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deliberate, too close, and too well winnowed, as it were. A few specimens will show, in a sufficiently convincing manner, I think, the nature of the process adopted by Boswell. It consisted of two distinct modes of treatment: viz., the compressing, combining, and giving the essence and 2nd, “touching up” and substituting, and making more forcible, but keeping within the form used by his friend. “Mr. Sheridan, though a man of knowledge and parts, was a little fancifull (sic) in his projects for establishing oratory and altering the mode of British education. Mr. Samuel Johnson said, “Sherry cannot abide me, for I allways (sic) ask him, Pray, sir, what do you propose to do?’” (From Mr. Johnson.) Again: “Boswell was talking to Mr. Samuel Johnson of Mr. Sheridan's enthusiasm for the advancement of eloquence. “Sir," said Mr. Johnson, “it won't do. He cannot carry through his scheme. He is like a man attempting to stride the English Channel. Sir, the cause bears no proportion to the effect. It is setting up a candle at Whitechapel to give light at Westminster.’” In the “Life” it stands: “Sheridan cannot bear me. I bring his declamation to a point. I ask him a plain question: What do you mean to teach P Besides, sir, what influence can Mr. Sheridan have upon the language of this country by his narrow exertions P Sir, it is burning a farthing candle at Dover to show light at Calais.” Now here is dropped out the words “It won't do. He cannot carry through his scheme. He is like a man attempting to stride the English Channel. Sir, the cause bears no proportion to the effect.” It is evident that a process of selection took place. Johnson certainly used the illustration of Westminster and Whitechapel, but the allusion to “the Channel” suggested Calais, and it occurred to Boswell that it might be more forcible to substitute “Calais and Dover.” That some process of this sort took place in Boswell's mind is proved by another illustration. “Johnson had a sovereign contempt for Wilkes and his party, which he looked upon as a mere rabble. “Sir,’ said he, “had Wilkes' mob prevailed against Government, this nation had died of phthiriasis.’ Mr. Langton told me this. The expression morbus pediculosus, as being better known, would strike more. Lousy disease may be put in a parenthesis.” Here Boswell reveals his method. The obscurer Latin word was not likely to tell. The substituted one, and its explanation, he considered,
was in the spirit of what Johnson had said, but made more intelligible to the crowd. This will be shown from yet another instance.
“A dull country magistrate gave Johnson a long tedious account of his exercising his criminal jurisdiction, the result of which was his having sentenced four convicts to transportation. Johnson, in an agony of impatience to get rid of such a companion, exclaimed, 'I heartily wish, sir, I were a fifth.'»
From the “Boswelliana” we learn that the scene was at Windsor, and the hero the mayor, with whom he dined. “But the fellow (said he), not content with feeding my body, thought he must feed my mind too, and so he told me a long story how he had sent three criminals to the plantations. Tired to death with his nonsense, 'I wish' (to God), said Johnson, that I was the fourth.'"--MR. SHERIDAN.
Now this anecdote is useful in many ways as illustrative of what has been said. Boswell made the criminals four, and Johnson the fifth, to give an idea of greater tediousness to the narrative.
Even after the publication of his work he could improve and strengthen a story. Thus: “A foppish physician imagined that Johnson had animadverted on his wearing a fine coat, and mentioned it to him. 'I did not notice you,' was his answer. The physician still insisted. 'Sir,' said Johnson, ‘had you been dipped in Pactolus I should not have noticed you.'” Now the point of Johnson's answer does not offer much comedy effect; and indeed, the supposition that Johnson had “animadverted” on his coat, seems to show that the physician did not deserve such a retort. This is mended in the second edition, possibly because another version was given to Boswell, or because he recalled the true one himself. “A foppish physician once reminded Johnson of his having been in company with him on a former occasion. *I do not remember it, sir.' The physician still insisted, adding, that he that day wore so fine a coat that it must have attracted his notice. “Sir,' said Johnson, 'had you, &c.'” How infinitely superior this version!
Boswell at times, when he has been negligent with his diary, presents a sort of miscellany or collection of “odds and ends” of his great friend's remarks, which he introduces with some such phrase as “I shall here insert some particulars which I collected at various times.” It is curious that many of these were printed before the “Life” was published, notably in Kearsley's little volume, which our author praises. It is remarkable that in this latter collection there are some twenty stories which
Boswell used. Such as the sayings of Lord Bolingbroke not having courage to “let off” his work during his lifetime; of the precedence between a louse and flea ; of Macklin's conversation being a “renovation or hope; ” his proposal to Mrs. Macaulay on equality; the likening Scotch learning to a ship's crew on short allowance; Lord Chesterfield being a wit among lords, &c.; of Ossian being capable of being written by many men, many women, &c.; Sheridan being “dull,” naturally dull; the retort on the fine prospects in Scotland; the king's compliment, “If you had not written so well;” “Who drives fat oxen;” his speech to the lady who was flattering him, “Consider what it is worth; ” the epigrammatic criticism on Lord Chesterfield's letters; his reason for not giving a list of subscriptions: the likening a congé d'élire to throwing a person out of a window and recommending him to fall soft; the declaring that fame was a shuttlecock to be kept up by abuse as well as praise ; of his reply to the gentleman who did not think himself honoured by his conversation; his ridicule of simple ballads at Miss Reynolds's, “As with my hat upon my head;” and finally on his death bed, his declaration of an attendant's activity being that of a turnspit, &c.—all these Mr. Boswell adapted from their often unmeaning shape in Mr. Kearsley's little book, and gave them their present point and effect. To his second thoughts we owe many pleasant touches. Lord Frrol’s “agreeable look” was changed into “manners.” When the account of the battle of Culloden was given to him, he says, “I several times burst into tears,” which later became “I could not refrain from tears.” After declaring that Johnson was courted by “all the great and all the eminent persons of his time,” he altered “great” to “high”— thinking, perhaps, that great and eminent were synonymous. “High and eminent,” however, seemed strange, so he eventually reverted to “great.” “Births are nothing,” he makes Johnson say in reference to notability, but which he changed to “the register of births proves nothing.” He quotes Warton's account of Johnson at Oxford : “I once had been a whole morning sliding [skating] in Christchurch meadow,” &c., the meaning of which is that Boswell had left both words until he could ascertain from Mr. Warton which was correct. It now stands “sliding.” Some of the corrections arise out of Boswell's own eagerness to correct others. As when quoting a letter of Cave's, suggesting to Birch that “your society should buy it,” i.e., “Irene;” “It is strange,” says
Boswell, “that a printer who knew so much as Cave should conceive so ludicrous a fancy as that the Royal Society should purchase a play." In his new edition he writes, “ Dele note, and read as follows :-Not the Royal Society, but the Society for the Encouragement of Learning ;” the “ludicrous fancy,” therefore, being his own. Again, of Rolt :“This was a sufficient specimen of his vanity and impudence. But he gave a more eminent proof of it in our sister kingdom, as Dr. Johnson informed me. When Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination' first came out, he did not put his name to the poem. Rolt went over to Dublin, published an edition of it, and put his own name to it. Upon the fame of this he lived for several months, being entertained at the best tables as 'the ingenious Mr. Rolt.'” Boswell bad originally set down this proceeding as "a literary fraud." But he grew nervous." It has occurred to me,” he says, "that when I mention 'a literary fraud,' by Rolt, I may not be able to authenticate it, as Johnson is dead, and he may have relations who may take it up as an offence, perhaps a libel. In case of doubt, should I not cancel the leaf, and either omit the curious anecdote, or give it as a story which Johnson laughingly told as having circulated ? ”
Accordingly, this was put in the form of a note :
“I have had inquiry made in Ireland as to this story, but do not find it recollected there. I give it on the authority of Dr. Johnson, to which may be added, that of the 'Biographical Dictionary,' and · Biographia Dramatica,' in both of which it has stood many years.”
In one of his early interviews with Johnson he remarks to the sage : “It is very good in you, Mr. Johnson, to allow me to be with you thus.” For some reason, I fancy, because it seemed too obsequious a mode of address, he struck out, “Mr. Johnson.” A woman's preaching was like “a dog walking on his hinder legs,” which now stands "hind legs.” Another note of character is, that our author, after suppressing a name in his first edition, often found courage to give it full in his second, as in the case of “the fashionable Baronet,” to which he appends (second edition) a note, “My friend, Sir Michael Le Fleming." The reason for the compliment was that this gentleman was one of Lord Lowther's members, and Lord Lowther was Boswell's patron.
In spite of many suppressions we can generally trace who was intended. As when Boswell returned from Corsica he mentioned that a “gay friend had advised him not to be a lawyer.” But a page or two further on, after
mentioning Wilkes in a very offensive way, he calls him, “my gay friend.” Wilkes, indeed, he contrives all through to represent in a most unpleasant light, and no better specimen could be furnished of his ingenious art of embroiling people than his reporting Dr. Percy's speech, that about the Lion—that is Johnson—and the goats, meaning Wilkes, lying down together. He contrived, too, without intending it, to further depreciate his “gay friend,” by awkwardly introducing him as “a Mr. Wilkes,” a note being supplied in the “Corrections,” dele “a.” How careful his revision was will be seen by other specimens. Johnson had taken leave of him, saying, “Get you gone, in a curious mode of inviting him to stay.” It now stands “Get you gone in.” A droll mistake is his describing Johnson as “pronouncing a triumphant apotheosis on Pope,” which he fitly altered to “eulogium.” Talking with Johnson and old General Oglethorpe, the former said, “Pray, General, give us an account of the siege of Bender,” which properly is corrected to “Belgrade.” It seems curious what should have put Bender into Boswell's head. But a few evenings before he had told Johnson he intended to write a history of Sweden, and he had not yet “emptied his head" of Charles XII. and the siege of Bender. It is incredible with what bad taste Boswell introduced the names of ladies of high rank of his acquaintance, and the instances of their good nature to him, which he seems to hint were due to his own irresistible attractions. One of these was Lady Diana Beauclerk—the divorced Lady Bolingbroke and wife of his friend. He tells the public that “he had a playful Bett with her,” and then introduces his venerable friend discoursing on her in a way that none of her friends could mistake for a moment :—“While we were alone, I endeavoured, as well as I could, to apologise for a lady who had been divorced from her husband by Act of Parliament. I said that he had used her very ill, and that the gentleman on whose account she was divorced had gained her heart while thus unhappily situated. Seduced, perhaps, by the charms of the lady in question, I thus attempted to palliate what I was sensible could not be justified : for when I had finished my harangue, my venerable friend gave me a proper check —‘My dear sir, never accustom your mind to mingle virtue and vice. The woman's a and there's an end on't.’” Boswell prints the offensive word in full. Beauclerk was dead when this appeared. Boswell appears, however,