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1805, and distinguished by the subscription of his name.
It is impossible to suppress the reflection, that the preparation of this volume has been protracted, amidst the interruptions of sickness and sorrow, sufficiently heavy for mortality, till the amiable and learned Prelate, to whose recollections it owes its best recommendation, has sunk into the grave, and wants himself an affectionate memorial of his excellencies and virtues, and his eminent services to literature and religion.
EDINBURGH, 1st May 1815.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
The events of the life of Johnson, who has written the lives of so many eminent persons, and so much enriched our national stock of biography, criticism, and moral instruction, have been related by friend and foe, by panegyrists and satirical defamers, by the lovers of anecdote, and the followers of party, with a diligence of research, a minuteness of detail, and a variety of illustration, unexampled in the records of literature.
Besides several slight sketches of his life by unknown authors, taken sometimes with a favourable flattering pencil, sometimes in the
broader style of caricature, ample biographical accounts of him have been given to the world by Mr Tyers, Mrs Piozzi, Dr Towers, Sir John Hawkins, Mr Boswell, and Mr Murphy, who were his most intimate friends, and wrote from personal knowledge. Their several publications, which place his character in very
different and often opposite points of light, by exhibiting a striking likeness of the features of his mind, which were strong and prominent, and by recording so considerable a portion of his wisdom and wit, have exquisitely gratified the lovers of literary biography, and largely contributed to the instruction and entertainment of mankind.
The publications of Mr Tyers, Mrs Piozzi, Dr Towers, and Mr Murphy, come under the description of Biographical Sketches," • Anecdotes, and . Essays, composed with little re. gard to discrimination, but aspiring above the titles that are given to them, by 'felicity of narration and copiousness and variety of intelligence. Those of Sir John Hawkins and Mr Boswell are more elaborately composed, and entitle them to the exclusive appellation of his biographers.
The narrative of Sir John Hawkins contains a collection of curious anecdotes and useful observations, which few men but its author could have brought together; but a very small part of it relates to the person who is the subject of his biographical commemoration. The ponderous incumbrance of foreign matter seems to overload the memory of his deceased friend, and, in the account of his own life, to leave him scarcely visible. He appears to be a worthy and well-informed man; but he possesses neither animation nor correctness, expansion of intellect, nor elegance of taste. He writes without much feeling or sentiment, and displays few marks of the desiderium chari capitis. His work is heavy, cold, and prolix; but there are discoverable in it a vein of
pure morality, many valuable notices of contemporary biography, and many gleams of good sense and openings of humanity, sometimes checked by ignorance, and sometimes by prejudice.