The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dr. Johnson's Works: Life, Poems, and Tales, Volume 1, by Samuel Johnson
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Title: Dr. Johnson's Works: Life, Poems, and Tales, Volume 1 The Works Of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D., In Nine Volumes
Author: Samuel Johnson
Release Date: January 25, 2004 [EBook #10835]
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DR. JOHNSON'S WORKS.
LIFE, POEMS, AND TALES.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
IN NINE VOLUMES.
VOLUME THE FIRST.
It may be asserted, without a partial panegyric of the object of our praise, that the works of no single author in the wide range of British literature, not excepting, perhaps, even Addison, contain a richer and more varied fund of rational entertainment and sound instruction than those of Dr. Johnson. A correct edition of his works must, therefore, be an acceptable contribution to the mass of national literature. That the present edition has, perhaps, fairer claims on public approbation than most preceding ones, we feel ourselves justified in asserting, without envious detraction of those who have gone before us. It has been our wish and diligent endeavour to give as accurate a text as possible, to which we have subjoined notes, where elucidation seemed to be required. They have been collected with care, and will prove our impartiality by their occasional censures of the faults and failings of the writer whose works it is our office to illustrate, and our more common and more grateful task to praise. Though, being diffused over a wide space, they appear less numerous than they really are, it has been our incessant care to abstain from that method of redundant annotation, which tends to display the ingenuity or mental resources of an editor, much more than to illustrate the original writer. Notes have been chiefly introduced for the purpose of guarding our readers against some political sophisms, or to correct some hasty error. But happily, in the writings to which we have devoted our time and attention, the chaff and dross lie so open to view, and are so easily separated from purer matter, that a hint is sufficient to protect the most incautious from harm. Accordingly, in our notes and prefaces we have confined ourselves to simple and succinct histories of the respective works under consideration, and have avoided, as much as might be, a burdensome repetition of criticisms or anecdotes, in almost every person's possession, or an idle pointing out of beauties which none could fail to recognise. The length of time that has elapsed since the writings of Johnson were first published, has amply developed their intrinsic merits, and destroyed the personal and party prejudices which assail a living author: but the years have been too few to render the customs and manners alluded to so obsolete as to require much illustrative research.[a] It may be satisfactory to subjoin, that care has been exercised in every thing that we have advanced, and that when we have erred, it has been on the side of caution.
All the usually received works of Dr. Johnson, together with Murphy's Essay on his Life and Genius, are comprised in this edition. In pursuance of our plan of brevity, we shall not here give a list of his minor and unacknowledged productions, but refer our readers to Boswell; a new, amended, and enlarged edition of whose interesting and picturesque Memoirs we purpose speedily to present to the public, after the style and manner of the present work.
One very important addition, however, we conceive that we have made, in publishing the whole of his sermons. It has been hitherto the practice to give one or two, with a cursory notice, that Johnson's theological knowledge was scanty, or unworthy of his general fame. We have acted under a very different impression; for though Johnson was not, nor pretended to be, a polemical or controversial divine, he well knew how to apply to the right regulation of our moral conduct the lessons of that Christianity which was not promulged for a sect, but for mankind; which sought not a distinctive garb in the philosopher's grove, nor secluded itself in the hermit's cell, but entered without reserve every walk of life, and sympathized with all the instinctive feelings of our common nature. This high privilege of our religion Johnson felt, and to the diffusion of its practical, not of its theoretical advantages, he applied the energies of his heart and mind; and with what success, we leave to every candid reader to pronounce.
In conclusion, we would express a hope that we shall not inaptly commence a series of OXFORD ENGLISH CLASSICS with the works of one whose writings have so enlarged and embellished the science of moral evidence, which has long constituted a characteristic feature in the literary discipline of this university. The science of mind and its progress, as recorded by history, or unfolded by biography, was Johnson's favourite study, and is still the main object of pursuit in the place whose system and institutions he so warmly praised, and to which he ever professed himself so deeply indebted. If the terseness of attic simplicity has been desiderated by some in the pages of Johnson, they undeniably display the depth of thought, the weight of argument, the insight into mind and morals, which are to be found in their native dignity only in the compositions of those older writers with whose spirit he was so richly imbued. In this place, then, where those models which Johnson admired and imitated are still upheld as the only sure guides to sound learning, his writings can never be laid aside unread and neglected.
OXFORD, JUNE 23, 1825.
[a] See a remark on this subject made by Johnson, with reference to the Spectator, and all other works of the same class, which describe manners. Boswell, ii. 218, and Prefatory Notice to Rambler, vol. i.
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
ESSAY on the Life and Genius of Dr. Johnson
The Vanity of Human Wishes
Prologue, spoken by Mr. Garrick, at the opening of the theatre-royal,
Prefatory Notice to the tragedy of Irene
Epilogue, by sir William Yonge
Prologue to the masque of Comus
Prologue to the comedy of the Good-natured Man
Prologue to the comedy of a Word to the Wise
The Winter's Walk
To Miss ****, on her giving the author a gold and silk network purse, of her own weaving
To Miss ****, on her playing upon the harpsichord, in a room hung with flower-pieces of her own painting
Evening; an ode
To the same
To a friend
Stella in mourning
Verses, written at the request of a gentleman, to whom a lady had given a sprig of myrtle
To lady Firebrace, at Bury assizes
To Lyce, an elderly lady
On the death of Mr. Robert Levet
Epitaph on Claude Phillips
Epitaphium in Thomam Hanmer, baronettum
Paraphrase of the above, by Dr. Johnson
To Miss Hickman, playing on the spinet
Paraphrase of Proverbs, chap. vi. verses 6-11
Horace, lib. iv. ode vii. translated
Anacreon, ode ix
Lines written in ridicule of certain poems published in 1777
Parody of a translation from the Medea of Euripides
Translation from the Medea of Euripides
Translation of the two first stanzas of the song "Rio Verde, Rio Verde"
Imitation of the style of ****
Burlesque of some lines of Lopez de Vega
Translation of some lines at the end of Baretti's Easy Phraseology
Improviso translation of a distich on the duke of Modena's running away from the comet in 1742 or 1743
Improviso translation of some lines of M. Benserade à son Lit
Epitaph for Mr. Hogarth
Translation of some lines, written under a print representing persons skating
Impromptu translation of the same
To Mrs. Thrale, on her completing her thirty-fifth year
Impromptu translation of an air in the Clemenza di Tito of Metastasio
Translation of a speech of Aquileio in the Adriano of Metastasio
Burlesque of the modern versifications of ancient legendary tales
Friendship; an ode
On seeing a bust of Mrs. Montague
Improviso on a young heir's coming of age
Epitaphs—on his father
Prefatory observations to the history of Rasselas
Rasselas, prince of Abissinia
I. To Mr. James Elphinston
II. to XL. To Mrs. Thrale
XLI. To Mr. Thrale
XLII. to LIII. To Mrs. Thrale
LIV. To Mrs. Piozzi
AN ESSAY ON THE LIFE AND GENIUS OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
When the works of a great writer, who has bequeathed to posterity a lasting legacy, are presented to the world, it is naturally expected that some account of his life should accompany the edition. The reader wishes to know as much as possible of the author. The circumstances that attended him, the features of his private character, his conversation, and the means by which he arose to eminence, become the favourite objects of inquiry. Curiosity is excited; and the admirer of his works is eager to know his private opinions, his course of study, the particularities of his conduct, and, above all, whether he pursued the wisdom which he recommends, and practised the virtue which his writings inspire. A principle of gratitude is awakened in every generous mind. For the entertainment and instruction which genius and diligence have provided for the world, men of refined and sensible tempers are ready to pay their tribute of praise, and even to form a posthumous friendship with the author.
In reviewing the life of such a writer, there is, besides, a rule of justice to which the public have an undoubted claim. Fond admiration and partial friendship should not be suffered to represent his virtues with exaggeration; nor should malignity be allowed, under a specious disguise, to magnify mere defects, the usual failings of human nature, into vice or gross deformity. The lights and shades of the character should be given; and if this be done with a strict regard to truth, a just estimate of Dr. Johnson will afford a lesson, perhaps, as valuable as the moral doctrine that speaks with energy in every page of his works.
The present writer enjoyed the conversation and friendship of that excellent man more than thirty years. He thought it an honour to be so connected, and to this hour he reflects on his loss with regret; but regret, he knows, has secret bribes, by which the judgment may be influenced, and partial affection may be carried beyond the bounds of truth. In the present case, however, nothing needs to be disguised, and exaggerated praise is unnecessary. It is an observation of the younger Pliny, in his epistle to his friend Tacitus, that history ought never to magnify matters of fact, because worthy actions require nothing but the truth: "nam nec historia debet egredi veritatem, et honeste factis veritas sufficit." This rule, the present biographer promises, shall guide his pen throughout the following narrative.
It may be said, the death of Dr. Johnson kept the public mind in agitation beyond all former example. No literary character ever excited so much attention; and, when the press has teemed with anecdotes, apophthegms, essays, and publications of every kind, what occasion now for a new tract on the same thread-bare subject? The plain truth shall be the answer. The proprietors of Johnson's works thought the life, which they prefixed to their former edition, too unwieldy for republication. The prodigious variety of foreign matter, introduced into that performance, seemed to overload the memory of Dr. Johnson, and, in the account of his own life, to leave him hardly visible. They wished to have a more concise, and, for that reason, perhaps, a more satisfactory account, such as may exhibit a just picture of the man, and keep him the principal figure in the foreground of his own picture. To comply with that request is the design of this essay, which the writer undertakes with a trembling hand. He has no discoveries, no secret anecdotes, no occasional controversy, no sudden flashes of wit and humour, no private conversation, and no new facts, to embellish his work. Every thing has been gleaned. Dr. Johnson said of himself, "I am not uncandid, nor severe: I sometimes say more than I mean, in jest, and people are apt to think me serious[a]." The exercise of that privilege, which is enjoyed by every man in society, has not been allowed to him. His fame has given importance even to trifles; and the zeal of his friends has brought every thing to light. What should be related, and what should not, has been published without distinction: "dicenda tacenda locuti!" Every thing that fell from him has been caught with eagerness by his admirers, who, as he says in one of his letters, have acted with the diligence of spies upon his conduct. To some of them the following lines, in Mallet's poem on verbal criticism, are not inapplicable:
"Such that grave bird in northern seas is found.
Whose name a Dutchman only knows to sound;
Where'er the king of fish moves on before,
This humble friend attends from shore to shore;
With eye still earnest, and with bill inclined,
He picks up what his patron drops behind,
With those choice cates his palate to regale,
And is the careful Tibbald of a whale."
After so many essays and volumes of Johnsoniana, what remains for the present writer? Perhaps, what has not been attempted; a short, yet full, a faithful, yet temperate, history of Dr. Johnson.
SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Lichfield, September 7, 1709, O. S[b]. His father, Michael Johnson, was a bookseller in that city; a man of large, athletic make, and violent passions; wrong-headed, positive, and, at