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the Unitarian body, and became forenoon preacher at Newington Green, where the celebrated Dr. Price preached in the afternoon. He stepped forth boldly, but with the respect which was due to Johnson's reputation, to reply to Johnson's political pamphlets, in "A Letter to Samuel Johnson, occasioned by his late political publications." This letter, together with a paragraph in a letter from Temple to Boswell, were laid before Johnson by Boswell himself, who notifies that these two instances of animadversion appeared, from the effects they had on Johnson, evinced by his silence and his looks, to impress him much. "I am willing to do justice," Boswell remarks, “to the merits of Dr. Towers, of whom I will say, that though I abhor his whiggish democratical notions and propensities, I esteem him as an ingenious, knowing, and very convivial man." Boswell's testimony to Towers' social and convivial talents may be more implicitly received than his testimony to Towers' political principles. His "Essay on the Life, Character, and Writings of Dr. Samuel Johnson will, however, reward study. We miss, indeed, the charm of original anecdotes and conversations. Of these Towers has none, except those which he had derived from the recently published sources described in the preceding remarks.


Appointed an executor under the will, Sir John Hawkins now pressed forward to be the biographer of Johnson, and the editor of the first collected edition of his works. He had been appointed, not only the executor of will, but also, as he tells us in his advertisement to his Life, the "guardian of his fame;" and in this capacity of guardian of Johnson's fame, Sir John at once proceeded to prepare the first formal Life, and the first collected edition of his works. He could hardly have completed his arrangements with the trade before some months of 1785 had elapsed; and in little more, therefore, than two years, the eleven octavo volumes containing "The Life and Works appeared in 1787. The four volumes which afterwards appeared as supplements to the "Works" show that not conscientious care, but greedy haste, had been the motive power, alike of the biographer and the publishers, in the


Life, vol. ii., p. 292.



work which they had produced. The Life, indeed, has its merits. In spite of the extraneous matter, which belonged as well to the biography of any of Johnson's contemporaries as to that of Johnson, there is much in Hawkins's Life which has not been superseded. His account of the manner in which the debates in Parliament were drawn up by Guthrie and Johnson for the Gentleman's Magazine," still repays reading; and the same may be said of the accounts of the Ivy Lane Club and its members, and of the more celebrated Turk's Head Club, Gerard Street, Soho, which became the Club. But it is singular how few examples are given of the conversational power of Johnson; a want which confirms and justifies Boswell's assertion that he had never seen Hawkins in Johnson's company, he thinks, but once, and he is sure not above twice.1 Yet, when he wrote his book, the sayings of Johnson were in the minds and on the lips of hundreds; and his 800 pages proved the best foil that could be imagined to the biography soon to appear by him whom, with a native boorishness, he describes as Mr. James Boswell, a native of Scotland."


19 2

Yet that "native of Scotland" had given to the world a volume of the most singularly interesting and fascinating character: "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.," which at once eclipsed all preceding sources of information. By no author, before or since, has Boswell been surpassed in his admirable art of recording conversation. It is one of extreme difficulty. If any one be inclined to question this, let him try, when perchance he meets an eminent man, to record specimens of his conversation, and not merely with accuracy, but with something of the dramatic force and propriety which we invariably find in Boswell's handiwork. The attempt will convince him of the delicacy and difficulty of the task, and that Boswell was a master of the art. The "Journal of a Tour " was first published in the autumn of 1785, just twelve years after the tour itself. During this long period, the manuscript of it had lain in his possession. From time to time, even while they went from place to

2 Life, p. 472.

1 Life, vol. i., p.



place, and from island to island, Johnson had seen and read portions of it as they were successively written. "He came to my room this morning, Sept. 19, before breakfast, to read my Journal, which he has done all along. He often before said, 'I take great delight in reading it.' To-day he said, 'You improve, it grows better and better.' I observed there was a danger of my getting a habit of writing in a slovenly manner. Sir,' said he, 'it is not written in a slovenly manner. It might be printed, were the subject fit for printing.'" The manuscript of the "Tour was occasionally lent. Thus it was lent to Mrs. Thrale. "I am glad," wrote Johnson to that lady, "you read Boswell's Journal: you are now sufficiently informed of the whole transaction, and need not regret that you did not make the tour to the Hebrides." We know that Malone, and we infer that Reynolds had this privilege.


99 1

The success of the "Journal of a Tour" was immediate. Three large editions of it were printed and sold in less than a year, in spite of the malignity and vulgarity with which it was assailed by such satirists as Peter Pindar, and a crowd of nameless scoffers. But Boswell was not to be put down. No man knew better than he what he had intended, and what he had done. It is a ridiculous conception that he was unconscious of his purpose, and that a work such as his arose under his hands like an unhealthy growth on a man's body. In the advertisement prefixed to the third edition, he shows that he is proudly conscious of the work he had already achieved, even in the "Journal of a Tour." "I will venture to predict, that this specimen of the colloquial talents and extemporaneous effusions of my fellow traveller will become still more valuable, when, by the lapse of time, he shall have become an antient : when all those who can now bear testimony to the transcendent powers of his mind shall have passed away; and no other memorial of this great and good man shall remain, but the following Journal and his own admirable works which will be read and admired as long as the English language shall be spoken or understood." This, be it remarked, is not the language of unconsciousness, of

1 Letters to and from Dr. Samuel Johnson, vol. i., p. 284.

a man who succeeded because he was a fool, and not in virtue of admirable literary abilities, exercised for a great and good end.

But the greater work, which had occupied his heart and soul and mind for many a long year, was being actively prepared. On the fly-sheet of the third edition of the

Journal of a Tour" which was the last he edited, there was an announcement full of enduring interest to all lovers of good books. "Preparing for the Press, in one volume, quarto. The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., by James Boswell, Esq." In one quarto volume Boswell had hoped and intended to comprise the work, for which he had been collecting material "for more than twenty years, during which he was honoured with the intimate friendship of Dr. Johnson, to whose memory he is ambitious to erect a literary monument, worthy of so great an author and so excellent a man." We rejoice to think that one quarto did not suffice; two quartos were needed to embody the result of his long labour of love-quartos which have delighted and instructed and cheered the English-speaking race for nearly a century; and which we believe are destined to live for centuries of time yet to come. To the "Life," published by Dilly in 1791, a dedication was, with great propriety, prefixed to Sir Joshua Reynolds, a dedication which shows the fond affection he had for his unfailing friend the President of the Royal Academy, and betrays, though in a very dignified fashion, the wounded feelings of a man who had been misunderstood and misinterpreted in the almost unbounded openness of his communications in "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides."

It is almost needless to note what everyone is familiar with the book was successful; it was eagerly read by all classes from the very first, and it became and remains a favourite book of the English nation. Boswell taught the world what a true biography of a great man should be. Macaulay was right when he said: "Boswell is the first of biographers. He has distanced all his competitors so decidedly that it is not worth while to place them. Eclipse is first, and the rest nowhere." Yet this language, strong as it is, exaggerated as many have thought it, is not more pronounced and emphatic than the words used by Boswell

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in the introduction to the "Life 'I will venture to say that he will be seen in this work more completely than any man who has ever yet lived." There is a noble and just self-confidence in these words. The task of correcting, amending, and adding to his darling work seems to have been the occupation of the remaining years of his life. In 1793 he printed the second edition, in three volumes, octavo; and before it was issued from the press he prefixed

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to the first volume of that edition additions recollected and received after it was printed. While superintending the third edition as it passed through the press Boswell was seized with his fatal illness, which carried him off prematurely at his house in Great Poland Street, in the fiftyfifth year of his age, on the 19th of May, 1795. The greater part, however, if not the whole, of the text of this edition had been revised by Boswell. Malone now appears as editor. He signed the advertisement of this edition, in which also appeared some of the handiwork of James, Boswell's second son. The fourth, the fifth, and the sixth editions were published respectively in 1804, 1807, and 1811, all under the editorship of Malone. The sixth was the last which had the benefit of his care and supervision. He died, May 25, 1812, in the seventy-first year of his age. Of the seventh and eighth editions I know nothing, having never even seen them. I apprehend they were mere reprints of Malone's last edition. The ninth edition was Alexander Chalmers', published in 1822, "by the trade;" but though it bears on the title-page "the ninth edition, revised and augmented," I confess that I have discovered no traces of special revision, and little, indeed, that could claim to be regarded as original augmentations. The tenth edition, edited by F. P. Walesby, of Wadham College, was published at Oxford, in four volumes, octavo, 1826; the handsomest edition, as far as paper and type were concerned, which had yet appeared, and superior in the quality of editing to Mr. Alexander Chalmers'. And, lastly, there appeared, in 1831, the celebrated edition of the Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, in five handsomely printed volumes (Murray, 1831).

Mr. Croker had many of the qualities which fitted him to excel as the editor of such an edition of Boswell's

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