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THE LIFE OF
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
COMPREHENDING AN ACCOUNT OF HIS STUDIES
AND WORKS, IN
CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER; A
SERIES OF HIS EPISTOLARY CORRESPONDENCE,
AND ORIGINAL PIECES OF HIS COMPOSITION:
THE WHOLE EXHIBITING A VIEW OF LITERATURE
AND LITERARY MEN IN GREAT BRITAIN, FOR NEAR
HALF A CENTURY DURING WHICH HE FLOURISHED
BY JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
THE writer of the latest account of the life-work of Sir Joshua Reynolds, in order to define at the start the purpose and scope of his undertaking, has said that Reynolds was Boswelled by Leslie and Taylor in their work on his Life and Times, and this may be taken to mean that nothing possessing the charm of their volumes can be placed in our hands again. The first President of the Royal Academy was the central figure of a very large circle indeed, and there proved when he died to be material for volumes appealing not to painters alone and their lovers, but to generations of men, his successors, whose numbers cannot be computed. There is no thought in my mind, however, of comparing the authors of Reynolds's life with Boswell. That they had little of Boswell's gift is quite clear; but the exceptionally interesting story of a very full life is told in the most
natural possible manner, and their work should be read wherever there is any desire to know more than we had from Boswell of the persons we meet in his volumes. It has been pleasantly said of the pig-in death he is so much divided that a singularly mixed entertainment is offered; and this in a way is as true of the prospect opened to readers when the tale of a life is told. There is no more telling device for a book-plate than old Dibdin's 'book openeth book,' each overlapping the other, and the reading of Boswell will certainly lead to much
But enough for the present purpose will be Forster's Life of Goldsmith and Reynolds's Life and Times. The latter was opened with no such expectation of pleasure as was almost immediately found, nor of finding what was most wanted, the justification in many cases of this selection of portraits. Making Reynolds, not Johnson, his hero, the reader will turn to these volumes to find the artist on much more intimate terms than the Doctor with some of the friends he meets there.
The fact that the Literary Club originated in a painter's suggestion seems to explain its catholicity. Said Sir William Jones of this
body: There is no branch of human knowledge on which some of our members are not capable of giving information'; and scanning the lists of their names we feel that he spoke very truly :— Johnson, Burke, Garrick, Gibbon, Goldsmith, Sheridan, and others as great in their day :
'O rare assemblage! rich amount of mind!
Caught by the chemic mania raging round,
The votaries of the crucible abound,
Who, cold to wit and beauty, bend their cares
Irrespective of person, the Club possessed in its members more of what in a particular sense one may be allowed to call Quality, than has been discovered in any similar association. Its characteristic catholicity' was also the note of the President's art, for whatever presented itself in human guise was regarded as grist to his mill, and even within the narrower circle of his own more intimate friends-their ladies included, of course—was a singularly varied assembly,—some ugly as Gibbon and Boswell, some lovely as Polly Kennedy. 'Sir Joshua is fat and well,' says Miss Burney. He is preparing for the exhibition a new "Death of Dido"; portraits of the three beautiful Lady Waldegraves; a Thais,