Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS, &c.

I. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the

National Gallery

. Frontispiece to VOL. I.

[ocr errors]

2. FACSIMILE OF JOHNSON'S HANDWRITING IN HIS 20TH YEAR

[ocr errors]

V

✓ 3. FACSIMILE OF A LETTER OF JOHNSON relating to Rasselas

[ocr errors]

V

4. SAMUEL JOHNSON, from the Portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1756 VOL. I, p. 392.

✓ 5. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Bust by Nollekens Frontispiece to VOL. II.

6. FACSIMILE OF JOHNSON'S HANDWRITING IN HIS 54TH YEAR

[ocr errors]

VOL. I, p. 60.

7. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1770 Frontispiece to VOL. III.

✓ 8. FACSIMILE OF THE ROUND ROBIN ADDRESSED TO DR. JOHNSON VOL. III, p. 82.

[ocr errors]

VOL. I, p. 340.

VOL. II, to follow Frontispiece.

9. OPIE'S PORTRAIT OF JOHNSON, from the Engraving in the Common Room of University College VOL. III, to face p. 245.

[ocr errors]

IO. FACSIMILE OF DR. JOHNSON'S HANDWRITING A MONTH BEFORE
HIS DEATH
VOL. IV, to face p. 377.

[ocr errors]

✓ II. JAMES BOSWELL OF AUCHINLECK, Esq., from the painting by Sir . Frontispiece to VOL. V.

Joshua Reynolds.

12. FACSIMILE OF BOSWELL'S HANDWRITING, 1792, from a Letter in the VOL. V, to follow Frontispiece.

Bodleian Library

13. MAP OF JOHNSON AND BOSWELL'S TOUR THROUGH SCOTLAND AND THE HEBRIDES VOL. V, to face p. 5.

、 14. Chart oF JOHNSON'S CONTEMPORARIES

Frontispiece to VOL. VI.

[ocr errors]

PREFACE.

FIELDING, it is said, drank confusion to the man who invented the fifth act of a play. He who has edited an extensive work, and has concluded his labours by the preparation of a copious index, might well be pardoned, if he omitted to include the inventor of the Preface among the benefactors of mankind. The long and arduous task that years before he had set himself to do is done, and the last thing that he desires is to talk about it. Liberty is what he asks for, liberty to range for a time wherever he pleases in the wide and fair fields of literature. Yet with this longing for freedom comes a touch of regret and a doubt lest the 'fresh woods and pastures new' may never wear the friendly and familiar face of the plot of ground within whose narrower confines he has so long been labouring, and whose every corner he knows so well. May-be he finds hope in the thought that should his new world seem strange to him and uncomfortable, ere long he may be called back to his old task, and in the preparation of a second edition find the quiet and the peace of mind that are often found alone in 'old use and wont.'

With me the preparation of these volumes has, indeed, been the work of many years. Boswell's Life of Johnson I read for the first time in my boyhood, when I was too young for it to lay any hold on me. When I entered Pembroke College, Oxford, though I loved to think that Johnson had been there before me, yet I cannot call to mind that I ever opened the pages of Boswell. By a happy chance I was turned to the study of the literature of the eighteenth century. Every week we were required by the rules of the College to turn into Latin, or what we called Latin, a passage from The Spectator. Many a happy

Preface.

a happy minute slipped by while, in forgetfulness of my task, I read on and on in its enchanting pages. It was always with a sigh that at last I tore myself away, and sat resolutely down to write bad Latin instead of reading good English. From Addison in the course of time I passed on to the other great writers of his and the succeeding age, finding in their exquisitely clear style, their admirable common sense and their freedom from all the tricks of affectation, a delightful contrast to so many of the eminent authors of our own time. Those troublesome doubts, doubts of all kinds, which since the great upheaval of the French Revolution have harassed mankind, had scarcely begun to ruffle the waters of their life. Even Johnson's troubled mind enjoyed vast levels of repose. The unknown world alone was wrapped in stormy gloom; of this world 'all the complaints which were made were unjust'. Though I was now familiar with many of the great writers, yet Boswell I had scarcely opened since my boyhood. A happy day came just eighteen years ago when in an old book-shop, almost under the shadow of a great cathedral, I bought a second-hand copy of a somewhat early edition of the Life in five well-bound volumes. Of all my books none I cherish more than these. In looking at them I have known what it is to feel Bishop Percy's ' uneasiness at the thoughts of leaving his books in death. They became my almost inseparable companions. Before long I began to note the parallel passages and allusions not only in their pages, but in the various authors whom I studied. Yet in these early days I never dreamt of preparing a new edition. It fell to my lot as time went on to criticise in some of our leading publications works that bore both on Boswell and Johnson. Such was my love for the subject that on one occasion, when I was called upon to write a review that should fill two columns of a weekly newspaper, I read a new edition of the Life from beginning to end without, I believe, missing a single line of the text or a single note. At length, 'towering in the confidence'3 of one who as yet has but set his foot on the threshold of some stately 1 Post, iv. 172.

3

Post, iii. 312.

xii

2

Post, i. 324.

mansion

Preface.

xiii

mansion in which he hopes to find for himself a home, I was rash enough more than twelve years ago to offer myself as editor of a new edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson. Fortunately for me another writer had been already engaged by the publisher to whom I applied, and my offer was civilly declined. From that time on I never lost sight of my purpose but when in the troubles of life I well-nigh lost sight of every kind of hope. Everything in my reading that bore on my favourite author was carefully noted, till at length I felt that the materials which I had gathered from all sides were sufficient to shield me from a charge of rashness if I now began to raise the building. Much of the work of preparation had been done at a grievous disadvantage. My health more than once seemed almost hopelessly broken down. Nevertheless even then the time was not wholly lost. In the sleepless hours of many a winter night I almost forgot my miseries in the delightful pages of Horace Walpole's Letters, and with pencil in hand and some little hope still in heart, managed to get a few notes taken. Three winters I had to spend on the shores of the Mediterranean. During two of them my malady and my distress allowed of no rival, and my work made scarcely any advance. The third my strength was returning, and in the six months that I spent three years ago in San Remo I wrote out very many of the notes which I am now submitting to my readers.

An interval of some years of comparative health that I enjoyed between my two severest illnesses allowed me to try my strength as a critic and an editor. In Dr. Johnson: His Friends and his Critics, which I published in the year 1878, I reviewed the judgments passed on Johnson and Boswell by Lord Macaulay and Mr. Carlyle, I described Oxford as it was known to Johnson, and I threw light on more than one important passage in the Life. The following year I edited Boswell's Journal of a Tour to Corsica and his curious correspondence with the Hon. Andrew Erskine. The somewhat rare little volume in which are contained the lively but impudent letters that passed between these two friends I had found one happy

day

« ElőzőTovább »