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1755. in itself very plain. But to these frivolous cenfures no other answer is necefEtat. 46. fary than that with which we are furnished by his own Preface. "To explain,

requires the use of terms lefs abftrufe than that which is to be explained, and fuch terms cannot always be found. For as nothing can be proved but by fuppofing something intuitively known, and evident without proof, fo nothing can be defined but by the use of words too plain to admit of definition. Sometimes easier words are changed into harder; as, burial, into fepulture or -interment; dry, into deficcative; dryness, into ficcity or aridity; fit, into paroxyfm; for, the eafteft word, whatever it be, can never be tranflated into one more eafy."

His introducing his own opinions, and even prejudices, under general definitions of words, while at the fame time the original meaning of the words is not explained, as his Tory, Whig, Penfion, Oats, Excife, and a few more, cannot be fully defended, and must be placed to the account of capricious and humourous indulgence. Talking to me upon this fubject when we were at Ashbourne in 1777, he mentioned a still stronger inftance of the predominance of his private feelings in the compofition of this work, than any now to be found in it. "You know, Sir, Lord Gower forfook the old Jacobite intereft. When I came to the word Renegado, after telling that it meant ‘one who deferts to the enemy, a revolter,' I added, Sometimes we fay a Gower. Thus it went to the prefs; but the printer had more wit than I, and struck it out."

Let it, however, be remembered, that this indulgence does not display itself only in farcafin towards others, but fometimes in playful allufion to the notions commonly entertained of his own laborious task. Thus: "GrubStreet, the name of a street in London, much inhabited by writers of small hiftories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called Grub-street."-" Lexicographer, a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge."

At the time when he was concluding his very eloquent Preface, Johnson's mind appears to have been in fuch a state of depreffion, that we cannot contemplate without wonder the vigorous and fplendid thoughts which fo highly distinguish that performance. "I (fays he) may furely be contented without the praise of perfection, which if I could obtain in this gloom of folitude, what would it avail me? I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please, have funk into the grave; and fuccefs and miscarriage are empty founds. I therefore difmifs it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from cenfure or from praife." That this indifference was rather a temporary.


a temporary than an habitual feeling, appears, I think, from his letters to Mr. Warton; and however he may have been affected for the moment, Etat. 46. certain it is that the honours which his great work procured him, both at home and abroad, were very grateful to him. His friend the Earl of Corke and Orrery, being at Florence, prefented it to the Academia della Crufca. That Academy fent Johnson their Vocabulario, and the French Academy fent him their Dictionnaire, which Mr. Langton had the pleasure to convey to him.

It muft undoubtedly feem ftrange, that the conclufion of his Preface fhould be expreffed in terms fo defponding, when it is confidered that the authour was then only in his forty-fixth year. But we must ascribe its gloom to that miferable dejection of fpirits to which he was conftitutionally fubject, and which was aggravated by the death of his wife two years before. I have heard it ingeniously observed by a lady of rank and elegance, that "his melancholy was then at its meridian." It pleafed GOD to grant him almost thirty years of life after this time; and once, when he was in a placid frame of mind, he was obliged to own to me that he had enjoyed happier days, and had had many more friends, fince that gloomy hour than before.

It is a fad faying, that "moft of those whom he wished to please had funk into the grave," and his cafe at forty-five was fingularly unhappy, unless the circle of his friends was very narrow. I have often thought, that as longevity is generally defired, and, I believe, generally expected, it would be wife to be continually adding to the number of our friends, that the lofs of fome may be fupplied by others. Friendship, "the wine of life," fhould, like a wellftocked cellar, be thus continually renewed; and it is confolatory to think, that although we can feldom add what will equal the generous first-growths of our youth, yet friendship becomes infenfibly old in much lefs time than is commonly imagined, and not many years are required to make it very mellow and pleasant. Warmth will, no doubt, make a considerable difference. Men of affectionate temper and bright fancy will coalefce a great deal fooner than those who are cold and dull.

The propofition which I have now endeavoured to illuftrate was, at an after period of his life, the opinion of Johnson himself. He faid to Sir Joshua Reynolds, "If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will foon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, fhould keep his friendship in conftant repair."

The celebrated Mr. Wilkes, whofe notions and habits of life were very oppofite to his, but who was ever eminent for literature and vivacity, fallied forth with a little feu d' Efprit upon the following paffage in his Grammar of



the English Tongue, prefixed to the Dictionary: "H feldom, perhaps never, Etat. 46. begins any but the first syllable." In an effay printed in the Publick Adver

tifer, this lively writer enumerated many inftances in oppofition to this remark;
for example,
"The authour of this obfervation must be a man of a quick
appre-benfion, and of a moft compre-benfive genius." The pofition is un-
doubtedly expreffed with too much latitude.

This light fally, we may fuppofe, made no great impreffion on our Lexicographer, for we find that he never altered the paffage.

He had the pleasure of being treated in a very different manner by his old pupil Mr. Garrick, in the following complimentary Epigram :



"TALK of war with a Briton, he'll boldly advance,
"That one English foldier will beat ten of France;
"Would we alter the boast from the sword to the
"Our odds are still greater, ftill greater our men:
"In the deep mines of science though Frenchmen may toil,
"Can their strength be compar'd to Locke, Newton, and Boyle?
"Let them rally their heroes, fend forth all their pow'rs,
"Their verfe-men and profe-men; then match them with ours!
"First Shakspeare and Milton, like gods in the fight,
"Have put their whole drama and epic to flight;
"In fatires, epiftles, and odes, would they cope,
"Their numbers retreat before Dryden and Pope;
"And Johnson, well arm'd like a hero of yore,
"Has beat forty French3, and will beat forty more!"

Johnson this year gave at once a proof of his benevolence, quickness of apprehenfion, and admirable art of compofition, in the affiftance which he gave to Mr. Zachariah Williams, father of the blind lady whom he had humanely received under his roof. Mr. Williams had followed the profeffion of phyfick in Wales; but having a very strong propensity to the study of natural philosophy, had made many ingenious advances towards a discovery of the longitude, and repaired to London in hopes of obtaining the great parliamentary reward. He failed of fuccefs; but Johnson having made himself

The number of the French Academy employed in fettling their language.



master of his principles and experiments, wrote for him a pamphlet, published in quarto, with the following title; "An Account of an Attempt to afcertain Etat. 46, the Longitude at Sea, by an exact Theory of the Variation of the magnetical Needle; with a Table of the Variations at the moft remarkable Cities in Europe, from the year 1660 to 1860." To diffuse it more extensively, it was accompanied with an Italian tranflation on the oppofite page, which it is fuppofed was the work of Signor Baretti, an Italian of confiderable literature, who having come to England a few years before, had been employed in the capacity both of a language-mafter and an authour, and formed an intimacy with Dr. Johnson. This pamphlet Johr.fon presented to the Bodleian Library *. On a blank leaf of it is pafted a paragraph cut out of a newspaper, containing an account of the death and character of Williams, plainly written by Johnsons.

In July this year he had formed fome scheme of mental improvement, the particular purpose of which does not appear. But we find in his " "Prayers and Meditations," p. 24, a prayer entitled "On the Study of Philofophy, as an Inftrument of living;" and after it follows a note, "This ftudy was not purfued."

In 1756 Johnson found that the great fame of his Dictionary had not set him above the neceffity of " making provifion for the day that was paffing over him." No royal or noble patron extended a munificent hand to give independence to the man who had conferred stability on the language of his country. We may feel indignant that there should have been fuch unworthy neglect; but we muft, at the fame time, congratulate ourselves, that to this very neglect, operating to rouse the natural indolence of his conftitution, we owe many valuable productions, which otherwise, perhaps, might never have appeared.

He had spent, during the progress of the work, the money for which he had contracted to write his Dictionary. We have feen that the reward of his labour was only fifteen hundred and feventy-five pounds; and when the expence of amanuenfes and paper, and other articles are deducted, his clear profit was

See note by Mr. Warton, p. 149.

5 "On Saturday the 12th, about twelve at night, died Mr. Zachariah Williams, in his eightythird year, after an illness of eight months, in full poffeffion of his mental faculties. He has been long known to philofophers and feamen for his skill in magnetifm, and his propofal to afcertain the longitude by a peculiar fyftem of the variation of the compafs. He was a man of industry indefatigable, of conversation inoffensive, patient of adversity and disease, eminently fober, temperate, and pious; and worthy to have ended life with better fortune."



Ætat. 47.


inconfiderable. I once faid to him "I am forry, Sir, you did not get But it was more for your Dictionary." His anfwer was, "I am forry too. very well. The booksellers are generous liberal-minded men.”

He, upon

all occafions, did ample justice to their character in this respect. He confidered them as the patrons of literature; and, indeed, although they have eventually been confiderable gainers by his Dictionary, it is to them that we owe its having been undertaken and carried through at the risk of great expence, for they were not abfolutely fure of being indemnified.

On the first day of this year we find from his private devotions, that he had then recovered from fickness'; and in February that his eye was restored to its ufe". The pious gratitude with which he acknowledges mercies upon every occafion is very edifying; as is the humble fubmiffion which he breathes when it is the will of his heavenly Father to try him with afflictions. As fuch difpofitions become the state of man here, and are the true effects of religious difcipline, we cannot but venerate in Johnson one of the most exercised minds that our holy religion hath ever formed. If there be any thoughtless enough to fuppofe fuch exercise the weakness of a great understanding, let them look up to Johnson, and be convinced that what he fo earnestly practifed must have a rational foundation.


His works this year were, an abstract or epitome, in octavo, of his folio Dictionary, and a few effays in a monthly publication, entitled, "THE UNIVERSAL VISITER." Chriftopher Smart, with whose unhappy vacillation of mind he fincerely fympathifed, was one of the stated undertakers of this mifcellany; and it was to affift him that Johnson fometimes employed his pen. All the effays marked with two afterisks have been ascribed to him; but I am confident, from internal evidence, that of these, neither "The Life of Chaucer," "Reflections on the State of Portugal,” nor an Effay on Architecture," were written by him. I am equally confident, upon the fame evidence, that he wrote "Further Thoughts on Agriculture,t" being the fequel of a very inferiour effay on the fame fubject, and which, though carried on as if by the fame hand, is both in thinking and expreffion fo far above it, and so strikingly peculiar, as to leave no doubt of its true parent; and that he also wrote "A Differtation on the State of Literature and Authours,t" and "A Differtation on the Epitaphs written by Pope.t" The last of these, indeed, he afterwards added to his " Idler." Why the effays truly written by him are marked in the fame manner with fome he did not write, I cannot explain; but with deference to those who have ascribed to him the three effays which 7 Ibid. p. 27.

6 Prayers and Meditations, p. 25.

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