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The object of this undertaking is to place before the public, in an uniform and portable form, and at a very moderate price, all the existing materials for the biography of Dr. Johnson, together with copious illustrations, critical, explanatory, and graphical. The collection will be congprised in eight volumes — one volume to be published on the 1st of every month, until the whole is completed.
The “ Life of Johnson” by Boswell — the most interesting and instructive specimen of biography that has ever been given to the world — must, of course, occupy the chief space and attention; and that author's “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides” will be incorporated in his main narrative, after the example of his last editor, the Right Hon. John Wilson Croker; who justly observes, that nothing could have prevented Boswell himself from making this arrangement, but the legal obstacle arising out of his previous contract with the bookseller who had published the Journal.
Johnson's own Diary of his Tour into Wales in 1774, first published by Mr. Duppa in 1816, and various private letters to Mrs. Thrale and others, have also been inserted (within brackets] in the text of Boswell; he himself having uniformly availed himself of similar new materials, as they reached his hand while occupied with the second and third editions of his work.
The present Editors, however, have not judged it proper to follow the example of Mr. Croker, in interweaving with the text of Boswell any materials, however valuable, derived from other pens than those of Dr. Johnson and the original biographer himself. Their plan has been to give, from minor biographers and miscellaneous authorities, in the form of footnotes to Boswell's text, whatever appeared to bear directly on the subjects therein discussed, or on facts of Johnson's life therein omitted ; but to reserve for their seventh and eighth volumes the rich assemblage of mere conversational fragments, supplied by Piozzi, Hawkins, Tyers, Miss Reynolds, Murphy, Cumberland, Nichols, and the other friends and acquaintances of Dr. Johnson, who have, in their various writings, added to the general record of his wit and wisdom. This arrangement has seemed that most consistent with a just estimation of the literary character of Boswell. Altogether unrivalled in his own style of narrative, it was considered as hardly fair to his memory, that his text should not appear pure and unbroken.
The division of Boswell's text into chapters, now