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AT last deliver to the world a Work which I have long promised, and of which, I am afraid, too high expectations have been raised. The delay of its publication must be imputed, in å considerable degree, to the extraordinary zeal which has been shewn by distinguished persons in all
quarters to supply me with additional information concerning its illustrious subject; resembling in this the grateful tribes of ancient nations, of which every individual was eager to throw a stone upon the grave of a departed Hero, and thus to share in the pious office of erecting an honour.
, able monument to his
The labour and anxious attention with which I have collected and arranged the materials of which these volumes are composed, will hardly be
conceived by those who read them with careless facility. The stretch of mind and prompt assiduity by which so many conversations were preserved, I myself, at some distance of time, contemplate with wonder; and I must be allowed to suggest, that the nature of the work, in other respects, as it consists of innumerable detached particulars, all which, even the most minute, I have spared no pains to ascertain with a scrupulous authenticity, has occasioned a degree of trouble far beyond that of any other species of composition. Were I to detail the books which I have consulted, and the inquiries which I have found it' necessary to make' by various channels, I should probably be thought ridiculously ostentatious.
Let me only observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that I have sometimes been obliged to run half over London, in order to fix a date correctly; which, when I had accomplished, I well knew would obtain me no praise, though a failure would have been to my discredit. And after all, perhaps, hard as it may be, I shall not be surprized if omissions or mistakes be pointed out with invidious severity, I have also been extremely careful as to the exactness of my quotations ; holding that there is a respect due to the publick which should oblige every Authour to attend to this, and never to presume to introduce them with," I think I
have read ;”-or," If I rensember right;"> —when the originals may be examined.
I beg leave to express my warmest thanks to those who have been pleased to favour me with communications and advice in the conduct of my Work. But I cannot sufficiently acknowledge my obligations to my friend Mr. Malone, who was so good as to allow me to read to him almost the whole of my manuscript, and make such remarks as were greatly for the advantage of the Work; though it is but fair to him to mention, that upon many occasions I differed from him, and followed miy own judgement. I regret exceedingly that I was deprived of the benefit of his revision, when not more than one half of the book had passed through the press ; but after having completed his very laborious and admirable edition of Shakspeare, for which he generously would accept of no other reward but that fame which he has so deservedly obtained, he fulfilled his promise of a long-wished-for visit to his relations in Ireland; from whence his safe 'return finibus Atticis is. desired by his friends here, with all the classical ardour of Sic te Diva potens Cypri ; for there is no man in whom more elegant and worthy quan lities are united; and whose society, therefore, is more valued by those who know him.
It is painful to me to think, that while I was carrying on this work, several of those to whom it would have been most interesting have died. Such melancholy disappointments we know to be incident to humanity ; but we do not feel them the less. Let me particularly lament the Reverend Thomas Warton, and the Reverend Dr. Adams. Mr. Warton, amidst his variety of genius and learning, was an excellent Biographer. His contributions to my Collection are bighly estimable ; and as he had a true relish
“ Tour to the Hebrides," I trust I should now have been gratified with a larger share of his kind approbation. Dr. Adams, eminent as the Head of a College, as a writer, and as a most amiable man, had known Johnson from his early years, and was his friend throug life. What reason I had to bope for the countenance of that venerable Gentleman to this Work, will appear from what he wrote to me upon a former occasion from Oxford, November 17,
1785:-—" Dear Sir, I hazard this letter, not knowing where it will find you, to thank you for
your very agreeable Tour,' which I found here on my return from the country, and in which
you have depicted our friend so perfectly to my fancy, in every attitude, every 'scene and situation, that I have thought myself in the
company, and of the
almost throughout. It has given very general satisfaction; and those who have found most fault with a passage here and there, have agreed that they could not help going through, and being entertained with the whole. I wish, indeed, some few gross expressions had been softened, and a few of our hero's foibles had been a little more shaded; but it is useful to see the weaknesses incident to great minds; and you have given us Dr. Johnson's authority that in history all ought to be told.”
Such a sanction to my faculty of giving a just representation of Dr. Johnson I could not conceal. Nor will I suppress my satisfaction in the consciousness, that by recording so considerable a portion of the wisdom and wit of brightest ornament of the eighteenth century,"* I bave largely provided for the instruction and entertainment of mankind.
London, April 20, 1791.
* See Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare.