Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/52

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

only 5d. worth of food or drink. His meals or meal must, therefore, have been charged to some one else. Further, his name now figures regularly in the books, week after week, though there are no charges. Then comes another surprise. On March the 13th we find him paying for a week's meals, 4s. 7d., and on March 27th, 5d.; so this represents a fortnight's stay at least. I believe the explanation is that he was absent at Lichfield for the first two months of the year trying to make some arrangement, and that on his return he paid for a week's commons or so. At all events, here he is shown to be still at Oxford, three months after he is supposed to have finally left. This accounts for some eighteen months. His name is now entered regularly week after week, still without charges, down to November 27, 1730, when it is removed altogether for nearly two months, to reappear once on January 29, 1731, but without charges. This removal might show that he had gone away finally, and had lost hope of returning. But the name again reappears on March 12, 1731, and is continued steadily, without charges, down to October i, when it finally vanished, the three years claimed being all but completed. What explanation can be given of these fitful disappearances and replacings, except that the unhappy youth was now remaining struggling desperately to retain his footing, now hurrying away to obtain aid, now succeeding or failing; that he was at the college, but that his meals were charged to some one else? No other rational reason can be given of Johnson's name being withdrawn from the books altogether, and then restored, save that the few charges set down were of his own payment, and that the blanks meant that the charge was defrayed in some other way. Had he gone away altogether, his name would have been summarily removed. This absence of charges for meals when he was in residence points to surely some eleemosynary system of assistance, to some charging to another person's account. Mr Elwin thinks that the college supplied him gratis, and held over the charges till better times. Dr B. Hill thinks this impossible—that the charges for meals must be the only evidence of residence; but this, as I have shown, is disposed of by those entries where only 5d. is charged, from which it is evident he was in residence, and yet is not charged with his meals. Dr B. Hill thinks, too, that when the name is given week after week, it was merely kept on the books in the hope of his return; but on this theory how is it to be explained that the name is given in the very first entry after he had arrived at the University, and this without any charges opposite to it? I think, therefore, that this argument from the "Battels," fails.

There is an entry in the books that Johnson's "caution money," £7, was forfeited to satisfy a claim of the college for monies owing to the college for that amount. As Mr Macleane, the recent historian of Pembroke College, points out, it is improbable that the debt and caution money could exactly balance each other, so that Johnson may have owed much more. Now, this seems to support the argument, and proves, at the least, that the college was giving him credit for his "Battels"; and that principle once established, it is not difficult to go further.

Dr Adams, as we know, was Johnson's tutor. On his entrance, one Mr Jordan was his tutor, but about the middle of 1730 this gentleman left the college, and Dr Adams succeeded him. He was given a living early that year, and it seems almost certain that Dr Adams would have taken over his pupils after the long vaca tion of 1730.

Giving Boswell information about Johnson's college life, Dr Adams said to him that he was