Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/34

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

the point than being told that "he was a very fat man."

Johnson had found fault with the meat in Paris. The editor, to confute him, quotes Smollett, who found it "extremely good." But this was twelve years before Johnson's visit. We next have Walpole, who complained of the want of "clean victuals, good tea, butter," etc. But this was at Amiens, not at Paris, and Walpole does not mention meat at all. Finally, there is Goldsmith, who indeed speaks of the "tough meat" at Paris. So Johnson is right after all.

Speaking of Lord Hailes, formerly Sir David Dalrymple, the editor needlessly cautions us that " he is not to be confounded with Sir John Dalrymple." We might as well be warned not to confound Mr W. H. Smith with Mr Samuel Smith, or Mr John Morley with Mr Samuel Morley, or Sir John Sullivan with Sir Arthur Sullivan. " Boswell nowhere quotes Mrs Barbauld's fine lines on 'Corsica.'" Why should he? There is an abundance of verses, essays, etc., on the subject which he does not quote. He was writing Johnson's life. So odd does this abstinence appear to the editor, that he devises this odd theory to account for it. "He must have been ashamed to quote the praise of the wife of one described by his great friend as 'a little Presbyterian schoolmaster.'" Johnson said jocosely that Beattie "had sunk upon them that he had a wife." This is quite intelligible. Beattie himself said that he understood it as "studiously concealing." What need of more? Still the editor must apply to the great Dictionary, where, he says reprovingly, Beattie "would have found this explanation: 'To suppress: to conceal.'" But this was Beattie's meaning. Then Dr B. Hill quotes Swift's advice to servants, where he tells them, if sent to buy an article, they were to "sink the money," which is not Johnson's meaning, but a new one, "to appropriate."


IV.

One of the editor's speculations is rather con fused and uncritical, as the reader will judge. "I cannot but wish," says Boswell, speaking of the Rambler, "that he had not ended it with an unnecessary Greek verse;" and he adds: "How much better would it have been to have ended it with a prose sentence," etc. Here the editor exclaims: "I have little doubt that this attack is an indirect blow at Hawkins, who had quoted the whole passage, and had clearly thought it more 'aweful' on account of the couplet." Without going further, every reader feels that this is quite a delusion, and that Boswell was not thinking of such a trifle. He always names Hawkins when he attacks him. But there was no "attack," and on turning to Hawkins, we find not the slightest allusion to the couplet, or that he "clearly thought" the passage "more awful" because of it. He limits his praise wholly to the prose paragraph, which he calls awful. What Dr B. Hill was thinking of when he engendered this theory I cannot imagine. Finding an allusion to the death of two book sellers, he turns to his Gentleman's Magazine to find their names—"Mr Paul Knapton and Thomas Longman, Esq."—on which he calls attention to the high relative position of the Longmans above their fellows, even thus early; poor Knapton being only plain "Mr," the other being garnished with "Esq." The truth is, Knapton stood far higher, being an old-established bookseller, whose name is on innumerable title-pages; and the obituary notes in the Gentleman's Magazine were copied from the newspapers, where they were inserted by relatives with "Esq." if they preferred it.

Lord Campbell stated that Hunter, Johnson's