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OSWELL'S "Life of Johnson" is one of the world's masterpieces of biography, but it is of such for
midable length that innumerable people who are capable of taking great delight in it never read it at all, and though there are things in it which are known to everybody who has ever read anything, the work as a whole is apt to be looked upon as one of the preserves of men of letters.
I hope that this abridgement may do something to dissipate that idea. There are few books of a past age so easy to read as the greater part of this one, and the arrangement I have made of the text has been designed for the benefit of the uncritical reader.
My main object has been to present Boswell's story in such a way that it will tell itself, and those who want fuller information about the people and places and occurrences mentioned in it are already ripe for a full edition, which is easy enough to come by.) i have reduced footnotes to a minimum, and those I have left in are Boswell's own; but I have added an appendix of biographical notes for convenience of reference. The few explanatory or connecting words or passages I have inserted in the text are enclosed in square brackets.
Boswell, as a young man of twenty-three, first met his hero in the flesh when he was in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and at the height of his fame, with the great Dictionary published eight years before, and his pension recently conferred upon him. About four-fifths of the book are taken up with the last twenty-one years of Dr. Johnson's life, and I have put what I have taken from the record of previous years into an introductory chapter. For it is Boswell's Johnson that I wish to present, in which Boswell is almost as important as Johnson. The great man is seen through the eyes of the little man, if you are to accept the usual opinion of Boswell; but the little man had at least a wonderful vision, and as his record of the whole of Johnson's life is more than that of any other writer, so his personal reminiscences are more than what he has collected. Dr. Johnson is there as the great figure, but it is only with Boswell's curious eyes that we can see all round him.
The most anxious part of my pleasant task has been, while cutting away of necessity about six-sevenths of what Boswell has given us, to preserve the proportions of his portrait. I have not been content with making a collection of the most amusing things out of Boswell that I Could get within the limits set to this volume, and I have not thought it necessary to record even in outline mere facts in Dr. Johnson's life, and especially in his literary life, important as some of them may have been. It is Boswell's chief triumph that he has portrayed a great human figure, and it has been my endeavour to follow him in the lights and shades that have made it so real, and so lovable.
AT THE THRALES'
A VISIT TO BATH
DR. JOHNSON MEETS WILKES
DR. JOHNSON INTERCEDES FOR DR. DODD
AT DR. TAYLOR'S
A DRIVE TO DERBY
THE JOHNSONIAN GARDEN
CHAPTER X: A. D. 1781. Ætat. 72
DEATH OF MR. THRALE
CONVERSATION WITHOUT REFRESHMENT
A HAPPY DAY
ANOTHER MEETING WITH WILKES
THE ADVANTAGES OF WEALTH