Boswell's Life of Johnson, 1757
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Edited, from the two-volume Oxford edition of 1904, by Jack Lynch.
In 1757 it does not appear that he published any thing, except
some of those articles in the Literary Magazine, which have been
mentioned. That magazine, after Johnson ceased to write in it,
gradually declined, though the popular epithet of
Antigallican was added to it; and in July 1758 it
expired. He probably prepared a part of his Shakspeare this
year, and he dictated a speech on the subject of an address to
the Throne, after the expedition to Rochfort, which was
delivered by one of his friends, I know not in what publick
meeting. It is printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for October
1785 as his, and bears sufficient marks of authenticity.
By the favour of Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker, of the Treasury,
Dublin, I have obtained a copy of the following letter from
Johnson to the venerable authour of “Dissertations on the
History of Ireland.”
“TO CHARLES O'CONNOR, ESQ.1
“I HAVE lately, by the favour of Mr. Faulkner, seen your account
of Ireland, and cannot forbear to solicit a prosecution of your
design. Sir William Temple complains that Ireland is less known
than any other country, as to its ancient state. The natives
have had little leisure, and little encouragement for enquiry;
and strangers, not knowing the language, have had no ability.
“I have long wished that the Irish literature were cultivated.2 Ireland is known by tradition to have been once
the seat of piety and learning; and surely it would be very
acceptable to all those who are curious either in the original
of nations, or the affinities of languages, to be further
informed of the revolution of a people so ancient, and once so
“What relation there is between the Welsh and Irish language, or
between the language of Ireland and that of Biscay, deserves
enquiry. Of these provincial and unextended tongues, it seldom
happens that more than one are understood by any one man; and,
therefore, it seldom happens that a fair comparison can be
made. I hope you will continue to cultivate this kind of
learning, which has too long lain neglected, and which, if it be
suffered to remain in oblivion for another century, may,
perhaps, never be retrieved. As I wish well to all useful
undertakings, I would not forbear to let you know how much you
deserve in my opinion, from all lovers of study, and how much
pleasure your work has given to, Sir,
“Your most obliged,
“And most humble servant,
“London, April 9, 1757.”
“TO THE REVEREND MR. THOMAS WARTON.
“DR. MARSILI Of Padua, a learned gentleman, and good Latin poet,
has a mind to see Oxford. I have given him a letter to Dr.
Huddesford,3 and shall be glad if you will
introduce him, and shew him any thing in Oxford.
“I am printing my new edition of Shakspeare.
“I long to see you all, but cannot conveniently come yet. You
might write to me now and then, if you were good for any thing.
But honores mutant mores. Professors forget their
friends.4 I shall certainly complain to Miss
Jones.5 I am,
“[London] June 21, 1757.
“Please to make my compliments to Mr. Wise.”
Mr. Burney having enclosed to him an extract from the review of
his Dictionary in the Bibliotheque des Savans,6 and a list of subscribers to his Shakspeare,
which Mr. Burney had procured in Norfolk, he wrote the following
“TO MR. BURNEY, IN LYNNE, NORFOLK.
“THAT I may show myself sensible of your favours, and not commit
the same fault a second time, I make haste to answer the letter
which I received this morning. The truth is, the other likewise
was received, and I wrote an answer; but being desirous to
transmit you some proposals and receipts, I waited till I could
find a convenient conveyance, and day was passed after day, till
other things drove it from my thoughts; yet not so, but that I
remember with great pleasure your commendation of my
Dictionary. Your praise was welcome, not only because I believe
it was sincere, but because praise has been very scarce. A man
of your candour will be surprised when I tell you, that among
all my acquaintance there were only two, who upon the
publication of my book did not endeavour to depress me with
threats of censure from the publick, or with objections learned
from those who had learned them from my own preface. Your's is
the only letter of good-will that I have received; though,
indeed, I am promised something of that sort from Sweden.
“How my new edition7 will be received I know
not; the subscription has not been very successful. I shall
publish about March.
“If you can direct me how to send proposals, I should wish that
they were in such hands.
“I remember, Sir, in some of the first letters with which you
favoured me, you mentioned your lady. May I enquire after her?
In return for the favours which you have shewn me, it is not
much to tell you, that I wish you and her all that can conduce
to your happiness. I am, Sir,
“Your most obliged,
“And most humble servant,
“Gough-square, Dec. 24, 1757.”
1. [Of this gentleman, who died at his seat at
Ballinegare, in the county of Roscommon in Ireland, July 1,
1791, in his 82nd year, some account may be found in the
Gentleman's Magazine of that date. Of the work here alluded to
by Dr. Johnson -- “Dissertations on the History of Ireland” -- a
second and much improved edition was published by the authour in
1766. -- M.]
2. The celebrated oratour, Mr. Flood, has shown
himself to be of Dr. Johnson's opinion; having by his will
bequeathed his estate, after the death of his wife Lady Frances,
to the University of Dublin; desiring that immediately after the
said estate shall come into their possession, they shall appoint
two professors, one for the study of the native Erse or Irish
language, and the other for the study of Irish antiquities and
Irish history, and for the study of any other European language
illustrative of, or auxiliary to, the study of Irish antiquities
or Irish history; and that they shall give yearly two liberal
premiums for two compositions, one in verse, and the other in
prose, in the Irish language. [Since the above was written, Mr.
Flood's Will has been set aside, after a trial at bar, in the
Court of Exchequer in Ireland. -- M.]
3. “Now, or late, Vice-Chancellor.”
4. “Mr. Warton was elected Professor of Poetry
at Oxford in the preceding year.”
5. “Miss Jones lived at Oxford, and was often of
our parties. She was a very ingenious poetess, and published a
volume of poems; and, on the whole, was a most sensible,
agreeable, and amiable woman. She was sister to the Reverend
River Jones, Chanter of Christ-Church cathedral at Oxford, and
Johnson used to call her the Chantress. I have heard him
often address her in this passage from 'IL PENSEROSO':
'Thee, Chantress, oft the woods among
She died unmarried.”
6. Tom. III, p. 482.
7. Of Shakspeare.
I woo,' &c.