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MR E. DILLY TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “DEAR SIR,
Southill, Sept. 26th, 1777. “ You will find, by this letter, that I am still in the same calm retreat, from the noise and bustle of London, as when I wrote to you last. I am happy to find you had such an agreeable meeting with your old friend, Dr. Johnson ; I have no doubt your stock is much increased by the interview; few men, nay, I may say, scarcely any man, has got that fund of knowledge and entertainment as Dr. Johnson in conversation. When he opens freely, every one is attentive to what he says, and cannot fail of improvement as well as pleasure.
The Edition of the Poets, now printing, will do honour to the English press; and a concise account of the life of each author, by Dr. Johnson, will be a very valuable addition, and stamp the reputation of this edition superior to any thing that is gone before. The first cause that gave rise to this undertaking, I believe, was owing to the little trilling edition of the Poets, printing by the Martins at Edinburgh, and to be sold by Bell in London. Upon examining the volumes which were printed, the type was found so extremely small, that many persons could not read them. Not only this inconvenience attended it, but the inaccuracy of tho press was very conspicuous. Tiese reasons, as well as the idea of an invasion of what we call our Literary Property, induced the London booksellers to print an elegant and accurate edition of all the English poets of reputation, from Chaucer to the present time.
Accordingly, a select number of the most respectable booksellers mit on the occasion; and, on consulting together, agreed, that all the proprietors of copyright in the various poets should be summoned together; and, when their opinions were given, to proceed immediately on the business. Accordirgly a meeting was held, consisting of about forty of the most respectable bookellers of London, when it was agreed that an elegant and uniform edition of The English Poets' should be immediately printed, with a concise account & the life of each author, by Dr. Samuel Johnson; and that three persons shoud be deputed to wait upon Dr. Johnson, to solicit him to undertake the Live:, viz., T. Davies, Strahan, and Cadell. The Doctor very politely undertook it and seemed exceedingly pleased with the proposal. As to the terms, it was left entirely to the Doctor to name his own ; he mentioned two hundred guireas ;] it was immediately agreed to; and a farther compliment, I believe, will be made him. A committee was likewise appointed to engage the best engnvers, viz., Bartolozzi, Sherwin, Hall, &c. Likewise another committee for giving directions about the paper, printing, &c., so that the whole will be conducted
" Johnson's moderation in demanding so small a sum is extraordinary. Had he askid one thousand, or even fifteen hundred, guineas, the booksellers, who knew the value of hisname, would, doubtless, have readily given it. They have, probably, got five thousand guinias by this work in the course of twenty-five years.-MALONE.
3 Francis Bartolozzi was born at Florence, in 1728, and came to England in 1764, wlen he was admitted a Member of the Royal Academy, and received extensive patronage is an engraver and artist. He was the father of the distinguished actress, Madame Vostris He went to Lisbon in 1802, and there died in 1815.-ED.
with spirit, and in the best manner, with respect to authorship, editorship, engravings, &c. My brother will give you a list of the Poets we mean to give, many of which are within the time of the Act of Queen Anne, which Martin and Bell cannot give, as they have no property in them; the proprietors are almost all the booksellers in London, of consequence.
“I am, dear Sir, ever yours,
“ EDWARD DILLY."
I shall afterwards have occasion to consider the extensive and varied range which Johnson took, when he was once led upon ground which he trod with a peculiar delight, having long been intimately acquainted with all the circumstances of it that could interest and please.
DR. JOHNSON TO CHARLES O'CONNOR, ESQ. “SIR,
May 19th, 1777. “ Having had the pleasure of conversing with Dr. Campbell about your character and your literary undertaking, I am resolved to gratify myself by renewing a correspondence which began and ended a great while ago, and ended, I am afraid, by my fault; a fault which, if you have not forgotten it, you must now forgive.
“If I have ever disappointed you, give me leave to tell you, that you have likewise disappointed me. I expected great discoveries in Irish antiquity, and large publications in the Irish language; but the world still remains as it was, doubtful and ignorant. What the Irish language is in itself, and to what languages it has affinity, are very interesting questions, which every man wishes to see resolved that has any philological or historical curiosity. Dr. Lelanda begins his history too late : the ages which deserve an exact inquiry are those times (for such they were) when Ireland was the school of the west, the quiet habitation of sanctity and literature. If you could give a history, though imperfect, of the Irish nation, from its conversion to Christianity to the invasion from England, you would amplify knowledge with new views and new objects. Set about it, therefore, if you can: do what you can easily do without anxious exactness. Lay the foundation, and leave the superstructure to posterity.
M:. Joseph Cooper Walker, of the Treasury, Dublin, who obligingly communicated to me this and a former letter from Dr. Johnson to the same gentleman (for which see vol. i. chap. ix.), writes to me as follows :-“Perhaps it would gratify you to have some account of Mr. O'Connor. He is an amiable, learned, venerable old gentleman, of an independent fortune, who lives at Belanagar, in the county of Roscommon; he is an admired writer, and Member of the Irish Academy.”—The above letter is alluded to in the Preface of the 2d edit. of his “Dissert." p. 3. Mr. O'Connor afterwards died at the age of eighty-two, July 1, 1791. See a well-drawn character of him in “The Gentleman's Magazine” for August, 1791. -BOSWELL.
? Dr. Thomas Leland was a divine and miscellaneous writer, and the author of a “ History of Ireland,” in 3 vols. 8vo. He was born and educated in Dublin in 1722, and appointed to the vicarage of Bray in 1768. He died in 1785.—ED.
Papadendrion. Lord Au that one gentleman in the planted above fifty million Monimusk. I must inquire list; for that is the soul of ground' being too valuable f trees, now in my seventy-fou them to my eldest son, height of my country-hou you, and hope again to Mr. Boswell. I shall alway your most obliged
“ DEAR SIR, “ It is so long since I hear it; write something to me ne thing seemed to be mending suppose young Alexander contin company. I do not suppose the that I love her very well, and valid
“Dr. Blair is printing some ser have read, they are sermones a written both as to doctrine and much esteemed.
“Poor Beauclerk still continues ver His children are very pretty, and, Ich
“I have been so distressed by difficu computed, six-and-thirty ounces of blood well.
“I wish you would be vigilant, and get a printed at Glasgow, a very little book; and book, printed at Middleburgh.
Mrs. Williams sends her compliments, and nither she will accommodate you as well as eve She wishes to know whether you sent her book tu
My dear Boswell, do not neglect to write to me of the pleasures of my life, which I should be sorry
“I am, Sir, your
. By the then course of the post, my long letter of the 14th The BOSWELL.
2 History of Philip the Second.-BOSWELLA
" TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON,
Edinburgh, Feb. 24, 1777. “Your letter, dated the 18th instant, I had the pleasure to receive last post. Although my late long neglect, or rather delay, was truly culpable, I am tempted not to regret it, since it has produced me so valuable a proof of your regard. I did, indeed, during that inexcusable silence, sometimes divert the reproaches of my own mind, by fancying that I should hear again from you, inquiring with some anxiety about me, because for aught you knew, I might have been ill.
“You are pleased to show me that my kindness is of some consequence to you. My heart is elated at the thought. Be assured, my dear Sir, that my affection and reverence for you are exalted and steady. I do not believe that a more perfect attachment ever existed in the history of mankind, And it is a noble attachment; for the attractions are Genius, Learning, and Piety.
“Your difficulty of breathing alarms me, and brings into my imagination an event which, although in the natural course of things I must expect at some period, I cannot view with composure.
“My wife is much honoured by what you say of her. She begs you may accept of her best compliments. She is to send you some marmalade of oranges of her own making.
“I ever am, my dear Sir, your most obliged
“ And faithful humble servant,
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
March 14, 1777. “I have been much pleased with your late letter, and am glad that my old enemy, Mrs. Boswell, begins to feel some remorse. As to Miss Veronica's Scotch, I think it cannot be helped. An English maid you might easily have; but she would still imitate the greater number, as they would be likewise those whom she must most respect. Her dialect will not be gross. Her mamma has not much Scotch, and you have yourself very little. I hope she knows my name, and does not call me Johnston,
“ The immediate cause of my writing is this:-One Shaw, who seem modest and a decent man, has written an Erse Grammar, which a very learned Highlander, Macbean, has, at my request, examined and approved.
“The book is very little, but Mr. Shaw has been persuaded by his friends to set it at half a guinea, though I advised only a crown, and thought myself liberal. You, whom the author considers as a great encourager of ingenious men, will receive a parcel of his proposals and receipts. I have undertaken
| Johnson is the most common English formation of the surname from John; Johnston the Scotch. My illustrious friend observed, that many North Britons pronounced his name in their own way.-BOSWELL.
Early in this year came out, in two volumes quarto, the posthumous works of the learned Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester ; being, “A Commentary, with Notes, on the Four Evangelists and the Acts of the Apostles,” with other theological pieces. Johnson had now an opportunity of making a grateful return to that excellent prelate, who, we have seen, was the only person who gave him any assistance in the compilation of his Dictionary. The Bishop had left some account of his life and character, written by himself
. To this Johnson made some valuable additions, and furnished to the editor, the Reverend Mr. Derby, a Dedication, which I shall here insert, both because it will appear at this time with peculiar propriety, and because it will tend to propagate and increase that “fervour of loyalty,” which in me, who boast of the name of Tory, is not only a principle but a passion
TO THE KING. “SIR, “I presume to lay before your Majesty the last labours of a learned Bishop who died in the toils and duties of his calling. He is now beyond the reach of all earthly honours and rewards; and only the hope of inciting others to innitate him, makes it now fit to be remembered that he enjoyed in his life the favour of your Majesty.
“The tumultuary life of Princes seldom permits them to survey the wide extent of national interest without losing sight of private merit; to exhibit qualities which may be imitated by the highest and the humblest of mankind; and to be at once amiable and great.
“Such characters, if now and then they appear in history, are contemplated with admiration. May it be the ambition of all your subjects to make haste with their tribute of reverence; and as posterity may learn from your Majesty how kings should live, may they learn likewise from your people how they should be honoured. I am, may it please your Majesty,
“ With the most profound respect,
Subject and servant."
I Bishop Pearce was the son of a distiller in High Holborn, and educated at Westminster School. He became successively the Vicar of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, Dean of Winchester, Bishop of Bangor, and, in 1756, the Bishop of Rochester. His principal works were critical and erudite editions of Longinus and Cicero. He left, among numerous charitable bequests, 50001. to the College for Clergymen's Widows, at Brompton. He was born in 1690, and died in 1774.- ED.
2 Mr. Derby was Rector of Southfleet and Longfield, in Kent. He died in 1778.GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE.
3 Mr. Hugh Kelly was not only the author of various dramatic pieces, but he was also & poet, a novelist, and an essayist. His “ Thespis," a poem in the manner of Churchill's “ Rosciad,” and his “ Louisa Mildmay," a novel, are familiar to most readers. He was born in 1739, near the Lakes of Killarney, and originally apprenticed to a staymaker. He died in 1777.-ED.