Boswell's Life of Johnson (1904)/Volume 1/Advertisement to the Second Edition
That I was anxious for the success of a Work which had employed much of my time and labour, I do not wish to conceal: but whatever doubts I at any time entertained, have been entirely removed by the very favourable reception with which it has been honoured. That reception has excited my best exertions to render my Book more perfect; and in this endeavour I have had the assistance not only of some of my particular friends, but of many other learned and ingenious men, by which I have been enabled to rectify some mistakes, atid to enrich the Work with many valuable additions. These I have ordered to be printed separately in quarto,for the accommodation of the purchasers of the first edition. May I be permitted to say that the typography of both editions does honour to the press of Mr. Henry Baldwin, now Master of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, whom I have long known as a worthy man and an obliging friend.
In the strangely mixed scenes of human existence, our feelings are often at once pleasing and painful. Of this truth, the progress of the present Work furnishes a striking instance. It was highly gratifying to me that my friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom it is inscribed, lived to peruse it, and to give the strongest testimony to its fidelity; but before a second edition, which he contributed to improve, could be finished, the world has been deprived of that most valuable man; a loss of which the regret will be deep, and lasting. and extensive, proportionate to the felicity which he diffused through a wide circle of admirers and friends.
In reflecting that the illustrious subject of this Work, by being more extensively and intimately known, however elevated before, has risen in the veneration and love of mankind, I feel a satisfaction beyond what fame can afford. We cannot, indeed, too much or too often admire his wonderful powers of mind, when toe consider that the principal store of wit and wisdom which this Work contains, was not a particular selection from his general conversation, but was merely his occasional talk at such times as I had the good fortune to be in his company; and, without doubt, if his discourse at other periods had been collected with the same attention, the whole tenor of what he uttered would have been found equally excellent.
His strong, clear, and animated enforcement of religion, morality, loyalty, and subordination, while it delights and improves the wise and the good, will, I trust, prove an effectual antidote to that detestable sophistry which has been lately imported from France, under the false name of Philosophy, and with a malignant industry has been employed against the peace, good order, and happiness of society, in our free and prosperous country; but thanks be to God, without producing the pernicious effects which were hoped for by its propagators.
It seems to me, in my moments of self-complacency, that this extensive biographical work, however inferior in its nature, may in one respect be assimilated to the Odyssey. Amidst a thousand entertaining and instructive episodes the Hero is never long out of sight; for they are all in some degree connected with him; and He, the whole course of the History, is exhibited by the Author for the best advantage of his readers.
'—Quid virtus et quid sapientia possit,
Utile proposuit nobis exemplar Ulyssen.'
Should there be any cold-blooded and morose mortals who really dislike this Book, I will give them a story to apply.
When the great Duke of Marlborough, accompanied by Lord Cadogan, was one day reconnoitering the army in Flanders, a heavy rain came on, and they both called for their cloaks. Lord Cadogan's servant, a good humoured alert lad, brought his Lordship's in a minute. The Duke's servant, a lazy sulky dog, was so sluggish, that his Grace being wet to the skin, reproved him, and had for answer with a grunt, 'I came as fast as I could' upon which the Duke calmly said, 'Cadogan, I would not for a thousand pounds have that fellow's temper.'
There are some men, I believe, who have, or think they have, a very small share of vanity. Such may speak of their literary fame in a decorous style of diffidence. But I confess, that I am so formed by nature and by habit, that to restrain the effusion of delight, on having obtained such fame, to me would be truly painfid. Why then should I suppress it? Why 'out of the abundance of the heart' should I not speak? Let me then mention with a warm, but no insolent exultation, that I have been regaled with spontaneous praise of my work by viany and various persons eminent for their rank, learning, talents and accomplishments; much of which praise I have under their hands to be reposited in my archives at Auchinleck. An honourable and reverend friend speaking of the favourable reception of my volumes, even in the circles of fashion and elegance, said to me, 'you have made them all talk Johnson'—Yes, I may add, I have Johnsonised the land; and I trust they will not only talk, but think, Johnson.
To enumerate those to whom I have been thus indebted, would be tediously ostentatious. I cannot however but name one whose praise is truly valuable, not only on account of his knowledge and abilities, but on account of the magnificent, yet dangerous embassy, in which he is now employed, which makes every thing that relates to him peculiarly interesting. Lord Macartney favoured me with his own copy of my book, with a number of notes, of which I have availed myself. On the first leaf I found in his Lordship's hand-writing, an inscription of such high commendation, that even I, vain as I am, cannot prevail on myself to publish it.
[July 1. 1793]
- 'Burke affirmed that Boswell's Life was a greater monument to Johnson's fame than all his writings put together.' Life of Mackintosh, i. 92.
- It is a pamphlet of forty-two pages, under the title of The Principal Corrections and Additions to the First Edition of Mr. Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson. Price two shillings and sixpence.
- Reynolds died on Feb. 23, 1792.
- Sir Joshua in his will left £200 to Mr. Boswell 'to be expended, if he thought proper, in the purchase of a picture at the sale of his paintings, to be kept for his sake.' Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 636.
- Of the seventy-five years that Johnson lived, he and Boswell did not spend two years and two months in the same neighbourhood. Excluding the time they were together on their tour to the Hebrides, they were dwelling within reach of each other a few weeks less than two years. Moreover, when they were apart, there were great gaps in their correspondence. Between Dec. 8, 1763, and Jan. 14, 1766, and again between Nov. 10, 1769, and June 20, 1771, during which periods they did not meet, Boswell did not receive a single letter from Johnson. The following table shows the times they were in the same neighbourhood.
1763, May 16 to Aug. 6,
London.1766, a few days in February, „1768,„„March, Oxford.1768,„„May, London.1769, end of Sept. to Nov. 10, „1772, March 21 to about May 10, „1773, April 3 to May 10, „„Aug. 14 to Nov. 22 Scotland.1775, March 21 to April 18, May 2 to May 23, London.1776, March 15 to May 16, with an interval of about a fortnight, when Johnson was at Bath and Boswell at Lichfield, London London, Oxford, Birmingham, Ashbourne, and Bath.1777, Sept. 14 to Sept. 24, Ashbourne.1778, March 18 to May 19, London.1779, March 15 to May 3, „„Oct. 4 to Oct. 18, „1781, March 19 to June 5, London and Southill.1783, March 21 to May 30 London.1784, May 5 to June 30, London and Oxford.
'To shew what wisdom and what sense can do,
The poet sets Ulysses in our view.'
Francis. Horace, Ep. i. 2. 17.
- In his Letter to the People of Scotland, p. 92, he wrote:—'Allow me, my friends and countrymen, while I with honest zeal maintain your cause—allow me to indulge a little more my own egotism and vanity. They are the indigenous plants of my mind; they distinguish it. I may prune their luxuriancy ; but I must not entirely clear it of them; for then I should be no longer "as I am;" and perhaps there might be something not so good.'
- see Post, April 17, 1778, note.
- Lord Macartney was the first English ambassador to the Court of Pekin. He left England in 1792 and returned in 1794.
- Boswell writing to Temple ten days earlier had said:—'Behold my hand! the robbery is only of a few shillings; but the cut on my head and bruises on my arms were sad things, and confined me to bed, in pain, and fever, and helplessness, as a child, many days. . . . This shall be a crisis in my life: I trust I shall henceforth be a sober regular man. Indeed, my indulgence in wine has, of late years especially, been excessive.' Letters of Boswell, p. 346.