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JOHNSONIANA;

FROM

BOSWELL'S LIFE

OF THE

GREAT LEXICOGRAPHER AND MORALIST.

VOL. II.

MDCCCXX.

B

Printed by T. Davisov,

Whitefriars.

JOHNSONIANA, &c.

PART II.

No. I.

LITERATURE.

With respect to the prospects held out to an adventurer in the career of literature, a curious anecdote was communicated by Dr. Johusou himself to Mr. John Nichols. Mr. Wilcox the bookseller, on being informed by him that his intention was to get his livelihood as an author, eyed his robust frame af. tentively, and, with a significant look, said, “ You had better buy a porter's koot." He however added, “ Wilcox was one of my best friends."

One of his earliest labours was the compilation of the debates in parliament, for the Gentlemau's Magazine, which he did from very sleuder memorandums. He told a friend, however, that as soon as he found the speeches were thought genuine, he determined he would write no more of them; would not be accessory to the propagation of falsehood." And such was the tenderuess of his conscience, that a short time before his death, he ex. pressed his regret for his having been the author of fictions, which had passed for realities.

“ for hc

The rapidity with which he composed is a won. derful circumstance. He has been heard to say, I wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the Life of Savage at a sitting; but then I sat up all night.”

In a letter to the Rev. T. Warton, he mentions his design of writing a Review. Dr. Adams told Boswell, that this scheme of a Bibliothéque was a serious one: for, upon his visiting him one day, he found his parlour floor covered with parcels of foreign and English literary journals, and he told Dr. Adams he meant to undertake a Review. ADAMS. “ How, sir, can you think of doing it alone ? All branches of knowledge must be considered in it. Do you know mathematics ? Do you know natural history ?" JOHNSON.“ Why, sir, I must do as well as I can. My chief purpose is to give my countrymen a view of what is doing in literature upon the continent; and I shall have, in a good measure, the choice of my subject; for I shall select such books as I best understand.” ADAMS, “ As Dr. Maty has just finished his Bibliothéque Britan. nique, which is a well executed work, giving fo. reigners an account of British publications, you might, with great advantage, assume him as an assistant.” JOHNSON, “ He, the little black dog! I'd throw him into the Thames.” The scheme, how. ever, was dropped.

In one of his little memorandum-books were the following hints for his intended Review, or Literary Journal; The Annals of Literature, foreign as well as domestic. Imitate Le Clerc-Bayle-Barbeyrac; Infelicity of Journals in England; works of the learned : we cannot take in all. Sometimes copy from foreign journalists-always tell."

Having written a preface to Rolt's Dictionary of Trade and Commerce, in which he displays such a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the subject, as might lead the reader to think that its author had devoted all his life to it-Boswell asked him whether he knew much of Rolt, and of his work. “ Sir," said he, “I never saw the man, and never read the book. The booksellers wanted a preface to a Dictionary of Trade and Commerce; I knew very well what such a dictionary should be, and I wrote a preface accordingly.”

A pension of two hundred pounds a year having been given to Sheridan, Jobpson, who thought slightingly of Sheridan's art, upon hearing it, exclaimed, What! have they given him a pension ? Then it is time for me to give up mine." Whether this proceeded from a momentary indignation, as if it were an affront to his exalted merit that a player should be rewarded in the same manner with him, or was the sudden effect of a fit of peevishness, it was unluckily said, and indeed cannot be justified. Mr. Sheridan's pension was granted to him, not as a player, but as a sufferer in the cause of government, when he was manager of the Theatre Royal in Ireland, when parties ran high in 1753: and it must also be allowed that he was a man of literature, and had considerably improved the arts of reading and speaking with distinctness and propriety.

Johnson afterwards complained, that a man who disliked him, repeated his sarcasm to Mr. Sheridan, without telling him what followed, which was, that after a pause, he added, “ However, I am glad that he has a pension, for he is a very good man."

Mrs. Sheridan's novel, entitled, Memoirs of Miss

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