Boswell's Life of Johnson, 1738

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Edited, from the two-volume Oxford edition of 1904, by Jack Lynch.
His first performance in the Gentleman's Magazine, which for many years was his principal source for employment and support, was a copy of Latin verses, in March, 1738, addressed to the editor in so happy a style of compliment, that Cave must have been destitute both of taste and sensibility, had he not felt himself highly gratified.
      Ad URBANUM*

URBANE, nullis fesse laboribus, URBANE, nullis victe
  Cui fronte sertum in erudita
    Perpetuo viret et virebit;

Quid moliatur gens imitantium, Quid et minetur, solicitus parum,
  Vacare, solis perge Musis,
    Juxta animo studiisque felix.

Linguae procacis plumbea spicula, Fidens, superbo frange
  Victrix per obstantes catervas
    Sedulitas animosa tendet.

Intende nervos, fortis, inanibus Risurus olim nisibus aemuli;
  Intende jam nervos, habebis
    Participes operae Camaenas.

Non ulla Musis pagina gratior, Quam quae severis ludicra jungere
  Novit, fatigatamque nugis
    Utilibus recreare mentem.

Texante Nymphis serta Lycoride, Rosae ruborem sic viola adjuvat
  Immista, sic Iris refulget
    Aethereis variata fucis.1   S.J.
It appears that he was now enlisted by Mr. Cave as a regular coadjutor in his magazine, by which he probably obtained a tolerable livelihood. At what time, or by what means, he had acquired a competent knowledge both of French and Italian, I do not know; but he was so well skilled in them, as to be sufficiently qualified for a translator. That part of his labour which consisted in emendation and improvement of the productions of other contributors, like that employed in levelling ground, can be perceived only by those who had an opportunity of comparing the original with the altered copy. What we certainly know to have been done by him in this way, was the Debates in both houses of Parliament, under the name of “The Senate of Lilliput,” sometimes with feigned denominations of the several speakers, sometimes with denominations formed of the letters of their real names, in the manner of what is called anagram, so that they might easily be decyphered. Parliament then kept the press in a kind of mysterious awe, which made it necessary to have recourse to such devices. In our time it has acquired an unrestrained freedom, so that the people in all parts of the kingdom have a fair, open, and exact report of the actual proceedings of their representatives and legislators, which in our constitution is highly to be valued; though, unquestionably, there has of late been too much reason to complain of the petulance with which obscure scribblers have presumed to treat men of the most respectable character and situation.

This important article of the Gentleman's Magazine was, for several years, executed by Mr. William Guthrie, a man who deserves to be respectably recorded in the literary annals of this country. He was descended of an ancient family in Scotland; but having a small patrimony, and being an adherent of the unfortunate house of Stuart, he could not accept of any office in the state; he therefore came to London, and employed his talents and learning as an “Authour by profession.” His writings in history, criticism, and politicks, had considerable merit.2 He was the first English historian who had recourse to that authentick source of information, the Parliamentary Journals; and such was the power of his political pen, that, at an early period, Government thought it worth their while to keep it quiet by a pension, which he enjoyed till his death. Johnson esteemed him enough to wish that his life should be written. The debates in Parliament, which were brought home and digested by Guthrie, whose memory, though surpassed by others who have since followed him in the same department, was yet very quick and tenacious, were sent by Cave to Johnson for his revision; and, after some time, when Guthrie had attained to greater variety of employment, and the speeches were more and more enriched by the accession of Johnson's genius, it was resolved that he should do the whole himself, from the scanty notes furnished by persons employed to attend in both houses of Parliament. Sometimes, however, as he himself told me, he had nothing more communicated to him than the names of the several speakers, and the part which they had taken in the debate.

Thus was Johnson employed during some of the best years of his life, as a mere literary labourer “for gain, not glory,” solely to obtain an honest support. He however indulged himself in occasional little sallies, which the French so happily express by the term jeux d'esprit, and which will be noticed in their order, in the progress of this work.

But what first displayed his transcendent powers, and “gave the world assurance of the MAN,” was his “LONDON, a Poem, in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal;” which came out in May this year, and burst forth with a splendour, the rays of which will for ever encircle his name. Boileau had imitated the same satire with great success, applying it to Paris: but an attentive comparison will satisfy every reader, that he is much excelled by the English Juvenal. Oldham had also imitated it, and applied it to London: all which performances concur to prove, that great cities, in every age, and every country, will furnish similar topicks of satire. Whether Johnson had previously read Oldham's imitation, I do not know; but it is not a little remarkable, that there is scarcely any coincidence found between the two performances, though upon the very same subject. The only instances are, in describing London as the sink of foreign worthlessness:
	      “-- the common shore,
Where France doth all her filth and ordure pour.”

“The common shore of Paris and of Rome.”
 “No calling or profession comes amiss, A needy
monsieur can be what he please.”

“All sciences a fasting monsieur knows.”
The particulars which Oldham has collected, both as exhibiting the horrours of London, and of the times, contrasted with better days, are different from those of Johnson, and in general well chosen, and well exprest.3

There are, in Oldham's imitation, many prosaick verses and bad rhymes, and his poem sets out with a strange inadvertent blunder:
 “Tho' much concern'd to leave my dear old friend, I
must, however, his design commend Of fixing in the
It is plain he was not going to leave his friend; his friend was going to leave him. A young lady at once corrected this with good critical sagacity, to
 “Tho' much concern'd to lose my dear old friend.”
There is one passage in the original, better transfused by Oldham than by Johnson:
 "Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se, Quam quod
ridiculos homines facit.” 
which is an exquisite remark on the galling meanness and contempt annexed to poverty: JOHNSON'S imitation is,
 “Of all the griefs that harass the distrest, Sure the most
bitter is a scornful jest.” 
OLDHAM'S, though less elegant, is more just:
 “Nothing in poverty so ill is borne, As its exposing men
to grinning scorn.” 
Where, or in what manner this poem was composed, I am sorry that I neglected to ascertain with precision, from Johnson's own authority. He has marked upon his corrected copy of the first edition of it, “Written in 1738;” and, as it was published in the month of May in that year, it is evident that much time was not employed in preparing it for the press. The history of its publication I am enabled to give in a very satisfactory manner; and judging from myself, and many of my friends, I trust that it will not be uninteresting to my readers.

We may be certain, though it is not expressly named in the following letters to Mr. Cave, in 1738, that they all relate to it:

“Castle-street, Wednesday Morning.

[No date. 1738.]


“WHEN I took the liberty of writing to you a few days ago, I did not expect a repetition of the same pleasure so soon; for a pleasure I shall always think it, to converse in any manner with an ingenuous and candid man; but having the inclosed poem in my hands to dispose of for the benefit of the authour, (of whose abilities I shall say nothing, since I send you his performance,) I believed I could not procure more advantageous terms from any person than from you, who have so much distinguished yourself by your generous encouragement of poetry; and whose judgement of that art nothing but your commendation of my trifle4 can give me any occasion to call in question. I do not doubt you will look over this poem with another eye, and reward it in a different manner from a mercenary bookseller, who counts the lines he is to purchase, and considers nothing but the bulk. I cannot help taking notice, that besides what the authour may hope for on account of his abilities, he has likewise another claim to your regard, as he lies at present under very disadvantageous circumstances of fortune. I beg, therefore, that you will favour me with a letter to-morrow, that I may know what you can afford to allow him, that he may either part with it to you, or find out, (which I do not expect,) some other way more to his satisfaction.

“I have only to add, that as I am sensible I have transcribed it very coarsely, which, after having altered it, I was obliged to do, I will, if you please to transmit the sheets from the press, correct it for you; and take the trouble of altering any stroke of satire which you may dislike.

“By exerting on this occasion your usual generosity, you will not only encourage learning, and relieve distress, but (though it be in comparison of the other motives of very small account) oblige in a very sensible manner, Sir,

“Your very humble Servant,


“Monday, No. 6, Castle-street.”


“I AM to return you thanks for the present you were so kind as to send by me, and to intreat that you will be pleased to inform me by the penny-post, whether you resolve to print the poem. If you please to send it me by the post, with a note to Dodsley, I will go and read the lines to him, that we may have his consent to put his name in the title-page. As to the printing, if it can be set immediately about, I will be so much the authour's friend, as not to content myself with mere solicitations in his favour. I propose, if my calculation be near the truth, to engage for the reimbursement of all that you shall lose by an impression of 500; provided, as you very generously propose, that the profit, if any, be set aside for the authour's use, excepting the present you made, which, if he be a gainer, it is fit he should repay. I beg that you will let one of your servants write an exact account of the expense of such an impression, and send it with the poem, that I may know what I engage for. I am very sensible, from your generosity on this occasion, of your regard to learning, even in its unhappiest state; and cannot but think such a temper deserving of the gratitude of those who suffer so often from a contrary disposition. I am, Sir,

“Your most humble Servant,


[No date.]


“I WAITED on you to take the copy to Dodsley's: as I remember the number of lines which it contains, it will be no longer than EUGENIO,5 with the quotations, which must be subjoined at the bottom of the page; part of the beauty of the performance (if any beauty be allowed it) consisting in adapting Juvenal's sentiments to modern facts and persons. It will, with those additions, very conveniently make five sheets. And since the expense will be no more, I shall contentedly insure it, as I mentioned in my last. If it be not therefore gone to Dodsley's, I beg it may be sent me by the penny-post, that I may have it in the evening. I have composed a Greek Epigram to Eliza,6 and think she ought to be celebrated in as many different languages as Lewis le Grand. Pray send me word when you will begin upon the poem, for it is a long way to walk. I would leave my Epigram, but have not daylight to transcribe it. I am,

“Your's, &c.


[No date.]


“I AM extremely obliged by your kind letter, and will not fail to attend you to-morrow with IRENE, who looks upon you as one of her best friends.

“I was to-day with Mr, Dodsley, who declares very warmly in favour of the paper you sent him, which he desires to have a share in, it being, as he says, a creditable thing to be concerned in. I knew not what answer to make till I had consulted you, nor what to demand on the authour's part, but am very willing that, if you please, he should have a part in it, as he will undoubtedly be more diligent to disperse and promote it. If you can send me word to-morrow what I shall say to him, I will settle matters, and bring the poem with me for the press, which, as the town empties, we cannot be too quick with. I am, Sir,

“Your's, &c.

To us who have long known the manly force, bold spirit, and masterly versification of this poem, it is a matter of curiosity to observe the diffidence with which its authour brought it forward into publick notice, while he is so cautious as not to avow it to be his own production; and with what humility he offers to allow the printer to “alter any stroke of satire which he might dislike.” That any such alteration was made, we do not know. If we did, we could but feel an indignant regret; but how painful is it to see that a writer of such vigorous powers of mind was actually in such distress, that the small profit which so short a poem, however excellent, could yield, was courted as a “relief.”

It has been generally said, I know not with what truth, that Johnson offered his “London” to several booksellers, none of whom would purchase it. To this circumstance Mr. Derrick alludes in the following lines of his “FORTUNE, A RHAPSODY:”
 “Will no kind patron JOHNSON own?  Shall JOHNSON
friendless range the town?  And every publisher refuse The
offspring of his happy Muse?” 
But we have seen that the worthy, modest, and ingenious Mr. Robert Dodsley, had taste enough to perceive its uncommon merit, and thought it creditable to have a share in it. The fact is, that at a future conference, he bargained for the whole property of it, for which he gave Johnson ten guineas; who told me, “I might perhaps have accepted of less; but that Paul Whitehead had a little before got ten guineas for a poem; and I would not take less than Paul Whitehead.”

I may here observe, that Johnson appeared to me to under-value Paul Whitehead upon every occasion when he was mentioned, and, in my opinion, did not do him justice; but when it is considered that Paul Whitehead was a member of a riotous and profane club, we may account for Johnson's having a prejudice against him. Paul Whitehead was, indeed, unfortunate in being not only slighted by Johnson, but violently attacked by Churchill, who utters the following imprecation:
 “May I (can worse disgrace on manhood fall?) Be born a
Whitehead, and baptized a Paul!” 
yet I shall never be persuaded to think meanly of the authour of so brilliant and pointed a satire as “MANNERS.”

Johnson's “London” was published in May, 1738;7 and it is remarkable, that it came out on the same morning with Pope's satire, entitled “1738;” so that England had at once its Juvenal and Horace as poetical monitors. The Reverend Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, to whom I am indebted for some obliging communications, was then a student at Oxford, and remembers well the effect which “London” produced. Every body was delighted with it; and there being no name to it, the first buz of the literary circle was, “here is an unknown poet, greater even than Pope.” And it is recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine of that year,8 that it “got to the second edition in the course of a week.”

One of the warmest patrons of this poem on its first appearance was GENERAL OGLETHORPE, whose “strong benevolence of soul” was unabated during the course of a very long life; though it is painful to think, that he had but too much reason to become cold and callous, and discontented with the world, from the neglect which he experienced of his publick and private worth, by those in whose power it was to gratify so gallant a veteran with marks of distinction. This extraordinary person was as remarkable for his learning and taste, as for his other eminent qualities; and no man was more prompt, active, and generous, in encouraging merit. I have heard Johnson gratefully acknowledge, in his presence, the kind and effectual support which he gave to his “London,” though unacquainted with its author.

POPE, who then filled the poetical throne without a rival, it may reasonably be presumed, must have been particularly struck by the sudden appearance of such a poet; and, to his credit, let it be remembered, that his feelings and conduct on the occasion were candid and liberal. He requested Mr. Richardson, son of the painter, to endeavour to find out who this new authour was. Mr. Richardson, after some inquiry, having informed him that he had discovered only that his name was Johnson, and that he was some obscure man, Pope said, “He will soon be deterre.”9 We shall presently see, from a note written by Pope,10 that he was himself afterwards more successful in his inquiries than his friend.

That in this justly-celebrated poem may be found a few rhymes which the critical precision of English prosody at this day would disallow, cannot be denied; but with this small imperfection, which in the general blaze of its excellence is not perceived, till the mind has subsided into cool attention, it is, undoubtedly, one of the noblest productions in our language, both for sentiment and expression. The nation was then in that ferment against the Court and the Ministry, which some years after ended in the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole; and as it has been said, that Tories are Whigs when out of place, and Whigs Tories when in place; so, as a Whig Administration ruled with what force it could, a Tory Opposition had all the animation and all the eloquence of resistance to power, aided by the common topicks of patriotism, liberty, and independence! Accordingly, we find in Johnson's “London” the most spirited invectives against tyranny and oppression, the warmest predilection for his own country, and the purest love of virtue; interspersed with traits of his own particular character and situation, not omitting his prejudices as a “true-born Englishman”11 not only against foreign countries, but against Ireland and Scotland. On some of these topicks I shall quote a few passages:
 “The cheated nation's happy fav'rites see; Mark whom the
great caress, who frown on me.”

“Has heaven reserv'd, in pity to the poor, No pathless waste, or
undiscover'd shore?  No secret island in the boundless main?  No
peaceful desart yet unclaim'd by Spain?  Quick let us rise, the
happy seats explore, And bear Oppression's insolence no more.”

“How, when competitors like these contend, Can surly
Virtue hope to find a friend?”

“This mournful truth is every where confess'd, SLOW RISES WORTH,
We may easily conceive with what feeling a great mind like his, cramped and galled by narrow circumstances, uttered this last line, which he marked by capitals. The whole of the poem is eminently excellent, and there are in it such proofs of a knowledge of the world, and of a mature acquaintance with life, as cannot be contemplated without wonder, when we consider that he was then only in his twenty-ninth year, and had yet been so little in the “busy haunts of men.”

Yet, while we admire the poetical excellence of this poem, candour obliges us to allow, that the flame of patriotism and zeal for popular resistance with which it is fraught, had no just cause. There was, in truth, no “oppression;” the “nation” was not “cheated.” Sir Robert Walpole was a wise and a benevolent minister, who thought that the happiness and prosperity of a commercial country like ours, would be best promoted by peace, which he accordingly maintained with credit, during a very long period. Johnson himself afterwards honestly acknowledged the merit of Walpole, whom he called “a fixed star;” while he characterised his opponent, Pitt, as “a meteor.” But Johnson's juvenile poem was naturally impregnated with the fire of opposition, and upon every account was universally admired.

Though thus elevated into fame, and conscious of uncommon powers, he had not that bustling confidence, or, I may rather say, that animated ambition, which one might have supposed would have urged him to endeavour at rising in life. But such was his inflexible dignity of character, that he could not stoop to court the great; without which hardly any man has made his way to a high station. He could not expect to produce many such works as his “LONDON,” and he felt the hardships of writing for bread; he was, therefore, willing to resume the office of a schoolmaster, so as to have a sure, though moderate income for his life; and an offer being made to him of the mastership of a school,12 provided he could obtain the degree of Master of Arts, Dr. Adams was applied to, by a common friend, to know whether that could be granted him as a favour from the University of Oxford. But though he had made such a figure in the literary world, it was then thought too great a favour to be asked.

Pope, without any knowledge of him but from his “London,” recommended him to Earl Gower, who endeavoured to procure for him a degree from Dublin, by the following letter to a friend of Dean Swift:

“MR. SAMUEL JOHNSON (author of LONDON, a satire, and some other poetical pieces) is a native of this country, and much respected by some worthy gentlemen in his neighbourhood, who are trustees of a charity-school now vacant; the certain salary is sixty pounds a year, of which they are desirous to make him master; but, unfortunately, he is not capable of receiving their bounty, which would make him happy for life, by not being a Master of Arts; which, by the statutes of this school, the master of it must be.

“Now these gentlemen do me the honour to think that I have interest enough in you, to prevail upon you to write to Dean Swift, to persuade the University of Dublin to send a diploma to me, constituting this poor man Master of Arts in their University. They highly extol the man's learning and probity; and will not be persuaded that the University will make any difficulty of conferring such a favour upon a stranger, if he is recommended by the Dean. They say, he is not afraid of the strictest examination, though he is of so long a journey; and will venture it, if the Dean thinks it necessary; choosing rather to die upon the road, than be starved to death in translating for booksellers; which has been his only subsistence for some time past.

“I fear there is more difficulty in this affair, than those good-natured gentlemen apprehended; especially as their election cannot be delayed longer than the 11th of next month. If you see this matter in the same light that it appears to me, I hope you will burn this, and pardon me for giving you so much trouble about an impracticable thing; but, if you think there is a probability of obtaining the favour asked, I am sure your humanity, and propensity to relieve merit in distress, will incline you to serve the poor man, without my adding any more to the trouble I have already given you, than assuring you that I am, with great truth, Sir,

“Your faithful servant,


“Trentham, Aug. 1, 1739.”
It was, perhaps, no small disappointment to Johnson that this respectable application had not the desired effect; yet how much reason has there been, both for himself and his country, to rejoice that it did not succeed, as he might probably have wasted in obscurity those hours in which he afterwards produced his incomparable works.

About this time he made one other effort to emancipate himself from the drudgery of authourship. He applied to Dr. Adams, to consult Dr. Smalbroke of the Commons, whether a person might be permitted to practise as an advocate there, without a doctor's degree in Civil Law. “I am (said he) a total stranger to these studies; but whatever is a profession, and maintains numbers, must be within the reach of common abilities, and some degree of industry.” Dr. Adams was much pleased with Johnson's design to employ his talents in that manner, being confident he would have attained to great eminence. And, indeed, I cannot conceive a man better qualified to make a distinguished figure as a lawyer; for, he would have brought to his profession a rich store of various knowledge, an uncommon acuteness, and a command of language, in which few could have equalled, and none have surpassed him. He who could display eloquence and wit in defence of the decision of the House of Commons upon Mr. Wilkes's election for Middlesex, and of the unconstitutional taxation of our fellow-subjects in America, must have been a powerful advocate in any cause. But here, also, the want of a degree was an insurmountable bar.

He was, therefore, under the necessity of persevering in that course, into which he had been forced; and we find, that his proposal from Greenwich to Mr. Cave, for a translation of Father Paul Sarpi's History, was accepted.13

Some sheets of this translation were printed off, but the design was dropt; for it happened, oddly enough, that another person of the name of Samuel Johnson, Librarian of St. Martin's in the Fields, and Curate of that parish, engaged in the same undertaking, and was patronized by the Clergy, particularly by Dr. Pearce, afterwards Bishop of Rochester. Several light skirmisher passed between the rival translators, in the news-papers of the day; and the consequence was that they destroyed each other, for neither of them went on with the work. It is much to be regretted, that the able performance of that celebrated genius FRA PAOLO, lost the advantage of being incorporated into British Literature by the masterly hand of Johnson.

I have in my possession, by the favour of Mr. John Nichols, a paper in Johnson's hand-writing, entitled “Account between Mr. Edward Cave and Sam. Johnson, in relation to a version of Father Paul, &c. begun August the 2d 1738;” by which it appears, that from that day to the 21st of April, 1739, Johnson received for this work 49l 7s. in sums of one, two, three, and sometimes four guineas at a time, most frequently two. And it is curious to observe the minute and scrupulous accuracy with which Johnson had pasted upon it a slip of paper, which he has entitled “Small account,” and which contains one article, “Sept. 9th, Mr. Cave laid down 2s. 6d.” There is subjoined to this account, a list of some subscribers to the work, partly in Johnson's hand-writing, partly in that of another person; and there follows a leaf or two on which are written a number of characters which have the appearance of a short hand, which, perhaps, Johnson was then trying to learn.



“I DID not care to detain your servant while I wrote an answer to your letter, in which you seem to insinuate that I had promised more than I am ready to perform. If I have raised your expectations by any thing that may have escaped my memory, I am sorry; and if you remind me of it, shall thank you for the favour. If I made fewer alterations than usual in the Debates, it was only because there appeared, and still appears to be, less need of alteration. The verses to Lady Firebrace14 may be had when you please, for you know that such a subject neither deserves much thought, nor requires it.

“The Chinese stories15 may be had folded down when you please to send, in which I do not recollect that you desired any alteration to be made.

“An answer to another query I am very willing to write, and had consulted with you about it last night, if there had been time; for I think it the most proper way of inviting such a correspondence as may be an advantage to the paper, not a load upon it.

“As to the Prize Verses, a backwardness to determine their degrees of merit is not peculiar to me. You may, if you please, still have what I can say; but I shall engage with little spirit in an affair, which I shall hardly end to my own satisfaction, and certainly not to the satisfaction of the parties concerned.16

“As to Father Paul, I have not yet been just to my proposal, but have met with impediments, which, I hope, are now at an end; and if you find the progress hereafter not such as you have a right to expect, you can easily stimulate a negligent translator.

“If any or all of these have contributed to your discontent, I will endeavour to remove it; and desire you to propose the question to which you wish for an answer.

“I am, Sir,

“Your humble servant,


[No date.]


“I AM pretty much of your opinion, that the Commentary cannot be prosecuted with any appearance of success; for as the names of the authours concerned are of more weight in the performance than its own intrinsick merit, the publick will be soon satisfied with it. And I think the Examen should be pushed forward with the utmost expedition. Thus, 'This day, &c. An Examen of Mr. Pope's Essay, &c. containing a succinct Account of the Philosophy of Mr. Leibnitz on the System of the Fatalists, with a Confutation of their Opinions, and an Illustration of the Doctrine of Free-will;' [with what else you think proper.]

“It will, above all, be necessary to take notice, that it is a thing distinct from the Commentary.

“I was so far from imagining they stood still,17 that I conceived them to have a good deal beforehand, and therefore was less anxious in providing them more. But if ever they stand still on my account, it must doubtless be charged to me; and whatever else shall be reasonable, I shall not oppose; but beg a suspense of judgement till morning, when I must entreat you to send me a dozen proposals, and you shall then have copy to spare.

“I am, Sir,

“Your's, impransus,


“Pray muster up the Proposals if you can, or let the boy recall them from the booksellers.”
But although he corresponded with Mr. Cave concerning a translation of Crousaz's Examen of Pope's Essay on Man, and gave advice as one anxious for its success, I was long ago convinced by a perusal of the Preface, that this translation was erroneously ascribed to him; and I have found this point ascertained, beyond all doubt, by the following article in Dr. Birch's Manuscripts in the British Museum:

"Versionem tuam Examinis Crousaziani jam perlegi. Summam styli et elegantiam, et in re difficillima proprietatem, admiratus.

"Dabam Novemb. 27 1738.”18
Indeed Mrs. Carter has lately acknowledged to Mr. Seward, that she was the translator of the “Examen.”

It is remarkable, that Johnson's last quoted letter to Mr. Cave concludes with a fair confession that he had not a dinner; and it is no less remarkable, that though in this state of want himself, his benevolent heart was not insensible to the necessities of an humble labourer in literature, as appears from the very next letter:

[No date.]


“You may remember I have formerly talked with you about a Military Dictionary. The eldest Mr. Macbean, who was with Mr. Chambers, has very good materials for such a work, which I have seen, and will do it at a very low rate.19 I think the terms of War and Navigation might be comprised, with good explanations, in one 8vo. Pica, which he is willing to do for twelve shillings a sheet, to be made up a guinea at the second impression. If you think on it, I will wait on you with him.

“I am, Sir,

“Your humble servant,


“Pray lend me Topsel on Animals.”
I must not omit to mention, that this Mr. Macbean was a native of Scotland.

In the Gentleman's Magazine of this year, Johnson gave a Life of Father Paul;* and he wrote the Preface to the Volume,+ which, though prefixed to it when bound, is always published with the Appendix, and is therefore the last composition belonging to it. The ability and nice adaptation with which he could draw up a prefatory address, was one of his peculiar excellencies.

It appears too, that he paid a friendly attention to Mrs. Elizabeth Carter; for in a letter from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, November 28, this year, I find “Mr. Johnson advises Miss C. to undertake a translation of Boethius de Cons. because there is prose and verse, and to put her name to it when published.” This advice was not followed; probably from an apprehension that the work was not sufficiently popular for an extensive sale. How well Johnson himself could have executed a translation of this philosophical poet, we may judge from the following specimen which he has given in the Rambler: (Motto to No. 7.)

"O qui perpetua mundum ratione gubernas, Terrarum coelique
sator! -- Disjice terrenae nebulas et pondera molis, Atque tuo
splendore mica! Tu namque serenum, Tu requies tranquilla piis.
Te cernere finis, Principium, vector, dux, semita, terminus,

“O Thou whose power o'er moving worlds presides, Whose voice
created, and whose wisdom guides, On darkling man in pure
effulgence shine, And cheer the clouded mind with light divine.
'Tis thine alone to calm the pious breast, With silent
confidence and holy rest; From thee, great God! we spring, to
thee we tend, Path, motive, guide, original, and end!” 


1. A translation of this Ode, by an unknown correspondent, appeared in the Magazine for the month of May following:
 “Hail URBAN! indefatigable man, Unwearied yet by all thy
useful toil!
  Whom num'rous slanderers assault in vain; Whom no base calumny
  can put to foil.  But still the laurel on thy learned brow
  Flourishes fair, and shall for ever grow.

“What means the servile imitating crew, What their vain
blust'ring, and their empty noise,
  Ne'er seek: but still thy noble ends pursue, Unconquer'd by
  the rabble's venal voice, Still to the Muse thy studious mind
  apply, Happy in temper as in industry.

“The senseless sneerings of an haughty tongue, Unworthy thy
attention to engage,
  Unheeded pass: and tho' they mean thee wrong, By manly silence
  disappoint their rage.  Assiduous diligence confounds its
  foes, Resistless, tho' malicious crouds oppose.

“Exert thy powers, nor slacken in the course, Thy spotless fame
shall quash all false reports:
  Exert thy powers, nor fear a rival's force, But thou shalt
  smile at all his vain efforts; Thy labours shall be crown'd
  with large success:  The Muse's aid thy Magazine shall bless.

“No page more grateful to th' harmonious nine Than that wherein
thy labours we survey;
  Where solemn themes in fuller splendour shine, (Delightful
  mixture,) blended with the gay, Where in improving, various
  joys we find, A welcome respite to the wearied mind.

“Thus when the nymphs in some fair verdant mead, Of various
flow'rs a beauteous wreath compose,
  The lovely violet's azure-painted head Adds lustre to the
  crimson-blushing rose.  Thus splendid Iris, with her varied
  dye, Shines in the aether, and adorns the sky.”
2. How much poetry he wrote, I know not; but he informed me that he was the authour of the beautiful little piece, “The Eagle and Robin Red-breast,” in the collection of poems entitled, “THE UNION,” though it is there said to be written by Archibald Scott, before the year 1600.

3. own it pleased me to find amongst them one trait of the manners of the age in London, in the last century, to shield from the sneer of English ridicule, what was some time ago too common a practice in my native city of Edinburgh!
 “If what I've said can't from the town affright Consider
other dangers of the night; When brickbats are from upper
stories thrown, And emptied chamber-pots came pouring down
From garret windows.” 
4. His Ode “Ad Urbanum,” probably. -- NICHOLS.

5. A poem, published in 1737, of which see an account under April 30, 1773.

6. [The learned Mrs. Elizabeth Carter. This lady, of whom frequent mention will be found in these Memoirs, was daughter of Nicholas Carter, D.D. She died in Clarges-street, Feb. 19, 1806, in her eighty-ninth year. -- M.]

7. Sir John Hawkins, p. 86, tells us, “The event is antedated, in the poem of 'London;' but in every particular, except the difference of a year, what is there said of the departure of Thales, must be understood of Savage, and looked upon as true history.” This conjecture is, I believe, entirely groundless. I have been assured that Johnson said he was not so much as acquainted with Savage, when he wrote his “London.” If the departure mentioned in it was the departure of Savage, the event was not antedated but foreseen; for “London” was published in May, 1738, and Savage did not set out for Wales till July, 1739. However well Johnson could defend the credibility of second sight, he did not pretend that he himself was possessed of that faculty.

[The assertion that Johnson was not even acquainted with Savage, when he published his “LONDON,” may be doubtful. Johnson took leave of Savage when he went to Wales in 1739, and must have been acquainted with him before that period. See his Life of Savage. -- A. CHALMERS.] 8. Page 269. 9. Sir Joshua Reynolds, from the information of the younger Richardson.

10. See Aetat. 30. -- M.]

11. It is, however, remarkable, that he uses the epithet, which undoubtedly, since the union between England and Scotland, ought to denominate the natives of both parts of our island,
 “Was early taught a BRITON's right to prize.” 
12. In a billet written by Mr. Pope in the following year, this school is said to have been in Shropshire; but as it appears from a letter from Earl Gower, that the trustees of it were “some worthy gentlemen in Johnson's neighbourhood,” I in my first edition suggested that Pope must have by mistake, written Shropshire, instead of Staffordshire. But I have since been obliged to Mr. Spearing, attorney-at-law, for the following information: -- “William Adams, formerly citizen and haberdasher of London, founded a school at Newport, in the county of Salop, by deed dated 27th November, 1656, by which he granted the 'yearly sum of sixty pounds to such able and learned schoolmaster, from time to time, being of godly life and conversation, who should have been educated at one of the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge, and had taken the degree of Master of Arts, and was well read in the Greek and Latin tongues, as should be nominated from time to time by the said William Adams, during his life, and after the decease of the said William Adams by the governours (namely, the Master and Wardens of the Haberdashers' Company of the City of London) and their successors.' The manour and lands out of which the revenues for the maintenance of the school were to issue are situate at Knighton and Adbaston, in the county of Stafford.” From the foregoing account of this foundation, particularly the circumstances of the salary being sixty pounds, and the degree of Master of Arts being a requisite qualification in the teacher, it seemed probable that this was the school in contemplation; and that Lord Gower erroneously supposed that the gentlemen who possessed the lands, out of which the revenues issued, were trustees of the charity.

Such was probable conjecture. But in the “Gentleman's Magazine” for May, 1793, there is a letter from Mr. Henn, one of the masters of the school of Appleby, in Leicestershire, in which he writes as follows:
“I compared time and circumstance together, in order to discover whether the school in question might not be this of Appleby. Some of the trustees at that period were 'worthy gentlemen of the neighbourhood of Lichfield.' Appleby itself is not far from the neighbourhood of Lichfield: the salary, the degree requisite, together with the time of election, all agreeing with the statutes of Appleby. The election, as said in the letter, 'could not be delayed longer than the 11th of next month,' which was the 11th of September, just three months after the annual audit-day of Appleby school, which is always on the 11th of June; and the statutes enjoin, ne ullius praeceptorum electio diutius tribus mensibus moraretur, &c.

“These I thought to be convincing proofs that my conjecture was not ill-founded, and that, in a future edition of that book, the circumstance might be recorded as fact.

“But what banishes every shadow of doubt is the Minute-book of the school, which declares the head-mastership to be at that time VACANT.”
I cannot omit returning thanks to this learned gentleman for the very handsome manner in which he has in that letter been so good as to speak of this work.

13. the Weekly Miscellany, October 21, 1738, there appeared the following advertisement: “Just published, proposals for printing the History of the Council of Trent, translated from the Italian of Father Paul Sarpi; with the Authour's Life, and Notes theological, historical, and critical, from the French edition of Dr. Le Courayer. To which are added, Observations on the History, and Notes and Illustrations from various Authours, both printed and manuscript. By S. Johnson. 1. The work will consist of two hundred sheets, and be two volumes in quarto, printed on good paper and letter. 2. The price will be 18s. each volume, to be paid, half a guinea at the delivery of the first volume, and the rest at the delivery of the second volume in sheets. 3. Twopence to be abated for every sheet less than two hundred. It may be had on a large paper, in three volumes, at the price of three guineas; one to be paid at the time of subscribing, another at the delivery of the first, and the rest at the delivery of the other volumes. The work is now in the press, and will be diligently prosecuted. Subscriptions are taken in by Mr. Dodsley in Pall-Mall, Mr. Rivington, in St. Paul's Churchyard, by E. Cave at St. John's Gate, and the Translator, at No. 6, in Castle-street, by Cavendish-square.”

14. They afterwards appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine with this title -- “Verses to Lady Firebrace, at Bury Assizes.”

15. Du Halde's Description of China was then publishing by Mr. Cave in weekly numbers, whence Johnson was to select pieces for the embellishment of the Magazine. -- NICHOLS.

16. The premium of forty pounds proposed for the best poem on the Divine Attributes is here alluded to. -- NICHOLS.

17. The Compositors in Mr. Cave's printing-office, who appeared by this letter to have then waited for copy. -- NICHOLS.

18. Birch MSS. Brit. Mus. 4323.

19. This book was published.