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WITH NOTES BY
JOHN WILSON CROKER,
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
The object of this undertaking is to place before the public, in an aniform and portable form, and at a very moderate price, all the existing materials for the biography of Dr. Johnson, together with copious illustrations, critical, explanatory, and graphical. The collection will be comprised in four volumesone volume to be published on the 1st of every month, until the whole is completed.
“ The “Life of Johnson " by Boswell—the most interesting and instructive specimen of biography that has ever been given to the world—must, of course, occupy the chief space and attention ; and that author's “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides ” will be incorporated in his main narrative, after the example of his last editor, the Right Hon. John Wilson Croker ; who justly observes, that nothing could have prevented Boswell himself from making this arrangement, but the legal obstacle arising out of his previous con tract with the bookseller who had published the Journal.
Johnson's own diary of his Tour into Wales in 1774, årst published by Mr. Duppa in 1816, and various private letters to Mrs Thrale and others, have also been inserted (within brackets) in the text of Boswell : he himself having uniformly availed himself of
similar new materials as they reached his hand while occupied with the second and third editions of his work.
The present Editors, however, have not judged it proper to follow the example of Mr. Croker, in interweaving with the text of Bos. well any materials, however valuable, derived from other pens than those of Dr. Johnson and the original biographer himself. Their plan has been to give, from minor biographers and miscellaneous authorities, in the form of foot-notes to Boswell's text, whatever appeared to bear directly on the subjects therein discussed, or on facts of Johnson's life therein omitted ; but to reserve for the concluding volume the rich assemblage of mere conversational fragments, supplied by Piozzi, Hawkins, Tyers, Miss Reynolds, Murphy, Cumberland, Nichols, and the other friends and acquaintances of Dr. Johnson, who have, in their various writings, added to the general record of his wit and wisdom. This arrangement has seemed that most consistent with a just estimation of the literary character of Boswell. Altogether unrivalled in his own style of narrative, it was considered as hardly fair to his memory, that his text should not appear pure and unbroken.
The division of Boswell's text into chapters, now for the first time adopted, will, the Editors presume, be found convenient to the reader.
In the Appendices to the various volumes ; in the foot-notes throughout ; and in the compilation of the miscellaneous pages of this valuable biography, the Editors have availed themselves, to the fullest extent compatible with their general scheme, of Mr Croker's admirable annotations. The edition of 1831 excited so much notice among the leading contributors to our periodical press, that a new and plentiful source of elucidation, both historical and critical, has been placed at the command of Mr. Croker's successors; and of this, also, they have endeavoured to make the proper asc. Finally, the Editors have been enabled, by the kindness of lite Fary friends, to enrich the present work with a very considerable supply of illustrative materials entirely new ; but of this it will become the Editors to say little, until their task shall have been completed.
It has been their ambition, and it is their earnest hope, to be instrumental in opening and familiarising to the greatly expanded, and hourly expanding circle of intelligent readers in the less affluent classes of the community, a mine of information and amusement, which may be said to have been hitherto accessible only to the purchasers of expensive books ; and even to these by no means so directly or so conveniently as, after the lapse of so many years, and with them of so many legal copyrights, might have fairly been expected in this æra of cheap literature.
Reserving for another occasion what they may have to say with respect to the minor biographers of Johnson, the Editors now proceed to a few remarks on the great work of Boswell,
His Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides in 1773, was published in 1785, the year after Johnson's death, in one volume octavo ; and has since been separately printed many times. It was, as has been mentioned, first incorporated with the Author's general narrative of the Doctor's Life in the edition of Mr. Croker, 1831 ;
and this example will assuredly be adhered to in all future editions. Not the least interesting circumstance connected with this Tour is, that Johnson read from time to time Boswell's record of his sayings. and doings, and so far from being displeased with its minuteness, expressed great admiration of its accuracy, and encouraged the chronicler to proceed with his grand ulterior undertaking ; viz., the “Life of Johnson;" which first appeared, in two volumes quarto, in April, 1791–seven years after Dr. Johnson's death.
Boswell gave a second edition of the Life in 1794, and was engaged in preparing a third, when death overtook him in 1795. His new materials were made use of by his friend and executor, the