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Dodsley is gone to visit the Dutch. The Dictionary sells well. The rest of the world goes on as it did. Dear Sir, your most affectionate, &c.




"[London,] June 24. 1755. "DEAR SIR,-To talk of coming to you, and not yet to come, has an air of trifling which I would not willingly have among you; and which, I believe, you will not willingly impute to me, when I have told you, that since my promise, two of our partners (1) are dead, and that I was solicited to suspend my excursion till we could recover from our confusion.

"I have not laid aside my purpose; for every day makes me more impatient of staying from you. But death, you know, hears not supplications, nor pays any regard to the convenience of mortals. I hope now to see you next week; but next week is but another name for to-morrow, which has been noted for promising and deceiving. I am, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."




[London,] Aug. 7. 1755. "DEAR SIR,-I told you that among the manuscripts are some things of Sir Thomas More. I beg you to pass an hour in looking on them, and procure a transcript of the ten or twenty first lines of each, to be compared with what I have; that I may know whether they are yet published. The manuscripts are these:

"Catalogue of Bodl. MS. p. 122. f. 3. Sir Thomas More. 1. Fall of angels. 2. Creation and fall of

(1) Booksellers concerned in his Dictionary.- Warton. Mr. Paul Knapton died on the 12th, and Mr. Thomas Longman on the 18th June, 1755.-C.

mankind. 3. Determination of the Trinity for the rescue of mankind. 4. Five lectures of our Saviour's passion. 5. Of the institution of the sacrament, three lectures. 6. How to receive the blessed body of our Lord sacramentally. 7. Neomenia, the new moon. 8. De tristitia, tædio, pavore, et oratione Christi ante captionem ejus.

"Catalogue, p. 154. Life of Sir Thomas More. Qu. Whether Roper's? P. 363. De resignatione Magni Sigilli in manus Regis per D. Thomam Morum. Pag. 364. Mori Defensio Moriæ.

"If you procure the young gentleman in the library to write out what you think fit to be written, I will send to Mr. Prince the bookseller to pay him what you shall think proper. Be pleased to make my compliments to Mr. Wise, and all my friends. I am, Sir, your affectionate, &c.


The Dictionary, with a Grammar and History of the English Language, being now at length published, in two volumes folio, the world contemplated with wonder so stupendous a work achieved by one man, while other countries had thought such undertakings fit only for whole academies. Vast as his powers were, I cannot but think that his imagination deceived him, when he supposed that by constant application he might have performed the task in three years. Let the Preface be attentively perused, in which is given, in a clear, strong, and glowing style, a comprehensive, yet particular view of what he had done; and it will be evident, that the time he employed upon it was comparatively short. I am unwilling to swell my book with long quotations from what is in every body's hands, and I believe

there are few prose compositions in the English language that are read with more delight, or are impressed upon the memory, than that preliminary discourse. One of its excellencies has always struck me with peculiar admiration ; I mean the perspicuity with which he has expressed abstract scientific notions. As an instance of this, I shall quote the following sentence: "When the radical idea branches out into parallel ramifications, how can a consecutive series be formed of senses in their own nature collateral?" We have here an example of what has been often said, and I believe with justice, that there is for every thought a certain nice adaptation of words which none other could equal, and which, when a man has been so fortunate as to hit, he has attained, in that particular case, the perfection of language.

The extensive reading which was absolutely necessary for the accumulation of authorities, and which alone may account for Johnson's retentive mind being enriched with a very large and various store of knowledge and imagery, must have occupied several years. The Preface furnishes an eminent instance of a double talent, of which Johnson was fully conscious. Sir Joshua Reynolds heard him say, "There are two things which I am confident I can do very well: one is an introduction to any literary work, stating what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most perfect manner; the other is a conclusion, shewing from various causes why the execution has not been equal to

what the author promised to himself and to the public."

How should puny scribblers be abashed and disappointed, when they find him displaying a perfect theory of lexicographical excellence, yet at the same time candidly and modestly allowing that he "had not satisfied his own expectations." Here was a fair occasion for the exercise of Johnson's modesty, when he was called upon to compare his own arduous performance, not with those of other individuals, (in which case his inflexible regard to truth would have been violated had he affected diffidence,) but with speculative perfection; as he, who can outstrip all his competitors in the race, may yet be sensible of his deficiency when he runs against time. Well might he say, that "the English Dictionary was written with little assistance of the learned;" for he told me, that the only aid which he received was a paper containing twenty etymologies, sent to him by a person then unknown, who he was afterwards informed was Dr. Pearce, (1) Bishop of Rochester. The etymologies, though they exhibit learning and judgment, are not, I think, entitled to the first praise amongst the various parts of this immense work. The definitions have always appeared to me such astonishing proofs of acuteness of intellect and pre

(1) [Zachary Pearce, born in 1690, was the son of a distiller in High Holborn: he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and became Bishop of Rochester in 1756. He died June 29. 1774. Being asked, a few days before his death, how he could live with so little nourishment, he replied, "I live upon the recollection of an innocent and well-spent life, which is my only support." -NICHOLS, vol. iii. p. 107.

cision of language, as indicate a genius of the highest rank. This it is which marks the superior excellence of Johnson's Dictionary over others equally or even more voluminous, and must have made it a work of nuch greater mental labour than mere Lexicons, or Word-Books, as the Dutch call them. They, who will make the experiment of trying how they can define a few words of whatever nature, will soon be satisfied of the unquestionable justice of this observation, which I can assure my readers is founded upon much study, and upon communication with more minds than my own.

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 [" toward the wind"]; as to which inconsiderable specks it is enough to observe, that his Preface announces that he was aware that there might be many such in so immense a work; nor was he at all disconcerted when an instance was pointed out to him (1). 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." His definition of Network [" any thing reticulated or decussated at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections"] has been often quoted with sportive malignity, as obscuring

(1) He owns in his Preface the deficiency of the technical part of his work; and he said, he should be much obliged to me for definitions of musical terms for his next edition, which he did not live to superintend. — BURNEY.

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