Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/136
This page has been validated.
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER
account was of the highest order. Johnson's later correspondence is characteristic enough, but only a few fragments survive to cast an occasional gleam of light upon the earlier period. In the main, therefore, the interest has to depend, not upon the narrative, but upon the fully developed character. We have to infer what Johnson was by our knowledge of what he became. Mrs. Piozzi, naturally, did not attempt a biography. She was with her second husband in Italy when she put together from memory the collection of anecdotes which, after Boswell, is, with all shortcomings, the nearest approach to a satisfactory portrait of Johnson. Mrs. Piozzi's book was a thorn in the flesh to Boswell, who, however, has frequently the pleasure of chuckling over some demonstrable inaccuracy. She has been made into a kind of devil's advocate in the case of Johnson's canonisation. Hayward, in his life of her, took her part in the famous quarrel. He had, of course, no difficulty in pointing out that the British prejudices roused by her second marriage were not justifiable in the court of pure reason. An Italian musician is certainly not in the nature of things inferior to an English brewer. Piozzi appears moreover to have been a real gentleman though he was a fiddler and