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In 1742 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine the "Preface,†” the Parliamentary Debates,*" Effay on the Account of the Conduct of the Etat. 33. Duchefs of Marlborough,*" then the popular topick of converfation. This Effay is a short but masterly performance. We find him, in No. 13 of his Rambler, cenfuring a profligate fentiment in that "Account;" and again infifting upon it ftrenuously in converfation 3. "An Account of the Life of Peter Burman,*" I believe chiefly taken from a foreign publication; as, indeed, he could not himself know much about Burman; "Additions to his Life of Baretier ;* "The Life of Sydenham,*" afterwards prefixed to Dr. Swan's edition of his works; " Propofals for printing Bibliotheca Harleiana, or a Catalogue of the Library of the Earl of Oxford." His account of that celebrated collection of books, in which he difplays the importance to literature, of what the French call a catalogue raifonnée, when the subjects of it are extensive and various, and it is executed with ability, cannot fail to impress all his readers with admiration of his philological attainments. It was afterwards prefixed to the first volume of the Catalogue, in which the Latin accounts of books were written by him. He was employed in this business by Mr. Thomas Ofborne the bookfeller, who purchased the library for 13,000l. a fum, which Mr. Oldys fays, in one of his manufcripts, was not more than the binding of the books had coft; yet, as Dr. Johnson affured me, the flowness of the fale was fuch, that there was not much gained by it. It has been confidently related, with many embellishments, that Johnson one day knocked Ofborne down in his fhop, with a folio, and put his foot upon his neck. The fimple truth I had from Johnfon himself. Sir, he was impertinent to me, and I beat him. But it was not in his fhop: it was in my own chamber."
A very diligent obferver may trace him where we should not eafily 'fuppose him to be found. I have no doubt that he wrote the little abridgement entitled "Foreign History," in the Magazine for December. To prove it, I fhall quote the introduction. "As this is that season of the year in which Nature may be faid to command a suspension of hoftilities, and which feems intended, by putting a short stop to violence and slaughter, to afford time for malice to relent, and animofity to fubfide; we can scarce expect any other accounts than of plans, negociations and treaties, of proposals for peace, and preparations for war." As alfo this passage: As alfo this paffage: "Let thofe who defpife the capacity of the Swifs, tell us by what wonderful policy, or by what happy
conciliation of interefts, it is brought to pafs, that in a body made up of different communities and different religions, there fhould be no civil commotions, though the people are fo warlike, that to nominate and raise an army is the fame."
I am obliged to Mr. Aftle for his ready permiffion to copy the two following letters, of which the originals are in his poffeffion. Their contents fhew that they were written about this time, and that Johnson was now engaged in preparing an hiftorical account of the British Parliament.
To Mr. CAVE.
"I BELIEVE I am going to write a long letter, and have therefore taken a whole fheet of paper. The first thing to be written about is our historical defign.
"You mentioned the propofal of printing in numbers, as an alteration in the scheme, but I believe you mistook, fome way or other, my meaning; I had no other view than that you might rather print too many of five sheets, than of five and thirty.
"With regard to what I fhall fay on the manner of proceeding, I would have it understood as wholly indifferent to me, and my opinion only, not my refolution. Emptoris fit eligere.
"I think the infertion of the exact dates of the most important events in the margin, or of so many events as may enable the reader to regulate the order of facts with fufficient exactnefs, the proper medium between a journal which has regard only to time, and a history which ranges facts according to their dependence on each other, and poftpones or anticipates according to the convenience of narration. I think the work ought to partake of the spirit of hiftory, which is contrary to minute exactness, and of the regularity of a journal, which is inconfistent with spirit. For this reafon, I neither admit numbers or dates, nor reject them.
"I am of your opinion with regard to placing most of the refolutions, &c. in the margin, and think we shall give the most complete account of parliamentary proceedings that can be contrived. The naked papers, without an historical treatise interwoven, require fome other book to make them understood. I will date the fucceeding facts with fome exactness, but I think in the margin. You told me on Saturday that I had received money on this work, and found fet down 137. 2s. 6d. reckoning the half guinea of last Saturday. As you hinted to me that you had many calls for money, I would not prefs you too hard, and therefore fhall defire only, as I fend it in, two
guineas for a sheet of copy, the reft you may pay me when it may be more 1742. convenient; and even by this fheet-payment I fhall, for fome time, be very tat. 33. expensive..
"The Life of Savage I am ready to go upon; and in Great Primer, and
day; but the money for
Pica notes, I reckon on fending in half a fheet a that shall likewife lye by in your hands till it is done. I not have business enough? if I had but good pens.
With the debates, fhall
"Towards Mr. Savage's Life what more have you got? I would willingly have his trial, &c. and know whether his defence be at Briftol; and would have his collection of poems, on account of the preface-The Plain Dealer,all the magazines that have any thing of his, or relating to him.
"I thought my letter would be long, but it is now ended; and I am, Sir,
"The boy found me writing this almoft in the dark, when I could not quite eafily read yours.
"I have read the Italian-nothing in it is well.
"I had no notion of having any thing for the Infcription. I hope you don't think I kept it it to extort a price. I could think of nothing, till to day. If you could fpare me another guinea for the hiftory, I fhould take it very kindly, to night; but if you do not, I fhall not think it an injury.--I am almost well again."
To Mr. CAVE.
"YOU did not tell me your determination about the Soldier's Letter‡, which I am confident was never printed. I think it will not do by itself, or in any other place, fo well as the Mag. Extraordinary. If you will have it at all, I believe you do not think I fet it high, and I will be glad if what you give, you will give quickly.
"You need not be in care about fomething to print, for I have got the State Trials, and shall extract Layer, Atterbury, and Macclesfield from them, and fhall bring them to you in a fortnight; after which I will try to get the South Sea Report."
[No date, nor fignature.]
I would also ascribe to him an "Effay on the Defcription of China, from the French of Du Halde.+"
His writings in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1743, are, the Preface,† the Parliamentary Debates,+ "Confiderations on the Difpute between Croufaz and Warburton, on Pope's Effay on Man,t" in which, while he defends Croufaz, he fhews an admirable metaphyfical acutenefs and temperance in controversy; "Ad Lauram parituram Epigramma ";" and, "A Latin Tranflation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto;*" and, as he could employ his pen with equal fuccefs upon a small matter as a great, I fuppofe him to be the authour of an advertisement for Ofborn, concerning the great Harleian Catalogue.
But I fhould think myself much wanting, both to my illuftrious friend and my readers, did I not introduce here, with more than ordinary respect, an exquifitely beautiful Ode, which has not been inferted in any of the collections of Johnson's poetry, written by him at a very early period, as Mr. Hector informs me, and inferted in the Gentleman's Magazine of this year.
FRIENDSHIP, an ODE.*
FRIENDSHIP, peculiar boon of heaven,
To all the lower world deny'd.
While love, unknown among the bleft,
With bright, but oft deftructive, gleam,
7 Angliacas inter pulcherrima Laura puellas,
Adfit, Laura, tibi facilis Lucina dolenti,
Mr. Hector was prefent when this Epigram was made impromptu. The firft line was propofed by Dr. James, and Johnson was called upon by the company to finish it, which he instantly did.
Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys
On fools and villains ne'er defcend;
Directress of the brave and juft,
O guide us through life's darkfome way!
And let the tortures of mistrust
On selfish bofoms only prey.
Nor fhall thine ardours ceafe to glow,
Johnson had now an opportunity of obliging his fchoolfellow Dr. James, of whom he once obferved, "no man brings more mind to his profeffion." James published this year his "Medicinal Dictionary," in three volumes folio. Johnson, as I understood from him, had written, or affifted in writing, the proposals for this work; and being very fond of the study of phyfick, in which James was his mafter, he furnished fome of the articles. He, however, certainly wrote for it the Dedication to Dr. Mead,† which is conceived with great address, to conciliate the patronage of that very eminent man3.
It has been circulated, I know not with what authenticity, that Johnson confidered Dr. Birch as a dull writer, and faid of him, "Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee in converfation; but no fooner does he take a pen in his hand, than
8 To Dr. MEAD.
"THAT the Medicinal Dictionary is dedicated to you, is to be imputed only to your reputation for fuperiour skill in those sciences which I have endeavoured to explain and facilitate : and you are, therefore, to confider this address, if it be agreeable to you, as one of the rewards of merit; and, if otherwise, as one of the inconveniencies of eminence.
"However you shall receive it, my design cannot be disappointed; because this publick appeal to your judgement will fhew that I do not found my hopes of approbation upon the ignorance of my readers, and that I fear his cenfure leaft, whofe knowledge is most extensive.
I am, Sir,
"Your moft obedient humble fervant,