'My boys,' said he, 'let us be grave; here comes a fool.'

The advertisement or preface to the first edition thus concludes: 'Nor will I suppress my satisfaction in the consciousness that by recording so considerable a portion of the wisdom and wit of "the brightest ornament of the eighteenth century," I have largely provided for the instruction and entertainment of mankind.' Entertainment !—this is indeed a blessed word!

In the first eleven pages of the Life, Boswell with much clearness states his theory of biography. It is first of all based upon friendship. 'I had the honour and happiness of enjoying his friendship for upwards of twenty years.' Experts in dates have pointed out (and it was worth doing) that though Boswell knew Johnson for the last twenty years of his life, he was by no means an habitual associate of his, and that long months would go by without their ever meeting; nor when they did meet, were they, except on very rare occasions, long together. Whether this was a drawback may be doubted. There are few duller biographies than those written by wives, secretaries, or other domesticated creatures. The point of view of these persons soon becomes intolerable. Neither the purr of the hearth-rug nor the unemancipated admiration of the private secretary should be allowed to dominate a biography. Boswell's admiration for Johnson was open-mouthed enough, but his attitude towards him was that of an extern. But the book is

based on intimacy. The next point Boswell proceeds to emphasise is that Johnson's conversation, its' extraordinary vigour and vivacity,' constituted 'one of the first features of his character.' Accordingly he congratulates himself upon his facility in recollecting, and his assiduity in recording, Johnson's conversation.

Here we are upon the keystone of the bridge.

'In the chronological series of Johnson's life which I trace as distinctly as I can year by year, I produce wherever it is in my power his own minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively.' And again: 'I am fully aware of the objections which may be made to the minuteness on some occasions of my detail of Johnson's conversation, and how happily it is adapted for the petty exercise of ridicule by men of superficial understanding and ludicrous fancy; but I remain firm and confident in my opinion that minute particulars are frequently characteristic and always amusing.'

We see in these and other kindred passages Boswell's scheme and his method. He knew Johnson, he loved him; he especially delighted in the vigour and vivacity of his conversation, and he determined to portray him in such a manner as to be entertaining, lively, and amusing. And what is more to the purpose, he has succeeded.

Undoubtedly the great feature of Boswell's book is its record of Johnson's talk. There is nothing else like it anywhere.

For a talker Johnson had all the necessary qualifications. He possessed vast and varied information on all kinds of subjects-he knew not only books, but a great deal about trades and manufactures, ways of existence, customs of business. He had been in all sorts of societies, kept every kind of company. He had fought the battle of life in a hand-to-hand encounter, had slept in garrets, done hack-work for. booksellers, been houseless at night-in short, had lived on 4 d. a day. By the side of Johnson Burke's knowledge of men and things was bookish and notional. Johnson had a great range of fact. Next he had a strong mind operating upon and in love with life. Then, of course, whenever stirred by contact with his friends, and inflamed by the passion for contradiction, or justly irritated by the flimsy platitudes of fools, he had ready for immediate use the quickest wit and the most magnificent vocabulary ever placed at the disposal of man. Add to this an almost divine tenderness of heart, a deep-rooted affectionateness of disposition, and a positively brutal aversion to every kind of exaggeration, and you get a combination of qualities no one has a right to expect.

Nor must this be forgotten-Boswell's Johnson is the post-pension Johnson. Never before nor since did a beggarly £300 a year of public money yield (thanks mainly to Boswell) such a harvest for the public good. Not only did it keep the Doctor himself in brown suits and bob-wigs, and provide a home for Mrs. Williams, and for Mrs. Desmoulins, and for Miss

Carmichael, and for Mr. Levett, but it has kept us all going ever since. This blessed pension gave Johnson ease and leisure-ease of mind, and leisure to talk.

The most noticeable characteristics of Johnson's talk seem to be good sense, brilliant wit, and a lively dialectical imagination, which enabled him joyfully and triumphantly to pursue his subject and crush his opponent with a vigour that gathered force as it proceeded. No talk was ever freer from pedantry, nor can it be said that profundity is one of its notes. It is indeed full of good feeling, and a melancholy as well as an obstreperous humour. It teaches one how to live rather than what to believe. Boswell was quite right, his record of Johnson's talk is entertaining and lively and amusing. I will give one example of what I mean by dialectical imagination.

Talking of those who denied the truth of Christianity, he said: 'It is always easy to be on the negative side. If a man were now to deny that there is salt upon the table, you could not reduce him to an absurdity. Come, let us try this a little further. I deny that Canada is taken, and I can support my denial by pretty good arguments. The French are a much more numerous people than we are; and it is not likely they would allow us to take it. But the Ministry have assured us in all the formality of the Gazette that it is taken. Very true. But the Ministry have put us to an enormous expense by the war in America, and it is their interest to persuade us that we have got something for our money. But the fact

is confirmed by thousands of men who were at the taking of it. Ay, but these men have still more interest in deceiving us. They don't want that you should think the French have beat them, but that they have beat the French. Now, suppose you should go over and find that it is really taken, that would only satisfy yourself-for when you come home we will not believe you. We will say you have been bribed. Yet, sir, notwithstanding all these plausible objections, we have no doubt that Canada is really ours. Such is the weight of common testimony. How much stronger are the evidences of the Christian religion.'

This may not be very close reasoning or very convincing argumentation, but its crescendo is exciting and effective, and betokens a gift which on the Treasury or Front Opposition Bench would have been rewarded with enthusiastic cheers and laughter.

It is sometimes said Johnson's talk as recorded by Boswell has killed Johnson's books. This is nonsense. Boswell's book is of course vastly more entertaining, lively, and amusing than Rasselas or the Rambler, and consequently far more people have read and will read Boswell than have or will read Johnson. This is inevitable. The Heart of Midlothian numbers more readers than Butler's Analogy. To wish it otherwise is to reconstruct human nature and to people the globe with another race of mortals.

But to say that nobody reads Johnson is sheer nonsense. There is always somebody reading Johnson. Genius, thank Heaven, is never crowded out, and

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