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1755] PUBLICATION OF THE DICTIONARY 73 manner; the other is a conclusion, shewing from various causes why the execution has not been equal to what the authour promised to himself and to the publick.'
A few of his definitions must be admitted to be erroneous. Thus, Windward and Leeward, though directly of opposite meaning, are defined identically the same way; as to which inconsiderable specks it is enough to observe, that his Preface announces that he was aware there might be many such in so immense a 'work; nor was he at all disconcerted when an instance was pointed out to him. A lady once asked him how he came to define Pastern the knee of a horse: instead of making an elaborate defence, as she expected, he at once answered, 'Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.' His definition of Network has been often quoted with sportive malignity, as obscuring a thing in itself very plain. But to these frivolous censures no other answer is necessary than that with which we are furnished by his own Preface.
His introducing his own opinions, and even prejudices, under general definitions of words, while at the same time the original meaning of the words is not explained, as his Tory, Whig, Pension, Oats, Excise, and a few more, cannot be fully defended, and must be placed to the account of capricious and humorous indulgence. Talking to me upon this subject when we were at Ashbourne in 1777, he mentioned a still stronger instance of the predominance of his private feelings in the composition of this work, than any now to be found in it. “You know, Sir, Lord Gower forsook the old Jacobite interest. When I came to the word Re gado, after telling that it meant “one who deserts to the enemy, a revolter," I added, Sometimes we say a GOWER.
1.Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.'-BD.
2 Tory. 'One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a whig.' Whig. , 'The name of a faction.' Pension. ‘An allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country.'
'A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.' Excise. A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid.'-
Thus it went to the press; but the printer had more wit than I, and struck it out.'
Let it, however, be remembered, that this indulgence does not display itself only in sarcasm towards others, but sometimes in playful allusion to the notions commonly entertained of his own laborious task. Thus: ‘Grub-street, the name of a street in London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called Grub-street.'— Lexicographer, a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.'
It must undoubtedly seem strange, that the conclusion of his Preface should be expressed in terms so desponding, when it is considered that the authour was then only in his fortysixth year. But we must ascribe its gloom to that miserable dejection of spirits to which he was constitutionally subject, and which was aggravated by the death of his wife two years before. I have heard it ingeniously observed by a lady of rank and elegance, that ‘his melancholy was then at its meridian.' It pleased God to grant him almost thirty years of life after this time; and once, when he was in a placid frame of mind, he was obliged to own to me that he had enjoyed happier days, and had many more friends, since that gloomy hour than before.
It is a sad saying, that 'most of those whom he wished to please had sunk into the grave;' and his case at forty-five was singularly unhappy, unless the circle of his friends was very narrow. He said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, “If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.'
In July this year he had formed some scheme of mental improvement, the particular purpose of which does not appear. But we find in his Prayers and Meditations, p. 25, a prayer entitled 'On the Study of Philosophy, as an Instrument of living;' and after it follows a note, 'This study was not pursued.
On the 13th of the same month he wrote in his Journal the following scheme of life, for Sunday:
'Having lived' (as he with tenderness of conscience ex
1755] A SCHEME OF CONDUCT FOR SUNDAY 75
presses himself) 'not without an habitual reverence for the Sabbath, yet without that attention to its religious duties which Christianity requires;
'1. To rise early, and in order to it, to go to sleep early on Saturday.
'2. To use some extraordinary devotion in the morning.
'3. To examine the tenour of my life, and particularly the last week; and to mark my advances in religion, or recession from it.
'4. To read the Scripture methodically with such helps as are at hand.
'5. To go to church twice.
6. To read books of Divinity, either speculative or practical.
67. To instruct my family.
8. To wear off by meditation any worldly soil contracted in the week.'
1756: ÆTAT. 47.]-IN 1756 Johnson found that the great fame of his Dictionary had not set him above the necessity of 'making provision for the day that was passing over him.' No royal or noble patron extended a munificent hand to give independence to the man who had conferred stability on the language of his country. We may feel indignant that there should have been such unworthy neglect; but we must, at the same time, congratulate ourselves, when we consider, that to this very neglect, operating to rouse the natural indolence of his constitution, we owe many valuable productions, which otherwise, perhaps, might never have appeared.
He had spent, during the progress of the work, the money for which he had contracted to write his Dictionary. We have seen that the reward of his labour was only fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds; and when the expence of amanuenses and paper, and other articles are deducted, his clear profit was very inconsiderable. I once said to him, 'I am sorry, Sir, you did not get more for your Dictionary.' His answer was, 'I am sorry, too. But it was very well. The booksellers are generous, liberal-minded men.' He, upon all occasions, did ample justice to their character in this respect. He considered them as the patrons of litera
ture; and, indeed, although they have eventually been considerable gainers by his Dictionary, it is to them that we owe its having been undertaken and carried through at the risk of great expence, for they were not absolutely sure of being indemnified.
He this year resumed his scheme of giving an edition of Shakspeare with notes. He issued Proposals of considerable length, in which he shewed that he perfectly well knew what a variety of research such an undertaking required; but his indolence prevented him from pursuing it with that diligence which alone can collect those scattered facts that genius, however acute, penetrating, and luminous, cannot discover by its own force. It is remarkable, that at this time his fancied activity was for the moment so vigorous, that he promised his work should be published before Christmas, 1757. Yet nine years elapsed before it saw the light. His throes in bringing it forth had been severe and remittent; and at last we may almost conclude that the Cæsarian operation was performed by the knife of Churchill, whose upbraiding satire, I dare say, made Johnson's friends urge him to dispatch.
'He for subscribers bates his hook,
About this period he was offered a living of considerable value in Lincolnshire, if he were inclined to enter into holy orders. It was a rectory in the gift of Mr. Langton, the father of his much valued friend. But he did not accept of it; partly I believe from a conscientious motive, being persuaded that his temper and habits 'rendered him unfit for that assiduous and familiar instruction of the vulgar and ignorant which he held to be an essential duty in a clergyman; and partly because his love of a London life was so strong, that he would have thought himself an exile in any
1 First proposed in 1845.-ED.
PRAISE VERY SCARCE
other place, particularly if residing in the country. Whoever would wish to see his thoughts upon that subject displayed in their full force, may peruse The Adventurer, Number 126.
1757: ÆTAT. 48.1-MR. BURNEY having enclosed to him an extract from the review of his Dictionary in the Bibliothèque des Savans, and a list of subscribers to his Shakspeare, which Mr. Burney had procured in Norfolk, he wrote the following
'To MR. BURNEY, IN LYNNE, NORFOLK. 'SIR,—That I may shew myself sensible of your favours, and not commit the same fault a second time, I make haste to answer the letter which I received this morning. The truth is, the other likewise was received, and I wrote an answer; but being desirous to transmit you some proposals and receipts, I waited till I could find a convenient conveyance, and day was passed after day, till other things drove it from my thoughts; yet not so, but that I remember with great pleasure your commendation of my Dictionary. Your praise was welcome, not only because I believe it was sincere, but because praise has been very scarce.
A man of your candour will be surprised when I tell you, that among all my acquaintance there were only two, who upon the publication of my book did not endeavour to depress me with threats of censure from the publick, or with objections learned from those who had learned them from my own Preface. Your's is the only letter of goodwill that I have received; though, indeed, I am promised something of that sort from Sweden.
How my new edition will be received I know not; the subscription has not been very successful. I shall publish about March.
"If you can direct me how to send proposals, I should wish that they were in such hands.
'I remember, Sir, in some of the first letters with which you favoured me, you mentioned your lady. May I enquire after her? In return for the favours which you have shewn me, it is not much to tell you, that I wish you and her all