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which his character and his manners became immutably fixed. We know him, not as he was known to the men of his own generation, but as he was known to men whose father he might have been.”
Of how many men can we say that every scrap of all that relates to their lives is worthy of preservation ? Yet this is so with Johnson, and no one surely, not even Napoleon, was ever put to such a searching ordeal as was Johnson by Boswell in the life of his old friend. Boswell possessed no special opportunities for his task; indeed, circumstances were almost entirely against him. A resident in Edinburgh, and bound to his native country by strong family ties and his profession as an advocate, this man who had "such a gust for London was only able to visit the metropolis in vacation. Croker states that during his friendship with Johnson, Boswell made but a dozen visits to England, and met Johnson only one hundred and eighty times, exclusive of the Scottish tour, when they were together from the 18th August to 22nd November, 1773, in the whole about two hundred and seventy-six days.
JAMES BOSWELL 1 was born at Edinburgh on October 18, 1740, the eldest son of Lord Auchinleck (pronounced Affleck), a judge in the Court of Session, and was educated at the High School, Edinburgh, and the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. As a boy he kept a journal and wrote poems and prologues. In 1760 he visited London and Newmarket, and mixed freely with the gamesters and rakes of the town. During his second visit to London in 1763, " on Monday, the 16th of May," as he carefully records it, he gained the much-desired introduction to Samuel Johnson, the author of the Rambler, the Great Dictionary of the English Language, and the happy recipient of a Government pension. The incident is admirably described in the Life of Johnson," Boswell at the time was twenty-three, and Johnson fifty-four. Boswell's Scottish birth was not a recommendation in his favour, Johnson's prejudice against that race being notorious. Johnson, however, very kindly " took up" the young man, who spent as much of his time as possible in the company of the Sage, although he had, on his first meeting, been promptly snubbed. Some one asked, "Who is this Scotch cur at Johnson's heels ? " He is not a cur," replied Goldsmith, "he is only a bur. Tom Davies flung him at Johnson in sport, and he has the faculty of sticking." A month after his first meeting with Johnson, Boswell went to Utrecht with the ostensible purpose of studying law, but his real object was to make a tour of Europe in search of amusement and celebrities. He remained abroad about three years, and while absent he managed to see Voltaire and Rousseau, John Wilkes, and Pascal Paoli, the Corsican Patriot. Shortly after his return to England he was admitted Advocate, and two years later his "Tour in Corsica appeared with much success. In 1769 he married his cousin, Margaret Boswell—a sensible woman, but she did not share her husband's admiration for the great lexicographer. Johnson's rough habits distressed her; housewives less prim than Mrs. Boswell might even now object to his parlour trick of turning lighted candles upside down to make them burn better. Her husband's idolatry provoked the caustic remark that she had seen a man leading a bear, but had never before observed a bear leading a man. Lord Auchinleck henceforth allowed his son £300 a year, but the frequency with which he was called upon to fill the paternal office of paying his debts, strained the little sympathy that remained between father and son. It was not until 1773, after he had known Johnson ten years, that Boswell was 1 There is a detailed "Life of Boswell," by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald (2 vols., 8vo, 1891). Vol. I (7151W) B
admitted to the privileges of the famous Literary Club, and later in that year he induced Johnson to accompany him on a tour through the Hebrides, which lasted ninety-four days. Johnson enjoyed the journey, and he spoke highly of Boswell as a travelling companion in the outcome of his tour, A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland," published January, 1775. For the next few years Boswell managed to pay several visits to London. The year 1776 is remarkable for the famous dinner that took place at the Dillys', when Boswell brought together Johnson and John Wilkes. In 1775 he entered the Inner Temple, but was not called to the English Bar until 1786. By his father's death, which occurred in 1782, Boswell inherited a fortune of £1,600 a year. Johnson's health was severely impaired in 1783 and 1784, and in June of the latter year Boswell attempted to arrange for his friend to winter in Italy by obtaining a grant of money from the Government, but his purpose unhappily failed. His last meeting with Johnson took place on June 30; he did not see him during his last illness, nor was he present at his burial in Westminster Abbey. In 1789 Mrs. Boswell died, and from that time Boswell gave way to habits of intemperance and folly, from which even the engrossing work of preparing his "Life of Johnson " did not rescue him; he died on May 19, 1795. Of the various estimates of Boswell's character, none, unfortunately, is better known than Macaulay's scornful attack. Sir Leslie Stephen, however, has not only done him justice, but given a generous study of this extraordinary man. He points out that, in the " Life of Johnson," Boswell originated a new form of Biography which, although often imitated, has never been equalled, thus proving obviously that Boswell was a man of much higher intellectual capacity than has been generally admitted. Boswell," he says, "though his qualities were too much those of the ordinary 'good fellow,' was not without virtues, and still less without remarkable talents. He was, to all appearance, a man of really generous sympathies, and capable of appreciating proofs of a warm heart and a vigorous understanding. Foolish, vain, and absurd in every way, he was yet a far kindlier and more genuine man than many who laughed at him. His singular gifts as an observer could only escape notice from a careless or inexperienced reader. Boswell has a little of the true Shakspearian secret. He lets his characters show themselves without obtruding unnecessary comment. He never misses the point of a story, though he does not ostentatiously call our attention to it. He gives just what is wanted to indicate character, or to explain the full meaning of a repartee. It is not till we compare his reports with those of less skilful hearers, that we can appreciate the skill with which the essence of a conversation is extracted, and the whole scene indicated by a few telling touches. We are tempted to fancy that we have heard the very thing, and rashly infer that Boswell was simply the mechanical transmitter of the good things uttered. Anyone who will try to put down the pith of a brilliant conversation within the same space, may soon satisfy himself of the absurdity of such an hypothesis, and will learn to appreciate Boswell's powers not only of memory, but artistic representation. Such a feat implies not only admirable quickness of appreciation, but a rare literary faculty. Boswell's accuracy is remarkable; but it is the least part of his merit. Of Boswell's care to tell the truth about his hero, it is related that when Hannah More implored him to tone down some of the roughness in Johnson's character, he said, "I will not make my tiger a cat to please anybody."
THE first edition of Boswell's "Life of Johnson was published in two quarto volumes in an edition of 1,700 copies, on May 16th, 1791. The book had been
preceded by Boswell's “Journal of a Tour in the Hebrides,” and Mrs. Piozzi's "Anecdotes of Johnson," both in 1785, the year following Johnson's death, and Sir John Hawkins's "Life of Johnson," in 1787. Johnson, who was aware of Boswell's intention to write his life, had read the MS. of the "Journal of a Tour in the Hebrides," and had expressed himself as satisfied with Boswell as a chronicler. Boswell was not sparing in expressing his contempt for Mrs. Piozzi's lively book, and Sir John's heavy, but not unreadable biography. His scorn for these two far from worthless, but somewhat inaccurate, works, was no doubt due to jealousy of long standing. The high regard that Johnson had for Mrs. Thrale, and the compliment that he paid to his old friend Hawkins in asking him to become his literary executor must have exasperated if not provoked his jealousy.
Boswell anticipated a great success for his book, and wisely protected his interests by entering at Stationers' Hall as distinct publications, Johnson's famous letter to Lord Chesterfield, and his conversation with George III, thus placing these passages beyond the reach of the book-making pirates of the day. Boswell's hopes were entirely realized the "Life " was completely successful from the first, but its author raised a veritable hornet's nest by the freedom with which he dealt with persons still living. Its publication was signalized by the appearance of a host of lampoons, satirical verses and caricatures: Peter Pindar, a Grub Street satirist, joined forces with Rowlandson in an amusing brochure entitled “ Bozzy and Piozzi." The book, however, was still in a process of crystallization: to the original two volumes quarto published in 1791 a supplementary volume was added in 1794, followed almost immediately by a second edition in three volumes octavo, but in this edition the new material was badly arranged. Boswell was preparing a third edition when he died. Edmund Malone, the author's friend and literary adviser, who had revised the " Tour in the Hebrides and the first edition of the “Life,' then took up the work, and following Boswell's plan published in 1799 a new (and third) edition in four octavo volumes. This edition was a vast improvement on the preceding ones, as it was revised and contained a number of new notes and some additional letters. In the fourth edition, issued in 1804, the book may be said. to have practically assumed the form in which it is now known. Two more editions were issued by Malone, namely, the fifth, published in 1807, just a century ago, and the sixth, revised by the author's son, James Boswell, Jun., published in 1811, a year before Malone's death, from which the present reprint has been made.
In 1831 appeared John Wilson Croker's edition, copiously annotated and expanded by the inclusion of a large number of Johnson's letters, Boswell's " Journal of a Tour in the Hebrides," also anecdotes selected from Mrs. Piozzi's collection, and extracts from the "Life" by Hawkins, and the memoirs of other writers. Boswell's text, moreover, or rather Johnson's talk, was ingenuously refined of any expressions that Croker believed "might offend female delicacy" and the charming irresponsibility of Mrs. Piozzi's style in her memorabilia was brought into line with the rest of Croker's notes. This edition corrected of its blunders and considerably revised long held its own. From Boswell's point of view it is absurd and inadequate enough, and the animadversions of Macaulay and Carlyle are familiar and to the point. Boswell's text is presented immersed knee-deep in a sea of annotation, pompous, wordily expressed, and often superfluous, which threatens to swamp it. It cannot therefore be regarded as a satisfactory presentation of Boswell's work, but considered as a vast and valuable granary of Johnsoniana, amassed and carefully stored in the very nick of time, and just before the disappearance of the last few of those who had been in any way associated with Johnson and his circle, it is of immense use
and importance. No student or editor of Boswell can afford to neglect it. It is unnecessary, and would perhaps be unwise, to attempt to enumerate the various editions of Boswell's masterpiece. More than one illustrated edition has appeared. Croker's second edition; in ten volumes, contained a number of steel plates, and an edition issued by Mr. H. G. Bohn was illustrated with the same pictures and some additional plates. A reprint in the Illustrated National Library also appeared about fifty years ago with a profusion of woodcuts. Among others must be mentioned that of the Rev. Alexander Napier, who issued the work in 1884 in four volumes, together with two containing the "Tour in the Hebrides and Johnsoniana." Dr. Birkbeck Hill's edition, in six volumes, comprising the " Life," the " Tour," and a remarkable index, appeared in 1887, and for its accuracy and exhaustive annotations it must be regarded as one of the best that have yet been published, although the mass of notes is apt to be rather confusing. Other reprints of Boswell's work have been edited by Mr. Augustine Birrell (illustrated), Mr. Mowbray Morris (Globe Edition), Mr. Austin Dobson, and Mr. Percy Fitzgerald.
In this reprint I have given Boswell's text as revised and edited by Malone, and not encumbered I hope with too many or needless notes. I have divided the book into chapters and have added a chronological table of events in Johnson's life. Malone's own notes and those of other early annotators that are printed in his edition, I have thought well to give; there are many from Croker's edition, and I have added some of my own, which are enclosed in brackets with or without my initials. Boswell's notes are those not enclosed in brackets-the rest may be identified as follows:-M., Edmund Malone; B., Dr. Charles Burney; N., John Nicholls; J.B.O., James Boswell, junior; J.B., J. Blakeway; and K., Dr. Michael Kearney. I have, moreover, attempted to supply a pictorial commentary to the text in the hope of assisting the reader to realize as far as possible Johnson's life and the times in which he lived. My aim has been to present a series of portraits of the Doctor and his contemporaries, with views of his haunts and habitations ; and instead of burdening the text with footnotes, I have endeavoured to provide the pictures with any necessary explanation. These illustrations have been collected from a variety of sources; a large number are reproductions of specimens from the fine collection of mezzotint engravings preserved in the print-room at the British Museum. And here I should like to take the opportunity of acknowledging the courtesy of the officials in that department—and more especially that of Mr. Alfred Whitman. Besides engraved portraits and views, I have been so fortunate as to obtain permission to reproduce many original paintings, some of them for the first time. For these privileges it is a pleasure to thank their respective owners, and due acknowledgment will be found in every case beneath the pictures. By an unfortunate oversight the picture of the Pelican Inn at Bath on page 629 was not, as it should have been, credited to Messrs. Meehan & Son, of Bath, the illustration from which it was made having originally appeared in their publication, Famous Houses of Bath.”
Among the painters represented, Johnson's old friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, is easily first. The most industrious painter of his age, he may be said to have held the unofficial post of limner to the Literary Club. But all the most considerable portrait-painters of the day have been pressed into service.
I desire to thank Mr. Thomas Seccombe, Mr. Arthur Reynolds and Mr. Walter de la Mare for many valuable suggestions in connection with the descriptions of the illustrations, and Mr. William Collinge for much kind assistance.
PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION
By the publication of his Life of Johnson Boswell claimed1 to have "Johnsonized the land." His hope, however, that " they will not only talk, but think Johnson has yet to be realized, although his hero may now be regarded as nothing less than a National Institution. Mr. John Bailey discusses Johnson in this light in his little book, Dr. Johnson and his Circle, 2 one of the best introductions within my knowledge to the study of the subject, and by way of comment
he tells the following story
A few years ago a lover of Johnson walking along a London street passed by the side of a cabman's shelter. Two cabmen were getting their dinner ready, and the Johnsonian was amused and pleased to hear one say to the other: 'After all, as Dr. Johnson says, a man may travel all the world over without seeing anything better than his dinner.' The saying was new to him and probably apocryphal, though the sentiment is one which can well be imagined as coming from the great man's mouth. But whether apocryphal or authentic, the remark well illustrates both the extent and particular nature of Johnson's fame. You would not find a cabman ascribing to Milton or Pope a shrewd saying that he had heard and liked."
A young friend of mine who had occasion the other day to mention Dr. Johnson in a school task, described him as the greatest Englishman of his time." The boy could not have made a happier shot, for, at the present time, Johnson looms out of the mist of eighteenth-century England as its most outstanding figure, not only as typically English in his dislike of shams and his love of common sense, but because we know so much more about him than we do about any of his contemporaries. The statement, moreover, shows that, so wide is the Doctor's fame, even young schoolboys acknowledge his superiority.
Since this illustrated edition of Johnson's Life was first published, many solid tributes have been paid to the Doctor's memory, such as by the preservation of his house in London, and by the publication of books relating to him and his circle, of which I propose to give some particulars in the following pages.
Lichfield is justly proud of her illustrious son. A Society in Johnson's honour has been founded in the city of his birth which reckons among its members many of her distinguished citizens as well as eminent Johnsonian scholars. The house where Johnson was born, now one of the chief attractions of Lichfield, was presented to that city through the generosity of Mr. James Henry Johnson and Alderman John Gilbert, and was opened as a public museum on May 27, 1901.
1 Boswell's Preface to the Second Edition of The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., 1793. 2 Home University Library.