Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/53

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

his nominal tutor, which Boswell, in a contradictory passage, interprets to mean that he would have been his tutor had Johnson re turned to the college. This, however, it is clear, was not Adams' meaning, for he added, "I was his nominal tutor, but he was above my mark;" and Johnson, when the remark was repeated to him, accepted this meaning, saying it was a noble and generous speech.

It has been said, however, that this demolishes the argument for Johnson's longer stay, for, if he remained till 1731, Adams would have been more than his nominal tutor. He would have been his tutor for two years. The answer to which is that Boswell made a mistake as to the year of Adams' taking over Jordan's pupils, which, as Dr B. Hill shows, was at the end of 1730 and not in 1731. This, it seems to me, completely disposes of the argument as to the "would have been his tutor had Johnson returned"; for even on the supposition that Johnson only remained fourteen months, Adams would have been his actual and not nominal tutor for several months of that period.

This rather damaging fact the editor seems to pass by. Observe his argument was that Johnson was never under Adams at all. But "this," says the editor, "is no contradiction of the statement that Adams was only Johnson's nominal tutor. The exercises were often performed in the hall, no doubt, before the Masters and Fellows." "Why, sir, what sophistry is this?" as the sage would say. "Before the Masters and Fellows," says the editor. No doubt this was so; but Johnson says that he "performed" before them "under" Adams, that is, prepared and directed by him. It is astonishing that such a plea should be made.

Then there is Dr Taylor's part of the case. Dr Taylor, as we know, was one of Johnson's oldest friends—also his life-long friend. Johnson told Mrs Piozzi that the history of all his Oxford exploits lay between Taylor and Adams—a large phrase, by the way, that seems to speak of a long period in which these exploits were performed. Taylor told Boswell the incident of Johnson's ceasing to visit him at Christ Church College, from shame at his own poverty-stricken appearance. That they were at Oxford there can be no doubt. Yet Taylor entered in June, 1730, some months after Johnson, according to the short-stay theorists, had quitted it, which would prove convincingly—there is no getting over it—that Johnson was there after June, 1730. All Dr B. Hill can do is to say that "this seems at first sight to follow, but we must remember that Taylor might have had his name entered some months before he came, and that after his name was entered Johnson might have left." What this means it is impossible to guess; it does not alter the fact that Johnson and Taylor were there together, and the former in the habit of visiting him at Christ Church. He has at last to throw up his case, "nevertheless, the whole story is very strong evidence that Johnson was in residence in the latter half of the year 1730." Dr B. Hill, however, discovered another Dr J. Taylor, who entered about the same time as Johnson, and he contends that he was Johnson's friend.

The most perplexing element in the controversy is the case of Whitfield. Boswell calls him Johnson's "fellow collegian," and he reports Johnson as saying that he was at the same college with him and knew him before he became better than other people. Now, Whitefield only entered in 1732, when it is admitted, even by advocates of the long stay, that Johnson had left. It will be seen it is a crux for both sides. I do not profess to be able to solve the question, but these points are worthy of consideration. First,