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GEORGE DEARBORN, PUBLISHER.
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
THE BEQUEST OF THEODORE JEWETT EASTMAN 1931
Printed by SCATCHERD & ADAMS.
When the works of a great writer, who has be- / require nothing but the truth. Nam nec historia
former edition, too unweildy
tisfactory account, such as may exhibit a just In reviewing the life of such a writer, there is, picture of the man, and keep him the principas besides, a rule of justice to which the public have figure in the foreground of his own picture. an undoubted claim. Fond admiration and par- To comply with that request is the design o' tial friendship should not be suffered to represent this essay, which the writer undertakes with a his virtues with exaggeration ; nor should ma- trembling hand. He has no discoveries, no se lignity be allowed, under a specious disguise, to cret anecdotes, no occasional controversy, no magnify mere defects, the usual failings of hu- sudden flashes of wit and humour, no private man nature, into vice or gross deformity. The conversation, and no new facts to embellish his lights and shades of the character should be work. Every thing has been gleaned. Dr. given; and, if this be done with a strict regard to Johnson -said of himself
, “I am not uncandid
by every man in society, has not been allowed
"Such that grave bird in Northern seas is found,
where he was not remarkable for diligence of regular application. Whatever he read, his tenacious memory made his own. In the fields with his school-fellows, he talked more to him. self than with his companions. In 1725, when he was about sixteen years old, he went on a visit to his cousin Cornelius Ford, who detained
After so many essays and volumes of Johnsoni-him for some months, and in the mean time asana, what remains for the present writer? Per-sisted him in the classics. The general direchaps, what has not been attempted; a short, yet tion for his studies, which he then received, he full-a faithful, yet temperate, history of Dr. related to Mrs. Piozzi. "Obtain," says Ford, Johnson. "some general principles of every science: he who can talk only on one subject, or act only in SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Litchfield, Sep- one department, is seldom wanted, and perhaps tember 7, 1709, O. S.* His father Michael never wished for; while the man of general Johnson was a bookseller in that city; a man knowledge can often benefit, and always please." of large athletic make, and violent passions; This advice Johnson seems to have pursued with wrong-headed, positive, and at times afflicted a good inclination. His reading was always de with a degree of melancholy, little short of mad-sultory, seldom resting on any particular author, ness. His mother was sister to Dr. Ford, a but rambling from one book to another, and, by practising physician, and father of Cornelius hasty snatches, hoarding up a variety of knowFord, generally known by the name of PARSON ledge. It may be proper in this place to menFORD, the same who is represented near the tion another general rule laid down by Ford for punch-bowl in Hogarth's Midnight Modern Johnson's future conduct: “You will make your Conversation. In the life of Fenton, Johnson way the more easily in the world, as you are consays, that "his abilities, instead of furnishing tented to dispute no man's claim to conversation convivial merriment to the voluptuous and disso- excellence: they will, therefore, more willingly lute, might have enabled him to excel among the allow your pretensions as a writer." "But," virtuous and the wise." Being chaplain to the says Mrs. Piozzi, "the features of peculiarity, Earl of Chesterfield, he wished to attend that which mark a character to all succeeding genenobleman on his embassy to the Hague. Col- rations, are slow in coming to their growth." ley Cibber has recorded the anecdote. "You That ingenious lady adds, with her usual vivashould go," said the witty peer, "if to your many city, "Can one, on such an occasion, forbear revices you would add one more," "Pray, my collecting the predictions of Boileau's father, Lord, what is that?" "Hypocrisy, my dear Doc- who said, stroking the head of the young satirist, tor." Johnson had a younger brother named 'this little man has too much wit, but he will ne Nathaniel, who died at the age of twenty-seven ver speak ill of any one?"" or twenty-eight. Michael Johnson, the father, was chosen in the year 1718, under bailiff of Litchfield; and in the year 1725 he served the office of the senior bailiff. He had a brother of the name of Andrew, who, for some years, kept the ring at Smithfield, appropriated to wrestlers and boxers. Our author used to say, that he was never thrown or conquered. Michael, the father, died December 1731, at the age of seventysix; his mother at eighty-nine, of a gradual decay, in the year 1759. Of the family nothing more can be related worthy of notice. Johnson did not delight in talking of his relations. "There is little pleasure," he said to Mrs. Piozzi, "in relating the anecdotes of beggary."
On Johnson's return from Cornelius Ford, Mr. Hunter, then master of the Free-school at Litchfield, refused to receive him again on that foundation. At this distance of time, what his reasons were, it is vain to inquire; but to refuse assistance to a lad of promising genius must be pronounced harsh and illiberal. It did not, however stop the progress of the young student's education. He was placed at another school, at Stourbridge in Worcestershire, under the care of Mr. Wentworth. Having gone through the rudiments of classic literature, he returned to his father's house, and was probably intended for the trade of a bookseller. He has been heard to say that he could bind a book. At the end of two years, being then about nineteen, he went to assist the studies of a young gentleman of the name of Corbett, to the University of Oxford; and on the 31st of October, 1728, both were entered of Pembroke College; Corbett, as a gentleman-commoner, and Johnson as a commoner. The college tutor, Mr. Jordan, was a man of no genius; and Johnson, it seems, showed an early contempt of mean abilities, in one or two instances behaving with insolence to that gentleman. Of his general conduct at the university there are no particulars that merit attention, ex
Johnson derived from his parents, or from an unwholesome nurse, the distemper called the king's evil. The jacobites at that time believed in the efficacy of the royal touch; and accordingly Mrs. Johnson presented her son, when two years old, before Queen Anne, who, for the first time, performed that office, and communicated to her young patient all the healing virtue in her power. He was afterwards cut for that scrophulous humour, and the under part of his face was seamed and disfigured by the operation. It is supposed that this disease deprived him of the sight of his left eye, and also impaired his hear-cept the translation of Pope's Messiah, which ing. At eight years old he was placed under was a college exercise imposed upon him as a Mr. Hawkins, at the Free-school in Litchfield, task, by Mr. Jordan. Corbett left the university in about two years, and Johnson's salary ceased. He was by consequence straitened in his circumstances: but he still remained at college. Mr. Jordan the tutor, went off to a living; and was succeeded by Dr. Adams, who afterwards be
*This appears in a note to Johnson's Diary, prefixed to the first of his prayers. After the alteration of the style, he kept his birth-day on the 18th of September, and it is accordingly marked September, 7-18.