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ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION
THAT I was anxious for the success of a Work which had employed much of my time and labour, I do not wish to conceal : but whatever doubts I at any time entertained, have been entirely removed by the very favourable reception with which it has been honoured. That reception has excited my best exertions to render my Book more perfect; and in this endeavour I have had the assistance not only of some of my particular friends, but of many other learned and ingenious men, by which I have been enabled to rectify some mistakes, and to enrich the Work with many valuable additions. These I have ordered to be printed separately in quarto, for the accommodation of the purchasers of the first edition. May I be permitted to say that the typography of both editions does honour to the press of Mr Henry Baldwin, now Master of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, whom I have long known as a worthy man and an obliging friend.
In the strangely mixed scenes of human existence, our feelings are often at once pleasing and painful. Of this truth the progress of the present Work furnishes a striking instance. It was highly gratifying to me that my friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom it is inscribed, lived to peruse it, and to give the strongest testimony to its fidelity; but before a second edition, which he contributed to improve, could be finished, the world has been deprived of that most valuable man; a loss of which the regret will be deep, and lasting, and extensive, proportionate to the felicity which he diffused through a wide circle of admirers and friends.
In reflecting that the illustrious subject of this work, by being more extensively and intimately known, however elevated before, has risen in the veneration and love of mankind, I feel a satisfaction beyond what fame can afford. We cannot, indeed, too much or too often admire his wonderful powers of mind, when we consider that the principal store of wit and wisdom which this Work contains was not a particular selection from his general conversation, but was merely his occasional talk at such times as I had the good fortune to be in his company; and, without doubt, if his discourse at other periods had been collected with the same attention, the whole tenor of what he uttered would have been found equally excellent.
His strong, clear, and animated enforcement of religion, morality, loyalty, and subordination, while it delights and improves the wise and the good, will, I trust, prove an effectual antidote to that detestable sophistry which has been lately imported from France under the false name of Philosophy, and with a malignant industry has been employed against the peace, good order, and happiness of society, in our free and prosperous country; but, thanks be to GOD without producing the pernicious effects which were hoped for by its propagators.
It seems to me, in my moments of self-complacency, that this extensive biographical work, however inferior in its nature, may in one respect be assimilated to the “Odyssey.” Amidst a thousand entertaining and instructive episodes, the Hero is never long out of sight, for they are all in some degree connected with him; and He, in the whole course of the history, is exhibited by the Author for the best advantage of his readers.
-Quid virtus et quid sapientia possit,
Should there be any cold-blooded and morose mortals who really dislike this Book, I will give them a story to apply. When the great Duke of Marlborough, accompanied by Lord Cadogan, was one day reconnoitring the army in Flanders, a heavy rain came on, and they both called for their cloaks. Lord Cadogan's servant, a good-humoured, alert lad, brought his Lordship's in a minute. The Duke's servant, a lazy, sulky dog, was so sluggish that his Grace, being wet to the skin, reproved him, and had for answer with a grunt, “I came as fast as I could.”
Upon which the Duke calmly said, “Cadogan, I would not for a thousand pounds have that fellow's temper."
There are some men, I believe, who have, or think they have, a very small share of vanity. Such may speak of their literary fame in a decorous style of diffidence. But, I confess, that I am so formed by nature and by habit that to restrain the effusion of delight, on having obtained such fame, to me would be truly painful. Why then should I suppress it? Why “out of the abundance of the heart” should I not speak? Let me then mention with a warm, but no insolent exultation, that I have been regaled with spontaneous praise of my work by many and various persons eminent for their rank, learning, talents, and accomplishments; much of which praise I have under their hands to be reposited in my archives at Auchenleck. An honourable and reverend friend, speaking of the favourable reception of my volumes, even in the circles of fashion and elegance, said to me, “ You have made them all talk Johnson.” “Yes," I may add, “I have Fohnsonised the land; and I trust they will not only talk, but think, Johnson.”
To enumerate those to whom I have been thus indebted would be tediously ostentatious. I cannot, however, but name one whose praise is truly valuable, not only on account of his knowledge and abilities, but on account of the magnificent yet dangerous embassy in which he is now employed, which makes everything that relates to him peculiarly interesting. Lord Macartney favoured me with his own copy of my book, with a number of notes, of which I have availed myself. On the first leaf I found, in his Lordship’s handwriting, an inscription of such high commendation, that even I, vain as I am, cannot prevail on myself to publish it.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE THIRD EDITION
SEVERAL valuable letters, and other curious matter, having been communicated to the Author too late to be arranged in that chronological order which he had endeavoured uniformly to observe in his work, he was obliged to introduce them in his Second Edition, by way of Addenda, as commodiously as he could. In the present edition these have been distributed in their proper piaces. In revising his volumes for a new edition, he had pointed out where some of these materials should be inserted; but unfortunately, in the midst of his labours, he was seized with a fever, of which, to the great regret of all his friends, he died on the 19th of May 1795. All the Notes that he had written in the margin of the copy which he had in part revised are here faithfully preserved ; and a few new Notes have been added, principally by some of those friends to whom the Author in the former editions acknowledged his obligations. Those subscribed with the letter B., were communicated by Dr Burney; those to which the letters J. B. are annexed, by the Rev. J. Blakeway, of Shrewsbury, to whom Mr Boswell acknowledged himself indebted for some judicious remarks on the first edition of his work; and the letters J. B.-0. are annexed to some remarks furnished by the Author's second son, a Student of Brazen-Nose College in Oxford. Some valuable observations were communicated by James Bindley, Esq., First Commissioner in the Stamp-Office, which have been acknowledged in their proper places. For all those without any signature, Mr Malone is answerable. Every new remark, not written by the Author, for the sake of distinction has been enclosed within crotchets ; in one instance, however, the printer by mistake has affixed this mark to a note relative to the Rev. Thomas Fysche Palmer (see vol. iv. p. 129), which was written by Mr Boswell, and therefore ought not to have been thus distinguished.
I have only to add, that the proof-sheets of the present edition not having passed through my hands, I am not answerable for any typographical errors that may be found in it. Having, however, been printed at the very accurate press of Mr. Baldwin, I make no doubt it will be found not less perfect than the former edition; the greatest care having been taken, by correctness and elegance, to do justice to one of the most instructive and entertaining works in the English language.
April 8, 1799.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS
MY DEAR SIR,
Every liberal motive that can actuate an Author in the dedication of his labours, concurs in directing me to you, as the person to whom the following Work should be inscribed.
If there be a pleasure in celebrating the distinguished merit of a contemporary, mixed with a certain degree of vanity not altogether inexcusable, in appearing fully sensible of it, where can I find one, in complimenting whom I can with more general approbation gratify those feelings? Your excellence, not only in the art over which you have long presided with unrivalled fame, but also in Philosophy and elegant Literature, is well known to the present, and will continue to be the admiration of
Your equal and placid temper, your variety of conversation, your true politeness, by which you are so amiable in private society, and that enlarged hospitality which has long made your house a common centre of union for the great, the accomplished, the learned, and the ingenious; all these qualities I can, in perfect confidence of not being accused of flattery, ascribe to you.
If a man may indulge an honest pride in having it known to the world that he has been thought worthy of particular attention by a person of the first eminence in the age in which he lived, whose company has been universally courted, I am justified in availing myself of the usual privilege of a Dedication, when I mention that there has been a long and uninterrupted friendship between us.
If gratitude should be acknowledged for favours received, I have this opportunity, my dear Sir, most sincerely to thank you for the many happy hours which I owe to your kindness,—for the cordiality with which you have at all times been pleased to welcome me,- for the number of valuable acquaintances to whom you have introduced me,-for the noctes cænæque Deum, which I have enjoyed under your roof.
If a work should be inscribed to one who is master of the subject of it, and whose approbation, therefore, must ensure it credit and success, the “LIFE OF DR JOHNSON” is, with the greatest propriety, dedicated to Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was the intimate and beloved friend of that great man ; the friend whom he declared to be “the most invulnerable man he knew; whom, if he should quarrel with him, he should find the most difficulty how to abuse." You, my dear Sir, studied him, and knew him well : you venerated and admired him. Yet, luminous as he was upon the whole, you perceived all the shades which mingled in the grand composition; all the little peculiarities and slight blemishes which marked the literary Colossus. Your very warm commendation of the specimen which I gave, in my "JOURNAL OF A