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When the works of a great writer, who has be- / require nothing but the truth. Nam nec historia
queathed to posterity a lasting legacy, are pre-debet egredi veritatem, et honeste factis veritas suffi.
sented to the world, it is naturally expected, that cit. This rule the present biographer promises
some account of his life should accompany the shall guide his pen throughout the following nar.
edition. The reader wishes to know as much as rative.
possible of the author. The circumstances that It may be said, the death of Dr. Johnson kept
attended him, the features of his private charac- the public mind in agitation beyond all former
ter, his conversation, and the means by which example. No literary character ever excited so
he rose to eminence, becomes the favourite ob- much attention; and, when the press has teemed
jects of inquiry. Curiosity is excited; and the with anecdotes, apophthegms, essays, and public
admirer of his works is eager to know his pri- cations of every kind, what occasion now for a
vate opinions, his course of study, the particu- new tract on the same threadbare subject? The
larities of his conduct, and, above all, whether plain truth shall be the answer. The proprie
he pursued the wisdom which he recommends, tors of Johnson's Works thought the life, which
and practised the virtue which his writings in they prefixed to their

former edition, too unweildy
spire. A principle of gratitude is awakened in for republication. The prodigious variety of fo-
every generous mind. For the entertainment reign matter, introduced into that performance,
and instruction which genius and diligence have seemed to overload the memory of Dr. Johnson,
provided for the world, men of refined and sensi- and in the account of his own life to leave him
ble tempers are ready to pay their tribute of hardly visible. They wished to have a more
praise, and even to form a posthumous friend concise, and, for that reason, perhaps a more sa.
ship with the author.

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
truth, a just estimate of Dr. Johnson will afford nor severe: I sometimes say more than I mean,
a lesson, perhaps as valuable as the moral doc- in jest, and people are apt to think me serious."
trine that speaks with energy in every page of The exercise of that privilege which is enjoyed
his works.

by every man in society, has not been allowed
The present writer enjoyed the conversation to him. His fame has given importance even to
and friendship of that excellent man more than trifles; and the zeal of his friends has brought
thirty years. He thought it an honour to be so every thing to light. What should be related,
connected, and to this hour he reflects on his loss and what should not, has been published with-
with regret : but regret, he knows has secret out distinction. Dicenda tacenda locuti! Every
bribes, by which the judgment may be influ- thing that fell from him has been caught with
enced, and partial affection may be carried be- eagerness by his admirers, who, as he says in
yond the bounds of truth. In the present case, one of his letters, have acted with the diligence
however, nothing needs to be disguised, and ex- of spies upon his conduct. To some of them
aggerated praise is unnecessary. It is an ob- the following lines, in Mallet's Poem, on verbal
servation of the younger Pliny, in his Epistle to criticism, are not inapplicable:
his friend Tacitus, that history ought never to
magnify matters of fact, because worthy actions * Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. ii. p. 465. 4to. edit


"Such that grave bird in Northern seas is found,
Whose name a Dutchman only knows to sound;
Where'er the king of fish moves on before,
This humble friend attends from shore to shore;
With eye still earnest, and with bill inclined,
He picks up what his patron left behind,
With those choice cates his palate to regale,
And is the careful Tibbald of a Whale."

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.

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