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that he could be the dupe of such an artifice. His expression to me concerning Lord Chesterfield, upon this occasion, was, “Sir, after making great professions, he had, for many years, taken no notice of me; but when my Dictionary was coming out, he fell a scribbling in The World about it. Upon which, I wrote him a letter expressed in civil terms, but such as might show him that I did not mind what he said or wrote, and that I had done with him."
This is that celebrated letter of which so much has been said, and about which curiosity has been so long excited, without being gratified. I for many years solicited Johnson to favor me with a copy of it, that so excellent a composition might not be lost to posterity. He delayed from time to time to give it to me; till at last in 1781, when we were on a visit at Mr. Dilly's, at Southill, in Bedfordshire, he was pleased to dictate it to me from memory: "TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE, THE EARL OF CHES
“February 7, 1755. “MY LORD: I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your Lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honor, which, being very little accustomed to favors from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
“When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your Lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre.
“Seven years, my Lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favor. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.
“The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.
"Is not a patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labors, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity, not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.
“Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favorer of learning, I shall not be disappointed, though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,
“While this was the talk of the town, (says Dr. Adams, in a letter to me) I happened to visit Dr. Warburton, who finding that I was acquainted with Johnson, desired me earnestly to carry his compliments to him, and to tell him, that he honored him for his manly behavior in rejecting these condescensions of Lord Chesterfield, and for resenting the treatment he had received from him with a proper spirit. Johnson was visibly pleased with this compliment, for he had always a high opinion of Warburton. Indeed, the force of mind which appeared in this letter, was congenial with that which Warburton himself amply possessed.
Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggested, that his not being admitted when he called on him, was probably not to be imputed to Lord Chesterfield; for his Lordship had declared to Dodsley, that “he would have turned off the best servant he ever had, if he had known that he denied him to a man who would have been always more than welcome”; and in confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's general affability and easiness of access, especially to literary men. “Sir, (said Johnson) that is not Lord Chesterfield; he is the proudest man this day existing." "No, said Dr. Adams) there is one person, at least, as proud; I think, by your own account, you are the prouder man of the two.” “But mine (replied Johnson instantly) was defensive pride." This, as Dr. Adams well observed, was one of those happy turns for which he was so remarkably ready.
The degree of Master of Arts, which could not be obtained for him at an early period of his life, was now considered as an honor of considerable impor
tance, in order to grace the title-page of his Dictionary; and his character in the literary world being by this time deservedly high, his friends thought that, if proper exertions were made, the University of Oxford would pay him the compliment. In 1755 we behold him to great advantage; his degree of Master of Arts conferred upon him, his Dictionary published, his correspondence animated, his benevolence exercised.
A few of his definitions must be admitted to be erroneous. Thus, Windward and Leeward, though directly of opposite meaning, are defined identically the same way. A lady once asked him how he came to define Pastern the knee of a horse; instead of making an elaborate defence, as she expected, he at once answered, “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance. IIis definition of Network has been often quoted with sportive malignity, as obscuring a thing in itself very plain. His introducing his own opinions, and even prejudices, under general definitions of words, while at the same time the original meaning of the words is not explained, as his Tory, Whig, Pension, Oats, Ercise, and a few more, cannot be fully defended, and must be placed to the account of capricious and humorous indulgence. Thus: “Grub-street the name of a street in London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called Grubstreet.”_"Lexicographer, a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.”
In 1756 Johnson found that the great fame of his Dictionary had not set him above the necessity of "making provision for the day that was passing over him." No royal or noble patron extended a munifi
cent hand to give independence to the man who had conferred stability on the language of his country. We may feel indignant that there should have been such unworthy neglect; but we must, at the same time, congratulate ourselves, when we consider, that to this very neglect, operating to rouse the natural indolence of his constitution, we owe many valuable productions, which otherwise, perhaps, might never have appeared.
He had spent, during the progress of the work, the money for which he had contracted to write his Dictionary. We have seen that the reward of his labor was only fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds; and when the expense of amanuenses and paper, and other articles, are deducted, his clear profit was very inconsiderable. I once said to him, “I am sorry, Sir, you did not get more for your Dictionary.' His answer was, “I am sorry, too. But it was very well. The booksellers are generous, liberal-minded men. He, upon all occasions, did ample justice to their character in this respect. He considered them as the patrons of literature; and, indeed, although they have eventually been considerable gainers by his Dictionary, it is to them that we owe its having been undertaken and carried through at the risk of great expense, for they were not absolutely sure of being indemnified.
He this year resumed his scheme of giving an edition of Shakspeare with notes. He issued proposals of considerable length, in which he showed that he perfectly well knew what variety of research such an undertaking required; but his indolence prevented him from pursuing it with that diligence which alone can collect those scattered facts, that genius, however