Critical and Historical Essays Volume 2
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 12 out of 16

whose country seat did not contain ten books, receipt books
and books on farriery included. In these circumstances, the
sale of the Spectator must be considered as indicating a
popularity quite as great as that of the most successful works
of Sir Walter Scott and Mr. Dickens in our own time.

At the close of 1712 the Spectator ceased to appear. It was
probably felt that the short-faced gentleman and his club had
been long enough before the town; and that it was time to
withdraw them, and to replace them by a new set of characters. In
a few weeks the first number of the Guardian was published. But
the Guardian was unfortunate both in its birth and in its death.
It began in dulness, and disappeared in a tempest of faction. The
original plan was bad. Addison contributed nothing till sixty-six
numbers had appeared; and it was then impossible to make the
Guardian what the Spectator had been. Nestor Ironside and the
Miss Lizards were people to whom even he could impart no
interest. He could only furnish some excellent little essays,
both serious and comic; and this he did.

Why Addison gave no assistance to the Guardian, during the first
two months of its existence is a question which has puzzled the
editors and biographers, but which seems to us to admit of a very
easy solution. He was then engaged in bringing his Cato on the

The first four acts of this drama had been lying in his desk
since his return from Italy. His modest and sensitive nature
shrank from the risk of a public and shameful failure; and,
though all who saw the manuscript were loud in praise, some
thought it possible that an audience might become impatient even
of very good rhetoric, and advised Addison to print the play
without hazarding a representation. At length, after many fits of
apprehension, the poet yielded to the urgency of his political
friends, who hoped that the public would discover some analogy
between the followers of Caesar and the Tories, between
Sempronius and the apostate Whigs, between Cato, struggling to
the last for the liberties of Rome, and the band of patriots who
still stood firm around Halifax and Wharton.

Addison gave the play to the managers of Drury Lane Theatre,
without stipulating for any advantage to himself. They,
therefore, thought themselves bound to spare no cost in scenery
and dresses. The decorations, it is true, would not have pleased
the skilful eye of Mr. Macready. Juba's waistcoat blazed with
gold lace; Marcia's hoop was worthy of a Duchess on the birthday;
and Cato wore a wig worth fifty guineas. The prologue was written
by Pope, and is undoubtedly a dignified and spirited composition.
The part of the hero was excellently played by Booth. Steele
undertook to pack a house. The boxes were in a blaze with the
stars of the Peers in Opposition. The pit was crowded with
attentive and friendly listeners from the Inns of Court and the
literary coffee-houses. Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Governor of the
Bank of England, was at the head of a powerful body of
auxiliaries from the city, warm men and true Whigs, but better
known at Jonathan's and Garraway's than in the haunts of wits and

These precautions were quite superfluous. The Tories, as a body,
regarded Addison with no unkind feelings. Nor was it for their
interest, professing, as they did, profound reverence for law and
prescription, and abhorrence both of popular insurrections and of
standing armies, to appropriate to themselves reflections thrown
on the great military chief and demagogue, who, with the support
of the legions and of the common people, subverted all the
ancient institutions of his country. Accordingly, every shout
that was raised by the members of the Kit Cat was echoed by the
High Churchmen of the October; and the curtain at length fell
amidst thunders of unanimous applause.

The delight and admiration of the town were described by the
Guardian in terms which we might attribute to partiality, were it
not that the Examiner, the organ of the Ministry, held similar
language. The Tories, indeed, found much to sneer at in the
conduct of their opponents. Steele had on this, as on other
occasions, shown more zeal than taste or judgment. The honest
citizens who marched under the orders of Sir Gibby, as he was
facetiously called, probably knew better when to buy and when to
sell stock than when to clap and when to hiss at a play, and
incurred some ridicule by making the hypocritical Sempronius
their favourite, and by giving to his insincere rants louder
plaudits than they bestowed on the temperate eloquence of Cato.
Wharton, too, who had the incredible effrontery to applaud the
lines about flying from prosperous vice and from the power of
impious men to a private station, did not escape the sarcasms of
those who justly thought that he could fly from nothing more
vicious or impious than himself. The epilogue, which was written
by Garth, a zealous Whig, was severely and not unreasonably
censured as ignoble and out of place. But Addison was described,
even by the bitterest Tory writers, as a gentleman of wit and
virtue, in whose friendship many persons of both parties were
happy, and whose name ought not to be mixed up with factious

Of the jests by which the triumph of the Whig party was
disturbed, the most severe and happy was Bolingbroke's. Between
two acts, he sent for Booth to his box, and presented him, before
the whole theatre, with a purse of fifty guineas for defending
the cause of liberty so well against the perpetual Dictator. This
was a pungent allusion to the attempt which Marlborough had made,
not long before his fall, to obtain a patent, creating him
Captain-General for life.

It was April; and in April, a hundred and thirty years ago, the
London season was thought to be far advanced. During a whole
month, however, Cato was performed to overflowing houses, and
brought into the treasury of the theatre twice the gains of an
ordinary spring. In the summer the Drury Lane Company went down
to the Act at Oxford, and there, before an audience which
retained an affectionate remembrance of Addison's accomplishments
and virtues, his tragedy was acted during several days. The
gownsmen began to besiege the theatre in the forenoon, and by one
in the afternoon all the seats were filled.

About the merits of the piece which had so extraordinary an
effect, the public, we suppose, has made up its mind. To compare
it with the masterpieces of the Attic stage, with the great
English dramas of the time of Elizabeth, or even with the
productions of Schiller's manhood, would be absurd indeed. Yet it
contains excellent dialogue and declamation, and among plays
fashioned on the French model, must be allowed to rank high; not
indeed with Athalie, or Saul; but, we think not below Cinna, and
certainly above any other English tragedy of the same school,
above many of the plays of Corneille, above many of the plays of
Voltaire and Alfieri, and above some plays of Racine. Be this as
it may, we have little doubt that Cato did as much as the
Tatlers, Spectators, and Freeholders united, to raise Addison's
fame among his contemporaries.

The modesty and good nature of the successful dramatist had tamed
even the malignity of faction. But literary envy, it should seem,
is a fiercer passion than party spirit. It was by a zealous Whig
that the fiercest attack on the Whig tragedy was made. John
Dennis published Remarks on Cato, which were written with some
acuteness and with much coarseness and asperity. Addison neither
defended himself nor retaliated. On many points he had an
excellent defence; and, nothing would have been easier than to
retaliate; for Dennis had written bad odes, bad tragedies, bad
comedies: he had, moreover, a larger share than most men of those
infirmities and eccentricities which excite laughter; and
Addison's power of turning either an absurd book or an absurd man
into ridicule was unrivalled. Addison, however, serenely
conscious of his superiority, looked with pity on his assailant,
whose temper, naturally irritable and gloomy, had been soured by
want, by controversy, and by literary failures.

But among the young candidates for Addison's favour there was one
distinguished by talents from the rest, and distinguished, we
fear, not less by malignity and insincerity. Pope was only
twenty-five. But his powers had expanded to their full maturity;
and his best poem, the Rape of the Lock, had recently been
published. Of his genius, Addison had always expressed high
admiration. But Addison had early discerned, what might indeed
have been discerned by an eye less penetrating than his, that the
diminutive, crooked, sickly boy was eager to revenge himself on
society for the unkindness of nature. In the Spectator, the Essay
on Criticism had been praised with cordial warmth; but a gentle
hint had been added, that the writer of so excellent a poem would
have done well to avoid ill-natured personalities. Pope, though
evidently more galled by the censure than gratified by the
praise, returned thanks for the admonition, and promised to
profit by it. The two writers continued to exchange civilities,
counsel, and small good offices. Addison publicly extolled Pope's
miscellaneous pieces; and Pope furnished Addison with a prologue.
This did not last long. Pope hated Dennis, whom he had injured
without provocation. The appearance of the Remarks on Cato gave
the irritable poet an opportunity of venting his malice under the
show of friendship; and such an opportunity could not but be
welcome to a nature which was implacable in enmity, and which
always preferred the tortuous to the straight path. He published,
accordingly, the Narrative of the Frenzy of John Dennis. But Pope
had mistaken his powers. He was a great master of invective and
sarcasm: he could dissect a character in terse and sonorous
couplets, brilliant with antithesis: but of dramatic talent he
was altogether destitute. If he had written a lampoon on Dennis,
such as that on Atticus, or that on Sporus, the old grumbler
would have been crushed. But Pope writing dialogue resembled--to
borrow Horace's imagery and his own--a wolf, which, instead of
biting, should take to kicking, or a monkey which should try to
sting. The Narrative is utterly contemptible. Of argument there
is not even the show; and the jests are such as, if they were
introduced into a farce, would call forth the hisses of the
shilling gallery. Dennis raves about the drama; and the nurse
thinks that he is calling for a dram. "There is," he cries, "no
peripetia in the tragedy, no change of fortune, no change at
all." "Pray, good sir, be not angry," says the old woman; "I'll
fetch change." This is not exactly the pleasantry of Addison.

There can be no doubt that Addison saw through this officious
zeal, and felt himself deeply aggrieved by it. So foolish and
spiteful a pamphlet could do him no good, and, if he were thought
to have any hand in it, must do him harm. Gifted with
powers of ridicule, he had never even in self-defence, used those
powers inhumanly or uncourteously; and he was not disposed to
let others make his fame and his interests a pretext under
which they might commit outrages from which he had himself
constantly abstained. He accordingly declared that he had no
concern in the Narrative, that he disapproved of it, and
that if he answered the Remarks, he could answer them like a
gentleman; and he took care to communicate this to Dennis. Pope
was bitterly mortified; and to this transaction we are inclined
to ascribe the hatred with which he ever after regarded Addison.

In September 1713 the Guardian ceased to appear. Steele had gone
mad about politics. A general election had just taken place: he
had been chosen member for Stockbridge; and he fully expected to
play a first part in Parliament. The immense success of the
Tatler and Spectator had turned his head. He had been the editor
of both those papers and was not aware how entirely they owed
their influence and popularity to the genius of his friend. His
spirits, always violent, were now excited by vanity, ambition,
and faction, to such a pitch that he every day committed some
offence against good sense and good taste. All the discreet and
moderate members of his own party regretted and condemned his
folly. "I am in a thousand troubles," Addison wrote, "about poor
Dick, and wish that his zeal for the public may not be ruinous to
himself. But he has sent me word that he is determined to go on,
and that any advice I may give him in this particular will have
no weight with him."

Steele set up a political paper called the Englishman, which, as
it was not supported by contributions from Addison, completely
failed. By this work, by some other writings of the same kind,
and by the airs which he gave himself at the first meeting of the
new Parliament, he made the Tories so angry that they determined
to expel him. The Whigs stood by him gallantly, but were unable
to save him. The vote of expulsion was regarded by all
dispassionate men as a tyrannical exercise of the power of the
majority. But Steele's violence and folly, though they by no
means justified the steps which his enemies took, had completely
disgusted his friends; nor did he ever regain the place which he
had held in the public estimation.

Addison about this time conceived the design of adding an eighth
volume to the Spectator In June 1714 the first number of the new
series appeared, and during about six months three papers were
published weekly. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast
between the Englishman and the eighth volume of the Spectator,
between Steele without Addison and Addison without Steele. The
Englishman is forgotten; the eighth volume of the Spectator
contains, the finest essays, both serious and playful, in the

Before this volume was completed, the death of Anne produced an
entire change in the administration of public affairs. The blow
fell suddenly. It found the Tory party distracted by internal
feuds, and unprepared for any great effort. Harley had just been
disgraced. Bolingbroke, it was supposed, would be the chief
Minister. But the Queen was on her deathbed before the white
staff had been given, and her last public act was to deliver it
with a feeble hand to the Duke of Shrewsbury. The emergency
produced a coalition between all sections of public men who were
attached to the Protestant succession. George the First was
proclaimed without opposition. A Council, in which the leading
Whigs had seats, took the direction of affairs till the new King
should arrive. The first act of the Lords justices was to appoint
Addison their secretary.

There is an idle tradition that he was directed to prepare a
letter to the King, that he could not satisfy himself as to the
style of this composition, and that the Lords Justices called in
a clerk, who at once did what was wanted. It is not strange that
a story so flattering to mediocrity should be popular; and we are
sorry to deprive dunces of their consolation. But the truth must
be told. It was well observed by Sir James Mackintosh, whose
knowledge of these times was unequalled, that Addison never, in
any official document, affected wit or eloquence, and that his
despatches are, without exception, remarkable for unpretending
simplicity. Everybody who knows with what ease Addison's finest
essays were produced must be convinced that, if well-turned
phrases had been wanted, he would have had no difficulty in
finding them. We are, however, inclined to believe, that the
story is not absolutely without a foundation. It may well be that
Addison did not know, till he had consulted experienced clerks
who remembered the times when William the Third was absent on the
Continent, in what form a letter from the Council of Regency to
the King ought to be drawn. We think it very likely that the
ablest statesmen of our time, Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel,
Lord Palmerston, for example, would, in similar circumstances, be
found quite as ignorant. Every office has some little mysteries
which the dullest man may learn with a little attention, and
which the greatest man cannot possibly know by intuition. One
paper must be signed by the chief of the department; another by
his deputy: to a third the royal sign-manual is necessary. One
communication is to be registered, and another is not. One
sentence must be in black ink, and another in red ink. If the
ablest Secretary for Ireland were moved to the India Board, if
the ablest President of the India Board were moved to the War
Office, he would require instruction on points like these; and we
do not doubt that Addison required such instruction when he
became, for the first time, Secretary to the Lords Justices.

George the First took possession of his kingdom without
opposition. A new Ministry was formed, and a new Parliament
favourable to the Whigs chosen. Sunderland was appointed Lord-
Lieutenant of Ireland; and Addison again went to Dublin as Chief

At Dublin Swift resided; and there was much speculation about the
way in which the Dean and the Secretary would behave towards each
other. The relations which existed between these remarkable men
form an interesting and pleasing portion of literary history.
They had early attached themselves to the same political party
and to the same patrons. While Anne's Whig Ministry was in power,
the visits of Swift to London and the official residence of
Addison in Ireland had given them opportunities of knowing each
other. They were the two shrewdest observers of their age. But
their observations on each other had led them to favourable
conclusions. Swift did full justice to the rare powers of
conversation which were latent under the bashful deportment of
Addison. Addison, on the other hand, discerned much good-nature
under the severe look and manner of Swift; and, indeed, the Swift
of 1708 and the Swift of 1738 were two very different men.

But the paths of the two friends diverged widely. The Whig
statesmen loaded Addison with solid benefits. They praised Swift,
asked him to dinner, and did nothing more for him. His profession
laid them under a difficulty. In the State they could not promote
him; and they had reason to fear that, by bestowing preferment in
the Church on the author of the Tale of a Tub, they might give
scandal to the public, which had no high opinion of their
orthodoxy. He did not make fair allowance for the difficulties
which prevented Halifax and Somers from serving him, thought
himself an ill-used man, sacrificed honour and consistency to
revenge, joined the Tories, and became their most formidable
champion. He soon found, however, that his old friends were less
to blame than he had supposed. The dislike with which the Queen
and the heads of the Church regarded him was insurmountable; and
it was with the greatest difficulty that he obtained an
ecclesiastical dignity of no great value, on condition of fixing
his residence in a country which he detested.

Difference of political opinion had produced, not indeed a
quarrel, but a coolness between Swift and Addison. They at length
ceased altogether to see each other. Yet there was between them a
tacit compact like that between the hereditary guests in the

"'Egkhea d' allelon aleometha kai di' dmilon.
Polloi men gar emoi Troes kleitoi t' epikouroi
Kteinein on ke theos ge pori kai possi kikheio
Polloi d' au soi Akhaioi enairmen, on ke duneai."

It is not strange that Addison, who calumniated and insulted
nobody, should not have calumniated or insulted Swift. But it is
remarkable that Swift, to whom neither genius nor virtue was
sacred, and who generally seemed to find, like most other
renegades, a peculiar pleasure in attacking old friends, should
have shown so much respect and tenderness to Addison.

Fortune had now changed. The accession of the House of Hanover
had secured in England the liberties of the people, and in
Ireland the dominion of the Protestant caste. To that caste Swift
was more odious than any other man. He was hooted and even pelted
in the streets of Dublin; and could not venture to ride along the
strand for his health without the attendance of armed servants.
Many whom he had formerly served now libelled and insulted him.
At this time Addison arrived. He had been advised not to show the
smallest civility to the Dean of St. Patrick's. He had answered,
with admirable spirit, that it might be necessary for men whose
fidelity to their party was suspected, to hold no intercourse
with political opponents; but that one who had been a steady Whig
in the worst times might venture, when the good cause was
triumphant, to shake hands with an old friend who was one of the
vanquished Tories. His kindness was soothing to the proud and
cruelly wounded spirit of Swift; and the two great satirists
resumed their habits of friendly intercourse.

Those associates of Addison whose political opinions agreed with
his shared his good fortune. He took Tickell with him to Ireland.
He procured for Budgell a lucrative place in the same kingdom.
Ambrose Phillips was provided for in England, Steele had injured
himself so much by his eccentricity and perverseness, that he
obtained but a very small part of what he thought his due. He
was, however, knighted; he had a place in the household; and he
subsequently received other marks of favour from the Court.

Addison did not remain long in Ireland. In 1715 he quitted his
secretaryship for a seat at the Board of Trade. In the same year
his comedy of the Drummer was brought on the stage. The name of
the author was not announced; the piece was coldly received; and
some critics had expressed a doubt whether it were really
Addison's. To us the evidence, both external and internal, seems
decisive. It is not in Addison's best manner; but it contains
numerous passages which no other writer known to us could have
produced. It was again performed after Addison's death, and,
being known to be his, was loudly applauded.

Towards the close of the year 1715, while the Rebellion was still
raging in Scotland, Addison published the first number of a paper
called the Freeholder. Among his political works the Freeholder
is entitled to the first place. Even in the Spectator there are
few serious papers nobler than the character of his friend Lord
Somers, and certainly no satirical papers superior to those in
which the Tory fox-hunter is introduced. This character is the
original of Squire Western, and is drawn with all Fielding's
force, and with a delicacy of which Fielding was altogether
destitute. As none of Addison's works exhibit stronger marks of
his genius than the Freeholder, so none does more honour to his
moral character. It is difficult to extol too highly the candour
and humanity of a political writer whom even the excitement of
civil war cannot hurry into unseemly violence. Oxford, it is well
known, was then the stronghold of Toryism. The High Street had
been repeatedly lined with bayonets in order to keep down the
disaffected gownsmen; and traitors pursued by the messengers of
the Government had been concealed in the garrets of several
colleges. Yet the admonition which, even under such
circumstances, Addison addressed to the University, is singularly
gentle, respectful, and even affectionate. Indeed, he could not
find it in his heart to deal harshly even with imaginary persons.
His fox-hunter, though ignorant, stupid, and violent, is at heart
a good fellow, and is at last reclaimed by the clemency of the
King. Steele was dissatisfied with his friend's moderation, and,
though he acknowledged that the Freeholder was excellently
written, complained that the Ministry played on a lute when it
was necessary to blow the trumpet. He accordingly determined to
execute a flourish after his own fashion, and tried to rouse the
public spirit of the nation by means of a paper called the Town
Talk, which is now as utterly forgotten as his Englishman, as his
Crisis, as his Letter to the Bailiff of Stockbridge, as his
Reader, in short, as everything that he wrote without the help of

In the same year in which the Drummer was acted, and in which the
first numbers of the Freeholder appeared, the estrangement of
Pope and Addison became complete. Addison had from the first seen
that Pope was false and malevolent. Pope had discovered that
Addison was jealous. The discovery was made in a strange manner.
Pope had written the Rape of the Lock, in two cantos, without
supernatural machinery. These two cantos had been loudly
applauded, and by none more loudly than by Addison. Then Pope
thought of the Sylphs and Gnomes, Ariel, Momentilla, Crispissa,
and Umbriel, and resolved to interweave the Rosicrucian mythology
with the original fabric. He asked Addison's advice. Addison said
that the poem as it stood was a delicious little thing, and
entreated Pope not to run the risk of marring what was so
excellent in trying to mend it. Pope afterwards declared that
this insidious counsel first opened his eyes to the baseness of
him who gave it.

Now there can be no doubt that Pope's plan was most ingenious,
and that he afterwards executed it with great skill and success.
But does it necessarily follow that Addison's advice was bad. And
if Addison's advice was bad, does it necessarily follow that it
was given from bad motives? If a friend were to ask us whether we
would advise him to risk his all in a lottery of which the
chances were ten to one against him, we should do our best to
dissuade him from running such a risk. Even if he were so lucky
as to get the thirty thousand pound prize, we should not admit
that we had counselled him ill; and we should certainly think it
the height of injustice in him to accuse us of having been
actuated by malice. We think Addison's advice good advice. It
rested on a sound principle, the result of long and wide
experience. The general rule undoubtedly is that, when a
successful work of imagination has been produced, it should not
be recast. We cannot at this moment call to mind a single
instance in which this rule has been transgressed with happy
effect, except the instance of the Rape of the Lock. Tasso
recast his Jerusalem. Akenside recast his Pleasures of the
Imagination, and his Epistle to Curio. Pope himself, emboldened
no doubt by the success with which he had expanded and
remodelled the Rape of the Lock, made the same experiment on the
Dunciad. All these attempts failed. Who was to foresee that
Pope would, once in his life, be able to do what he could not
himself do twice, and what nobody else has ever done?

Addison's advice was good. But had it been bad, why should we
pronounce it dishonest? Scott tells us that one of his best
friends predicted the failure of Waverley. Herder adjured Goethe
not to take so unpromising a subject as Faust. Hume tried to
dissuade Robertson from writing the History of Charles the Fifth
Nay, Pope himself was one of those who prophesied that Cato would
never succeed on the stage, and advised Addison to print it
without risking a representation. But Scott, Goethe, Robertson,
Addison, had the good sense and generosity to give their advisers
credit for the best intentions. Pope's heart was not of the same
kind with theirs.

In 1715, while he was engaged in translating the Iliad, he met
Addison at a coffee-house. Phillips and Budgell were there; but
their sovereign got rid of them, and asked Pope to dine with him
alone. After dinner Addison said that he lay under a difficulty
which he wished to explain. "Tickell," he said, "translated some
time ago the first book of the Iliad. I have promised to look it
over and correct it. I cannot therefore ask to see yours; for
that would be double-dealing." Pope made a civil reply, and
begged that his second book might have the advantage of Addison's
revision. Addison readily agreed, looked over the second book,
and sent it back with warm commendations.

Tickell's version of the first book appeared soon after this
conversation. In the preface all rivalry was earnestly
disclaimed. Tickell declared that he should not go on with the
Iliad. That enterprise he should leave to powers which he
admitted to be superior to his own. His only view, he said, in
publishing this specimen was to bespeak the favour of the public
to a translation of the Odyssey, in which he had made some

Addison, and Addison's devoted followers, pronounced both the
versions good, but maintained that Tickell's had more of the
original. The town gave a decided preference to Pope's. We do not
think it worth while to settle such a question of precedence.
Neither of the rivals can be said to have translated the Iliad,
unless, indeed, the word translation be used in the sense which
it bears in the Midsummer Night's Dream. When Bottom makes his
appearance with an ass's head instead of his own, Peter Quince
exclaims, "Bless thee! Bottom, bless thee! thou art translated."
In this sense, undoubtedly, the readers of either Pope or Tickell
may very properly exclaim, "Bless thee! Homer; thou art
translated indeed."

Our readers will, we hope, agree with us in thinking that no man
in Addison's situation could have acted more fairly and kindly,
both towards Pope and towards Tickell, than he appears to have
done. But an odious suspicion had sprung up in the mind of Pope.
He fancied, and he soon firmly believed, that there was a deep
conspiracy against his fame and his fortunes. The work on which
he had staked his reputation was to be depreciated. The
subscription, on which rested his hopes of a competence, was to
be defeated. With this view Addison had made a rival translation:
Tickell had consented to father it; and the wits of Button's had
united to puff it.

Is there any external evidence to support this grave accusation?
The answer is short. There is absolutely none.

Was there any internal evidence which proved Addison to be the
author of this version? Was it a work which Tickell was incapable
of producing? Surely not. Tickell was a Fellow of a College at
Oxford, and must be supposed to have been able to construe the
Iliad; and he was a better versifier than his friend. We are not
aware that Pope pretended to have discovered any turns of
expression peculiar to Addison. Had such turns of expression been
discovered, they would be sufficiently accounted for by supposing
Addison to have corrected his friend's lines, as he owned that he
had done.

Is there anything in the character of the accused persons which
makes the accusation probable? We answer confidently--nothing.
Tickell was long after this time described by Pope himself as a
very fair and worthy man. Addison had been, during many years,
before the public. Literary rivals, political opponents, had kept
their eyes on him. But neither envy nor faction, in their utmost
rage, had ever imputed to him a single deviation from the laws of
honour and of social morality. Had he been indeed a man meanly
jealous of fame, and capable of stooping to base and wicked arts
for the purpose of injuring his competitors, would his vices have
remained latent so long? He was a writer of tragedy: had he ever
injured Rowe? He was a writer of comedy: had he not done ample
justice to Congreve, and given valuable help to Steele? He was a
pamphleteer: have not his good nature and generosity been
acknowledged by Swift, his rival in fame and his adversary in

That Tickell should have been guilty of a villany seems to us
highly improbable. That Addison should have been guilty of a
villany seems to us highly improbable. But that these two men
should have conspired together to commit a villany seems to us
improbable in a tenfold degree. All that is known to us of their
intercourse tends to prove, that it was not the intercourse of
two accomplices in crime. These are some of the lines in which
Tickell poured forth his sorrow over the coffin of Addison:

Or dost thou warn poor mortals left behind,
A task well suited to thy gentle mind?
Oh, if sometimes thy spotless form descend,
To me thine aid, thou guardian genius, lend,
When rage misguides me, or when fear alarms,
When pain distresses, or when pleasure charms,
In silent whisperings purer thoughts impart,
And turn from ill a frail and feeble heart;
Lead through the paths thy virtue trod before,
Till bliss shall join, nor death can part us more."

In what words, we should like to know, did this guardian genius
invite his pupil to join in a plan such as the Editor of the
Satirist would hardly dare to propose to the Editor of the Age?

We do not accuse Pope of bringing an accusation which he knew to
be false. We have not the smallest doubt that he believed it to
be true; and the evidence on which he believed it he found in his
own bad heart. His own life was one long series of tricks, as
mean and as malicious as that of which he suspected Addison and
Tickell. He was all stiletto and mask. To injure, to insult, and
to save himself from the consequences of injury and insult by
lying and equivocating, was the habit of his life. He published a
lampoon on the Duke of Chandos; he was taxed with it; and he lied
and equivocated. He published a lampoon on Aaron Hill; he was
taxed with it; and he lied and equivocated. He published a still
fouler lampoon on Lady Mary Wortley Montague; he was taxed with
it; and he lied with more than usual effrontery and vehemence. He
puffed himself and abused his enemies under feigned names. He
robbed himself of his own letters, and then raised the hue and
cry after them. Besides his frauds of malignity, of fear, of
interest, and of vanity, there were frauds which he seems to have
committed from love of fraud alone. He had a habit of stratagem,
a pleasure in outwitting all who came near him. Whatever his
object might be, the indirect road to it was that which he
preferred. For Bolingbroke, Pope undoubtedly felt as much love
and veneration as it was in his nature to feel for any human
being. Yet Pope was scarcely dead when it was discovered that,
from no motive except the mere love of artifice, he had been
guilty of an act of gross perfidy to Bolingbroke.

Nothing was more natural than that such a man as this should
attribute to others that which he felt within himself. A plain,
probable, coherent explanation is frankly given to him. He is
certain that it is all a romance. A line of conduct scrupulously
fair, and even friendly, is pursued towards him. He is convinced
that it is merely a cover for a vile intrigue by which he is to
be disgraced and ruined. It is vain to ask him for proofs. He has
none, and wants none, except those which he carries in his own

Whether Pope's malignity at length provoked Addison to retaliate
for the first and last time, cannot now be known with certainty.
We have only Pope's story, which runs thus. A pamphlet appeared
containing some reflections which stung Pope to the quick. What
those reflections were, and whether they were reflections of
which he had a right to complain, we have now no means of
deciding. The Earl of Warwick, a foolish and vicious lad, who
regarded Addison with the feelings with which such lads generally
regard their best friends, told Pope, truly or falsely, that this
pamphlet had been written by Addison's direction. When we
consider what a tendency stories have to grow, in passing even
from one honest man to another honest man, and when we consider
that to the name of honest man neither Pope nor the Earl of
Warwick had a claim, we are not disposed to attach much
importance to this anecdote.

It is certain, however, that Pope was furious. He had already
sketched the character of Atticus in prose. In his anger he
turned this prose into the brilliant and energetic lines which
everybody knows by heart, or ought to know by heart, and sent
them to Addison. One charge which Pope has enforced with great
skill is probably not without foundation. Addison was, we are
inclined to believe, too fond of presiding over a circle of
humble friends. Of the other imputations which these famous
lines are intended to convey, scarcely one has ever been
proved to be just, and some are certainly false. That Addison
was not in the habit of "damning with faint praise" appears
from innumerable passages in his writings, and from none more
than from those in which he mentions Pope, And it is not
merely unjust, but ridiculous, to describe a man who made the
fortune of almost every one of his intimate friends, as "so
obliging that he ne'er obliged."

That Addison felt the sting of Pope's satire keenly, we cannot
doubt. That he was conscious of one of the weaknesses with which
he was reproached, is highly probable. But his heart, we firmly
believe, acquitted him of the gravest part of the accusation. He
acted like himself. As a satirist he was, at his own weapons,
more than Pope's match; and he would have been at no loss for
topics. A distorted and diseased body, tenanted by a yet more
distorted and diseased mind; spite and envy thinly disguised by
sentiments as benevolent and noble as those which Sir Peter
Teazle admired in Mr. Joseph Surface; a feeble sickly
licentiousness; an odious love of filthy and noisome images;
these were things which a genius less powerful than that to which
we owe the Spectator could easily have held up to the mirth and
hatred of mankind. Addison, had, moreover, at his command, other
means of vengeance which a bad man would not have scrupled to
use. He was powerful in the State. Pope was a Catholic; and, in
those times, a Minister would have found it easy to harass the
most innocent Catholic by innumerable petty vexations. Pope, near
twenty years later, said that "through the lenity of the
Government alone he could live with comfort." "Consider," he
exclaimed, " the injury that a man of high rank and credit may do
to a private person, under penal laws and many other
disadvantages." It is pleasing to reflect that the only revenge
which Addison took was to insert in the Freeholder a warm
encomium on the translation of the Iliad, and to exhort all
lovers of learning to put down their names as subscribers. There
could be no doubt, he said, from the specimens already published,
that the masterly hand of Pope would do as much for Homer as
Dryden had done for Virgil. From that time to the end of his
life, he always treated Pope, by Pope's own acknowledgment, with
justice. Friendship was, of course, at an end.

One reason which induced the Earl of Warwick to play the
ignominious part of talebearer on this occasion, may have been
his dislike of the marriage which was about to take place between
his mother and Addison. The Countess Dowager, a daughter of the
old and honourable family of the Middletons of Chirk, a family
which, in any country but ours, would be called noble, resided at
Holland House. Addison had, during some years, occupied at
Chelsea a small dwelling, once the abode of Nell Gwynn. Chelsea
is now a district of London, and Holland House may be called a
town residence. But, in the days of Anne and George the First,
milkmaids and sportsmen wandered between green hedges and over
fields bright with daisies, from Kensington almost to the shore
of the Thames. Addison and Lady Warwick were country neighbours,
and became intimate friends. The great wit and scholar tried to
allure the young Lord from the fashionable amusements of beating
watchmen, breaking windows, and rolling women in hogsheads down
Holborn Hill, to the study of letters, and the practice of
virtue. These well-meant exertions did little good, however,
either to the disciple or to the master. Lord Warwick grew up a
rake; and Addison fell in love. The mature beauty of the Countess
has been celebrated by poets in language which, after a very
large allowance has been made for flattery, would lead us to
believe that she was a fine woman; and her rank doubtless
heightened her attractions. The courtship was long. The hopes of
the lover appear to have risen and fallen with the fortunes of
his party. His attachment was at length a matter of such
notoriety that, when he visited Ireland for the last time, Rowe
addressed some consolatory verses to the Chloe of Holland House.
It strikes us as a little strange that, in these verses, Addison
should be called Lycidas, a name of singularly evil omen for a
swain just about to cross St. George's Channel.

At length Chloe capitulated. Addison was indeed able to treat
with her on equal terms. He had reason to expect preferment even
higher than that which he had attained. He had inherited the
fortune of a brother who died Governor of Madras. He had
purchased an estate in Warwickshire, and had been welcomed to his
domain in very tolerable verse by one of the neighbouring
squires, the poetical fox-hunter, William Somerville. In August
1716, the newspapers announced that Joseph Addison, Esquire,
famous for many excellent works both in verse and prose, had
espoused the Countess Dowager of Warwick.

He now fixed his abode at Holland House, a house which can boast
of a greater number of inmates distinguished in political and
literary history than any other private dwelling in England. His
portrait still hangs there. The features are pleasing; the
complexion is remarkably fair; but, in the expression, we trace
rather the gentleness of his disposition than the force and
keenness of his intellect.

Not long after his marriage he reached the height of civil
greatness. The Whig Government had, during some time, been torn
by internal dissensions. Lord Townshend led one section of the
Cabinet, Lord Sunderland the other. At length, in the spring of
1717, Sunderland triumphed. Townshend retired from office, and
was accompanied by Walpole and Cowper. Sunderland proceeded to
reconstruct the Ministry; and Addison was appointed Secretary of
State. It is certain that the Seals were pressed upon him, and
were at first declined by him. Men equally versed in official
business might easily have been found; and his colleagues knew
that they could not expect assistance from him in debate. He owed
his elevation to his popularity, to his stainless probity, and to
his literary fame.

But scarcely had Addison entered the Cabinet when his health
began to fail. From one serious attack he recovered in the
autumn; and his recovery was celebrated in Latin verses, worthy
of his own pen, by Vincent Bourne, who was then at Trinity
College, Cambridge. A relapse soon took place; and, in the
following spring, Addison was prevented by a severe asthma from
discharging the duties of his post. He resigned it, and was
succeeded by his friend Craggs, a young man whose natural parts,
though little improved by cultivation, were quick and showy,
whose graceful person and winning manners had made him generally
acceptable in society, and who, if he had lived, would probably
have been the most formidable of all the rivals of Walpole.

As yet there was no Joseph Hume. The Ministers, therefore, were
able to bestow on Addison a retiring pension of fifteen hundred
pounds a year. In what form this pension was given we are not
told by the biographers, and have not time to inquire, But it is
certain that Addison did not vacate his seat in the House of

Rest of mind and body seem to have re-established his health; and
he thanked God, with cheerful piety, for having set him free both
from his office and from his asthma. Many years seemed to be
before him, and he meditated many works, a tragedy on the death
of Socrates, a translation of the Psalms, a treatise on the
evidences of Christianity. Of this last performance, a part,
which we could well spare, has come down to us.

But the fatal complaint soon returned, and gradually prevailed
against all the resources of medicine. It is melancholy to think
that the last months of such a life should have been overclouded
both by domestic and by political vexations. A tradition which
began early, which has been generally received, and to which we
have nothing to oppose, has represented his wife as an arrogant
and imperious woman. It is said that, till his health failed him,
he was glad to escape from the Countess Dowager and her
magnificent dining-room, blazing with the gilded devices of the
House of Rich, to some tavern where he could enjoy a laugh, a
talk about Virgil and Boileau, and a bottle of claret, with the
friends of his happier days. All those friends, however, were not
left to him. Sir Richard Steele had been gradually estranged by
various causes. He considered himself as one who, in evil times,
had braved martyrdom for his political principles, and demanded,
when the Whig party was triumphant, a large compensation for what
he had suffered when it was militant. The Whig leaders took a
very different view of his claims. They thought that he had, by
his own petulance and folly, brought them as well as himself into
trouble, and though they did not absolutely neglect him, doled
out favours to him with a sparing hand. It was natural that he
should be angry with them, and especially angry with Addison. But
what above all seems to have disturbed Sir Richard, was the
elevation of Tickell, who, at thirty, was made by Addison Under-
Secretary of State; while the editor of the Tatler and Spectator,
and the author of the Crisis, and member for Stockbridge who had
been persecuted for firm adherence to the House of Hanover, was,
at near fifty, forced, after many solicitations and complaints,
to content himself with a share in the patent of Drury Lane
Theatre. Steele himself says, in his celebrated letter to
Congreve, that Addison, by his preference of Tickell, "incurred
the warmest resentment of other gentlemen"; and everything seems
to indicate that, of those resentful gentlemen, Steele was
himself one.

While poor Sir Richard was brooding over what he considered as
Addison's unkindness, a new cause of quarrel arose. The Whig
party, already divided against itself, was rent by a new schism.
The celebrated Bill for limiting the number of Peers had been
brought in. The proud Duke of Somerset, first in rank of all the
nobles whose religion permitted them to sit in Parliament, was
the ostensible author of the measure. But it was supported, and
in truth devised, by the Prime Minister.

We are satisfied that the bill was most pernicious; and we fear
that the motives which induced Sunderland to frame it were not
honourable to him. But we cannot deny that it was supported by
many of the best and wisest men of that age. Nor was this
strange. The royal prerogative had, within the memory of the
generation then in the vigour of life, been so grossly abused,
that it was still regarded with a jealousy which, when the
peculiar situation of the House of Brunswick is considered, may
perhaps be called immoderate. The particular prerogative of
creating peers had, in the opinion of the Whigs, been grossly
abused by Queen Anne's last Ministry; and even the Tories
admitted that her Majesty, in swamping, as it has since been
called, the Upper House, had done what only an extreme case could
justify. The theory of the English constitution, according to
many high authorities, was that three independent powers, the
sovereign, the nobility, and the commons, ought constantly to act
as checks on each other. If this theory were sound, it seemed to
follow that to put one of these powers under the absolute control
of the other two, was absurd. But if the number of peers were
unlimited, it could not well be denied that the Upper House was
under the absolute control of the Crown and the Commons, and was
indebted only to their moderation for any power which it might be
suffered to retain.

Steele took part with the Opposition, Addison with the Ministers.
Steele, in a paper called the Plebeian, vehemently attacked the
bill. Sunderland called for help on Addison, and Addison obeyed
the call. In a paper called the Old Whig, he answered, and indeed
refuted, Steele's arguments. It seems to us that the premises of
both the controversialists were unsound, that on those premises
Addison reasoned well and Steele ill, and that consequently
Addison brought out a false conclusion while Steele blundered
upon the truth. In style, in wit, and in politeness, Addison
maintained his superiority; though the Old Whig is by no means
one of his happiest performances.

At first, both the anonymous opponents observed the laws of
propriety. But at length Steele so far forgot himself as to throw
an odious imputation on the morals of the chiefs of the
administration. Addison replied with severity, but, in our
opinion, with less severity than was due to so grave an offence
against morality and decorum; nor did he, in his just anger,
forget for a moment the laws of good taste and good breeding. One
calumny which has been often repeated, and never yet
contradicted, it is our duty to expose. It is asserted in the
Biogaphia Britannica, that Addison designated Steele as "little
Dicky." This assertion was repeated by Johnson who had never seen
the Old Whig; and was therefore excusable. It has also been
repeated by Miss Aikin, who has seen the Old Whig, and for whom
therefore there is less excuse. Now, it is true that the words
"little Dicky" occur in the Old Whig, and that Steele's name was
Richard. It is equally true that the words "little Isaac " occur
in the Duenna, and that Newton's name was Isaac. But we
confidently affirm that Addison's "little Dicky" had no more to
do with Steele, than Sheridan's "little Isaac" with Newton. If we
apply the words "little Dicky" to Steele, we deprive a very
lively and ingenious passage, not only of all its wit, but of all
its meaning. Little Dicky was the nickname of Henry Norris, an
actor of remarkably small stature, but of great humour, who
played the usurer Gomez, then a most popular part, in Dryden's
Spanish Friar. [We will transcribe the whole paragraph. How it
can ever have been misunderstood is unintelligible to us.

"But our author's chief concern is for the poor House of Commons,
whom he represents as naked and defenceless, when the Crown, by
losing this prerogative, would be less able to protect them
against the power of a House of Lords. Who forbears laughing when
the Spanish Friar represents little Dicky under the person of
Gomez, insulting the Colonel that was able to fright him out of
his wits with a single frown? This Gomez, says he, flew upon him
like a dragon, got him down, the Devil being strong in him, and
gave him bastinado on bastinado, and buffet on buffet, which the
poor Colonel, being prostrate, suffered with a most Christian
patience. The improbability of the fact never fails to raise
mirth in the audience; and one may venture to answer for a
British House of Commons, if we may guess, from its conduct
hitherto, that it will scarce be either so tame or so weak as our
author supposes."]

The merited reproof which Steele had received, though softened by
some kind and courteous expressions, galled him bitterly. He
replied with little force and great acrimony; but no rejoinder
appeared. Addison was fast hastening to his grave; and had, we
may well suppose, little disposition to prosecute a quarrel with
an old friend. His complaint had terminated in dropsy. He bore up
long and manfully. But at length he abandoned all hope, dismissed
his physicians, and calmly prepared himself to die.

His works he intrusted to the care of Tickell, and dedicated them
a very few days before his death to Craggs, in a letter written
with the sweet and graceful eloquence of a Saturday's Spectator.
In this, his last composition, he alluded to his approaching end
in words so manly, so cheerful, and so tender, that it is
difficult to read them without tears. At the same time he
earnestly recommended the interests of Tickell to the care of

Within a few hours of the time at which this dedication was
written, Addison sent to beg Gay, who was then living by his wits
about town, to come to Holland House. Gay went, and was received
with great kindness. To his amazement his forgiveness was
implored by the dying man. Poor Gay, the most good-natured and
simple of mankind, could not imagine what he had to forgive.
There was, however, some wrong, the remembrance of which weighed
on Addison's mind, and which he declared himself anxious to
repair. He was in a state of extreme exhaustion; and the parting
was doubtless a friendly one on both sides. Gay supposed that
some plan to serve him had been in agitation at Court, and had
been frustrated by Addison's influence. Nor is this improbable.
Gay had paid assiduous court to the royal family. But in the
Queen's days he had been the eulogist of Bolingbroke, and was
still connected with many Tories. It is not strange that Addison,
while heated by conflict, should have thought himself justified
in obstructing the preferment of one whom he might regard as a
political enemy. Neither is it strange that, when reviewing his
whole life, and earnestly scrutinising all his motives, he should
think that he had acted an unkind and ungenerous part, in using
his power against a distressed man of letters, who was as
harmless and as helpless as a child.

One inference may be drawn from this anecdote. It appears that
Addison, on his death-bed, called himself to a strict account,
and was not at ease till he had asked pardon for an injury which
it was not even suspected that he had committed, for an injury
which would have caused disquiet only to a very tender
conscience. Is it not then reasonable to infer that, if he had
really been guilty of forming a base conspiracy against the fame
and fortunes of a rival, he would have expressed some remorse for
so serious a crime? But it is unnecessary to multiply arguments
and evidence for the defence, when there is neither argument nor
evidence for the accusation.

The last moments of Addison were perfectly serene. His interview
with his step-son is universally known. "See," he said, "how a
Christian can die." The piety of Addison was, in truth, of a
singularly cheerful character. The feeling which predominates in
all his devotional writings, is gratitude. God was to him the
all-wise and all-powerful friend who had watched over his cradle
with more than maternal tenderness; who had listened to his cries
before they could form themselves in prayer; who had preserved
his youth from the snares of vice; who had made his cup run over
with worldly blessings; who had doubled the value of those
blessings, by bestowing a thankful heart to enjoy them, and dear
friends to partake them; who had rebuked the waves of the
Ligurian gulf, had purified the autumnal air of the Campagna, and
had restrained the avalanches of Mont Cenis. Of the Psalms, his
favourite was that which represents the Ruler of all things under
the endearing image of a shepherd, whose crook guides the flock
safe, through gloomy and desolate glens, to meadows well watered
and rich with herbage. On that goodness to which he ascribed all
the happiness of his life, he relied in the hour of death with
the love which casteth out fear. He died on the seventeenth of
June 1710. He had just entered on his forty-eighth year.

His body lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was borne
thence to the Abbey at dead of night. The choir sang a funeral
hymn. Bishop Atterbury, one of those Tories who had loved and
honoured the most accomplished of the Whigs, met the corpse, and
led the procession by torchlight, round the shrine of Saint
Edward and the graves of the Plantagenets, to the Chapel of Henry
the Seventh. On the north side of that Chapel, in the vault of
the House of Albemarle, the coffin of Addison lies next to the
coffin of Montague. Yet a few months; and the same mourners
passed again along the same aisle. The same sad anthem was again
chanted. The same vault was again opened; and the coffin of
Craggs was placed close to the coffin of Addison.

Many tributes were paid to the memory of Addison; but one alone
is now remembered. Tickell bewailed his friend in an elegy which
would do honour to the greatest name in our literature, and which
unites the energy and magnificence of Dryden to the tenderness
and purity of Cowper. This fine poem was prefixed to a superb
edition of Addison's works, which was published, in 1721, by
subscription. The names of the subscribers proved how widely his
fame had been spread. That his countrymen should be eager to
possess his writings, even in a costly form, is not wonderful.
But it is wonderful that, though English literature was then
little studied on the Continent, Spanish Grandees, Italian
Prelates, Marshals of France, should be found in the list. Among
the most remarkable names are those of the Queen of Sweden, of
Prince Eugene, of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, of the Dukes of
Parma, Modena, and Guastalla, of the Doge of Genoa, of the Regent
Orleans, and of Cardinal Dubois. We ought to add that this
edition, though eminently beautiful, is in some important points
defective; nor, indeed, do we yet possess a complete collection
of Addison's writings.

It is strange that neither his opulent and noble widow, nor any
of his powerful and attached friends, should have thought of
placing even a simple tablet, inscribed with his name, on the
walls of the Abbey. It was not till three generations had laughed
and wept over his pages that the omission was supplied by the
public veneration. At length, in our own time, his image,
skilfully graven, appeared in Poet's Corner. It represents him,
as we can conceive him, clad in his dressing-gown, and freed from
his wig, stepping from his parlour at Chelsea into his trim
little garden, with the account of the "Everlasting Club," or the
"Loves of Hilpa and Shalum," just finished for the next day's
Spectator, in his hand. Such a mark of national respect was due
to the unsullied statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the
master of pure English eloquence, to the consummate painter of
life and manners. It was due, above all, to the great satirist,
who alone knew how to use ridicule without abusing it, who,
without inflicting a wound, effected a great social reform, and
who reconciled wit and virtue, after a long and disastrous
separation, during which wit had been led astray by profligacy,
and virtue by fanaticism.


(September 1831)

The Life of Samuel Johnson LL. D. Including a Journal Of a Tour
to the Hebrides by James Boswell, Esq. A new Edition, with
numerous Additions and Notes By JOHN WILSON CROKER, LL.D., F.R.S.
Five volumes, 8vo. London: 1831

THIS work has greatly disappointed us. Whatever faults we may
have been prepared to find in it, we fully expected that it would
be a valuable addition to English literature; that it would
contain many curious facts, and many judicious remarks; that the
style of the notes would be neat, clear, and precise; and that
the typographical execution would be, as in new editions of
classical works it ought to be, almost faultless. We are sorry to
be obliged to say that the merits of Mr. Croker's performance are
on a par with those of a certain leg of mutton on which Dr.
Johnson dined, while travelling from London to Oxford, and which
he, with characteristic energy, pronounced to be "as bad as bad
could be, ill fed, ill killed, ill kept, and ill dressed." This
edition is ill compiled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill

Nothing in the work has astonished us so much as the ignorance or
carelessness of Mr. Croker with respect to facts and dates. Many
of his blunders are such as we should be surprised to hear any
well-educated gentleman commit, even in conversation. The notes
absolutely swarm with misstatements, into which the editor never
would have fallen, if he had taken the slightest pains to
investigate the truth of his assertions, or if he had even been
well acquainted with the book on which he undertook to comment.
We will give a few instances.

Mr. Croker tells us in a note that Derrick, who was master of the
ceremonies at Bath, died very poor in 1760. [Vol. i. 394.] We
read on; and, a few pages later, we find Dr. Johnson and Boswell
talking of this same Derrick as still living and reigning, as
having retrieved his character, as possessing so much power over
his subjects at Bath, that his opposition might be fatal to
Sheridan's lectures on oratory. [i. 404.] And all this is in
1763. The fact is, that Derrick died in 1769.

In one note we read, that Sir Herbert Croft, the author of that
pompous and foolish account of Young, which appears among the
Lives of the Poets, died in 1805. [Vol. iv. 321.] Another note in
the same volume states, that this same Sir Herbert Croft died at
Paris, after residing abroad for fifteen years, on the 27th of
April, 1816. [iv. 428.]

Mr. Croker informs us, that Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, the
author of the Life of Beattie, died in 1816. [ii. 262.] A Sir
William Forbes undoubtedly died in that year, but not the Sir
William Forbes in question, whose death took place in 1806. It is
notorious, indeed, that the biographer of Beattie lived just long
enough to complete the history of his friend. Eight or nine years
before the date which Mr. Croker has assigned for Sir William's
death, Sir Walter Scott lamented that event in the introduction
to the fourth canto of Marmion. Every schoolgirl knows the lines:

"Scarce had lamented Forbes paid
The tribute to his Minstrel's shade;
The tale of friendship scarce was told,
Ere the narrator's heart was cold:
Far may we search before we find
A heart so manly and so kind!"

In one place, we are told, that Allan Ramsay, the painter, was
born in 1709, and died in 1784; [iv. 105.] in another, that he
died in 1784, in the seventy-first year of his age. [v. 281.]

In one place, Mr. Croker says, that at the commencement of the
intimacy between Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale, in 1765, the lady
was twenty-five years old. [i. 510.] In other places he says,
that Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth year coincided with Johnson's
seventieth. [iv. 271, 322.] Johnson was born in 1709. If,
therefore, Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth year coincided with
Johnson's seventieth, she could have been only twenty-one years
old in 1765. This is not all. Mr. Croker, in another place,
assigns the year 1777 as the date of the complimentary lines
which Johnson made on Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth birthday.
[iii. 463.] If this date be correct, Mrs. Thrale must have been
born in 1742, and could have been only twenty-three when her
acquaintance with Johnson commenced. Mr. Croker therefore gives
us three different statements as to her age. Two of the three
must be incorrect. We will not decide between them; we will only
say, that the reasons which Mr. Croker gives for thinking that
Mrs. Thrale was exactly thirty-five years old when Johnson was
seventy, appear to us utterly frivolous.

Again, Mr. Croker informs his readers that "Lord Mansfield
survived Johnson full ten years." [ii. 151.] Lord Mansfield
survived Dr. Johnson just eight years and a quarter.

Johnson found in the library of a French lady, whom he visited
during his short visit to Paris, some works which he regarded
with great disdain. "I looked," says he, "into the books in the
lady's closet, and, in contempt, showed them to Mr. Thrale.
Prince Titi, Bibliotheque des Fees, and other books." [iii. 271.]
The History of Prince Titi, observes Mr. Croker, "was said to be
the autobiography of Frederick Prince of Wales, but was probably
written by Ralph his secretary." A more absurd note never was
penned. The History of Prince Titi, to which Mr. Croker refers,
whether written by Prince Frederick or by Ralph, was certainly
never published. If Mr. Croker had taken the trouble to read with
attention that very passage in Park's Royal and Noble Authors
which he cites as his authority, he would have seen that the
manuscript was given up to the Government. Even if this memoir
had been printed, it is not very likely to find its way into a
French lady's bookcase. And would any man in his senses speak
contemptuously of a French lady, for having in her possession an
English work, so curious and interesting as a Life of Prince
Frederick, whether written by himself or by a confidential
secretary, must have been? The history at which Johnson laughed
was a very proper companion to the Bibliotheque des Fees, a fairy
tale about good Prince Titi and naughty Prince Violent. Mr.
Croker may find it in the Magasin des Enfans, the first French
book which the little girls of England read to their governesses.

Mr. Croker states that Mr. Henry Bate, who afterwards assumed the
name of Dudley, was proprietor of the Morning Herald, and fought
a duel with George Robinson Stoney, in consequence of some
attacks on Lady Strathmore which appeared in that paper. [v.
196.] Now Mr. Bate was then connected, not with the Morning
Herald, but with the Morning Post; and the dispute took place
before the Morning Herald was in existence. The duel was fought
in January 1777. The Chronicle of the Annual Register for that
year contains an account of the transaction, and distinctly
states that Mr. Bate was editor of the Morning Post. The Morning
Herald, as any person may see by looking at any number of it, was
not established till some years after this affair. For this
blunder there is, we must acknowledge some excuse; for it
certainly seems almost incredible to a person living in our time
that any human being should ever have stooped to fight with a
writer in the Morning Post.

"James de Duglas," says Mr. Croker, "was requested by King Robert
Bruce, in his last hours, to repair, with his heart, to
Jerusalem, and humbly to deposit it at the sepulchre of our Lord,
which he did in 1329." [Vol. iv. 29.] Now, it is well known that
he did no such thing, and for a very sufficient reason, because
he was killed by the way. Nor was it in 1329 that he set out.
Robert Bruce died in 1329, and the expedition of Douglas took
place in the following year, "Quand le printemps vint et la
saison," says Froissart, in June 1330, says Lord Hailes, whom Mr.
Croker cites as the authority for his statement.

Mr, Croker tells us that the great Marquis of Montrose was
beheaded at Edinburgh in 1650. [ii. 526.] There is not a forward
boy at any school in England who does not know that the marquis
was hanged. The account of the execution is one of the finest
passages in Lord Clarendon's History. We can scarcely suppose
that Mr. Croker has never read that passage; and yet we can
scarcely suppose that any person who has ever perused so noble
and pathetic a story can have utterly forgotten all its most
striking circumstances.

"Lord Townshend," says Mr. Croker, "was not Secretary of State
till 1720." [iii. 52.] Can Mr. Croker possibly be ignorant that
Lord Townshend was made Secretary of State at the Accession of
George I. in 1714, that he continued to be Secretary of State
till he was displaced by the intrigues of Sunderland and Stanhope
at the close of 1716, and that he returned to the office of
Secretary of State, not in 1720 but in 1721?

Mr. Croker, indeed, is generally unfortunate in his statements
respecting the Townshend family. He tells us that Charles
Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was "nephew of the
Prime Minister, and son of a peer who was Secretary of State, and
leader of the House of Lords." [iii. 368.] Charles Townshend was
not nephew, but grandnephew, of the Duke of Newcastle, not son,
but grandson, of the Lord Townshend who was Secretary of State,
and leader of the House of Lords.

"General Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga," says Mr. Croker, "in
March 1778." [iv. 222.] General Bourgoyne surrendered on the 17th
of October 1777.

Nothing," says Mr. Croker, "can be more unfounded than the
assertion that Byng fell a martyr to political party. By a
strange coincidence of circumstances, it happened that there was
a total change of administration between his condemnation and his
death: so that one party presided at his trial, and another at
his execution: there can be no stronger proof that he was not a
political martyr." [i. 298.] Now what will our readers think of
this writer, when we assure them that this statement, so
confidently made, respecting events so notorious, is absolutely
untrue? One and the same administration was in office when the
court-martial on Byng commenced its sittings, through the whole
trial, at the condemnation, and at the execution. In the month of
November 1756, the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Hardwicke resigned;
the Duke of Devonshire became First Lord of the Treasury, and Mr.
Pitt, Secretary of State. This administration lasted till the
month of April 1757. Byng's court-martial began to sit on the
28th of December 1756. He was shot on the 14th of March 1757.
There is something at once diverting and provoking in the cool
and authoritative manner in which Mr. Croker makes these random
assertions. We do not suspect him of intentionally falsifying
history. But of this high literary misdemeanour we do without
hesitation accuse him that he has no adequate sense of the
obligation which a writer, who professes to relate facts,
owes to the public. We accuse him of a negligence and an
ignorance analogous to that crassa negligentia, and that
crassa ignorantia, on which the law animadverts in magistrates
and surgeons, even when malice and corruption are not imputed.
We accuse him of having undertaken a work which, if not
performed with strict accuracy, must be very much worse than
useless, and of having performed it as if the difference
between an accurate and an inaccurate statement was not worth
the trouble of looking into the most common book of

But we must proceed. These volumes contain mistakes more gross,
if possible, than any that we have yet mentioned. Boswell has
recorded some observations made by Johnson on the changes which
had taken place in Gibbon's religious opinions. That Gibbon when
a lad at Oxford turned Catholic is well known. "It is said,"
cried Johnson, laughing, "that he has been a Mahommedan." "This
sarcasm," says the editor, "probably alludes to the tenderness
with which Gibbon's malevolence to Christianity induced him to
treat Mahommedanism in his history." Now the sarcasm was uttered
in 1776; and that part of the History of the Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire which relates to Mahommedanism was not published
till 1788, twelve years after the date of this conversation, and
near four years after the death of Johnson.

[A defence of this blunder was attempted. That the celebrated
chapters in which Gibbon has traced the progress of Mahommedanism
were not written in 1776 could not be denied. But it was
confidently asserted that his partiality to Mahommedanism
appeared in his first volume. This assertion is untrue. No
passage which can by any art be construed into the faintest
indication of the faintest partiality for Mahommedanism has ever
been quoted or ever will be quoted from the first volume of the
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

To what, then, it has been asked, could Johnson allude? Possibly
to some anecdote or some conversation of which all trace is lost.
One conjecture may be offered, though with diffidence. Gibbon
tells us in his Memoirs, that at Oxford he took a fancy for
studying Arabic, and was prevented from doing so by the
remonstrances of his tutor. Soon after this, the young man fell
in with Bossuet's controversial writings, and was speedily
converted by them to the Roman Catholic faith. The apostasy of a
gentleman commoner would of course be for a time the chief
subject of conversation in the common room of Magdalene. His whim
about Arabic learning would naturally be mentioned, and would
give occasion to some jokes about the probability of his turning
Mussulman. If such jokes were made, Johnson, who frequently
visited Oxford, was very likely to hear of them.]

"It was in the year 1761," says Mr. Croker, "that Goldsmith
published his Vicar of Wakefield. This leads the editor to
observe a more serious inaccuracy of Mrs. Piozzi, than Mr.
Boswell notices, when he says Johnson left her table to go and
sell the Vicar of Wakefield for Goldsmith. Now Dr. Johnson was
not acquainted with the Thrales till 1765, four years after the
book had been published." [Vol. v. 409] Mr. Croker, in
reprehending the fancied inaccuracy of Mrs. Thrale, has himself
shown a degree of inaccuracy, or, to speak more properly, a
degree of ignorance, hardly credible. In the first place, Johnson
became acquainted with the Thrales, not in 1765, but in 1764, and
during the last weeks of 1764 dined with them every Thursday, as
is written in Mrs. Piozzi's anecdotes. In the second place,
Goldsmith published the Vicar of Wakefield, not in 1761, but in
1766. Mrs. Thrale does not pretend to remember the precise date
of the summons which called Johnson from her table to the help of
his friend. She says only that it was near the beginning of her
acquaintance with Johnson, and certainly not later than 1766. Her
accuracy is therefore completely vindicated. It was probably
after one of her Thursday dinners in 1764 that the celebrated
scene of the landlady, the sheriff's officer, and the bottle of
Madeira, took place. [This paragraph has been altered; and a
slight inaccuracy immaterial to the argument, has been removed.]

The very page which contains this monstrous blunder, contains
another blunder, if possible, more monstrous still. Sir Joseph
Mawbey, a foolish member of Parliament, at whose speeches and
whose pig-styes the wits of Brookes's were, fifty years ago, in
the habit of laughing most unmercifully, stated, on the authority
of Garrick, that Johnson, while sitting in a coffee-house at
Oxford, about the time of his doctor's degree, used some
contemptuous expressions respecting Home's play and Macpherson's
Ossian. "Many men," he said, "many women, and many children,
might have written Douglas." Mr. Croker conceives that he has
detected an inaccuracy, and glories over poor Sir Joseph in a
most characteristic manner. I have quoted this anecdote solely
with the view of showing to how little credit hearsay anecdotes
are in general entitled. Here is a story published by Sir Joseph
Mawbey, a member of the House of Commons, and a person every way
worthy of credit, who says he had it from Garrick. Now mark:
Johnson's visit to Oxford, about the time of his doctor's degree,
was in 1754, the first time he had been there since he left the
university. But Douglas was not acted till 1756, and Ossian not
published till 1760. All, therefore, that is new in Sir Joseph
Mawbey's story is false." [Vol. v. 409.] Assuredly we need not go
far to find ample proof that a member of the House of Commons may
commit a very gross error. Now mark, say we, in the language of
Mr. Croker. The fact is, that Johnson took his Master's degree in
1754, [i. 262.] and his Doctor's degree in 1775. [iii. 205.] In
the spring of 1776, [iii. 326.] he paid a visit to Oxford, and at
this visit a conversation respecting the works on Home and
Macpherson might have taken place, and, in all probability, did
take place. The only real objection to the story Mr. Croker has
missed. Boswell states, apparently on the best authority, that,
as early at least as the year 1763, Johnson, in conversation with
Blair, used the same expressions respecting Ossian, which Sir
Joseph represents him as having used respecting Douglas. [i.
405.] Sir Joseph, or Garrick, confounded, we suspect, the two
stories. But their error is venial, compared with that of Mr.

We will not multiply instances of this scandalous inaccuracy. It
is clear that a writer who, even when warned by the text on which
he is commenting, falls into such mistakes as these, is entitled
to no confidence whatever. Mr. Croker has committed an error of
five years with respect to the publication of Goldsmith's novel,
an error of twelve years with respect to the publication of part
of Gibbon's History, an error of twenty-one years with respect to
an event in Johnson's life so important as the taking of the
doctoral degree. Two of these three errors he has committed,
while ostentatiously displaying his own accuracy, and correcting
what he represents as the loose assertions of others. How can his
readers take on trust his statements concerning the births,
marriages, divorces, and deaths of a crowd of people, whose names
are scarcely known to this generation? It is not likely that a
person who is ignorant of what almost everybody knows can know
that of which almost everybody is ignorant. We did not open this
book with any wish to find blemishes in it. We have made no
curious researches. The work itself, and a very common knowledge
of literary and political history, have enabled us to detect the
mistakes which we have pointed out, and many other mistakes of
the same kind. We must say, and we say it with regret, that we do
not consider the authority of Mr. Croker, unsupported by other
evidence, as sufficient to justify any writer who may follow him
in relating a single anecdote or in assigning a date to a single

Mr. Croker shows almost as much ignorance and heedlessness in his
criticisms as in his statements concerning facts. Dr. Johnson
said, very reasonably as it appears to us, that some of the
satires of Juvenal are too gross for imitation. Mr. Croker, who,
by the way, is angry with Johnson for defending Prior's tales
against the charge of indecency, resents this aspersion on
Juvenal, and indeed refuses to believe that the doctor can have
said anything so absurd. "He probably said--some passages of
them--for there are none of Juvenal's satires to which the same
objection may be made as to one of Horace's, that it is
altogether gross and licentious." [Vol. i. 167.] Surely Mr.
Croker can never have read the second and ninth satires of

Indeed the decisions of this editor on points of classical
learning, though pronounced in a very authoritative tone, are
generally such that, if a schoolboy under our care were to utter
them, our soul assuredly should not spare for his crying. It is
no disgrace to a gentleman who has been engaged during near
thirty years in political life that he has forgotten his Greek
and Latin. But he becomes justly ridiculous if, when no longer
able to construe a plain sentence, he affects to sit in judgment
on the most delicate questions of style and metre. From one
blunder, a blunder which no good scholar would have made, Mr.
Croker was saved, as he informs us, by Sir Robert Peel, who
quoted a passage exactly in point from Horace. We heartily wish
that Sir Robert, whose classical attainments are well known, had
been more frequently consulted. Unhappily he was not always at
his friend's elbow; and we have therefore a rich abundance of the
strangest errors. Boswell has preserved a poor epigram by
Johnson, inscribed "Ad Lauram parituram." Mr. Croker censures the
poet for applying the word puella to a lady in Laura's situation,
and for talking of the beauty of Lucina. "Lucina," he says, "was
never famed for her beauty." [i. 133.] If Sir Robert Peel had
seen this note, he probably would have again refuted Mr. Croker's
criticisms by an appeal to Horace. In the secular ode, Lucina is
used as one of the names of Diana, and the beauty of Diana is
extolled by all the most orthodox doctors of the ancient
mythology, from Homer in his Odyssey, to Claudian in his Rape of
Proserpine. In another ode, Horace describes Diana as the goddess
who assists the "laborantes utero puellas." But we are ashamed to
detain our readers with this fourth-form learning.

Boswell found, in his tour to the Hebrides, an inscription
written by a Scotch minister. It runs thus: "Joannes Macleod,
etc. gentis suae Philarchus, etc Florae Macdonald matrimoniali
vinculo conjugatus turrem hanc Beganodunensem proaevorum
habitaculum longe vetustissimum, diu penitus labefactatam anno
aerae vulgaris MDCLXXXVI. instauravit."--"The minister," says Mr.
Croker, "seems to have been no contemptible Latinist. Is not
Philarchus a very happy term to express the paternal and kindly
authority of the head of a clan?" [ii. 458.] The composition of
this eminent Latinist, short as it is, contains several words
that are just as much Coptic as Latin, to say nothing of the
incorrect structure of the sentence. The word Philarchus, even if
it were a happy term expressing a paternal and kindly authority,
would prove nothing for the minister's Latin, whatever it might
prove for his Greek. But it is clear that the word Philarchus
means, not a man who rules by love, but a man who loves rule. The
Attic writers of the best age used the word philarchos in the
sense which we assign to it. Would Mr. Croker translate
philosophos, a man who acquires wisdom by means of love, or
philokerdes, a man who makes money by means of love? In fact, it
requires no Bentley or Casaubon to perceive that Philarchus is
merely a false spelling for Phylarchus, the chief of a tribe.

Mr. Croker has favoured us with some Greek of his own. "At the
altar," says Dr. Johnson, "I recommended my th ph." "These
letters," says the editor, "(which Dr. Strahan seems not to have
understood) probably mean phnetoi philoi, departed friends."
[Vol. iv. 251. An attempt was made to vindicate this blunder by
quoting a grossly corrupt passage from the Iketides of Euripides

bathi kai antiason gonaton, epi kheira balousa,
teknon te thnaton komisai demas.

The true reading, as every scholar knows, is teknon, tethneoton
komisai demas. Indeed without this emendation it would not be
easy to construe the words, even if thnaton could bear the
meaning which Mr. Croker assigns to it.] Johnson was not a first-
rate Greek scholar; but he knew more Greek than most boys when
they leave school; and no schoolboy could venture to use the word
thnetoi in the sense which Mr. Croker ascribes to it without
imminent danger of a flogging.

Mr. Croker has also given us a specimen of his skill in
translating Latin. Johnson wrote a note in which he consulted his
friend, Dr. Lawrence, on the propriety of losing some blood. The
note contains these words:--"Si per te licet, imperatur nuncio
Holderum ad me deducere." Johnson should rather have written
"imperatum est." But the meaning of the words is perfectly clear.
"If you say yes, the messenger has orders to bring Holder to me."
Mr. Croker translates the words as follows: "If you consent, pray
tell the messenger to bring Holder to me." [v. 17.] If Mr. Croker
is resolved to write on points of classical learning, we would
advise him to begin by giving an hour every morning to our old
friend Corderius.

Indeed we cannot open any volume of this work in any place, and
turn it over for two minutes in any direction, without lighting
on a blunder. Johnson, in his Life of Tickell, stated that a poem
entitled "The Royal Progress," which appears in the last volume
of the Spectator, was written on the accession of George I. The
word "arrival" was afterwards substituted for accession." "The
reader will observe," says Mr. Croker, that the Whig term
accession, which might imply legality, was altered into a
statement of the simple fact of King George's arrival." [iv.
425.] Now Johnson, though a bigoted Tory, was not quite such a
fool as Mr. Croker here represents him to be. In the Life of
Granville, Lord Lansdowne, which stands a very few pages from the
Life of Tickell, mention is made of the accession of Anne, and of
the accession of George I. The word arrival was used in the Life
of Tickell for the simplest of all reasons. It was used because
the subject of the poem called "The Royal Progress" was the
arrival of the king, and not his accession, which took place near
two months before his arrival.

The editor's want of perspicacity is indeed very amusing. He is
perpetually telling us that he cannot understand something in the
text which is as plain as language can make it. "Mattaire," said
Dr. Johnson, "wrote Latin verses from time to time, and published
a set in his old age, which he called Senilia, in which he shows
so little learning or taste in writing, as to make Carteret a
dactyl." [iv. 335.] Hereupon we have this note: "The editor does
not understand this objection, nor the following observation."
The following observation, which Mr. Croker cannot understand, is
simply this: "In matters of genealogy," says Johnson, "it is
necessary to give the bare names as they are. But in poetry and
in prose of any elegance in the writing, they require to have
inflection given to them." If Mr. Croker had told Johnson that
this was unintelligible, the doctor would probably have replied,
as he replied on another occasion, "I have found you a reason,
sir; I am not bound to find you an understanding." Everybody who
knows anything of Latinity knows that, in genealogical tables,
Joannes Baro de Carteret, or Vice-comes de Carteret, may be
tolerated, but that in compositions which pretend to elegance,
Carteretus, or some other form which admits of inflection, ought
to be used.

All our readers have doubtless seen the two distichs of Sir
William Jones, respecting the division of the time of a lawyer.
One of the distichs is translated from some old Latin lines; the
other is original. The former runs thus:

"Six hours to sleep, to law's grave study six,
Four spend in prayer, the rest on nature fix."

Rather," says Sir William Jones,

"Six hours to law, to soothing slumbers seven,
Ten to the world allot, and all to heaven."

The second couplet puzzles Mr. Croker strangely. "Sir William,"
says he, "has shortened his day to twenty-three hours, and the
general advice of "all to heaven," destroys the peculiar
appropriation of a certain period to religious exercises." [v.
233.] Now we did not think that it was in human dullness
to miss the meaning of the lines so completely. Sir William
distributes twenty-three hours among various employments. One
hour is thus left for devotion. The reader expects that the verse
will end with "and one to heaven." The whole point of the lines
consist in the unexpected substitution of "all" for "one." The
conceit is wretched enough, but it is perfectly intelligible, and
never, we will venture to say, perplexed man, woman, or child

Poor Tom Davies, after failing in business, tried to live by his
pen. Johnson called him "an author generated by the corruption of
a bookseller." This is a very obvious, and even a commonplace
allusion to the famous dogma of the old physiologists. Dryden
made a similar allusion to that dogma before Johnson was born.
Mr. Croker, however, is unable to understand what the doctor
meant. "The expression," he says, "seems not quite clear." And he
proceeds to talk about the generation of insects, about bursting
into gaudier life, and Heaven knows what. [Vol. iv. 323.]

There is a still stranger instance of the editor's talent for
finding out difficulty in what is perfectly plain. "No man," said
Johnson, "can now be made a bishop for his learning and piety."
"From this too just observation," says Boswell, "there are some
eminent exceptions." Mr. Croker is puzzled by Boswell's very
natural and simple language. "That a general observation should
be pronounced too just, by the very person who admits that it is
not universally just, is not a little odd." [2 iii. 228.]

A very large proportion of the two thousand five hundred notes
which the editor boasts of having added to those of Boswell and
Malone consists of the flattest and poorest reflections,
reflections such as the least intelligent reader is quite
competent to make for himself, and such as no intelligent reader
would think it worth while to utter aloud. They remind us of
nothing so much as of those profound and interesting annotations
which are pencilled by sempstresses and apothecaries' boys on the
dog-eared margins of novels borrowed from circulating libraries;
" How beautiful!" "Cursed prosy!" "I don't like Sir Reginald
Malcolm at all." "I think Pelham is a sad dandy." Mr. Croker is
perpetually stopping us in our progress through the most
delightful narrative in the language, to observe that really Dr.
Johnson was very rude, that he talked more for victory than for
truth, that his taste for port wine with capillaire in it was
very odd, that Boswell was impertinent, that it was foolish in
Mrs. Thrale to marry the music-master; and so forth.

We cannot speak more favourably of the manner in which the notes
are written than of the matter of which they consist. We find in
every page words used in wrong senses, and constructions which
violate the plainest rules of grammar. We have the vulgarism of
"mutual friend," for "common friend." We have "fallacy" used as
synonymous with "falsehood." We have many such inextricable
labyrinths of pronouns as that which follows: "Lord Erskine was
fond of this anecdote; he told it to the editor the first time
that he had the honour of being in his company." Lastly, we have
a plentiful supply of sentences resembling those which we
subjoin. "Markland, who, with Jortin and Thirlby, Johnson calls
three contemporaries of great eminence." [iv. 377.] "Warburton
himself did not feel, as Mr. Boswell was disposed to think he
did, kindly or gratefully of Johnson." [iv. 415.] "It was him
that Horace Walpole called a man who never made a bad figure but
as an author." [ii. 461.] One or two of these solecisms should
perhaps be attributed to the printer, who has certainly done his
best to fill both the text and the notes with all sorts of
blunders. In truth, he and the editor have between them made the
book so bad, that we do not well see how it could have been

When we turn from the commentary of Mr. Croker to the work of our
old friend Boswell, we find it not only worse printed than in any
other edition with which we are acquainted, but mangled in the
most wanton manner. Much that Boswell inserted in his narrative
is, without the shadow of a reason, degraded to the appendix. The
editor has also taken upon himself to alter or omit passages
which he considers as indecorous. This prudery is quite
unintelligible to us. There is nothing immoral in Boswell's book,
nothing which tends to inflame the passions. He sometimes uses
plain words. But if this be a taint which requires expurgation,
it would be desirable to begin by expurgating the morning and
evening lessons. The delicate office which Mr. Croker has
undertaken he has performed in the most capricious manner. One
strong, old-fashioned, English word, familiar to all who read
their Bibles, is changed for a sober synonym in some passages,
and suffered to stand unaltered in others. In one place a faint
allusion made by Johnson to an indelicate subject, an allusion so
faint that, till Mr. Croker's note pointed it out to us, we had
never noticed it, and of which we are quite sure that the meaning
would never be discovered by any of those for whose sake books
are expurgated, is altogether omitted. In another place, a coarse
and stupid jest of Dr. Taylor on the same subject, expressed in
the broadest language, almost the only passage, as far as we
remember, in all Boswell's book, which we should have been
inclined to leave out, is suffered to remain.

We complain, however, much more of the additions than of the
omissions. We have half of Mrs. Thrale's book, scraps of Mr.
Tyers, scraps of Mr. Murphy, scraps of Mr. Cradock, long prosings
of Sir John Hawkins, and connecting observations by Mr. Croker
himself, inserted into the midst of Boswell's text. To this
practice we most decidedly object. An editor might as well
publish Thucydides with extracts from Diodorus interspersed, or
incorporate the Lives of Suetonius with the History and Annals of
Tacitus. Mr. Croker tells us, indeed, that he has done only what
Boswell wished to do, and was prevented from doing by the law of
copyright. We doubt this greatly. Boswell has studiously
abstained from availing himself of the information given by his
rivals, on many occasions on which he might have cited them
without subjecting himself to the charge of piracy. Mr. Croker
has himself, on one occasion, remarked very justly that Boswell
was unwilling to owe any obligation to Hawkins. But, be this as
it may, if Boswell had quoted from Sir John and from Mrs. Thrale,
he would have been guided by his own taste and judgment in
selecting his quotations. On what Boswell quoted he would have
commented with perfect freedom; and the borrowed passages, so
selected, and accompanied by such comments, would have become
original. They would have dovetailed into the work. No hitch, no
crease, would have been discernible. The whole would appear one
and indivisible.

"Ut per laeve severos
Effundat junctura ungues."

This is not the case with Mr. Croker's insertions. They are not
chosen as Boswell would have chosen them. They are not introduced
as Boswell would have introduced them. They differ from the
quotations scattered through the original Life of Johnson, as a
withered bough stuck in the ground differs from a tree skilfully
transplanted with all its life about it.

Not only do these anecdotes disfigure Boswell's book; they are
themselves disfigured by being inserted in his book. The charm of
Mrs. Thrale's little volume is utterly destroyed. The feminine
quickness of observation, the feminine softness of heart, the
colloquial incorrectness and vivacity of style, the little
amusing airs of a half-learned lady, the delightful garrulity,
the "dear Doctor Johnson," the "it was so comical," all disappear
in Mr. Croker's quotations. The lady ceases to speak in the first
person; and her anecdotes, in the process of transfusion, become
as flat as Champagne in decanters, or Herodotus in Beloe's
version. Sir John Hawkins, it is true, loses nothing; and for the
best of reasons. Sir John Hawkins has nothing to lose.

The course which Mr. Croker ought to have taken is quite clear.
He should have reprinted Boswell's narrative precisely as Boswell
wrote it; and in the notes or the appendix he should have placed
any anecdote which he might have thought it advisable to quote
from other writers. This would have been a much more convenient
course for the reader, who has now constantly to keep his eye on
the margin in order to see whether he is perusing Boswell, Mrs.
Thrale, Murphy, Hawkins, Tyers, Cradock, or Mr. Croker. We
greatly doubt whether even the Tour to the Hebrides ought to have
been inserted in the midst of the Life. There is one marked
distinction between the two works. Most of the Tour was seen by
Johnson in manuscript. It does not appear that he ever saw any
part of the Life.

We love, we own, to read the great productions of the human mind
as they were written. We have this feeling even about scientific
treatises; though we know that the sciences are always in a state
of progression, and that the alterations made by a modern editor
in an old book on any branch of natural or political philosophy
are likely to be improvements. Some errors have been detected by
writers of this generation in the speculations of Adam Smith. A
short cut has been made to much knowledge at which Sir Isaac
Newton arrived through arduous and circuitous paths. Yet we still
look with peculiar veneration on the Wealth of Nations and on the
Principia, and should regret to see either of those great works
garbled even by the ablest hands. But in works which owe much of
their interest to the character and situation of the writers, the
case is infinitely stronger. What man of taste and feeling can
endure rifacimenti, harmonies, abridgments, expurgated editions?
Who ever reads a stage-copy of a play when he can procure the
original? Who ever cut open Mrs. Siddons's Milton? Who ever got
through ten pages of Mr. Gilpin's translation of John Bunyan's
Pilgrim into modern English? Who would lose, in the confusion
of a Diatessaron, the peculiar charm which belongs to the
of the disciple whom Jesus loved? The feeling of a reader who has
become intimate with any great original work is that which Adam
expressed towards his bride:

"Should God create another Eve, and I
Another rib afford, yet loss of thee
Would never from my heart."

No substitute, however exquisitely formed, will fill the void
left by the original. The second beauty may be equal or superior
to the first; but still it is not she.

The reasons which Mr. Croker has given for incorporating passages
from Sir John Hawkins and Mrs. Thrale with the narrative of
Boswell, would vindicate the adulteration of half the classical
works in the language. If Pepys's Diary and Mrs. Hutchinson's
Memoirs had been published a hundred years ago, no human being
can doubt that Mr. Hume would have made great use of those books
in his History of England. But would it, on that account, be
judicious in a writer of our own times to publish an edition of
Hume's History of England, in which large extracts from Pepys and
Mrs. Hutchinson should be incorporated with the original text?
Surely not. Hume's history, be its faults what they may, is now
one great entire work, the production of one vigorous mind,
working on such materials as were within its reach. Additions
made by another hand may supply a particular deficiency, but
would grievously injure the general effect. With Boswell's book
the case is stronger. There is scarcely, in the whole compass of
literature, a book which bears interpolation so ill. We know no
production of the human mind which has so much of what may be
called the race, so much of the peculiar flavour of the soil from
which it sprang. The work could never have been written if the
writer had not been precisely what he was. His character is
displayed in every page, and this display of character gives a
delightful interest to many passages which have no other

The Life of Johnson is assuredly a great, a very great work.
Homer is not more decidedly the first of heroic poets, Shakspeare
is not more decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes is not
more decidedly the first of orators, than Boswell is the first of
biographers. He has no second. He has distanced all his
competitors so decidedly that it is not worth while to place
them. Eclipse is first, and the rest nowhere.

We are not sure that there is in the whole history of the human
intellect so strange a phaenomenon as this book. Many of the
greatest men that ever lived have written biography. Boswell was
one of the smallest men that ever lived, and he has beaten them
all. He was, if we are to give any credit to his own account or
to the united testimony of all who knew him, a man of the meanest
and feeblest intellect. Johnson described him as a fellow who had
missed his only chance of immortality by not having been alive
when the Dunciad was written. Beauclerk used his name as a
proverbial expression for a bore. He was the laughing-stock of
the whole of that brilliant society which has owed to him the
greater part of its fame. He was always laying himself at the
feet of some eminent man, and begging to be spit upon and
trampled upon. He was always earning some ridiculous nickname,
and then "binding it as a crown unto him," not merely in
metaphor, but literally. He exhibited himself, at the Shakspeare
Jubilee, to all the crowd which filled Stratford-on-Avon, with a
placard round his hat bearing the inscription of Corsica Boswell.
In his Tour, he proclaimed to all the world that at Edinburgh he
was known by the appellation of Paoli Boswell. Servile and
impertinent, shallow and pedantic, a bigot and a sot, bloated
with family pride, and eternally blustering about the dignity of
a born gentleman, yet stooping to be a talebearer, an
eavesdropper, a common butt in the taverns of London, so curious
to know everybody who was talked about, that, Tory and High
Churchman as he was, he manoeuvred, we have been told, for an
introduction to Tom Paine, so vain of the most childish
distinctions, that when he had been to Court, he drove to the
office where his book was printing without changing his clothes,
and summoned all the printer's devils to admire his new ruffles
and sword; such was this man, and such he was content and proud
to be. Everything which another man would have hidden, everything
the publication of which would have made another man hang
himself, was matter of gay and clamorous exultation to his weak
and diseased mind. What silly things he said, what bitter retorts
he provoked, how at one place he was troubled with evil
presentiments which came to nothing, how at another place, on
waking from a drunken doze, he read the prayer-book and took a
hair of the dog that had bitten him, how he went to see men
hanged and came away maudlin, how he added five hundred pounds to
the fortune of one of his babies because she was not scared at
Johnson's ugly face, how was frightened out of his wits at sea,
and how the sailors quieted him as they would have quieted a
child, how tipsy he was at Lady Cork's one evening and how much
his merriment annoyed the ladies, how impertinent he was to the
Duchess of Argyll and with what stately contempt she put down his
impertinence, how Colonel Macleod sneered to his face at his
impudent obtrusiveness, how his father and the very wife of his
bosom laughed and fretted at his fooleries; all these things he
proclaimed to all the world, as if they had been subjects for
pride and ostentatious rejoicing. All the caprices of his temper,
all the illusions of his vanity, all his hypochondriac whimsies,
all his castles in the air, he displayed with a cool self-
complacency, a perfect unconsciousness that he was making a fool
of himself, to which it is impossible to find a parallel in the
whole history of mankind. He has used many people ill; but
assuredly he has used nobody so ill as himself.

That such a man should have written one of the best books in the
world is strange enough. But this is not all. Many persons who
have conducted themselves foolishly in active life, and whose
conversation has indicated no superior powers of mind, have left
us valuable works. Goldsmith was very justly described by one of
his contemporaries as an inspired idiot, and by another as a

"Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll."

La Fontaine was in society a mere simpleton. His blunders would
not come in amiss among the stories of Hierocles. But these men
attained literary eminence in spite of their weaknesses. Boswell
attained it by reason of his weaknesses. If he had not been a
great fool, he would never have been a great writer. Without all
the qualities which made him the jest and the torment of those
among whom he lived, without the officiousness, the
inquisitiveness, the effrontery, the toad-eating, the
insensibility to all reproof, he never could have produced so
excellent a book. He was a slave, proud of his servitude, a Paul
Pry, convinced that his own curiosity and garrulity were virtues,
an unsafe companion who never scrupled to repay the most liberal
hospitality by the basest violation of confidence, a man without
delicacy, without shame, without sense enough to know when he was
hurting the feelings of others or when he was exposing himself to
derision; and because he was all this, he has, in an important
department of literature, immeasurably surpassed such writers as
Tacitus, Clarendon, Alfieri, and his own idol Johnson.

Of the talents which ordinarily raise men to eminence as writers,
Boswell had absolutely none. There is not in all his books a
single remark of his own on literature, politics, religion, or
society, which is not either commonplace or absurd. His
dissertations on hereditary gentility, on the slave-trade, and on
the entailing of landed estates, may serve as examples. To say
that these passages are sophistical would be to pay them an
extravagant compliment. They have no pretence to argument, or
even to meaning. He has reported innumerable observations made by
himself in the course of conversation. Of those observations we
do not remember one which is above the intellectual capacity of a
boy of fifteen. He has printed many of his own letters, and in
these letters he is always ranting or twaddling. Logic,
eloquence, wit, taste, all those things which are generally
considered as making a book valuable, were utterly wanting to
him. He had, indeed, a quick observation and a retentive memory.
These qualities, if he had been a man of sense and virtue would
scarcely of themselves have sufficed to make him conspicuous; but
because he was a dunce, a parasite, and a coxcomb, they have made
him immortal.

Those parts of his book which, considered abstractedly, are most
utterly worthless, are delightful when we read them as
illustrations of the character of the writer. Bad in themselves,
they are good dramatically, like the nonsense of justice Shallow,
the clipped English of Dr. Caius, or the misplaced consonants of
Fluellen. Of all confessors, Boswell is the most candid. Other
men who have pretended to lay open their own hearts, Rousseau,
for example, and Lord Byron, have evidently written with a
constant view to effect, and are to be then most distrusted when
they seem to be most sincere. There is scarcely any man who would
not rather accuse himself of great crimes and of dark and
tempestuous passions than proclaim all his little vanities and
wild fancies. It would be easier to find a person who would avow
actions like those of Caesar Borgia, or Danton, than one who
would publish a daydream like those of Alnaschar and Malvolio.
Those weaknesses which most men keep covered up in the most
secret places of the mind, not to be disclosed to the eye of
friendship or of love, were precisely the weaknesses which
Boswell paraded before all the world. He was perfectly frank,
because the weakness of his understanding and the tumult of his
spirits prevented him from knowing when he made himself
ridiculous. His book resembles nothing so much as the
conversation of the inmates of the Palace of Truth.

His fame is great; and it will, we have no doubt, be lasting; but
it is fame of a peculiar kind, and indeed marvellously resembles
infamy. We remember no other case in which the world has made so
great a distinction between a book and its author. In general,
the book and the author are considered as one. To admire the book
is to admire the author. The case of Boswell is an exception, we
think the only exception, to this rule. His work is universally
allowed to be interesting, instructive, eminently original: yet
it has brought him nothing but contempt. All the world reads it,
all the world delights in it: yet we do not remember ever to have
read or ever to have heard any expression of respect and
admiration for the man to whom we owe so much instruction and
amusement. While edition after edition of his book was coming
forth, his son, as Mr. Croker tells us, was ashamed of it, and
hated to hear it mentioned. This feeling was natural and
reasonable. Sir Alexander saw that in proportion to the celebrity
of the work, was the degradation of the author. The very editors
of this unfortunate gentleman's books have forgotten their
allegiance, and, like those Puritan casuists who took arms by the
authority of the king against his person, have attacked the
writer while doing homage to the writings. Mr. Croker, for
example, has published two thousand five hundred notes on the
life of Johnson, and yet scarcely ever mentions the biographer,
whose performance he has taken such pains to illustrate, without
some expression of contempt.

An ill-natured man Boswell certainly was not. Yet the malignity
of the most malignant satirist could scarcely cut deeper than his
thoughtless loquacity. Having himself no sensibility to derision
and contempt, he took it for granted that all others were equally
callous. He was not ashamed to exhibit himself to the whole world
as a common spy, a common tattler, a humble companion without the
excuse of poverty, and to tell a hundred stories of his own
pertness and folly, and of the insults which his pertness and
folly brought upon him. It was natural that he should show little
discretion in cases in which the feelings or the honour of others
might be concerned. No man, surely, ever published such stories
respecting persons whom he professed to love and revere. He would
infallibly have made his hero as contemptible as he has made
himself, had not his hero really possessed some moral and
intellectual qualities of a very high order. The best proof that
Johnson was really an extraordinary man is that his character,
instead of being degraded, has, on the whole, been decidedly
raised by a work in which all his vices and weaknesses are
exposed more unsparingly than they ever were exposed by Churchill
or by Kenrick.

Johnson grown old, Johnson in the fulness of his fame and in the
enjoyment of a competent fortune, is better known to us than any
other man in history. Everything about him, his coat, his wig,
his figure, his face, his scrofula, his St. Vitus's dance, his
rolling walk, his blinking eye, the outward signs which too
clearly marked his approbation of his dinner, his insatiable
appetite for fish-sauce and veal-pie with plums, his
inextinguishable thirst for tea, his trick of touching the posts
as he walked, his mysterious practice of treasuring up scraps of
orange-peel, his morning slumbers, his midnight disputations, his
contortions, his mutterings, his gruntings, his puffings, his
vigorous, acute, and ready eloquence, his sarcastic wit, his
vehemence, his insolence, his fits of tempestuous rage, his queer
inmates, old Mr. Levett and blind Mrs. Williams, the cat Hodge
and the negro Frank, all are as familiar to us as the objects by
which we have been surrounded from childhood.

But we have no minute information respecting those years of
Johnson's life during which his character and his manners became
immutably fixed. We know him, not as he was known to the men of
his own generation, but as he was known to men whose father he
might have been. That celebrated club of which he was the most
distinguished member contained few persons who could remember a
time when his fame was not fully established and his habits
completely formed. He had made himself a name in literature while
Reynolds and the Wartons were still boys. He was about twenty
years older than Burke, Goldsmith, and Gerard Hamilton, about
thirty years older than Gibbon, Beauclerk, and Langton, and about
forty years older than Lord Stowell, Sir William Jones, and
Windham. Boswell and Mrs. Thrale, the two writers from whom we
derive most of our knowledge respecting him, never saw him till
long after he was fifty years old, till most of his great works
had become classical, and till the pension bestowed on him by the
Crown had placed him above poverty. Of those eminent men who were
his most intimate associates towards the close of his life, the
only one, as far as we remember, who knew him during the first
ten or twelve years of his residence in the capital, was David
Garrick; and it does not appear that, during those years, David
Garrick saw much of his fellow-townsman.

Johnson came up to London precisely at the time when the
condition of a man of letters was most miserable and degraded. It
was a dark night between two sunny days. The age of patronage had
passed away. The age of general curiosity and intelligence had
not arrived. The number of readers is at present so great that a
popular author may subsist in comfort and opulence on the profits
of his works. In the reigns of William the Third, of Anne, and of
George the First, even such men as Congreve and Addison would
scarcely have been able to live like gentlemen by the mere sale
of their writings. But the deficiency of the natural demand for
literature was, at the close of the seventeenth and at the
beginning of the eighteenth century, more than made up by
artificial encouragement, by a vast system of bounties and
premiums. There was, perhaps, never a time at which the rewards
of literary merit were so splendid, at which men who could write
well found such easy admittance into the most distinguished
society, and to the highest honours of the State. The chiefs of
both the great parties into which the kingdom was divided,
patronised literature with emulous munificence. Congreve, when he
had scarcely attained his majority, was rewarded for his first
comedy with places which made him independent for life. Smith,
though his Hippolytus and Phaedra failed, would have been
consoled with three hundred a year but for his own folly. Rowe
was not only Poet Laureate, but also land-surveyor of the customs
in the port of London, clerk of the council to the Prince of
Wales, and secretary of the Presentations to the Lord Chancellor.
Hughes was secretary to the Commissions of the Peace. Ambrose
Philips was judge of the Prerogative Court in Ireland. Locke was
Commissioner of Appeals and of the Board of Trade. Newton was
Master of the Mint. Stepney and Prior were employed in embassies
of high dignity and importance. Gay, who commenced life as
apprentice to a silk mercer, became a secretary of legation at
five-and-twenty. It was to a poem on the death of Charles the
Second, and to the City and Country Mouse, that Montague owed his
introduction into public life, his earldom, his garter, and his
Auditorship of the Exchequer. Swift, but for the unconquerable


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