Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


| 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 a 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


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 bonourable monument to his memory.

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 asiduity by which so many conversations were preserved, I myself, at some distance of time, contemplate with wonder y 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



fcrupulous authenticity, has occafioned 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 Mould probably be thought ridiculously oftentatious. Let me only observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that I have sometimes had 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 omifions or mistakes be pointed out with invidious. feverity. 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 obliga every Authour to attend to this, and never to presume to introduce them with—" I think I have read ;"--,-" If I remember right;"when the originals may be:examined.

[ocr errors]

I beg leave to express my warmest thanks to those who bave been pleased to favour me with communications and advice in the conduct of my Work. But I cannot fufficiently 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 manufcript, and made such remarks as were greatly for the advantage of the TVork; though it is but fair to him to mention, that upon many occasions I differed from him, and followed my own judgement. I regret exceed-.

. ingly that I was deprived of the benefit of his revision, when but about one half of the book had passed through the press ;. but after having completed his very kaborious and admirable edition of Shakspeare, for

which he generously would accept of no other reward but that fame which be 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 defred by his friends bere, with all the classical ardour of Sic te Diva potens Cypri; for there is no man in whom more elegant and worthy qualities are united; and whose fociety 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, amids his variety of genius and learning, was an excellent Biographer. His contributions to

my Collection are highly estimable; and as he had a true relish of my Tour to the Hebrides,” I trust I should now have been gratified with a larger Mare of his kind approbation. Dr. Adams, eminent as the Head of a Collere, as a writer, and as a most amiable man, had known Johnson from his early years, and was his friend through 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 3


[ocr errors]

company, and of the party 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 through 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.”


[ocr errors]

Such a fanction to my faculty of giving a just representation of Dr. Johnson I could not conceal. Nor will I suppress my fatisfaction in the consciousness, that by recording so considerable a portion of the wisdom and wit of “the brightest ornament of the eighteenth century *,I have largely provided for the instruction and entertainment of mankind.

London, April 20, 1791.

* See Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare.



« PreviousContinue »