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1755]

A PROJECTED REVIEW

189

'TO THE REVEREND MR. THOMAS WARTON. 'DEAR SIR,-After I received my diploma, I wrote you a letter of thanks, with a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, and sent another to Mr. Wise; but have heard from nobody since, and begin to think myself forgotten. It is true, I sent you a double letter, and you may fear an expensive correspondent; but I would have taken it kindly, if you had returned it treble and what is a double letter to a petty king, that having fellowship and fines, can sleep without a Modus in his head1?

'Dear Mr. Warton, let me hear from you, and tell me something, I care not what, so I hear it but from you. Something I will tell you:-I hope to see my Dictionary bound and lettered, next week;-vasta mole superbus. And I have a great mind to come to Oxford at Easter; but you will not invite me. Shall I come uninvited, or stay here where nobody perhaps would miss me if I went ? A hard choice! But such is the world to, dear Sir, your, &c.

[London,] March 20, 1755.'

TO THE SAME.

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'DEAR SIR,-Though not to write, when a man can write so well, is an offence sufficiently heinous, yet I shall pass it by. I am very glad that the Vice-Chancellor was pleased with my note. I shall impatiently expect you at London, that we may consider what to do next. I intend in the winter to open a Bibliothèque, and remember, that you are to subscribe a sheet a year; let us try, likewise, if we cannot persuade your brother to subscribe another. My book is now coming in luminis oras. What will be its fate I know not, nor think much, because thinking is to no purpose. It must stand the censure of the great vulgar and the small; of those that understand it, and that understand it not. But in all this, I suffer not alone every writer has the same difficulties, and, perhaps, every writer talks of them more than he thinks.

You will be pleased to make my compliments to all my friends and be so kind, at every idle hour, as to remember, dear Sir, your, &c.

'[London,] March 25, 1755.'

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

1 'The words in Italicks are allusions to passages in Mr. Warton's poem, called The Progress of Discontent, now lately published.' WARTON.

190

DR. MATY

[1755

Dr. Adams told me, that this scheme of a Bibliothèque was a serious one for upon his visiting him one day, he found his parlour floor covered with parcels of foreign and English literary journals, and he told Dr. Adams he meant to undertake a Review. How, Sir, (said Dr. Adams,) can you think of doing it alone? All branches of knowledge must be considered in it. Do you know Mathematicks? Do you know Natural History?" Johnson answered, 'Why, Sir, I must do as well as I can. My chief purpose is to give my countrymen a view of what is doing in literature upon the continent; and I shall have, in a good measure, the choice of my subject, for I shall select such books as I best understand.' Dr. Adams suggested, that as Dr. Maty had just then finished his Bibliothèque Britannique, which was a well-executed work, giving foreigners an account of British publications, he might, with great advantage, assume him as an assistant. 'He, (said Johnson) the little black dog! I'd throw him into the Thames. The scheme, however, was dropped.

In one of his little memorandum-books I find the following hints for his intended Review or Literary Journal:

'The Annals of Literature, foreign as well as domestick. Imitate Le Clerk-Bayle-Barbeyrac. Infelicity of Journals in England. Works of the learned. We cannot take in all. Sometimes copy from foreign Journalists. Always tell.'

'SIR,

'TO DR. BIRCH.

'March 29, 1755.

'I have sent some parts of my Dictionary, such as were at hand, for your inspection. The favour which I beg is, that if you do not like them, you will say nothing. I am, Sir, your most affectionate humble servant, 'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'SIR,

'To MR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.

Norfolk-street, April 23, 1755. The part of your Dictionary which you have favoured me with the sight of has given me such an idea of the whole, that I most sincerely congratulate the publick upon the acquisition of a work long wanted, and now executed with an industry, accuracy, and judgement, equal to the importance of the subject. You might, perhaps, have chosen one in which your genius would have appeared to more advantage;

1755]

DR. BIRCH'S LETTER

191

but you could not have fixed upon any other in which your labours would have done such substantial service to the present age and to posterity. I am glad that your health has supported the application necessary to the performance of so vast a task; and can undertake to promise you as one (though perhaps the only) reward of it, the approbation and thanks of every well-wisher to the honour of the English language. I am, with the greatest regard, Sir, your most faithful and most affectionate humble servant, 6 THO. BIRCH.'

Mr. Charles Burney, who has since distinguished himself so much in the science of Musick, and obtained a Doctor's degree from the University of Oxford, had been driven from the capital by bad health, and was now residing at Lynne Regis, in Norfolk. He had been so much delighted with Johnson's Rambler and the Plan of his Dictionary, that when the great work was announced in the news-papers as nearly finished, he wrote to Dr. Johnson, begging to be informed when and in what manner his Dictionary would be published; intreating, if it should be by subscription, or he should have any books at his own disposal, to be favoured with six copies for himself and friends.

In answer to this application, Dr. Johnson wrote the following letter, of which (to use Dr. Burney's own words) 'if it be remembered that it was written to an obscure young man, who at this time had not much distinguished himself even in his own profession, but whose name could never have reached the authour of The Rambler, the politeness and urbanity may be opposed to some of the stories which have been lately circulated of Dr. Johnson's natural rudeness and ferocity.'

'To MR. BURNEY, IN LYNNE REGIS, NORFOLK.

'SIR,-If you imagine that by delaying my answer I intended to shew any neglect of the notice with which you have favoured me, you will neither think justly of yourself nor of me. Your civilities were offered with too much elegance not to engage attention; and I have too much pleasure in pleasing men like you, not to feel very sensibly the distinction which you have bestowed upon me.

'Few consequences of my endeavours to please or to

192 JOHNSON'S LETTER TO MR. BURNEY [1755

benefit mankind have delighted me more than your friendship thus voluntarily offered, which now I have it I hope to keep, because I hope to continue to deserve it.

'I have no Dictionaries to dispose of for myself, but shall be glad to have you direct your friends to Mr. Dodsley, because it was by his recommendation that I was employed in the work.

'When you have leisure to think again upon me, let me be favoured with another letter; and another yet, when you have looked into my Dictionary. If you find faults, I shall endeavour to mend them; if you find none, I shall think you blinded by kind partiality: but to have made you partial in his favour, will very much gratify the ambition of, Sir, your most obliged and most humble servant,

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'SAM. JOHNSON.' Gough-square, Fleet-street, April 8, 1775.'

Mr. Andrew Millar, bookseller in the Strand, took the principal charge of conducting the publication of Johnson's Dictionary; and as the patience of the proprietors was repeatedly tried and almost exhausted, by their expecting that the work would be completed within the time which Johnson had sanguinely supposed, the learned authour was often goaded to dispatch, more especially as he had received all the copy-money, by different drafts, a considerable time before he had finished his task. When the messenger who carried the last sheet to Millar returned, Johnson asked him, 'Well, what did he say?'-'Sir, (answered the messenger) he said, thank GOD I have done with him.' 'I am glad (replied Johnson, with a smile) that he thanks GOD for any thing. It is remarkable that those with whom Johnson chiefly contracted for his literary labours were Scotchmen, Mr. Millar and Mr. Strahan. Millar, though himself no great judge of literature, had good sense enough to have for his friends very able men to give him their opinion and advice in the purchase of copyright; the consequence of which was

1 Sir John Hawkins, p. 341, inserts two notes as having passed formally between Andrew Millar and Johnson, to the above effect. I am assured this was not the case. In the way of incidental remark it was a pleasant play of raillery. To have deliberately written notes in such terms would have been morose.

1755] EXCURSION TO LANGTON DEFERRED

193 6

his acquiring a very large fortune, with great liberality. Johnson said of him, 'I respect Millar, Sir; he has raised the price of literature.' The same praise may be justly given to Panckoucke, the eminent bookseller of Paris. Mr. Strahan's liberality, judgement, and success, are well known.

'TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ., AT LANGTON NEAR

SPILSBY, LINCOLNSHIRE.

SIR,-It has been long observed, that men do not suspect faults which they do not commit; your own elegance of manners, and punctuality of complaisance, did not suffer you to impute to me that negligence of which I was guilty, and which I have not since atoned. I received both your letters, and received them with pleasure proportionate to the esteem which so short an acquaintance strongly impressed, and which I hope to confirm by nearer knowledge, though I am afraid that gratification will be for a time withheld.

'I have, indeed, published my Book', of which I beg to know your father's judgement, and yours; and I have now staid long enough to watch its progress into the world. It has, you see, no patrons, and, I think, has yet had no opponents, except the criticks of the coffee-house, whose outcries are soon. dispersed into the air, and are thought on no more from this, therefore, I am at liberty, and think of taking the opportunity of this interval to make an excursion; and why not then into Lincolnshire? or, to mention a stronger attraction, why not to dear Mr. Langton? I will give the true reason, which I know you will approve :-I have a mother more than eighty years old, who has counted the days to the publication of my book, in hopes of seeing me; and to her, if I can disengage myself here, I resolve to go.

As I know, dear Sir, that to delay my visit for a reason like this, will not deprive me of your esteem, I beg it may not lessen your kindness. I have very seldom received an offer of friendship which I so earnestly desire to cultivate and mature. I shall rejoice to hear from you, till I can see you, and will see you as soon as I can; for when the duty that calls me to Lichfield is discharged, my inclination will carry me to Langton. I shall delight to hear the ocean roar, or see the 1 His Dictionary.

H

BOSWELL. I

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