Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/15

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

a headline over every page of the editor's composition, which affects to describe the subject-matter of each page. This was not, at all events, Boswell's idea. Another adornment which shows a lack of delicate instinct, is the supplying an elaborate modern engraved map for the "Tour." Now, Boswell gave a very clear outline map, without any shading of mountains, etc.—a plan or diagram of the "Tour," as it were, which has a quaint, antique look. This should surely have been reproduced. Again, Boswell, in all the titles of his " Tour," seemed to pride himself on a piquant little device, which he had specially engraved, his crest, a hawk, and motto, "Vraye foy" This is missing in Dr B. Hill's edition. Boswell also gave fac-similes of Johnson's writing at different periods of his life, which he placed on a single page for convenience of comparison. But Dr B. Hill supplies various huge fac-simile letters at full length, which have to be folded and refolded and unfolded, often double pages, and give a clumsiness to the volume. It is the same with the subjects of the many fine prints which are introduced, but after a capricious principle.

Then the appendices offer a strange "renovation of hope" with perpetual disappointment. A whole "section" is thus introduced as promising something highly important, with this title:

"Boswell's intention to attend on Johnson in his illness, and to publish 'Praises of him'"

Now, this seemed to hold out something novel. But we only find this extract: "I intend to be in London in March, chiefly to attend on Dr Johnson with respectful attention. I intend to publish," etc. Such is the entire section.

Another long appendix is devoted to an account of George Psalmanazar and his character. Other remarkable, curious, and eccentric personages alluded to in the text might have equal claim to this separate form of treatment. But will any one guess what was our editor's reason for selecting Psalmanazar? Not the importance of the adventurer; not the editor's own judgment, but this: "I have complied with the request of an unknown correspondent ('query, anonymous'), who was naturally interested in the history of that strange man." The mysteriousness is extraordinary. Granting that the unknown one was "naturally interested," was his "request" therefore to be attended to?

The last of the six great volumes is almost entirely devoted to indexes and abstracts. It is, indeed, a perfect "curio" in its line. Thus, we unfold what looks like a weather map, a strange mystery or diagram, with crossed lines, and figures, and colours, and columns, which is described as, "A chart of Dr Johnson's Con temporaries, drawn up by Margaret and Lucy Hill, on the model of a chart in Mr Ruskiris 'Ariadne Florentina.'" Diable! Recovering from this we pass on to: "Titles of many of the Works quoted in the Notes," filling twelve closely-printed pages. Of "many," but why not all? If they are "quoted in the notes," they are only at the particular place. Why have them over again here? Next we come upon what is called "Addenda," scraps from a number of Johnson's letters which, it seems, were sold at Sotheby's some years ago, all more or less trivial such as an account of "Young Strahan at College," having no relevancy to Boswell's "Life of Johnson," where Dr B. Hill wanders off on his own account with "My friend, Mr C. J. Faulkener, Fellow and Master of University College, has given me the following extracts "which are concerned with the election of the young George Strahan to the