conveniently as, after the lapse of so many years, and with them of so many legal copyrights, might have fairly been expected in this æra of cheap literature.

Reserving for another occasion what they may have to say with respect to the minor biographers of Johnson, the Editors now proceed to a few remarks on the great work of Boswell.

His Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides in 1773, was published in 1785, the year after Johnson's death, in one volume octavo ; and has since been separately printed many times. It was, as has been mentioned, first incorporated with the Author's general narrative of the Doctor's Life in the edition of Mr. Croker, 1831 ; and this example will assuredly be adhered to in all future editions. Not the least interesting circumstance connected with this Tour is, that Johnson read from time to time Boswell's record of his sayings and doings, and so far from being displeased with its minuteness, expressed great admiration of its accuracy, and encouraged the chronicler to proceed with his grand ulterior undertaking ; viz., the "Life of Johnson ;" which first appeared, in two volumes quarto, in April, 1791-seven years after Dr. Johnson's death.

Boswell gave a second edition of the Life in 1794, and was engaged in preparing a third, when death overtook him in 1795. His new materials were made use of by his friend and executor, the

estimable Edmond Malone, who brought out the third edition in 1799 ; and superintended, likewise the fourth in 1804 ; a fifth, in 1807 ; and a sixth, in 1811. In these editions, Mr. Malone gave many valuable notes of his own ; and was also furnished with important assistance by Dr. Charles Burney, author of the “History of Music,” and father of the authoress of “ Evelina ;" by the Rev. J. Blakeway, of Shrewsbury ; James Bindley, Esq., First Commissioner of Stamps; the Rev. Dr. Vyse, Rector of Lambeth ; the Rev. Dr. Kearney, Archdeacon of Raphoe, in Ireland ; and James Boswell, Esq. jun., the second son of the Biographer. The contributions of Malone, and his various friends, are distinguished in the present collection by their respective signatures.

Mr. Chalmers further enriched the Annotations on Boswell, in the ninth edition, which he published in 1822; and he liberally allowed Mr. Croker to make whatever use he pleased of that edition, when preparing the eleventh, that of 1831. The tonth was an anonymous one, published at Oxford in 1826; but this was hardly more than a handsome reprint of the earlier copies.

Besides the materials accumulated by Boswell himself, his intelligent son, Malone, Chalmers, and their various literary allies, Mr. Croker's character and station opened to him, when preparing the edition of 1831, many new and most interesting sources of information, both manuscript and oral. He acknowledges, more especially, in his preface, the copious communications of the Rev. Dr. Hall, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford,—from which he was enabled to throw unexpected light on some of the earlier chapters of Dr. Johnson's personal career; those of the Rev. Dr. Harwood, the historian of Lichfield, who procured for him, through Mrs. Pearson, the widow of the legatee of Miss Lucy Porter, many letters addressed to that lady by Dr. Johnson, but for which Boswell had inquired in vain; of Lord Rokeby, the nephew and heir of Mrs. Montagu, who placed Johnson's correspondence with her

at his disposal; of Mr. Langton, the grandson of Bennet Langton, who, in like manner, opened his family repositories; of Mr. Palmer, grand-nephew of Sir JoshuaReynolds, who contributed, besides various autograph letters and notes of Johnson to his great-aunt, Miss Reynolds, a MS. of seventy pages, written by that lady, and entitled, “Recollections of Dr. Johnson;" of Mr. Markland, whom he thanks (as the present Editors must again do) for “a great deal of zealous assistance and valuable information,”—including "a copy of Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes, copiously annotated, propriâ maru, by Mr. Malone :" of Mr. J. L. Anderdon, for some of the original letters, memoranda, and note-books used by Boswell when composing the LIFE ; of the present MACLEOD, son of the chief who received Johnson at Dunvegan in 1773, for a curious autobiographical fragment, written by his father; of Sir Walter Scott, for a series of very interesting notes on the “ Tour to the Hebrides :" of the venerable Lord Stowell, the friend and executor of Johnson, for dictating some recollections of the Doctor, of which, although the notes, by an unfortunate accident, were lost, the substance had not escaped Mr. Croker's own memory; of Dr. Elrington, the Lord Bishop of Ferns; and, finally, of Mr. D'Israeli,--the Marquess Wellesley,—the Marquess of Lansdowne,-Lord Bexley,—Lord St. Helens,—the late Earl Spencer; and various other distinguished persons.

From the Preface to Mr. Croker's edition we shall now extract those passages of a more general interest, which ought to be in the hands of all those who are to profit by that gentleman's ingenuity and research :

“It were superfluous to expatiate on the merits, at least as a source of amusement, of Boswell's LIFE OF JOHnson. Whatever doubts may have existed as to the prudence or the propriety of the original publication-however naturally private confidence was alarmed, or individual vanity offended, the voices of criticism and complaint were soon drowned in the general applause. And

no wonder: the work combines within itself the four most entertaining classes of writing--biography, memoirs, familiar letters, and that assemblage of literary anecdotes which the French have taught us to distinguish by the termination Ana.

“ Having no domestic ties or duties, the latter portion of Dr. Johnson's life was, as Mrs. Piozzi observes, nothing but conversation, and that conversation was watched and recorded from night to night and from hour to hour with zealous attention and unceasing diligence. No man, the most staid or the most guarded, is always the same in bcalth, in spirits, in opinions. Human life is a series of inconsistencies; and when Johnson's early misfortunes, his protracted poverty, his strong passions, his violent prejudices, and, above all, his mental infirmities are considered, it is only wonderful that a portrait so laboriously minute and so painfully faithful does not exhibit more of blemish, incongruity, and error.

“ The life of Dr. Johnson is indeed a most curious chapter in the history of man; for certainly there is no instance of the life of any.other human being having been exhibited in so much detail, or with so much fidelity. There are, perhaps, not many men who have practised so much self-examination as to know themselves as well as every reader knows Dr. Johnson.

* We must recollect that it is not his table-talk or his literary conversations only that have been published; all his most private and most trifling correspondence—all his most common as well as his most confidential intercourses— all his most secret communion with his own conscience—and even the solemn and contrite exercises of his piety, have been divulged and exhibited to the 'garish eye' of the world without reserve-I had almost said, without delicacy. Young, with gloomy candour, has said

'Heaven's Sovereign saves all beings but himself
That hideous sight, a naked human heart.'

What a man must Johnson have been, whose heart, having been laid more bare than that of any other mortal ever was, has passed almost unblemished through so terrible an ordeal!

“But while we contemplate with such interest this admirable and perfect portrait, let us not forget the painter : pupils and imitators have added draperies and backgrounds, but the head and figure are by Mr. Boswell.

“Mr. Burke to!d Sir Jaimes Mackintosh, that he thought Johnson showed

rare.

more powers of mind in company than in his writings, and on another occasion said, that he thought Johnson appeared greater in Mr. Boswell's volumes than even in his own.

“ It was a strange and fortunate concurrence, that one so prone to talk and who talked so well, should be brought into such close contact and confidence with one so zealous and so able to record. Dr. Johnson was a man of extraordinary powers, but Mr. Boswell had qualities, in their own way, almost as

He united lively manners with indefatigable diligence, and the volatilo curiosity of a man about town with the drudging patience of a chronicler. With a very good opinion of himself, he was quick in discerning, and frank in applauding, the excellencies of others. Though proud of his own name and lineage, and ambitious of the countenance of the great, he was yet so cordial an admirer of merit, wherever found, that much public ridicule, and something like contempt, were excited by the modest assurance with which he pressed his acquaintance on all the notorieties of his time, and by the ostentatious (but, in the main, laudable) assiduity with which he attended the exile Paoli and the low-born Johnson! These were amiable, and, for us, fortunate inconsistencies. His contemporaries, indeed, not without some colour of reason, occasionally complained of him as vain, inquisitive, troublesome, and giddy; but his vanity was inoffensive-his curiosity was commonly directed towards laudable objects -when he meddled, he did so, generally, from good-natured motives—and his giddiness was only an exuberant gaiety, which never failed in the respect and reverence due to literature, morals, and religion; and posterity gratefully acknowledges the taste, temper, and talents with which he selected, enjoyed, and described that polished and intellectual society which still lives in his work, and without his work had perished !

· Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
Multi : sed omnes illacrymabiles
Urgentur, ignotique longå

Nocte, carent quia vate sacro.'!

Such imperfect though interesting sketches as Ben Jonson's visit to Drummond, Selden's Table Talk, Swift's Journal, and Spence's Anecdotes, only tan

1 “Before great Agamemnon reign'd

Reign'd kings as great as he, and brave,
Whose huge ambition's now contain'd

In the small compass of a grave;
In endless night they sleep, unwept, unknown;
No bard had they to make all time their own."-FRANCIS.

« 이전계속 »