Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 15.djvu/177

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Dodsley
Dodsley
171

time Dodsley was active in his new business. In April 1737 he published Pope's 'First Epistle of the Second Book of Horace Imitated,' and in the following month Pope made over to him the sole property in his letters. Curll, in a scurrilous epistle to Pope, 1737, says:—

Tis kind indeed a 'Livery Muse' to aid,
Who scribbles farces to augment his trade.

Young and Akenside also published with him. In May 1738, through Cave, he issued Johnson's 'London, a poem,' and gave ten guineas for it (Boswell, Life, i. 121-4). Next year he printed 'Manners,' a satire by Paul Whitehead, which 'was voted scandalous by the lords, and the author and publisher ordered into custody, where Mr. Dodsley was a week, but Mr. Paul Whitehead absconds' (Gent. Mag. 1739, ix. 104). Dodsley had to pay 70l. in fees for his lodgings (Ben Victor, Letters, i. 33), and was only released on the petition of the Earl of Essex. Many influential persons made offers of assistance.

There was published in 1740 'The Chronicle of the Kings of England written by Nathan Ben Saddi,' the forerunner of a swarm of sham chronicles in mock-biblical style. Among them are 'Lessons of the Day,' 1742; 'The Chronicle of James the Nephew,' 1743; 'Chronicles of the Duke of Cumberland,' 1746; and 'Chronicles of Zimri the Refiner,' 1753. Nathan Ben Saddi was said to be a pseudonym of Dodsley, and his chronicle, a continuation of which appeared in 1741, is, like the 'Economy of Human Life,' reprinted in his collected 'Trifles.' It contains the much-quoted sentence about Queen Elizabeth, 'that her ministers were just, her counsellors were sage, her captains were bold, and her maids of honour ate beefstakes to breakfast.' Dodsley could not have written a work showing so much wit and literary force, and Chesterfield is usually credited with the authorship. The first number of the 'Publick Register,' one of the many rivals of the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' came out on 3 Jan. 1741, and it appeared for twenty-four weeks. The reason given by Dodsley for its discontinuance was 'the additional expense he was at in stamping it; and the ungenerous usage he met with from one of the proprietors of a certain monthly pamphlet, who prevailed upon most of the common newspapers not to advertise it.' One novel feature is a description of the counties of England, with maps by J. Cowley, continued week after week. Genest says 'The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green' was played at Drury Lane 3 April 1741, 'a pleasing little piece by Dodsley; the dialogue is written with much neatness' (Account, iii. 629-30). It was only represented once. The songs have merit.

Dodsley attempted literary fame in many branches, but among all his productions nothing is so well known as his 'Select Collection of Old Plays,' 1744, dedicated to Sir Clement Cotterel Dormer, who probably contributed some of its contents. The great ladies who first patronised Dodsley had not forgotten him, and the subscription list displays a host of aristocratic names. The art of collation was then unknown, and when he first undertook the work the duties of an editor of other than classical literature were not so well understood as in more recent times. 'Rex et Pontifex, a new species of pantomime,' was not accepted by any manager, and the author printed it in 1745. 'The Museum,' of which the first number was issued 29 March 1746, was projected by Dodsley. He had a fourth share of the profits, the remainder belonging to Longman, Shewell, Hitch, and Rivington. It consists chiefly of historical and social essays, and possesses considerable merit. Among the contributors were Spence, Warburton, Horace Walpole, Joseph and Thomas Warton, Akenside, Lowth, Smart, Merrick, and Campbell, whose political pieces were augmented and republished as 'The Present State of Europe,' 1750. It was continued fortnightly to 12 Sept. 1747. Another specimen of Dodsley's commercial originality was 'The Preceptor,' 'one of the most valuable books for the improvement of young minds that has appeared' (Boswell, Life, i. 192). Johnson supplied the preface, and 'The Vision of Theodore the Hermit,' which he considered the best thing he ever wrote. The work is a kind of self-instructor, with essays on logic, geometry, geography, natural history, &c. Johnson says: 'Dodsley first mentioned to me the scheme of an English dictionary' (Life, iii. 405, i. 182, 286); but Pope, who had some share in the original proposals, did not live to see the prospectus issued in 1747. The firm of Robert & James Dodsley was one of the five whose names appear on the first edition in 1755. The first edition of 'A Collection of Poems' came out in 1748, and the publisher took great pains to obtain contributions from nearly every fashionable versifier of the day. It has been frequently reprinted and added to, and forms perhaps the most popular collection of the kind ever produced. In the same year Dodsley collected his dramatic and some other pieces under the title of 'Trifles' in two volumes, dedicated 'To Morrow,' who is asked to take into 'consideration the author's want of that assistance and improvement which a liberal education bestows, 'the writer hoping his productions' may be honoured with a favourable recommendation from you to your