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LETTER 37. TO THE REV. THOMAS WARTON. [London,] March 20. 1755. "DEAR SIR,-After I received my diploma, I wrote you a letter of thanks, with a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, and sent another to Mr. Wise; but have heard from nobody since, and begin to think myself forgotten. It is true, I sent you a double letter, and you may fear an expensive correspondent; but I would have taken it kindly, if you had returned it treble; and what is a double letter to a petty king, that having fellowship and fines, can sleep without a Modus in his head? (1)
"Dear Mr. Warton, let me hear from you, and tell me something, I care not what, so I hear it but from you. Something, I will tell you: I hope to see my Dictionary bound and lettered, next week; - vastá mole superbus. And I have a great mind to come to Oxford at Easter; but you will not invite me. Shall I come uninvited, or stay here where nobody perhaps would miss me if I went? A hard choice! But such is the world to, dear Sir, yours, &c.
1) ["These fellowships are pretty things;
WARTON'S Progress of Discontent.]
(2) The following extract of a letter from Mr. Warton to his brother will show his first sentiments on this great work: "19th April, 1755. The Dictionary is arrived; the preface is noble. There is a grammar prefixed, and the history of the language is pretty full; but you may plainly perceive strokes of laxity and indolence. They are two most unwieldy volumes. I have written him an invitation. I fear his preface will disgust, by the expression of his consciousness of superiority, and of his contempt of patronage. The Rawlinson benefaction it
By this, I suppose, is meant the Anglo-Saxon professorship which was founded in 1750, but did not take effect before 1795.- HALL.
"[London,] March 25. 1755. "DEAR SIR,- Though not to write, when a man can write so well, is an offence sufficiently heinous, yet I shall pass it by. I am very glad that the Vice-Chancellor was pleased with my note. I shall impatiently expect you at London, that we may consider what to do next. I intend in the winter to open a Bibliothèque, and remember, that you are to subscribe a sheet a year: let us try, likewise, if we cannot persuade your brother to subscribe another. My book is now coming in luminis oras. What will be its fate I know not, nor think much, because thinking is to no purpose. It must stand the censure of the great vulgar, and the small; of those that understand it, and that understand it not. But in all this, I suffer not alone; every writer has the same difficulties, and, perhaps, every writer talks of them more than he thinks.
"You will be pleased to make my compliments to all my friends; and be so kind, at every idle hour, as to remember, dear Sir, yours, &c.
Dr. Adams told me, that this scheme of a Bibliothèque was a serious one: for upon his visiting him one day, he found his parlour floor covered with parcels of foreign and English literary journals, and he told Dr. Adams he meant to undertake a Review. "How, sir, (said Dr. Adams,) can you think of
won't do for Johnson, which is this -a professorship of 80l. per annum, which is not to take place these forty years; a fellowship to Hertford College, which is too ample for them to receive agreeably to Newton's statutes; and a fellowship to St. John's College. Neither of the last are to take place these forty years."ε.
doing it alone? All branches of knowledge must be considered in it. Do you know Mathematics? Do you know Natural History?" Johnson answered, “Why, sir, I must do as well as I can. My chief purpose is to give my countrymen a view of what is doing in literature upon the continent; and I shall have, in a good measure, the choice of my subject, for I shall select such books as I best understand." Dr. Adams suggested, that as Dr. Maty had just then finished his Bibliothèque Britannique, which was a well executed work, giving foreigners an account of British publications, he might, with great advantage, assume him as an assistant. "He, (said Johnson) the little black dog! I'd throw him into the Thames." () The scheme, however, was dropped.
In one of his little memorandum-books I find the following hints for his intended Review or Literary Journal; "The Annals of Literature, foreign as well as domestic. Imitate Le Clerc-Bayle-Barbeyrac. Infelicity of Journals in England. Works of the
(1) Matthew Maty, M. D. and F. R. S., was born in Holland in 1718, and educated at Leyden, but he came in 1740 to settle in England. He became secretary to the Royal Society in 1765, and in 1772, principal librarian of the British Museum. Maty being the friend and admirer of Lord Chesterfield, whose works he afterwards published, would, as Dr. Hall observes, particularly at this period, have little recommendation to the good opinion of the lexicographer; but his Journal Britannique is mentioned by Mr. Gibbon in a tone very different from Dr. Johnson's. "This humble though useful labour, which had once been dignified by the genius of Bayle and the learning of Le Clerc, was not disgraced by the taste, the knowledge, and the judgment of Maty. His style is pure and eloquent, and in his virtues or even in his defects he may be reckoned as one of the last disciples of the school of Fontenelle." - Gibbon's Misc. Works. Dr. Maty died in 1776. — C.
learned. We cannot take in all. Sometimes copy from foreign Journalists. Always tell."
TO DR. BIRCH.
"March 29. 1755.
I have sent some parts of my Dictionary, such as were at hand, for your inspection. The favour which I beg is, that if you do not like them, you will say nothing. I am, Sir, your most affectionate humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON."
LETTER 40. TO MR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
"Norfolk-street, April 23. 1755.
"SIR,―The part of your Dictionary which you have favoured me with the sight of, has given me such an idea of the whole, that I mnst sincerely congratulate the public upon the acquisition of a work long wanted, and now executed with an industry, accuracy, and judgment, equal to the importance of the subject. You might, perhaps, have chosen one in which your genius would have appeared to more advantage, but you could not have fixed upon any other in which your labours would have done such substantial service to the present age and to posterity. I am glad that your health has supported the application necessary to the performance of so vast a task; and can undertake to promise you as one (though perhaps the only) reward of it, the approbation and thanks of every well-wisher to the honour of the English language. I am, with the greatest regard, Sir, your most faithful and most affectionate humble servant, "THO. BIRCH."
Mr. Charles Burney, who has since distinguished himself so much in the science of music, and obtained a Doctor's degree from the University of Oxford,
had been driven from the capital by bad health, and was now residing at Lynne Regis in Norfolk. He had been so much delighted with Johnson's Rambler, and the plan of his Dictionary, that when the great work was announced in the news-papers as nearly finished, he wrote to Dr. Johnson, begging to be informed when and in what manner his Dictionary would be published; intreating, if it should be by subscription, or he should have any books at his own disposal, to be favoured with six copies for himself and friends.
In answer to this application, Dr. Johnson wrote the following letter, of which (to use Dr. Burney's own words)" if it be remembered that it was written to an obscure young man, who at this time had not much distinguished himself even in his own profession, but whose name could never have reached the author of THE RAMBLER, the politeness and urbanity may be opposed to some of the stories which have been lately circulated of Dr. Johnson's natural rudeness and ferocity."
LETTER 41. TO MR. BURNEY, IN LYNNE REGIS, NORFOLK.
"Gough Square, Fleet Street, April 8. 1755. "SIR,- If you imagine that by delaying my answer I intended to shew any neglect of the notice with which you have favoured me, you will neither think justly of yourself nor of me. Your civilities were offered with too much elegance not to engage attention; and I have too much pleasure in pleasing men like you, not to feel very sensibly the distinction which you have bestowed upon me.