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The narrative of Mr Boswell is written with
more comprehension of mind, accuracy of intelligence, clearness of narration, and elegance of language; and is more strongly marked by the amiable features of affectionate remembrance. He was peculiarly fitted for the task of recording the sayings and actions of his illustrious friend, by his assiduous attention, and habitual reverence. From the commencement of his acquaintance with him, he had the scheme of writing his life constantly in view; and continued his collections, with persevering diligence, for upwards of twenty years, He gave a specimen of his being able to pre. serve his conversation, in a characteristic and lively manner, in his “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides." His veneration and esteem for his friend induced him, at a subsequent period, to go through the laborious task of digesting and arranging the immense mass of materials, which his own diligence and the kindness of others had furnished him, and of forming the history of his life; which was received by the world with most extraordinary avidity.
Xenophon's Memorabilia of Socrates may possibly have suggested to Mr Boswell the idea of preserving and giving to the world the Memorabilia of his venerable friend; but he professes to have followed the model of Mason in his “ Memoirs of Gray.” He has, however, the advantage of Mason, in the quantity, variety, and richness of his materials. To compare
his collections with the most esteemed of that class of compilements known by the name of “ Books in And,” would not be doing justice to them. The incidental conversations between so eminent an instructor of mankind and his friends, the numerous body of anecdotes, literary and biographical, and the letters which are occasionally interspersed, and naturally introduced in the narrative part of his ample collections, open and disclose to the eager curiosity of rational and laudable inquiry, an immense storehouse of mental treasure, which far exceeds, in merit and value,
the voluminous collections of the wise and witty sayings of the learned and ingenious men of other nations. With some venial exceptions on the score of vanity, the exaggeration of panegyric, and the minute tittle-tattle of anecdote *, and some inexcusable exceptions on the score of malignity, the misrepresentation of private character, and the violation of the confidence of society, his work exhibits the most copious, interesting, and finished picture of the life and opinions of a wise and learned man that was ever consecrated by the zeal of friendship to posthumous reputation.
The eccentricities of Mr Boswell have been the subject of ridicule in various different forms and publications, by men of superficial understanding and ludicrous fancy. His failings it is useless to detail ; he is now beyond the reach
* It is surely an exception more than venial to violate one of the first and most sacred laws of society, by publishing private and unguarded conversation of unsuspecting company into which he was accidentally admitted. BISHOP Percy.
of praise or censure*. Many have supposed
* He died at London, May 19. 1795, in the 55th year of his age. He had many failings, and many virtues, and many amiable qualities, which predominated over the frailties incident to human nature.
possession of the public, is not the principal object of attention.
Without the advantage of personal knowledge, the present writer has not the presumption to suppose himself qualified to improve, by a few after-strokes of a casual hand, the most perfect portrait of an eminent man that ancient or modern times have beheld ; nor the temerity to court a comparison with his predecessors, in their exclusive pretensions to copiousness of intelligence, and variety of illustration. He has no secret anecdotes to bring to light, no private opinions to communicate, no remarkable sayings to record, and no new facts to embellish his narrative. Every thing to which the fame of this great writer could give importance has been gleaned with a minuteness of research, that leaves nothing to be supplied. Every thing that is known concerning his private character, and the particularities of his conduct, have been published without distinction. Nothing is left the present biographer, but to make a just estimate of the collections in the hands of the public, to form a right idea of what should