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First Edition "Library of English Classics," 1900
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
THIS edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson is reprinted from that prepared by Mr. Mowbray Morris for the Messrs. Macmillan's "Globe " series in 1893. As the plan of the present series excludes critical estimates, only the following paragraphs, dealing with the bibliography of the book, are reproduced from Mr. Morris's introduction. A. W. P.
BOSWELL'S Life of Johnson was published on May 16th, 1791, in two volumes quarto. A supplementary volume was added in 1794, followed almost immediately by a second edition in three volumes octavo, in which, however, the fresh materials, instead of being incorporated in the text, were clumsily placed at the beginning and end of the book. Boswell was engaged in arranging these materials for a third edition when he died on May 19th, 1795. The work was then taken up by Malone, who had watched and helped its progress from the first, and published in four volumes octavo in 1799. The author's plan, so far as he had lived to indicate it, was carefully followed. The fresh materials were distributed throughout
the text according to his directions; his new notes, and his corrections of the old ones, were all faithfully printed; all additions, in the shape of letters or notes, were marked with crotchets so as to distinguish the editor's responsibility from the author's; but for some reason the proof-sheets did not pass through Malone's hands. The fourth edition, which followed in 1804, was published under his own supervision, with some fresh additions of letters and notes distinguished as before from Boswell's own work. From this text the present edition has been printed.
It would be tedious to enumerate all the editions that have been published of this famous biography. Malone issued two more before his death in 1812. From that year onwards the book was more than once reprinted under various hands, but still practically remained much as Malone had left it till Croker's edition appeared in 1831. The new editor was, as everyone knows, severely chastised by both Macaulay and Carlyle, and much of the chastisement was undoubtedly deserved. His liberties with Boswell's text were indefensible on any grounds; he sometimes blundered in his notes, and he was sometimes foolish. The success of his work has, however, been often made use of as a triumphant refutation of Macaulay's charges; but in fact it has succeeded because he had the good sense to recognise their substantial justice. In a second edition most of his worst offences were removed, and still further improvements were made in a third. In its new shape Croker's work became a very different thing from the object of Macaulay's censure, and in that shape has ever been deservedly popular. ******
Of Croker's successors the most important are the Reverend Alexander Napier and Dr. Birkbeck Hill. Mr.
Napier's edition was published in 1884 in six volumes, of which four were occupied with the text, and two with the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and a mass of familiar, but always welcome extracts from the Johnsoniana of Mrs. Thrale, Madame D'Arblay, Hannah More, Miss Reynolds, Percy, Hawkins, Tyers, and other members of the great man's circle. Among these, however, was one document which is undoubtedly the most interesting contribution to the great Johnsonian legend that our times have seen. This is The Diary of a Visit to England by Dr. Thomas Campbell. Dr. Campbell was an Irish clergyman, of some note in his day as a writer on the history and the church of his country, who visited England at various times during the years 1775-92. He made what may be called the provincial's "grand tour" of London, visited the theatres, coffee-houses, and auction-rooms, heard all the popular preachers, and was introduced to the studios of Reynolds and Gainsborough; he met Johnson often at the Thrales's and elsewhere, besides visiting him at his own house, and though they seem to have been good friends enough, his portrait of the Doctor is certainly not flattering. In directness and vivacity he sometimes runs even Boswell close, and his diary often supplies an entertaining commentary on the biography. The existence of this curious work, which was published in 1854 at Sydney, was first made known in this country by an article in The Edinburgh Review, written in 1859 at the instance of, and partly from materials supplied by, Macaulay. The manuscript had been discovered in one of the offices of the Supreme Court at Sydney, behind an old press which had not been moved for years. Its authenticity has fortunately been proved beyond suspicion, and its strange hiding-place has been explained by the fact that one of its
author's nephews was Sheriff and Provost-Marshal of the capital of New South Wales. **
In 1887 Dr. Birkbeck Hill's edition was published by the Clarendon Press in a style worthy of that famous institution. Four stately volumes contain the biography; the fifth is occupied with the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides; the sixth is almost entirely filled with an index that may truly be called prodigious; all are rich in appendixes, while Croker himself was not a busier commentator. Of the vast labour spent on this edition who now needs to be told? In reverence for Johnson's memory and in admiration for his genius Dr. Hill indeed yields not even to Boswell..... I cannot take leave of him without expressing the obligations I owe to him, and to the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, for their courtesy in permitting me the free use of these volumes, as well as to the liberality with which he has at all times offered me the results of his long devotion to the great figure of his hero.
Of the present edition there is little to say. Neither the plan nor the size of the series to which it belongs permits much indulgence in the alluring, though often dangerous, pastime of annotation, had I been disposed to exercise it. All Boswell's own notes have of course been preserved, and distinguished with the initial B..... For the rest I can claim to have done little more than feed upon my predecessors, who have indeed left little more to be done. My own contributions are few and unimportant; what has been selected from others will, I trust, be found to the purpose.