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any degree worth preserving, in order to reprint and pub-, lish the whole in a collection, called "The Harleian Miscellany." The catalogue was completed; and the Miscellany, in 1749, was published in eight quarto volumes. In this business Johnson was a day labourer for immediate subsistence, not unlike Gustavus Vasa, working in the mines of Dalicarlia. What Wilcox, a bookseller of eminence in the Strand, said to Johnson, on his first arrival in town, was now almost confirmed. He lent our author five guineas, and then asked him, "How do you mean to earn your livelihood in this town?" "By my literary labours," was the answer. Wilcox, staring at him, shook his head; "By your literary labours! You had better buy a porter's knot." Johnson used to tell this anecdote to Mr. Nichols ; but he said, "Wilcox was one of my best friends, and he meant well." In fact, Johnson, while employed in Gray's Inn, may be said to have carried a porter's knot. He paused occasionally to peruse the book that came to his hand. Osborne thought that such curiosity tended to nothing but delay, and objected to it with all the pride and insolence of a man, who knew that he paid daily wages. In the dispute that of course ensued, Osborne, with that roughness which was natural to him, enforced his argument by giving the lie. Johnson seized a folio, and knocked the bookseller down. This story has been related as an instance of Johnson's ferocity; but merit cannot always take the spurns of the unworthy with a patient spirit.*

*Mr. Boswell says, "The simple truth I had from Johnson himself. Sir, he was impertinent to me, and I beat him. But it was not in his shop; it was in my own chamber."

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That the history of an author must be found in his works is, in general, a true observation; and was never more apparent than in the present narrative. Every era of Johnson's life is fixed by his writings. In 1744, he published the life of Savage; and then projected a new edition of Shakspeare. As a prelude to this design, he published in 1745, Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir Thomas Hanmers edition; to which were prefixed, Proposals for a new Edition of Shakspeare, with a specimen. Of this pamphlet Warburton, in the preface to Shakspeare, has given his opinion; "As to all those things, which have been published under the title of Essays, Remarks, Observations, &c. on Shakspeare, if you except some critical notes on Macbeth, given as a specimen of a projected edition, and written, as appears, by a man of parts and genius, the rest are absolutely below a serious notice." But the attention of the public was not excited; there was no friend to promote a subscription; and the project died to revive at a future day. A new undertaking, however, was soon after proposed; namely, an English Dictionary upon an enlarged plan. Several of the most opulent booksellers had meditated a work of this kind; and the agreement was soon adjusted between the parties. Emboldened by this connection, Johnson thought of a better habitation than he had hitherto known. He had lodged with his wife in courts and alleys about the Strand; but now, for the purpose of carrying on his arduous undertaking, and to be nearer his printer and friend Mr. Strahan, he ventured to take a house in Gough Square, Fleet Street. He was told that the Earl

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of Chesterfield was a friend to his undertaking; and in consequence of that intelligence, he published, in 1747, The Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language, addressed to the Right Honourable Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State. Mr. Whitehead, afterwards Poet Laureat, undertook to convey the manuscript to his lordship; the consequence was an invitation from Lord Chesterfield to the author. A stronger contrast of characters could not be brought together; the nobleman celebrated for his wit, and all the graces of polite behaviour; the author, conscious of his own merit, towering in idea above all compe; tition, versed in scholastic logic, but a stranger to the arts of polite conversation, uncouth, vehement, and vociferous. The coalition was too unnatural. Johnson expected a Mecenas, and was disappointed. No patronage, no assistance followed. Visits were repeated; but the reception was not cordial. Johnson one day was left a full hour, waiting in an anti chamber, till a gentleman should retire, and leave his lordship at leisure. This was the famous Colley Cibber. Johnson saw him go, and fired with indignation, rushed out of the house.* What Lord Chesterfield thought of his visitor may be seen in a passage in one of that nobleman's letters to his son.f “There is a man, whose moral character, deep learning, and superior parts, I acknowledge, admire, and respect; but whom it is so impossible for me to love, that I am almost in a fever whenever I am in his company. His

* Dr. Johnson denies the whole of this story. See Boswell's Life, vol. i. p. 128. Oct. Edit. 1804. C.

Letter CCXII.


n 174

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eft a f

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was th

and fire

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means to carve.

figure, without being deformed, seems made to disgrace
or ridicule the common structure of the human body.
His legs and arms are never in the position which, ac-
cording to the situation of his body, they ought to be in,
but constantly employed in committing acts of hostility up-
on the graces. He throws any where, but down his throat,
whatever he means to drink; and mangles what he
Inattentive to all the regards of social
life, he mistimes, and misplaces every thing. He dis-
putes with heat indiscriminately, mindless of the rank,
character, and situation of those with whom he disputes.
Absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of familiar-
ity and respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors,
his equals, and his inferiors; and therefore, by a neces-
sary consequence, is absurd to two of the three. Is it
possible to love such a man? No. The utmost I can
do for him is, to consider him a respectable Hottentot."
Such was the idea entertained by Lord Chesterfield.
After the incident of Colley Cibber, Johnson never re-
peated his visits. In his high and decisive tone, he has
been often heard to say, "Lord Chesterfield is a wit
among the lords, and a lord among the wits."

In the course of the year 1747, Garrick, in conjunc-
tion with Lacy, became patentee of Drury Lane play-
house. For the opening of the theatre, at the usual
time, Johnson wrote for his friend the well known pro-
logue, which, to say no more of it, may at least be placed
on a level with Pope's, to the tragedy of Cato. The
playhouse being now under Garrick's direction, Johnson
thought the opportunity fair to think of his tragedy of
Irene, which was his whole stock on his first arrival in

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town, in the year 1737. That play was accordingly put into rehearsal in January, 1749. As a precursor to prepare the way, and to awaken the public attention, The Vanity of Human Wishes, a Poem in Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, by the author of London, was published in the same month. In the Gentleman's Magazine, for February, 1749, we find that the tragedy of Irene was acted at Drury Lane, on Monday, February the 6th. and from that time, without interruption, to Monday, February the 20th. being in all thirteen nights. Since that time it has not been exhibited on any stage. Irene may be added to some other plays in our language, which have lost their place in the theatre, but continue to please in the closet. During the representation of this piece, Johnson attended every night behind the scenes. Conceiving that his character as an author required some ornament for his person, he chose, upon that occasion, to decorate himself with a handsome waistcoat, and a gold laced hat. The late Mr. Topham Beauclerc, who had a great deal of that humour which pleases the more for seeming undesigned, used to give a pleasant description of this green room finery, as related by the author himself; "But," said Johnson, with great gravity, I soon laid aside my gold laced hat, lest it should make me proud." The amount of the three benefit nights for the tragedy of Irene, it is to be feared, was not very considerable, as the profit, that stimulating motive, never invited the author to another dramatic attempt. Some years afterwards, when the present writer was intimate with Garrick, and knew Johnson to be in distress, he asked the manager why he did not produce


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