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come. Toleration, adoption, and naturalisation have run their lengths. Good order and authority are now necessary. But where shall we find them, and, at the same time, the obedience due to them? We must have recourse to the old Roman expedient in times of confusion, and choose a dictator. Upon this principle, I give my vote for Mr. Johnson to fill that great and arduous post. And I hereby declare, that I make a total surrender of all my rights and privileges in the English language, as a free-born British subject, to the said Mr. Johnson, during the term of his dictatorship. Nay, more; I will not only obey him like an old Roman, as my dictator, but, like a modern Roman, I will implicitly believe in him as my Pope, and hold him to be infallible while in the chair, but no longer. More than this he cannot well require; for, I presume that obedience can never be expected, when there is neither terror to enforce, nor interest to invite it.".
"But a Grammar, a Dictionary, and a History of our language through its several stages, were still wanting at home, and importunately called for from abroad. Mr. Johnson's labours will now, I dare say. very fully supply that want, and greatly contribute to the farther spreading of our language in other countries. Learners were discouraged, by finding no standard to resort to; and, consequently, thought it incapable of any. They will now be undeceived and encouraged."
This courtly device failed of its effect. Johnson, who thought that "all was false and hollow," despised the honeyed words, and was even indignant that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine 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 favour 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 me ('); till at last, in 1781, when we were on a visit at Mr. Dilly's, at Southhill in Bedfordshire, he was pleased to dictate it to me from memory. He afterwards found among his papers a copy of it, which he had dictated to Mr. Baretti, with its title and corrections, in his own hand-writing. This he gave to Mr. Langton; adding, that if it were to come into print, he wished it to be from that copy. By Mr. Langton's kindness, I am enabled to enrich my work with a perfect transcript of what the world has so eagerly desired to see.
(1) Dr. Johnson appeared to have had a remarkable delicacy with respect to the circulation of this letter; for Dr. Douglas, bishop of Salisbury, informs me, that having many years ago pressed him to be allowed to read it to the second Lord Hardwicke, who was very desirous to hear it (promising at the same time that no copy of it should be taken), Johnson seemed much pleased that it had attracted the attention of a nobleman of such à respectable character; but after pausing some time, declined to comply with the request, saying, with a smile, "No, Sir; I have hurt the dog too much already;" or words to that purpose. BOSWELL.
LETTER 25. TO THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD.
"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 honour, which, being very little accustomed to favours 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; that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. (1) When I had once addressed your lordship
(1) Johnson's personal manners and habits, even at a later and more polished period of his life, would probably not have been much to Lord Chesterfield's taste; but it must be remembered, that Johnson's introduction to Lord Chesterfield did not take place till his lordship was past fifty, and he was soon after attacked by a disease which estranged him from society. The neglect lasted, it is charged, from 1748 to 1755: his private letters to his most intimate friends will prove that during that period Lord Chesterfield may be excused for not cultivating Johnson's society: -e. g. 20th Jan. 1749. " My old disorder in my head hindered me from acknowledging your former letters." 30th June, 1752. "I am here in my hermitage, very deaf, and consequently alone; but I am less dejected than most people in my situation would be." 10th Oct. 1753. "I belong no more to social life." 16th Nov. 1753. "I know my place and form my plan accordingly, for I strike society out of it." 10th July, 1755. "My deafness is extremely increased, and daily increasing, and cuts me wholly off from the society of others, and my other complaints deny me the society of myself," &c. &c. Johnson, perhaps, knew nothing of all this, and imagined that Lord Chesterfield declined his acquaintance on some opinion derogatory to his personal pretensions. Mr. Tyers, however, suggests a more
in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
"Seven years, my lord, have now past, 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 (1), one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.
precise and probable ground for Johnson's animosity than Boswell gives, by hinting that Johnson_expected some pecuniary assistance from Lord Chesterfield. He says, "It does not appear that Lord Chesterfield showed any substantial proofs of approbation to our philologer. A small present Johnson would have disdained, and he was not of a temper to put up with the affront of a disappointment. He revenged himself in a letter to his lordship written with great acrimony. Lord Chesterfield indeed commends and recommends Mr. Johnson's Dictionary in two or three numbers of The World:' but not words alone please him."- Biog. Sketch, p. 7.-C.
(1) The following note is subjoined by Mr. Langton:-" Dr. Johnson, when he gave me this copy of his letter, desired that I would annex to it his information to me, that whereas it is said in the letter that no assistance has been received,' he did once receive from Lord Chesterfield the sum of ten pounds; but as that was so inconsiderable a sum, he thought the mention of it could not properly find a place in a letter of the kind that this was. B.
This surely is an unsatisfactory excuse; for the sum, though now so inconsiderable, was one which, many years before, Johnson tells us, that Paul Whitehead, then a fashionable poet, received for a new work: it was as much as Johnson himself had received for the copyright of his best poetical production; and when Dr. Madden, some years after, gave him the same sum for revising a work of his, Johnson said that the Doctor "was very generous; for ten guineas was to me, at that time, a great sum (see post, 1756). When Johnson alleged against Lord Chesterfield such a trifle as the waiting in his anteroom, he ought not to have omitted a pecuniary obligation, however inconsiderable. C.
"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 labours, 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(1); 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 favourer 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.
"Your lordship's most humble, most obedient servant, "SAM. JOHNSON." (2)
(1) In this passage Dr. Johnson evidently alludes to the loss of his wife. We find the same tender recollection recurring to his mind upon innumerable occasions; and, perhaps no man ever more forcibly felt the truth of the sentiment so elegantly expressed by my friend Mr. Malone, in his prologue to Mr. Jephson's tragedy of " Julia: ".
"Vain-wealth, and fame, and fortune's fostering care,
If no fond breast the splendid blessings share;
And, each day's bustling pageantry once past,
(2) Upon comparing this copy with that which Dr. Johnson dictated to me from recollection, the variations are found to be so slight, that this must be added to the many other proofs which he gave of the wonderful extent and accuracy of his memory. To gratify the curious in composition, I have deposited both the copies in the British Museum. B.