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tottered himself on one with only three legs and one arm. Here he gave Mr. Burney Mrs. Williams's history, and showed him some volumes of Shakspeare already printed, to prove that he was in earnest. Upon Mr. Burney's opening the first volume, at the 'Merchant of Venice' he observed to him, that he seemed to be more severe on Warburton than Theobald. 'O poor Tib!' said Johnson, 'he was ready knocked down to my hands; Warburton stands between me and him.' 'But, Sir,' said Mr. Burney, 'you'll have Warburton upon your bones, wont you?' 'No, Sir; he'll not come out: he'll only growl in his den.' 'But you think, Sir, that Warburton is a superior critic to Theobald?'—'O, Sir, he'd make two-and-fifty Theobalds, cut into slices! The worst of Warburton is, that he has a rage for saying something, when there's nothing to be said.'-Mr. Burney then asked him whether he had seen the letter which Warburton had written in answer to a pamphlet, addressed, 'To the most impudent Man alive.' He answered in the negative. Mr. Burney told him it was supposed to be written by Mallet. The controversy now raged between the friends of Pope and Bolingbroke and Warburton and Mallet were the leaders of the several parties. Mr. Burney asked him then if he had seen Warburton's book against Bolingbroke's Philosophy? No, Sir • I have never read Bolingbroke's impiety, and therefore am not interested about its confutation.'

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ON the 15th of April, 1758, he began a new periodical paper, entitled "The Idler," which came out every Saturday in a weekly newspaper, called "The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette," published by Newbury. These essays were continued till April 5, 1760. Of one hundred and three, their total number, twelve were contributed by his friends; of which, Nos. 33, 93, and 96, were written by Mr. Thomas Warton; No. 67 by Mr. Langton; and Nos. 69, 76, and 82, by Sir Joshua Reynolds; the concluding words of No. 82, "and pollute his canvas with deformity," being added by Johnson; as Sir Joshua informed me.

The "Idler" is evidently the work of the same mind which produced the "Rambler," but has less body and more spirit. It has more variety of real life, and greater facility of language. He describes the miseries

1 This is a slight mistake. The first number of the "Idler" appeared on the 15th of April, 1758, in No. 2 of the "Universal Chronicle," &c., which was published by J. Payne, for whom, also, the "Rambler" had been printed. On the 29th of April this newspaper assumed the title of "Payne's Universal Chronicle," &c.-MALONE.

of idleness with the lively sensations of one who has felt them; and in his private memorandums while engaged in it, we find, “This year I hope to learn diligence."1 Many of these excellent essays were written as hastily as an ordinary letter. Mr. Langton remembers Johnson, when on a visit at Oxford, asking him one evening how long it was till the post went out; and on being told about half-an-hour, he exclaimed, 66 Then we shall do very well." He, upon this, instantly sat down and finished an "Idler," which it was necessary should be in London the next day. Mr. Langton having signified a wish to read it, "Sir," said he, “you shall do no more than I have done myself." He then folded it up, and sent it off.

Yet there are in the "Idler" several papers which show as much profundity of thought and labour of language as any of this great man's writings. No. 14, “Robbery of time;" No. 24, 'Thinking;” No. 41, "Death of a friend;" No. 43, "Flight of time;" No. 51, "Domestic greatness unattainable;" No. 52, "Self-denial;" No. 58, "Actual, how short of fancied, excellence;" No. 89, "Physical evil moral good ;" and his concluding paper on "The horror of the last," will prove this assertion. I know not why a motto, the usual trapping of periodical papers, is prefixed to very few of the "Idlers," as I have heard Johnson commend the custom and he never could be at a loss for one, his memory being stored with innumerable passages of the classics. In this series of essays he exhibits admirable instances of grave humour, of which he had an uncommon share. Nor on some occasions has he repressed that power of sophistry which he possessed in so eminent a degree. In No. 11, he treats with the utmost contempt the opinion that our mental faculties depend, in some degree, upon the weather; an opinion, which they who have never experienced its truths are not to be envied, and of which he himself could not but be sensible, as the effects of weather upon him were very visible. Yet thus he declaims:


Surely nothing is more reproachful to a being endowed with reason than to resign its powers to the influence of the air, and live in dependence on the weather and the wind for the only blessings which nature has put into our power, tranquillity and benevolence. This distinction of seasons is produced only by imagination operating on luxury. To temperance, every day is bright; and every hour is propitious to diligence. He that shall resolutely excite his faculties or exert his virtues will soon make himself superior to the seasons, and may set at defiance the morning mist and the evening damp, the blasts of the east, and the clouds of the south."

Alas! it is too certain that where the frame has delicate fibres, and there is a fine sensibility, such influences of the air are irresistible.

1 Prayers and Meditations, p. 30.-BoswELL.

He might as well have bid defiance to the ague, the palsy, and other bodily disorders. Such boasting of the mind is false elevation.

"I think the Romans call it Stoicism."

But in this number of his "Idler" his spirits seem to run riot; for in the wantonness of his disquisition he forgets, for a moment, even the reverence for that which he held in high respect, and describes, "the attendant on a Court," as one "whose business is to watch the looks of a being, weak and foolish as himself."

His unqualified ridicule of rhetorical gesture or action is not, surely, a test of truth; yet we cannot help admiring how well it is adapted to produce the effect which he wished :

"Neither the judges of our laws, nor the representatives of our people, would be much affected by laboured gesticulations, or believe any man the more because he rolled his eyes, or puffed his cheeks, or spread abroad his arms, or stamped the ground, or thumped his breast; or turned his eyes sometimes to the ceiling, and sometimes to the floor."

A casual coincidence with other writers, or an adoption of a sentiment or image which has been found in the writings of another, and afterwards appears in the mind as one's own, is not unfrequent. The richness of Johnson's fancy, which could supply his page abundantly on all occasions, and the strength of his memory, which at once detected the real owner of any thought, made him less liable to the imputation of plagiarism than, perhaps, any of our writers. In "The Idler," however, there is a paper in which conversation is assimilated to a bowl of punch, where there is the same train of comparison as in a poem of Blacklock, in his collection published in 1756, in which a parallel is ingeniously drawn between human life and that liquor. It ends,

"Say then, physicians of each kind,

Who cure the body or the mind,
What harm in drinking can there be,

Since punch and life so well agree?"

To "The Idler," when collected in volumes, he added, beside the Essay on Epitaphs, and the Dissertation on those of Pope, an Essay on the Bravery of the English Common Soldiers. He, however, omitted one of the original papers, which in the folio copy is No. 22.1



London, April 14, 1758.

"Your notes upon my poet were very acceptable. I beg that you will be so kind as to continue your searches. It will be reputable to my work, and

1 This paper may be found in Stockdale's supplemental volume of Johnson's Miscellaneous Pieces.-BOSWELL

As you

I wish

suitable to your professorship, to have something of yours in the notes. have given no directions about your name, I shall therefore put it. your brother would take the same trouble. A commentary must arise from the fortuitous discoveries of many men in devious walks of literature. Some of your remarks are on plays already printed: but I purpose to add an Appendix of Notes, so that nothing comes too late.

"You give yourself too much uneasiness, dear Sir, about the loss of the papers. The loss is nothing, if nobody has found them; nor even then, perhaps, if the numbers be known. You are not the only friend that has had the same mischance. You may repair your want out of a stock, which is deposited with Mr. Allen, of Magdalen Hall, or out of a parcel which I have just sent to Mr. Chambers,2 for the use of any body that will be so kind as to want them. Mr. Langtons are well; and Miss Roberts, whom I have at last brought to speak, upon the information which you gave me, that she had something to say.

"I am, &c.




London, June 1, 1758. "You will receive this by Mr. Baretti, a gentleman particularly entitled to the notice and kindness of the Professor of poesy. He has time but for a short stay, and will be glad to have it filled up with as much as he can hear and see.

"In recommending another to your favour, I ought not to omit thanks for the kindness which you have shown to myself. Have you any more notes on Shakspeare? I shall be glad of them.

"I see your pupil sometimes ;3 his mind is as exalted as his stature. I am half afraid of him; but he is no less amiable than formidable. He will, if the forwardness of his spring be not blasted, be a credit to you and to the University. He brings some of my plays with him, which he has my permission to show you, on condition you will hide them from every body else.

"I am,

dear Sir, &c.

June 28, 1758.

"TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ., TRINITY COLLEGE. "DEAR SIR, "Though I might have expected to hear from you, upon your entrance into a new state of life at a new place, yet recollecting (not without some degree of shame) that I owe you a letter upon an old account, I think it my part to write first. This, indeed, I do not only from complaisance, but from interest; for

1 Receipts for Shakspeare.-WARTON.

2 Then of Lincoln College. Now Sir Robert Chambers, one of the Judges in India.WARTON. 3 Mr. Langton.-WARTON.

4 Part of the impression of the Shakspeare, which Dr. Johnson conducted alone, and published by subscription. This edition came out in 1765.-Warton.

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