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antiquities'. I fhall expect to fee Spenser finished, and many other things


begun. Dodsley is gone to visit the Dutch. The Dictionary fells well. The Etat. 46. reft of the world goes on as it did. Dear Sir,

"Your most affectionate, &c.

"[London,] June 10, 1755


To the fame.


"TO talk of coming to you, and not yet to come, has an air of trifling which I would not willingly have among you; and which, I believe, you will not willingly impute to me, when I have told you, that fince my promise, two of our partners are dead, and that I was folicited to fufpend my excurfion till we could recover from our confufion.

"I have not laid aside my purpose; for every day makes me more impatient of staying from you. But death, you know, hears not fupplications, nor pays any regard to the convenience of mortals. I hope now to fee you next week; but next week is but another name for to-morrow, which has been noted for promising and deceiving.

"[London,] June 24, 1755.

"I am, &c.


To the fame.


"I TOLD you, that among the manufcripts are fome things of Sir Thomas More. I beg you to pass an hour in looking on them, and procure a transcript of the ten or twenty first lines of each, to be compared with what I have; that I may know whether they are yet unpublished. The manufcripts are these :

"Catalogue of Bodl. MS. pag. 122. F. 3. Sir Thomas More,

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1. Fall of angels. 2. Creation and fall of mankind. 3. Determination of the Trinity for the rescue of mankind. 4. Five lectures of our Saviour's paffion. 5. Of the inftitution of the facrament, three lectures. 6. How to receive the bleffed body of our Lord facramentally. 7. Neomenia, the new moon. 8. De triftitia, tædio, pavore, et oratione Chrifti, ante captionem ejus.

"At Ellsfield, a village three miles from Oxford," 2" Bookfellers concerned in his Dictionary."






"Catalogue, pag. 154. Life of Sir Thomas More. Qu. Whether

Etat. 46. Roper's? Pag. 363. De refignatione Magni Sigilli in manus Regis per D.
Thomam Morum. Pag. 364. Mori Defenfio Moria.

"If you procure the young gentleman in the library to write out what you

think fit to be written, I will fend to Mr. Prince the bookfeller to pay him
what you shall think proper.

"Be pleased to make my compliments to Mr. Wife, and all my friends.
I am, Sir,

[London,] Aug. 7, 1755.

"Your affectionate, &c.


The Dictionary, with a Grammar and Hiftory of the English Language,
being now at length published, in two volumes folio, the world contemplated
with wonder so stupendous a work atchieved by one man, while other countries
had thought fuch undertakings fit only for whole academies. Vast as his powers
were, I cannot but think that his imagination deceived him, when he supposed
that by constant application he might have performed the task in three years.
Let the Preface be attentively perused, in which is given, in a clear, strong, and
glowing style, a comprehensive, yet particular view of what he had done; and
it will be evident, that the time he employed upon it was comparatively short.
I am unwilling to fwell my book with long quotations from what is in every
body's hands; and I believe there are few profe compofitions in the English
language that are read with more delight, or are more impreffed upon the
memory, than that preliminary discourse. One of its excellencies has always
ftruck me with peculiar admiration; I mean the perfpicuity with which he has
expreffed abstract scientifick notions. As an inftance of this, I fhall quote the
following fentence: "When the radical idea branches out into parallel ramifi-
cations, how can a consecutive series be formed of fenfes in their own nature
collateral?" We have here an example of what has been often faid, and I
believe with juftice, that there is for every thought a certain nice adaptation of
words which none other could equal, and which, when a man has been so
fortunate as to hit, he has attained, in that particular cafe, to the perfection of

The extenfive reading which was abfolutely neceffary for the accumulation
of authorities, and which alone may account for Johnson's retentive mind being
enriched with a very large and various store of knowledge and imagery, must
have occupied several years. The Preface furnishes an eminent inftance of
a double talent, of which Johnson was fully conscious. Sir Joshua Reynolds

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has heard him fay, "There are two things which I am confident I can do very well: one is an introduction to any literary work, ftating what it is to Etat. 46. contain, and how it fhould be executed in the most perfect manner; the other is a conclufion, fhewing from various caufes why the execution has not been equal to what the authour promised to himself and to the publick."

How fhould puny fcribblers be abashed and disappointed, when they find him displaying a perfect theory of lexicographical excellence, yet at the fame time candidly and modeftly allowing that he "had not satisfied his own expectations." Here was a fair occafion for the exercise of Johnson's modefty, when he was called upon to compare his own arduous performance, not with those of other individuals, (in which cafe his inflexible regard to truth would have been violated, had he affected diffidence,) but with fpeculative perfection; as he, who can outstrip all his competitors in the race, may yet be fenfible of his deficiency when he runs against time. Well might he fay, that "the English Dictionary was written with little affistance of the learned;" for he told me, that the only aid which he received was a paper containing twenty etymologies, fent to him by a person then unknown, who he was afterwards informed was Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Rochester. The etymologies, though they exhibit learning and judgement, are not, I think, entitled to the first praise amongst the various parts of this immense work. The definitions have always appeared to me such astonishing proofs of acuteness of intellect and precision of language, as indicate a genius of the highest rank. This it is which marks the fuperiour excellence of Johnson's Dictionary over others equally or even more voluminous, and must have made it a work of much greater mental labour than mere Lexicons, or Word Books, as the Dutch call them. They, who will make the experiment of trying how they can define a few words of whatever nature, will foon be fatisfied of the unquestionable juftice of this observation, which I can affure my readers is founded upon much study, and upon communication with more minds than my own.

A few of his definitions must be admitted to be erroneous. Thus, Windward and Leeward, though directly of opposite meaning, are defined identically the fame way; as to which inconsiderable specks it is enough to observe, that his Preface announces that he was aware there might be many fuch in fo immense a work; nor was he at all difconcerted when an inftance was pointed out to him. A lady once asked him how he came to define Paftern the knee of a horse instead of making an elaborate defence, as fhe expected, he at once answered, “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance." His definition of Network has been often quoted with sportive malignity, as obfcuring a thing


in itself very plain. But to these frivolous cenfures no other anfwer is necefEtat, 46. fary than that with which we are furnished by his own Preface. "To explain, requires the use of terms less abstruse than that which is to be explained, and fuch terms cannot always be found. For as nothing can be proved but by fuppofing fomething intuitively known, and evident without proof, fo nothing can be defined but by the use of words too plain to admit of definition. Sometimes easier words are changed into harder; as, burial, into fepulture or interment; dry, into deficcative; dryness, into ficcity or aridity; fit, into paroxyfm; for, the eafieft word, whatever it be, can never be tranflated into one more easy."

His introducing his own opinions, and even prejudices, under general definitions of words, while at the fame time the original meaning of the words is not explained, as his Tory, Whig, Penfion, Oats, Excife, and a few more, cannot be fully defended, and must be placed to the account of capricious. and humourous indulgence. Talking to me upon this fubject when we were at Ashbourne in 1777, he mentioned a still stronger inftance of the predominance of his private feelings in the compofition of this work, than any now to be found in it. "You know, Sir, Lord Gower forfook the old Jacobite intereft. When I came to the word Renegado, after telling that it meant one who deferts to the enemy, a revolter,' I added, Sometimes we fay a GowER. Thus it went to the prefs; but the printer had more wit than I, and ftruck it out."

Let it, however, be remembered, that this indulgence does not difplay itself only in farcasm. towards others, but fometimes in playful allufion to the notions commonly entertained of his own laborious task. Thus: "GrubStreet, the name of a street in London, much inhabited by writers of small hiftories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called Grub-street."" Lexicographer, a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge."

At the time when he was concluding his very eloquent Preface, Johnson's mind appears to have been in such a state of depreffion, that we cannot contemplate without wonder the vigorous and fplendid thoughts which fo highly distinguish that performance. "I (fays he) may furely be contented without the praise of perfection, which if I could obtain in this gloom of folitude, what would it avail me? I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please, have funk into the grave; and fuccefs and mifcarriage are empty founds. I therefore difmifs it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from cenfure or from praise." That this indifference was rather

a temporary


a temporary than an habitual feeling, appears, I think, from his letters to
Mr. Warton; and however he may have been affected for the moment, Etat. 46.
certain it is that the honours which his great work procured him, both at home
and abroad, were very grateful to him. His friend the Earl of Corke and
Orrery, being at Florence, presented it to the Academia della Crufca. That
Academy fent Johnson their Vocabulario, and the French Academy sent him
their Dictionnaire, which Mr. Langton had the pleasure to convey to him.

It must undoubtedly feem ftrange, that the conclufion of his Preface fhould be expreffed in terms fo defponding, when it is confidered that the authour was then only in his forty-fixth year. But we must ascribe its gloom to that miferable dejection of fpirits to which he was conftitutionally fubject, 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 pleafed 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 had many more friends, fince that gloomy hour than before.

It is a fad faying, that "moft of those whom he wished to please had sunk into the grave;" and his cafe at forty-five was fingularly unhappy, unless the circle of his friends was very narrow. I have often thought, that as longevity is generally defired, and, I believe, generally expected, it would be wife to be continually adding to the number of our friends, that the lofs of fome may be fupplied by others. Friendship, "the wine of life," fhould, like a wellstocked cellar, be thus continually renewed; and it is confolatory to think, that although we can seldom add what will equal the generous first-growths of our youth, yet friendship becomes infenfibly old in much less time than is com-line produce the but monly imagined, and not many years are required to make it very mellow. and pleasant. Warmth will, no doubt, make a confiderable difference. Men of affectionate temper and bright fancy will coalefce a great deal fooner than those who are cold and dull.)

The propofition which I have now endeavoured to illuftrate was, at an after period of his life, the opinion of Johnson himself. He said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, "If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will foon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, fhould keep his friendhip in constant repair.'

The celebrated Mr. Wilkes, whofe notions and habits of life were very opposite to his, but who was ever eminent for literature and vivacity, fallied forth with a little Jeu d' Efprit upon the following paffage in his Grammar of

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