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of neglecting your letters; and beg you will never admit any such suspicion again. I purpose to come down next week, if you shall be there; or any other week, that shall be more agreeable to you.
Therefore let me know. I can stay this visit but a week; but intend to make preparations for longer stay next time; being resolved not to lose sight of the university. How goes Apollonius 1? Don't let him be forgotten. Some things of this kind must be done, to keep us up. Pay my compliments to Mr. Wise, and all my other friends. Í think to come to Kettel-Hall. I am, sir, your most affectionate, &c.
“ Sam. JOHNSON. ["DR. JOHNSON TO MR. RICHARDSON 4.
“ 17 May, 1755. “ DEAR SIR,-As you were the įrst that gave me notice of this paragraph, I send it to you, with a few little notes, which I wish you would read. It is well, when men of learning and penetration busy themselves in these inquiries, but what is their idleness is my business. Help, indeed, now comes too late for me, when a large part of my book has passed the press.
s I shall be glad if these strictures appear to you not unwarrantable ; for whom should he, who toils in settling a language, desireto please but him who is adorning it? I hope your new book is printing Macte novâ virtute. I am, dear sir, most respectfully and most affectionately, your humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON."] - DR. JOHNSON TO MR. WARTON.
(London), 10 June, 1755. “ DEAR SIR,—It is strange how many things will happen to intercept every pleasure, though it (be) only that of two friends meeting together. I have promised myself every day to inform you when you might expect me at Oxford, and have not been able to fix a time. This time, however, is, I think, at last come; and I promise myself to repose in Kettel-hall, one of the first nights of the next week. I am afraid my stay with you cannot be long; but what is the inference ? We must endeavour to make it cheerful. I wish your brother could meet us, that we might go and drink tea with Mr. Wise in a body. I hope he will be at Oxford, or at his nest of British and Saxon antiquities 3. I shall expect to see Spenser finished, and many other things begun. Dodsley is gone to visit the Dutch. The
' A translation of Apollonius Rhodius was now intended by Mr. Warton, WARTON.
? [Communicated by Dr. Harwood.-Ed.).
Dictionary sells well. The rest of the world goes on as it did. Dear sir, your most affectionate, &c. “ Sam. JOHNSON." “ DR. JOHNSON TO MR. WARTON.
“ (London), 24 June, 1755. “ DEAR SIR,—To talk of coming to you, and not yet to come, has an air of trilling which I would not willingly have among you; and which, I believe, you will not willingly impute to me, when I have told you, that since my promise, two of our partners' are dead, and that I was solicited to suspend my excursion till we could recover from our confusion.
“ I have not laid aside my purpose ; for every day makes me more impatient of staying from you. But death, you know, hears not supplications, nor pays any regard to the convenience of mortals. I hope now to see you next week; but next week is but another name for to-morrow, which has been noted for promising and deceiving. I am, &c. “ SAM. JOHNSON."
6. DR. JOHNSON TO MR. WARTON.
“ (London), 7 Aug. 1755. “ DEAR SIR, -I told you that among the manuscripts are some things of Sir Thomas More. I beg you to pass an hour in looking on them, and procure a transcript of the ten or twenty first lines of each, to be compared with what I have; that I may know whether they are yet published. The manuscripts are these :
Catalogue of Bodl. MS. pag. 122. F. 3. Sir Thomas More.
“). Fall of angels. 2. Creation and fall of mankind. 3. Determination of the Trinity for the rescue of mankind. 4. Five lectures of our Saviour's passion. 5. Of the institution of the Sacrament, three lectures. 6. How to receive the blessed body of our Lord sacramentally. 7. Neomenia, the new moon. 8. De tristitia, tædio, pavore, et oratione Christi ante captionem ejus.
Catalogue, pag. 154. Life of Sir Thomas More. Qu. Whether Roper's? Page 363. De resignatione Magni Sigilli in manus regis per D. Thomam Morum. Pag. 364. Mori Defensio Moriæ.
“ If you procure the young gentleman in the library to write out what you think fit to be written, I will send to Mr. Prince the bookseller to pay him what you
“ Be pleased to make my compliments to Mr. Wise, and all my friends. I am, sir, your affectionate, &c. “Sam. JOHNSON.”
shall think proper.
1 Booksellers concerned in his Dictionary. Warton. (Mr. Paul Knapton died on the 12th, and Mr. Thomas Longman on the 18th June, 1755.-ED.)
The Dictionary, with a Grammar and History of the English Language, being now at length published, in two volumes folio, the world contemplated with wonder so stupendous a work achieved by one man, while other countries had thought such undertakings fit only for whole academies. Vast as his powers were, I cannot but think that his imagination deceived him, when he supposed that by constant application he might have performed the task in three years. Let the Preface be attentively perused, in which is given, in a clear, strong, and glowing style, a comprehensive, yet particular view of what he had done; and it will be evident, that the time he employed upon it was comparatively short. I am unwilling to swell my book with long quotations from what is in every body's hands, and I believe there are few prose compositions in the English language that are read with more delight, or are more impressed upon the memory, than that preliminary dis
One of its excellencies has always struck me with peculiar admiration; I mean the perspicuity with which he has expressed abstract scientifick notions. As an instance of this, I shall quote the following sentence : “ When the radical idea branches out into parallel ramifications, how can a consecutive series be formed of senses in their own nature collateral" ?” We have here an example of what has been often said, and I believe with justice, that there is for every thought a certain nice adaptation of words which none other could equal, and which, when a man has been so fortunate as to hit, he has attained, in that particular case, the perfection of language.
[Mr. Boswell's apprehension was much clearer than, or his ideas of perspicuity very different from those of the editor, who is not ashamed to confess that he does not understand this perspicuous passage. There seems, moreover, to be something like a contradiction in the terms: how can parullels be said to branch out ?-Ed.]
The extensive reading which was absolutely necessary for the accumulation of authorities, and which alone may account for Johnson's retentive mind being enriched with a very large and various store of knowledge and imagery, must have occupied several years. The Preface furnishes an eminent instance of a double talent, of which Johnson was fully conscious. Sir Joshua Reynolds heard him say, “ There are two things which I am confident I can do very well : one is an introduction to any literary work, stating what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most perfect manner: the other is a conclusion, shows ing from various causes why the execution has not been equal to what the authour promised to himself and to the publick.'
How should puny scribblers be abashed and disappointed, when they find him displaying a perfect theory of lexicographical excellence, yet at the same time candidly and modestly allowing that he “ had not satisfied his own expectations.” Here was a fair occasion for the exercise of Johnson's modesty, when he was called upon to compare his own arduous performance, not with those of other individuals (in which case his inflexible regard to truth would have been violated had he affected diffidence), but with speculative perfection; as he, who can outstrip all his competitors in the race, may yet be sensible of his deficiency when he runs against time. Well might he say, that “the English Dictionary was written with little assistance of the learned ;" for he told me, that the only aid which he received was a paper containing twenty etymologies, sent to him by a person then unknown, who he was afterwards informed was Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Rochester. The etymologies, though they exhibit learning and judgement, are not, I think, entitled to the first praise amongst the various parts of this immense work. The definitions have always appeared to me such astonishing proofs of acuteness of intellect and precision of language, as indicate a genius of the highest rank. This it is which marks the superiour excellence of Johnson's Dictionary over others equally or even more voluminous, and must have made it a work of much greater mental labour than mere Lexicons, or Word-Books, as the Dutch call them. They, who will make the experiment of trying how they can define a few words of whatever nature, will soon be satisfied of the unquestionable justice of this observation, which I can assure my readers is founded upon much study, and upon communication with more minds than my own. A few of his definitions must be admitted to be
Thus, Windward and. Leeward, though directly of opposite meaning, are defined identically the same way -[toward the wind]'; as to which inconsiderable specks it is enough to observe, that his Preface announces that he was aware there might be many such in so immense a work; nor was he at all disconcerted when an instance was pointed out to him. A lady once asked him how he came to define Pastern the knee of a horse : instead of making an elaborate defence, as she expected, he at once answered, “ Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance.” His definition of Network—[any thing reticulated or decussated at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections]—has been often quoted with sportive malignity, as obscuring a thing in itself very plain. But to these frivolous censures no other answer is necessary than that with which we are furnished by his own Preface. “To explain, requires
He owns in his Preface the deficiency of the technical part of his work ; and he said he should be much obliged to me for definitions of musical terms for his next edition, which he did not live to superintend.-BURNEY.