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UPPOSING Dr. Johnson had lived during the last three
months, I wonder if he would have changed his opinion concerning the effect of atmospheric influences on the
mind. Boswell tells us that Mr. Cave's famous contributor treated with contempt the opinion that our mental faculties depend in some degree upon the weather. “He that shall resolutely excite his faculties," said the doctor, “or exert his virtues, will soon make himself superior to the seasons, and may set at defiance the morning mist and the evening damp, the blasts of the east and the clouds of the south." Boswell was a shrewd, thoughtful, and clever man. He made a very sensible reply to the doctor. He might have answered him over dinner at the Mitre, but he waited until his guide, philosopher, and friend was lying under the large blue flagstone in Westminster Abbey. Then he wrote, “ Johnson might as well have bid defiance to the ague, the palsy, and other bodily disorders ; such boasting of the mind is false elevation.” Boswell was right. The depressing influence of the season through which we are now passing may be seen in our literature, journalistic and otherwise. A philosopher might find in the rain an historical text, pregnant with curious speculation. In my memory there has been no such season of moisture as this. The last few months might have almost done duty for a rainy season in Central America. With Johnson's note of defiance in my memory I have fought the rain and mist, day after day, fought the reeking twins with mind and body, but not victoriously. Even the laughing genius of Joy could not have held his own for a week under the dun dripping clouds that have enveloped us. I have seen giants of intellect and physical strength succumb to the melancholy influences of the time, melting under them as completely as Johnson's false philosophy in this case disappears before the practical common sense of Boswell.
Let it not be inferred that the last two or three numbers of my new volume call for excuse on account of the weather. ments of a monthly magazine are not subject to the exigencies of the hour. For my latter numbers, as well as for their predecessors, I claim a position of literary worth and current value. Taking my inspiration direct from the earliest days of SYLVANUS URBAN, I have endeavoured, while modernising the Gentleman's Magazine, to maintain for it that special place which it has always held among its contemporaries. Just as I feel sure Cave would have done in connection with such a work as “ The Impeachment of the House of Brunswick," I have had Mr. Bradlaugh's views duly considered and exposed. Whether Dr. Johnson would have consented to my predecessor granting to the Republican the privilege of replying I am not prepared to say; but in these days we do not care to ignore discussion upon any public question; and for my own part I hope my respect for “the right of reply” is, of the age, just, and true to that spirit of inquiry which cannot be hurtful to a good cause. In my next volume, therefore, will be found Mr. Charles Bradlaugh's answer to my contributor's strictures in this. Meanwhile let me commend to the excited frequenters of the Hall of Science, Oldstreet, the remark of Dr. Johnson to Sir Adam Ferguson :- -“Why all this childish jealousy of the power of the Crown? The Crown has not power enough. When I say that all Governments are alike, I consider that in no Government can power be abused longmankind will not bear it. If a Sovereign oppresses his people to a great degree, they will rise and cut off his head. Had not the people of France thought themselves honoured in sharing the brilliant actions of Louis XIV., they would not have endured him ; and we may say the same of the King of Prussia's people.”
Whatever doubt I may entertain concerning Dr. Johnson's toleration of Mr. Bradlaugh, I have none about his appreciation of “A Hampshire Ghost Story,” which it has been my privilege to publish from the original letters and documents referred to in the Life of the Rer. Richard Barham. Not only was Johnson superstitious, but Cave believed in ghosts. What shadow; these men are to me, sitting here in the firelight and trying to keep up this good old custom of Prefaces ! “Talking of ghosts,” remarks Boswell," Dr. Johnson said he knew one friend who was an honest man, and a sensible man, who told him he had seen a ghost-old Mr. Edward Cave, the printer at St. John's Gate. He said Mr. Cave did not like to talk of it, and seemed to be in great horror whenever it was mentioned.”
In presence of that vast array of volumes which dates back to 1731, I, too, sometimes believe in ghosts. They come and go, the shadowy years; they come and go in the firelight, with whispers of great names, and low moanings of direful deeds. On that very page of history which records the birth of the Gentleman's Magazine I read "The Prince Royal of Prussia still kept in prison ; Lieutenant Kattie, one of his favourites, beheaded before his face, the Prince being obliged to stand at the prison window and see the execution. A young lady of fifteen whom the Prince seemed to be fond of was whipped through the town, for no other crime than because the Prince liked her.” Taking up the long chain, year after year, to forge fresh links in the unbroken line-stretching back to that execution and to the days of Berkeley, Hume, Fielding, Richardson, and to the death of Defoe-I find in it a strange vibration of living history, reviving events that are happily softened and toned down by the soothing influences of Time. Listening for the first sounds of the Christmas bells that
“ Answer each other in the mist,"
I seem to join hands with the men who built up the wonderful history that is enshrined in the familiar volumes of my illustrious . predecessors. I sit and muse over the shadows, and it occurs to me as an odd coincidence (the only circumstance, by the way, in common with myself and so learned a man) that Dr. Johnson came up to London from the Midland counties to improve this periodical. It was my lot, about one hundred and thirty years afterwards, to make a journey from the same district for a similar purpose. But I initiated and carried out changes which only a young man would have dared to undertake. I had resuscitated Mr. Berrow, the oldest provincial journalist, and made him popular; why should I not be equally successful with SYLVANUS URBAN? Under my advice the father of all magazines was good enough to lay aside his buckled shoes and ruffles, and adapt himself,