Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/43

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

editor tells us, are by "a Mr Coffey." Can he be unaware that "a Mr Coffey" was a well-known, popular dramatist, author of many pieces, notably of "The Devil to Pay," one of Mrs Clive's most popular pieces?

Speaking of Boswell's portrait, the editor says "it was given to him by Sir J. Reynolds." No; it was commissioned by Boswell, who contracted to pay for it after a fixed time. We are rather astonished to learn that the Greek compound word ευμελιης means "armed with good ashen spear." There is no suggestion of "spear "or "armed." It appears to mean "of good ash; ' simply. Boswell speaks of Adam Smith's defence of Hume as being still prefixed to his "History of England," "like a list of quack medicines sold by the same bookseller." The editor says that the bookseller was Francis Newbery; but the publisher of the "History" was Millar, not Newbery, as Boswell elsewhere states.

Johnson wrote to his printer on October 14, 1776, saying, "I sent you some copy." "The copy, or MS.," the editor explains, "I conjecture," was certain "proposals" for a work on "Erse" that Mr Shaw was publishing. When an author writes to a printer, "I sent you some copy," he generally means a portion of copy, or some of the MS.; but this is only a complete scrap of some twenty-five lines. As he had discharged his duty in writing, and supplied the "proposals," he would not write to complain, "I have sent you some copy, but you have not noticed it." But the whole discussion arises out of "a letter about copy," which is not in Boswell's book at all.

We learn with some astonishment that "Johnson did not generally print his name" on his works, for he published anonymously "Lobo's Abyssinia," "London," "The Life of Savage," the Rambler and Idler, "Rasselas," and four pamphlets. To other works he did put his name. Let us take this list and see. "Lobo" was a translation, and a piece of "hack work" which he was ashamed of. The Rambler and Idler were periodicals, to which it was not usual to attach the authors' names. Moreover, he was assisted by friends. The pamphlets were political, and pamphlets were nearly always issued anonymously; but when they were collected in a volume, Dr B. Hill admits that he did put his name. In the case of "The Life of Savage" there were obvious reasons for concealing the author's name, as it involved a piece of delicate family history. There remain only "Rasselas" and the "London." In the case of the latter, he concealed the author's name even from the publisher; and he was, moreover, at the time an obscure drudge whose name was of no account. As to "Rasselas," I confess I can find no reason for concealment. But I ask, is Dr B. Hill justified in saying that "Johnson did not generally put his name to his books," especially as he did put his name to his most notable books the Dictionary, "Lives of the Poets," etc.?

Some of the editor's explanations of the most simple matters are truly extraordinary, and presume an almost childish innocence in his readers. When Boswell tells us that the Ministers suppressed certain passages in the proof sheets of Johnson's pamphlet, the editor furnishes a letter of Johnson's, in which he writes to the printer, "Print me half a dozen copies in the original state." But the too conscientious editor must explain: "When Johnson writes, 'When you print it, print me,' etc., he uses, doubtless, 'print' in the sense of striking off copies. The pamphlet was, we may assume, in type before it was revised. The corrections had been made in the proof sheets. Johnson asks to have six copies." Surely every one knows the distinction between composing, or "setting up," and "printing." And all this needless comment on a letter not