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princes and statesmen had once thought it honourable to patronize., dictionaries, he had considered such benevolent acts to be “prodigies, recorded rather to raise wonder than expectation,” and he was accord.. ingly pleased and surprised to find that Chesterfield took an interest in his undertaking. He proceeds to lay down the general principles upon which he intends to frame his work, in order to invite timely suggestions and repress unreasonable expectations. At this time, humble as his aspirations might be, he took a view of the possibili ties open to him which had to be lowered before the publication of the dictionary. He shared the illusion that a language might be "fixed” by making a catalogue of its words. In the preface which appeared with the completed work, he explains very sensibly the vanity of any such expectation. Whilst all human affairs are changing, it is, as he says, absurd to imagine that the language which repeats all human thoughts and feelings can remain unaltered.

A dictionary, as Johnson conceived it, was in fact work for a “harmless drudge,” the definition of a lexicographer given in the book itself. Etymology in a scientific sense was as yet non-existent, and Johnson was not in this respect ahead of his contemporaries. To collect all the words in the language, to define their meanings as accurately as might be, to give the obvious or whimsical guesses at Ety. mology suggested by previous writers, and to append a good collection of illustrative passages was the sum of his ambition. Any systematic training of the historical processes by which a particular language had been developed was unknown, and of course the result could not be anticipated. The work, indeed, required a keen logical faculty of definition, and wide reading of the English literature of the two preceding centuries; but it could of course give no play either for the higher literary faculties on points of scientific investi. gation. A dictionary in Johnson's sense was the highest kind of work to which a literary journeyman could be set, but it was still work for a journeyman, not for an artist. He was not adding to literature, but providing a useful implement for future men of letters.

Johnson had thus got on land the biggest job that could be well undertaken by a good workman in his humble craft. He was to receive fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds for the whole, and he expected to finish it in three years. The money, it is to be observed, was to satisfy not only Johnson, but several copyists employed in the mechanical part of the work. It was advanced by instalments, and came to an end before the conclusion of the book. Indeed, it ap. peared when accounts were settled, that he had received a hundred pounds more than was due. He could, however, pay his way for the time, and would gain a reputation enough to ensure work in future. The period of extreme poverty had probably ended wlien Jolinson got permanent employment on the Gentleman's Mugazine. He was not elevated above the need of drudgery and economy, but he might



at least be free from the dread of neglect. He could command his market-such as it was. The necessity of steady labour was probably unfelt in repelling his flts of melancholy. His name was begin. ning to be known, and men of reputation were seeking his acquaint

In the winter of 1749 he formed a club, which met weekly at a “ famous beef-steak house” in Ivy Lane. Among its members were Hawkins, afterwards his biographer, and two friends—Bathurst, a physician, and Hawkesworth, an author-for the first of whom he . entertained an unusually strong affection. The Club, like its more famous successor, gave Johnson an opportunity of displaying and improving his great conversational powers. He was already dreaded for his prowess in argument, his dictatorial manners and vivid flashes of wit and humour, the more effective from the habitual gloom and apparent heaviness of the discourser.

The talk of this society probably suggested topics for the Rambler, which appeared at this time, and caused Johnson's fame to spread further beyond the literary circles of London. The wit and humour have, indeed, left few traces upon its ponderous pages, for the Ram. bler marks the culminating period of Johnson's worst qualities of style. The pompous and involved language seems indeed to be a fit clothing for the melancholy reflections which are its chief staple, and in spite of its unmistakable power it is as heavy reading as the heavy class of lay-sermonizing to which it belongs. Such literature, however, is often strangely popular in England, and the Rambler, though its circulation was limited, gave to Johnson his position as a great practical moralist. He took his literary title, one may say, from the Rambler, as the more familiar title was derived from the Dictionary.

The Rambler was published twice a week from March 20th, 1750, to March 14th, 1752. In five numbers alone he received assistance from friends, and one of these, written by Richardson, is said to have been the only number which had a large sale. The circulation rarely exceeded 500, though ten English editions were published in the author's lifetime, besides Scotch and Irish editions. The payment, however, namely, two guineas a number, must have been welcome to Johnson, and the friendship of many distinguished men of the time was a still more valuable reward. A quaint story illustrates the heroworship of which Johnson now became the object. Dr. Burney, afterwards an intimate friend, had introduced himself to Jolinson by letter in consequence of the Rambler, and the plan of the Dictionary. The admiration was shared by a friend of Burney's, a Mr. Bewley, known-in Norfolk at least-as the “philosopher of Massingham. When Burney at last gained the honour of a personal interview, he wished to procure some “relic" of Johnson for his friend.

He cut off some bristles from a hearth broom in the doctor's chambers, and sent them in a letter to his fellow-enthusiast. Long afterwards Johnson was pleased to hear of this simple-minded homage, and not only

sent a copy of the Lives of the Poets to the rural philosopher, but deigned to grant him a personal interview.

Dearer than any such praise was the approval of Johnson's wife. She told him that, well as she had thought of him before, she had not considered him equal to such a performance. The voice that so charmed him was soon to be silenced for ever. Mrs. Johnson died (March 17th, 1752) three days after the appearance of the last Rambler. The man who has passed through such a trial knows well that, whatever may be in store for him in the dark future, fate can have no heavier blow in reserve. Though Johnson once acknowledged to Boswell. when in a placid humour, that happier days had come to him in his old age than in bis early life, he would probably have added that though fame and friendship and freedom from the harrowing cares of poverty might cause his life to be more equably happy, yet their rewards could represent but a faint and mocking reflection of the best moments of a happy marriage. His strong mind and tender nature reeled under the blow. Here is one pathetic little note written to the friend, Dr. Taylor, who had come to him in his distress. That which first announced the calamity, and which, said Taylor, “expressed grief in the strongest manner he had ever read,” is lost.

" Dear Sir,-Let me have your company and instruction. Do not live away from me. My distress is great.

"Pray desire Mrs. Taylor to inform me what mourning I should buy for my mother and Miss Porter, and bring a note in writing with you. “Remeraber me in your prayers, for vain is the help of man.

I am, dear sir,


We need not regret that a veil is drawn over the details of the bitter agony of his passage through the valley of the shadow of death. It is enough to put down the wails which he wrote long afterwards when visibly approaching the close of all human emotions and interests :

“This is the day on which, in 1752, dear Letty died. I have now uttered a prayer of repentance and contrition; perhaps Letty knows that I prayed for her. Perhaps Letty is now praying for me. God help me. Thou, God, art merciful, hear my prayers and enable me to trust in Thee.

"We were married almost seventeen years, and have now been parted thirty.”

It seems half profane, even at this distance of time, to pry into grief so deep and so lasting. Johnson turned for relief to that which all sufferers know to be the only remedy for sorrow--hard labour. He set to work in his garret, an inconvenient room, “because,” he said, “in that room only I never saw Mrs. Johnson.” He helped his friend Hawkesworth in the Adventurer, a new periodical of the Rambler kind ; but his main work was the Dictionary, which came out at last in 1755. Its appearance was the occasion of an explosion of wrath

ar was

which marks an epoch in our literature. Johnson, as we have seen, had dedicated the Plan to Lord Chesterfield ; and his language implies that they had been to some extent in personal communication. Chesterfield's fame is in curious antithesis to Johnson's. He was a man of great abilities, and seems to have deserved high credit for some parts of his statesmanship. As a Viceroy in Ireland in particular he showed qualities rare in his generation. To Johnson he was known as the nobleman who had a wide social influence as an acknowledged arbiter elegantiarum, and who reckoned among his claims some of that literary polish in which the earlier generation of nobles had certainly been superior to their successors. The art of life expounded in his Letters differs from Johnson as much as the elegant diplomatist differs from the rough intellectual gladiator of Grub Street. Johnson spoke his mind of his rival without reserve. “I thought,” he said, "that this man had been a Lord among wits; but I find that he is only a wit among Lords.” And of the Letters he said more keenly that they taught the morals of a harlot and the manners of a dancing-master. Chesterfield's opinion of Johnson is indicated by the description in his Letters of a respectable Hottentot, who throws his meat anywhere but down his throat. This absurd person,” said Chesterfield, not only uncouth in manners and warm in dispute, but behaved exactly in the same way to superiors, equals, and inferiors; and therefore, by a necessary consequence, absurdly to two of the three. Hinc illa lacryma!

Johnson, in my opinion, was not far wrong in his judgment, though it would be a gross injustice to regard Chesterfield as nothing but a fribble. But men representing two such antithetic. types were not likely to admire each other's good qualities. Whatever had been the intercourse between them, Johnson was naturally annoyed when the dignified noble published two articles in the World—a periodical supported by such polite personages as himself and Horaco Walpolerin which the need of a dictionary was set forth, and various courtly compliments described Johnson's fitness for a dictatorship over the language. Nothing could be more prettily turned ; but it meant, and Johnson took it to mean, I should like to have the dictionary dedi. cated to me : such a compliment would add a feather to my cap, and enable me to appear to the world as a patron of literature as well as an authority upon manners. After making great professions," as Johnson said," he had, for many years, taken no notice of me; but when my Dictionary was coming out, he fell a scribling in the World about it." Johnson therefore bestowed upon the noble earl a piece of his mind in a letter which was not published till it came out in Boswell's biography

“My Lord, -I have been lately informed by the proprietor of the World that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

“When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your Lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address; and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself, le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre -that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending ; but I fcund my attendance so little encouraged that neither pride nor podesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the arts of pleasing which a wearied and uncourtly echolar can possess. I had done all that I could ; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

"Seven years, my Lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms and was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through diffculties of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it at last to the verge of publication without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one emile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.

“The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.

“Is not a patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, life in the water, and when he has reached the ground encumbers him with help? bad been kind ; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron which providence has enabled me to do for myself.

“Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, should less be possible, with less ; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope in which I once boasted myself w.th so much exultation, my Lord, “Yogr Lordsbip's most bumble, most obedient servant,

"SAM, JOHNSON." The letter is one of those knock-down blows to which no answer is possible, and upon which comment is superfluous. It was, as Mr. Carlyle calls it, the far-famed blast of doom proclaiming into the ear of Lord Chesterfield, and through him of the listening world, that patronage should be no more.

That is all that can be said ; yet perhaps it should be added that Johnson remarked that he had once received £10 from Chesterfield, though he thought the assistance too inconsiderable to be mentioned in such a letter. Hawkins also states that Chesterfield sent overtures to Johnson through two friends, one of whom, long Sir Thomas Robinson, stated that, if he were rich enough (a judicious clause) he would himself settle £500 a year upon Johnson. Johnson replied that if the first peer of the realm made such an offer, he would show him the way downstairs. Hawkins is startled at this insolence, and at Johnson's uniform assertion that an offer of money was an insult.

We cannot tell what was the history of the £10 ; but Johnson, in spite of Hawkins's righteous indignation, was in fact too proud to be a beggar, and owed to his pride his escape from the fate of Savage.

The appearance of the Dictionary placed Johnson in the position described soon afterwards by Smollett. He was henceforth “the

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