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ing him, from every quarter where I could discover that they were to be found, and have been favoured with the most liberal communications by his friends; I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon such a work as this, with more advantages; independent of literary abilities, in wbich I am not vain enough to compare myself with some great name: who have gone before me in this kind of writiog.
Since any work was announced, several Lives and Memoirs of Dr. Johnson bave been published, the most voluminous of which is one compiled for the booksellers of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight, a man, whom, during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never saw in his company, I think, but once, and I am sure not above twice. Johnson might have esteemed him for his decent, religious demeanour, and his knowledge of books and literary history ; but from the rigid formality of bis manners, it is evident that they never could have lived together with companionable ease and familiarity: nor had Sir John Hawkins that nice perception which was necessary to mark the finer and less obvious parts of Johnson's character. His being appointed one of his executors, gave him an opportunity of taking possession of such fragnients of a diary aud other papers as were left; of which, before delivering them np to the residuary legatee, whose property they were, he endeavoured to extract the substance. In this he has not been very successful, as I have found upon a perusal of those papers, which have been since transferred to me. Sir John Hawkins's ponderous labours, I must acknowledge, exhibit a farrago, of which a considerable portion is not devoid of entertainment to the lovers of literary gossiping; but besides its being swelled out with long unnecessary extracts from various works, (even one of several leaves from Osborne's Harlejan Catalogue, and those not compiled by Johnson, but by Oldys,) a very small part of it relates to the person who is the subject of the book; and, in that, there is such an inaccuracy in the statement of facts, as in so solemn an author is hardly excusable, and certainly makes his narrative very unsatisfactory. But what is stili worse, there is throughout the whole of it a dark uncharitable cast, by which the most unfavourable construction is put upon almost every circunstance in the character and conduct of my illustrious friend; who, I trust, will, by a true and fair delineation, be vindicated both from the injurious misrepresentations of this author, and from the slighter aspersions of a lady who once lived in great intiinacy with bim.
There is, in the British Museum, a letter from Bishop Warburton to Dr. Birch, on the subject of biography; which, though I am aware it may expose me to a charge of artfully raising the value of my own work, by contrasting it with that of which I have spoken, is so well conceived and expressed, that I canoot refrain from here inserting it:
“I SHALL endeavour, (says Dr. Warburton,) to given you what satisfaction I can in any thing you want to be satisfied in any subject of Milton, and an extremely glad you inteud to write his life. Alinost all the life-writers we have had before Toland and Desmaiseaux, are indeed trange insipid creatures; and yet I had rather read the worst of them,
be obliged to go through with this of Milton's, or the other's life of Boileau, where there is such a dull, heavy succession of long quotations of disinteresting passages, that it makes their method quite nauseous. But the verbose, tasteless Frenchman seems to lay it down as a priociple, that every life must be a book, and what's worse, it proves a book without a life; for what do we know of Boileau, after all his tedi. ons stuff? You are the only one, (and I speak it without a compliment,) that by the vigour of your stile and sentiments, and the real importance of your materials, have the art, (which one would imagine no one could have missed, of adding agreements to the most agreeable subject in the world, which is literary history."
“ Nov. 24, 1737.” Instead of melting down my materials into one mass, and constantly speaking in my own person, by which I might have more merit in the execution of the work, I have resolved to adopt and enlarge upon the excellent plan of Mr. Mason, in his Memoirs of Gray. Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it to the best of my abilities; but in the cbronological series of Johnson's life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I produce, wherever it is in my power, his owo minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, and will make my readers better acquainted with him, than even inost of those were who actually knew him, but could know him only partially; whereas there is here an accumulation of intelligence from various poiuts, by which his character is more fully understood and illustrated,
Indeed I cannot conceive a more perfect mode of writing any man's life, than not only relating all the most important events of it in their order, but ioterweaving what he privately wrote, and said, and thought; by which mankind are enabled as it were to see him live, and to “ live o'er each scene” with him, as he actually advanced through the several stages of his life. Had his other friends been as diligent and ardent as I was, he might have been almost entirely preserved. As it is, I will venture to say that he will be seen in this work more completely than any man who has ever yet lived.
And he will be seen as he really was ; for I profess to write, not his panegyric, which must be all praise, but his Life: which, great and good as he was, must not be supposed to be entirely perfect. To be as he was, is indeed subject of panegyric enough to any man in this state of being; but in every picture there should be shade as well as light, and when I delineate bim without reserve, 1 do what he himself recoma mended, both by his precept and his example.
“ If the biographer writes from personal knowledge, and makes haste to gratify the pubic curiosity, there is danger lest his interest, his fear, his gratitude, or his tenderness, overpower his fidelity, and tempt him to conceal, if not to invent. There are many who think it an act of piety to hide the faults or failings of their friends even when they can no longer suffer by their detection; we therefore see whole ranks of characters a dorned with uniform panegyric, and not to be known from one another by a person of the first eminence in the age in which he lived, whose company has been universally courted, I am justified in availing myself of the usual privilege of a Dedication, when I mention that there has been a long and uninterrupted friendship between us.
If gratitude should be acknowledged for favours received, I have this opportunity, my dear Sir, most sincerely to thank you for the many happy hours which I owe to your kindness,-for the cordiality with which you have at all times been pleased to welcome
e--for the number of valuable acquaintances to whom you have introduced me,- for the noctes cænæque Deúm, which I have enjoyed under your roof.
If a work should be inscribed to one who is master of the subject of it, and whose approbation, therefore, must ensure it credit and success, the Life of Dr. Johnson is, with the greatest propriety, dedicated to Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was the intimate and be. loved friend of that great man; the friend whom he declared to be “ the most invulnerable man he knew ; whom, if he should quarrel with him, he should find the most difficulty how to abuse.” You, my dear Sir, studied him, and knew him well: you venerated and admired him. Yet luminous as he was upon the whole, you perceived all the shades which mingled in the grand compa sition; all the little peculiarities and slight blemishes which marked the literary Colossus. Your very warm commendation of the specimen which I gave in my “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," of my being able to preserve his conversation in an authentic and lively manner, which opinion the Public has confirmed, was the best encouragement for me to persevere in my purpose of producing the whole of my stores.
In one respect, this Work will, in some passages, be different from the former. In my“ Tour” I was almost unboundedly open in my communications, and from my eagerness to display the wonderful fertility and readiness of Johnson's wit, freely shewed to the world its dexterity, even when I was myself the object of it. I trusted that I should be liberally understood, as knowing to very well what I was about, and by no means as simply unconscious of the pointed effects of the satire. I own, indeed, that I was arrogant enough to suppose that the tenor of the rest of the book would sufficiently guard me against such a strange imputation. But it seems I judged too well of the world; for though I could scarcely believe it, I have been undoubtedly informed, that many persons, especially in distant quarters, not penetrating enough into Johnson's character, so as to understand his mode of treating his friends, have arraigned my judgment, instead of seeing that I was sensible of all they could observe.
It is related of the great Dr. Clarke, that when in one of his leisure hours he was unbending himself with a few friends in the most frolicsome manner, he observed Beau Nash approaching; upon which he suddenly stopped : “My boys,” said he,“ let us be grave: here comes a fool.” The world, my friend, I have found to be a great fool, as to that particular on which it has become necessary to speak very plainly. I have, therefore, in this Work been more reserved ; and though I tell nothing but the truth, I have still kept in my mind that the whole truth is not always to be exposed, This, however, I have managed so as to occasion no diminution of the pleasure which my book should afford; though malignity may sometimes be disappointed of its gratifications.
My dear Sir,
London, April 20, 1791.
“ After my death I wish no other herald,
SHAKSPEARE, Henry VIII.
See Dr. Johnson's Letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated Ostick in Skie, September 30, 1773; “ Boswell writes a regular Journal of our travels, which I think contains as much of what I say and do, as of all other occurrences together; for such a faithful chronicler is Griffith.'”