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sincerity. Pay my respects to dear Mrs. Boswell, and teach the young ones to love me.”
I unfortunately was so much indisposed during a considerable part of the year, that it was not, or at least I thought it was not, in my power to write to my illustrious friend as formerly, or without expressing such complaints as offended him. Having conjured him not to do me the injustice of charging me with affectation, I was with much regret long filent. His last letter to me then came, and affected me very tenderly:
TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. « DEAR SIR,
“ I HAVE this summer sometimes amended and sometimes relapfed, but upon the whole, have lost ground very much. My legs are extremely weak, and my breath very short, and the water is now encreasing upon me. In this uncomfortable state your letters used to relieve; what is the reason that I have them no longer? Are you sick, or are you sullen? Whatever be the reason, if it be less than necessity, drive it away, and of the short life that we have, make the best use for yourself and for your friends. I am sometimes afraid that your omission to write has some real cause, and shall be glad to know that you are not sick, and that nothing ill has befallen dear Mrs. Boswell, or any of your family. I am, Sir, your, &c. « Lichfield, Nov. 3, 1784.
Yet it was not a little painful to me to find, that in a paragraph of this letter, which I have omitted, he still persevered in arraigning me as before, which was strange in him who had so much experience of what I suffered. I however wrote to him two as kind letters as I could; the last of which came too late to be read by him, for his illness encreased more rapidly upon him than I had apprehended; but I had the confolation of being informed that he spoke of me on his death-bed, with affection, and I look forward with humble hope of renewing our friendship in a better world.
I now relieve the readers of this work from any farther personal notice of its authour, who if he should be thought to have obtruded himself too much upon their attention, requests them to consider the peculiar plan of his biographical undertaking.
Soon after Johnson's return to the metropolis, both the asthma and dropfy became more violent and distressful. He had for some time kept a journal in Latin, of the state of his illness, and the remedies which he used, under the
3 It is truly wonderful to consider the extent and constancy of Johnson's literary ardour, not-
“ PHILOSOPHY, HISTORY, and LITERATURE in general.
“ Translation of the History of Herodian.
“ Chaucer, a new edition of him, from manuscripts and old editions, with various readings,
age, and from his to the present: with notes explanatory of customs, &c. and references to Boccace, and other authours from whom he has borrowed, with an account of the liberties he has taken in telling the stories ; his life, and an exact etymological gloffary.
“ Aristotle's Rhetorick, a translation of it into English.
" A Collection of Letters, translated from the modern writers, with some account of the
« Oldham's Poems, with notes historical and critical.
56 Lives of the Philosophers, written with a polite air, in such a manner as may divert as well
“ History of the Heathen Mythology, with an explication of the fables, both allegorical and
“ History of the State of Venice, in a compendious manner.
“ Hierocles upon Pythagoras, translated into English, perhaps with notes. This is done by
“ A book of Letters upon all kinds of subjects.
friend Mr. John Nichols, what perhaps he alone could have done, a list of the authours of the Universal History, mentioning their several shares in that
work. “ Tully's De Naturâ Deorum, a translation of those books. • Benzo's New History of the New World, to be translated, “ Machiavel's History of Florence, to be translated.
“ Hiftory of the Revival of Learning in Europe, containing an account of whatever con. tributed to the restoration of literature ; such as controversies, printing, the destruction of the Greck empire, the encouragement of great men, with the lives of the most eminent patrons and most eminent early professors of all kinds of learning in different countries.
“ A body of Chronology, in verse, with historical notes.
“ A table of the Spectators, Tatlers, and Guardians, distinguished by figures into six degrees of value, with notes giving the reasons of preference or degradation.
“ A Collection of Letters from English authours, with a preface giving some account of the writers; with reasons for selection, and criticism upon styles ; remarks on each letter, if needful.
“ A Collection of Proverbs from various languages. Jan. 653.
“ A Dictionary to the Common Prayer, in imitation of Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible. March-52.
" A Collection of Stories and Examples, like those of Valerius Maximus. Jan. 10–53.
“ Treatise on the Study of Polite Literature, containing the history of learning, directions for editions, commentaries, &c.
“ Maxims, Characters, and Sentiments, after the manner of Bruyère, collected out of ancient authours, particularly the Greek, with Apophthegms.
• Classical Miscellanies, Select Translations from ancient Greek and Latin authours.
Judgement of the learned upon English authours.
• Comparison of Philosophical and Christian Morality, by sentences collected from the
6 Poetry and works of IMAGINATION.
work. It has, according to his direction, been deposited in the British 1784. Museum, and is printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, 1784. Ærat. 75,
Johnson's extraordinary facility of composition, when he shook off his constitutional indolence,
“ While through life's maze he sent a piercing view,
« And all th' expanfe with rich effulgence glows." We shall in vain endeavour to know with exact precision every production of Johnson's pen. He owned to me, that he had written about forty sermons; but as I understood that he had given or sold them to different persons, who were to preach them as their own, he did not consider himself at liberty to acknowledge them. Would those who were thus aided by him, who are still alive, and the friends of those who are dead, fairly inform the world, it would be obligingly gratifying a reasonable curiosity, to which there should, I think, now be no objection. I have lying before me, in his hand-writing, a fragment of twenty quarto leaves, of a translation into English of Salluft, De Bello Catalinario. When it was done I have no notion ; but it seems to have no very superiour merit to mark it as his. Besides those publications, which with all my chronological care I have ascertained in the course of this work, I am satisfied, from internal evidence, to admit also as genuine the following:
“ Considerations on the Case of Dr. Trapp's Sermons,t” published in 1739, in the Gentle. man's Magazine. It is a very ingenious defence of the right of abridging an authour's work, without being held as infringing his property. This is one of the nicest questions in the Law of Literature ; and I cannot help thinking, that the indulgence of abridging is often exceedingly injurious to authours and booksellers, and should in very few cases be permitted.
Dedication for Mrs. Lennox to the Earl of Middlesex, of her “ Female Quixote,” in 1762.t
But, though it has been confidently ascribed to him, I cannot allow that he wrote a Dedication to both Houses of Parliament of a book entitled “ The Evangelical History Harmonized,” He was no croaker; no declaimer against the times. He would not have written, « That we are fallen upon an age in which corruption is not barely universal, is universally confessed:” Nor, , " Rapine preys on the publick without opposition, and perjury betrays it without inquiry." Nor would he, to excite a speedy reformation, have conjured up such phantoms of terrour as
During his sleepless nights he amused himself by translating into Latin verse, froin the Greek, many of the epigrams in the Anthologia. These translations, with some other poems by him in Latin, he gave to his friend Mr. Langton, who, having added a few notes, fold them to the booksellers for a small sum, to be given to some of Johnson's relations, which was accordingly done; and they are printed in the collection of his works.
A very erroneous notion has circulated as to Johnson's deficiency in the knowledge of the Greek language, partly owing to the modesty with which, from knowing how much there was to be learnt, he used to mention his own comparative acquisitions. When Mr. Cumberland * talked to him of the Greek fragments which are so well illustrated in “ The Observer,” and of the Greek dramatists in general, he candidly acknowledged his insufficiency in that particular branch of Greek literature. Yet it may be faid, that though not a great, he was a good Greek scholar. Mr. Burney, who is universally acknowledged by the best judges, to be one of the few men of this age who are very eminent for their skill in that noble language, has affured me, that Johnson could give a Greek word for almost every English one; and that although not sufficiently conversant in the niceties of the language, he upon some occasions discovered, even in these, a considerable degree of critical acumen. Mr. Dalzell, Professor of Greek at Edinburgh, whose skill in it is unquestionable, mentioned to me, in very liberal terms, the impression which was made upon him by Johnson, in a conversation which they had in London concerning that language. As Johnson, therefore, was undoubtedly one of the first Latin scholars in modern times, let us not deny to his fame fome additional splendour from Greek.
these : “ A few years longer, and perhaps all endeavours will be in vain. We may be swallowed by an earthquake ; we may be delivered to our enemies.” This is not Johnsonian.
There are indeed, in this Dedication, several sentences constructed upon the model of those of Johnson. But the imitation of the form, without the spirit of his style, has been so general, that this of itself is not sufficient evidence. Even our news-paper writers aspire to it. In an account of the funeral of Edwin the comedian, in “ The Diary" of Nov. 9, 1790, that son of drollery is thus described : “ A man who had so often cheered the fullenness of vacancy, and fufpended the approaches of forrow."
I have not thought it necessary to specify every copy of verses written by Johnson, it being my intention to publish an authentick edition of all his Poetry, with Notes.
• Mr. Cumberland affures me, that he was always treated with great courtesy by Dr. Johnson, who, in his “ Letters to Mrs. Thrale," Vol. II. p. 68, thus speaks of that learned, ingenious, and accomplished gentleman : “ The want of company is an inconvenience : but Mr. Cumberland is a million." 6