Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/31

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19
A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

Gentleman of Europe was twenty-one years old when he treated men like Johnson and Reynolds with this insolence." From this rhapsody one would fancy it was the banquet or a deputation when a number of important people, such as Johnson and Reynolds, were kept waiting. Johnson meant that they were expecting the Prince for an hour and a half, it being the opening of the Exhibition, which was attended by hundreds. There was no "insolence" in this; he was so far polite that he sent his excuses; neither had the Prince at that time any claim to be "First Gentleman in Europe." And, finally, the anecdote is not in Boswell.

Sometimes our editor indulges in a joke. On the mention of "Jackson the all-knowing," we have this most singular note: "Mr Croker gives a reference to p. 136 of his edition. Turning to it, we find an account of Johnson, who rode upon three horses. It would seem from this that because John = Jack, therefore Johnson = Jackson." This tone of treating Boswell's great book is surely indecorous. No one of true editorial tact would indulge in such a remark. Besides, it is merely a slip of the index matter, and there are many as bad in the editor's own index. It was, further, a not unnatural mistake, the eyes being deceived by the likeness of the two names.

Boswell speaks of one of Hogarth's prints which, with others, "was pasted on the walls of the dining-room at Streatham." This trifling matter seems clear enough, save to Dr B. Hill. He wonders "whether pasted is strictly used," and thinks it likely "that a wealthy brewer would have afforded Hogarth a frame." He cannot see that it was no question of saving or "affording," but of decoration; this pasting of prints on screens and walls has often been seen in old houses. What, too, is the "strict use" of the word "pasted"? No one could speak of a frame being "pasted" to a wall, even in the less strict use of "pasted." At any rate, Boswell had seen the pictures, and says they were " pasted."

III.

Here is an odd delusion of our editor's. He conceived a theory that Boswell "looked down" on Mr Thrale as being a person in trade, because he spoke of him as "Thrale," not as Mr Thrale; and of his house as "Thrale's." Why, in the very two pages that Dr B. Hill points to, we find Boswell speaking of his friend as "Mr Thrale" no less than eleven times! The theory is wholly fanciful. Again, the editor, announcing a future collection of Johnson's letters, to be edited by himself, sets out this remarkable doctrine: "While the correspondence of David Garrick has been given to the world in two large volumes, it is not right that the letters of his far greater friend should be left scattered and almost neglected." Apart from this odd non sequitur and the appeal to comparative size, the editor's argument is based on a mistake. Johnson's letters are not "left scattered." All that is valuable is found in Boswell's work, and in Mrs Piozzi's volumes. Neither can they be called "neglected," or at least more neglected than they would be in the new shape proposed. But, again, in spite of the "two large volumes," Garrick's letters are still "left scattered." There are many in MS., many in the Monthly Mirror, European, and Gentleman's Magazines. Again, more than one-half of the two large volumes are other persons' letters. So in every view Dr B. Hill is unlucky.

And again, when Boswell objected to keep ing company with a notorious infidel, "a celebrated friend of ours" said to him, "I do not think that men who live laxly in the world, as you and I do, can with propriety assume, etc. It is not consistent to shun an infidel to-day and