or less light, and lights more or less favourable, on the different persons of his scene; some of whom he obtrudes into broad day, while others he only "adumbrates" by imperfect allusions. But many, even of those the most clearly designated and spoken of as persons familiar to every ear, have already lived their day, and are hardly to be heard of except in these volumes. Yet these volumes must be read with imperfect pleasure, without some knowledge of the history of those more than half forgotten persons.

Facts, too, fade from memory as well as names; and fashions and follies are still more transient. But, in a book mainly composed of familiar conversation, how large a portion must bear on the facts, the follies, and the fashions of the time!

To clear up these obscurities-to supply these deficiencies to retrieve obsolete and to collect scattered circumstances-and so to restore to the work as much as possible of its original clearness and freshness, have been the main objects of the editor. He is but too well aware how unequal he is to the task, and how imperfectly he has accomplished it. But as the time was rapidly passing away in which any aid could be expected from the contemporaries of Johnson, or even of Boswell, the editor determined to undertake the work—believing that, however ill he might perform it, he should still do it better than, twenty years hence, it could be done by any diligence of research or any felicity of conjecture.

But another and more striking object of this edition is the incorporation with Boswell's LIFE of numerous other authentic works connected with the

biography of Johnson: as this is, as far as the editor knows, a novel attempt, and as it must give his work somewhat of a confused and heterogeneous appearance, he thinks it necessary to state some of the reasons which induced him to adopt so unusual a


The first and most cogent is the authority of Mr. Boswell himself; who in his original edition inserted, and in his subsequent editions continued to add, letters, memoranda', notes, and anecdotes collected from every quarter; but the appearance of his work was so long delayed, that Sir John Hawkins, Mrs. Piozzi, Dr. Strahan, Mr. Tyers, Mr. Nichols, and many others, had anticipated much of what he would have been glad to tell. Some squabbles about copyright had warned him that he must not avail himself of their publications; and he was on such bad terms with his rival biographers that he could not expect any assistance or countenance from them. He nevertheless went as far as he thought the law would allow in making frequent quotations from the preceding publications; but as to all the rest, which he did not venture to appropriate to his own use,

On the use of this Latinism, the editor ventures to repeat a pleasant anecdote told by the Bishop of Ferns. The late Lord Avonmore giving evidence relative to certain certificates of degrees in the University of Dublin, called them (as they are commonly called) "Testimoniums." As the clerk was writing down the word, one of the counsel said, "Should it not be rather testimonia ?" "Yes," replied Lord Avonmore, "if you think it better English !" This pleasantry contains a just grammatical criticism; but memoranda has of late been so generally used as an English plural that the editor has ventured to retain it.-ED.

2 It is a curious proof of these jealousies, that Mr. Boswell entered at Stationers' Hall as distinct publications, Dr. Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield, and the account of his Conversation with George III., which occupy a few pages of the LIFE.-ED.

-the grapes were sour-and he took every opportunity of representing the anecdotes of his rivals as extremely inaccurate and generally undeserving of credit.

It is certain that none of them have attained-indeed they do not pretend to that extreme verbal accuracy with which Mr. Boswell had, by great zeal and diligence, learned to record conversations; nor in the details of facts are they so precise as Mr. Boswell with good reason claims to be.

Mr. Boswell took, indeed, extraordinary and most laudable pains to attain accuracy'. Not only did he commit to paper at night the conversation of the day, but even in general society he would occasionally take a note of any thing remarkable that occurred; and he afterwards spared no trouble in arranging and supplying the inevitable deficiencies of these hasty memoranda.

1 Mr. Wordsworth has obligingly furnished the editor with the following copy of a note in a blank page of his copy of Boswell's work, dictated and signed in Mr. Wordsworth's presence by the late Sir George Beaumont, whose own accuracy was exemplary, and who lived very much in the society of Johnson's latter days.

"Rydal Mount, 12th Sept. 1826.

"Sir Joshua Reynolds told me at his table, immediately after the publication of this book, that every word of it might be depended upon as if given on oath. Boswell was in the habit of bringing the proof sheets to his house previously to their being struck off, and if any of the company happened to have been present at the conversation recorded, he requested him or them to correct any error, and not satisfied with this, he would run over all London for the sake of verifying any single word which might be disputed.


Although it cannot escape notice, that Sir Joshua is here reported to have drawn a somewhat wider inference than the premises warranted, the general testimony is satisfactory, and it is to a considerable extent corroborated by every kind of evidence external and internal.-ED.

But, after all, Mr. Boswell himself is not exempt

from those errors

quas aut incuria fudit,

Aut humana parum cavit natura;

and an attentive examination and collation of the authorities (and particularly of Mr. Boswell's own) have convinced the editor that the minor biographers are entitled not merely to more credit than Mr. Boswell allows them, but to as much as any person writing from recollection, and not from notes made at the moment, can be.

As Mr. Boswell had borrowed much from Sir J. Hawkins and Mrs. Piozzi, the editor has thought himself justified in borrowing more; and he has therefore (as he thinks Mr. Boswell would have done if he could) incorporated with the text nearly the whole of Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes, and such passages of Hawkins' "Life" and " Collection of anecdotes" as relate to circumstances which Mr. Boswell had either not mentioned at all, or touched upon imperfectly.

The same use has been made of several other publications, particularly Murphy's Essay on the Life of Dr. Johnson, Mr. Tyers' eccentric but amusing Sketch, and Mr. Nichols' contributions to the Gentleman's Magazine, a publication which, under that gentleman's superintendence, was of peculiar authority in all that relates to Dr. Johnson.

The editor had another important object in adopting this incorporation. Notwithstanding the diligence and minuteness with which Mr. Boswell detailed what he saw of Dr. Johnson's life, his work

left large chasms.

It must be recollected that they never resided in the same neighbourhood, and that the detailed account of Johnson's domestic life and conversation is limited to the opportunities afforded by Mr. Boswell's occasional visits to London-by the Scottish Tour-and by one meeting at Dr. Taylor's in Derbyshire. Of above twenty years, therefore, that their acquaintance lasted, periods equivalent in the whole to about three-quarters of a year only1 fell under the personal notice of Boswell--and thus has been left many a long hiatus-valde deflendus, but now, alas, quite irreparable!

Mr. Boswell endeavoured, indeed, to fill up these chasms as well as he could with Johnson's letters to his absent friends; but much the largest, and, for this purpose, the most valuable part of his correspondence was out of his reach, namely, that which Dr. Johnson for twenty years maintained with Mrs. Thrale, and which she published in 1788, in two volumes octavo. For the copyright of these, Mr. Boswell says, in a tone of admiring envy, "she received five hundred pounds." The publication, however, was not very successful-it never reached a second edition, and is now almost forgotten. But

1 It appears from the LIFE, that Mr. Boswell visited England a dozen times during his acquaintance with Dr. Johnson, and that the number of days on which they met were about 180, to which is to be added the time of the TOUR, during which they met daily from the 18th August, to the 22d November, 1773; in the whole about 276 days. The number of pages in the late editions of the two works is 2528, of which, 1320 are occupied by the history of these 276 days; so that little less than an hundredth part of Dr. Johnson's life occupies above one half of Mr. Boswell's works. Every one must regret that his personal intercourse with his great friend was not more frequent or more continued; but the editor could do but little towards rectifying this disproportion, except by the insertion of the correspondence with Mrs. Thrale.-ED.

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