« AnteriorContinuar »
but Mr. Boswell states, upon Johnson's own authority, that he composed fortyeight of the present octavo pages at a fitting, but that he sat up all night. It came out in February, from the shop of Roberts, who, in April following, republished his Life of Barettier, in a separate pamphlet, It was no fooner published than the following liberal praise was given to it by Fielding, in “ The Champion,” which was copied into the “ Gentleman's Magazine for April, and confirmed by the approbation of the public.
“ This pamphlet is, without flattery to its author, as just and well-written a piece of its kind as I ever saw. It is certainly penned with equal accuracy and spirit, of which I am so much the better judge, as I knew many of the facts to be strictly true, and very fairly related. It is a very amusing, and withal a very instructive and valuable performance. The author's ob
Servations are short, significant, and just, as his narrative is remarkably smooth, and well disposed. His reflections open to all the recesses of the human heart; and, in a word, a more just or pleasant, a more engaging, or a more instructive treatise on all the excellencies and defects of human nature, is scarce to be found in our own, or perhaps any other language.”
Johnson had now lived nearly half his days, without friends or lucrative profesfion ; he had toiled and laboured, yet still, as he himself expresses it, was “ to provide for the day that was passing over him.” Of the profession of an unfriended author he saw the danger and the difficulties. Amhurst, who had conducted “ The Craftfman,” Savage, Boyse, and others who had laboured in literature, without emerging from distress, were recent examples, and clouded his prospect.
Sir John Hawkins has preserved a list of literary projects; not less than thirty-nine articles, which he had formed in the course of his studies; but such was his want of encouragement, or the versatility of his temper, that not one of all his schemes was ever executed.
A new edition of Shakspeare now occurred to him, and, as a prelude to it, in April 1745, he published a pamphlet, intituled Miscellaneous Obfervations on the. Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir Thomas. Hanmer's edition of Shakspeare ; to which is affixed, proposals for a new edition of ShakJpeare, with a Specimen, 8vo. The notice. of the public was, however, not excited to his anonymous proposals for the execution of a task which Warburton was known to. have undertaken ; the project, therefore, died at that time, to revive at a future period. His pamphlet, however, was highly esteemed, and even the supercilious War
burton, in the “ Preface” to his Shakfpeare, published two years afterwards, had the candour to exempt it from his general censure “ of those things which have been published under the titles of " Essays,” “Remarks, Observations," &c. on “ Shakfpeare,” and spoke of it as the work of "a man of great parts and genius.” This obligation Johnson always acknowledged in terms of gratitude. He praised me (said he) at a time when praise was of value to me."
In the year 1746, which was marked by a civil war in Britain, when a rash attempt was made to restore the house of Ştuart to the throne, his literary career appears to have been almost totally sufpended. His attachment to that unfortunate family is well known ; some máy imagine that a sympathetic anxiety impeded the exertion of his intellectual powers; but it is probable that he
time, employed upon his Shakspeare, or sketching the outlines of his Dictionary of the English Language.
Having formed and digested the plan of his great philological work, which might then be esteemed one of the desiderata of English literature, he communicated it to the public, in 1747, in a pamphlet intituléd, The Plan of a Dictionary of the Englifh Language, addressed to the Right Honourable Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, one of his Majesty's Secretaries of State. The hint of undertaking this work is said to have been first suggested to Johnson by Dodsley, who contracted with him for the execution of it in conjunction with Mr. Charles Hitch, Mr. Andrew Millar, the two Messrs. Longman, and the two Messrs. Knapton. The price stipulated was 15751.
The Plan has not only the substantial merit of comprehension, perspicuity, and precision, but the language of it is unex