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antechamber, for which the reason assigned was, that he had company with him; and that at last, when the door opened, out walked Colley Cibber; and that Johnson was so violently provoked when he found for whom he had been so long excluded, that he went away in a passion, and never would return. I remember having mentioned this story to George Lord Lyttelton, who told me he was very intimate with Lord Chesterfield ; and, holding it as a wellknown truth, defended Lord Chesterfield by saying, that “ Cibber, who had been introduced familiarly by the back-stairs, had probably not been there above ten minutes.” It may seem strange even to entertain a doubt concerning a story so long and so widely current, and thus implicitly adopted, if not sanctioned, by the authority which I have mentioned; but Johnson himself assured me, that there was not the least foundation for it. () He told me, that there never was any particular incident which produced a quarrel between Lord Chesterfield and him; but that his lordship’s continued neglect was the reason why he resolved to have no connection with him.
When the Dictionary was upon the eve of publication, Lord Chesterfield, who, it is said, had flattered himself with expectations that Johnson would dedicate the work to him, attempted, in a courtly manner, to soothe and insinuate himself with the sage, conscious, as it should seem, of the cold in
(1) Mr. Croker observes, that some expressions in Dr. Johnson's celebrated letter (see p. 8. post) seem, nevertheless, to give colour to the story of his being detained in the anteroom; and it must be remembered, that, at this period, Hawkins, whose edition of the story is attacked by Boswell, was in constant habits of intercourse with Johnson.]
difference with which he had treated its learned author; and further attempted to conciliate him, by writing two papers in “ The World,” in recommend ation of the work: and it must be confessed, that they contain some studied compliments, so finely turned, that if there had been no previous offence, it is probable that Johnson would have been highly delighted. Praise, in general, was pleasing to him; but by praise from a man of rank and elegant accomplishments, he was peculiarly gratified. His Lordship says,
“I think the public in general, and the republic of letters in particular, are greatly obliged to Mr. Johnson for having undertaken and executed so great and desirable a work. Perfection is not to be expected from man; but if we are to judge by the various works of Johnson already published, we have good reason to believe, that he will bring this as near to perfection as any man could do. The Plan of it, which he published some years ago, seems to me to be a proof of it. Nothing can be more rationally imagined, or more accurately and elegantly expressed. I therefore recommend the previous perusal of it to all those who intend to buy the Dictionary, and who, I suppose, are all those who can afford it.'
“ It must be owned, that our language is, at present, in a state of anarchy, and hitherto, perhaps, it may not have been the worse for it. During our free and open trade, many words and expressions have been imported, adopted, and naturalised from other languages, which have greatly enriched our own. serve what real strength and beauty it may have bor. rowed from others; but let it not, like the Tarpeian maid, be overwhelmed and crushed by unnecessary ornaments. The time for discrimination seems to be
Let it still pre
now come. Toleration, adoption, and naturalisation have run their lengths. Good order and authority are now necessary.
But where shall we find them, and, at the same time, the obedience due to them? We must have recourse to the old Roman expedient in times of confusion, and choose a dictator. Upon this principle, I give my vote for Mr. Johnson to fill that great and arduous post. And I hereby declare, that I make a total surrender of all my rights and privileges in the English language, as a free-born British subject, to the said Mr. Johnson, during the term of his dictatorship. Nay, more ; I will not only obey him like an old Roman, as my dictator, but, like a modern Roman, I will implicitly believe in him as my Pope, and hold him to be infallible while in the chair, but no longer. More than this he cannot well require ; for, I presume that obedience can never be expected, when there is neither terror to enforce, nor interest to invite it.”
“But a Grammar, a Dictionary, and a History of our language through its several stages, were still wanting at home, and importunately called for from abroad. Mr. Johnson's labours will now, I dare say, very fully supply that want, and greatly contribute to the farther spreading of our language in other countries. Learners were discouraged, by finding no standard to resort to ; and, consequently, thought it incapable of any. They will now be undeceived and encouraged."
This courtly device failed of its effect. Johnson, who thought that “all was false and hollow," despised the honeyed words, and was even indignant that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine that he could be the dupe of such an artifice. His expression to me concerning Lord Chesterfield, upon this occasion, was, “ Sir, after making great professions, he had, for many years, taken no notice of me; but when my Dictionary was coming out, he fell a scribbling in • The World' about it. Upon which, I wrote him a letter expressed in civil terms, but such as might show him that I did not mind what he said or wrote, and that I had done with him.”
This is that celebrated letter of which so much has been said, and about which curiosity has been so long excited, without being gratified. I for many years solicited Johnson to favour me with a copy of it, that so excellent a composition might not be lost to posterity. He delayed from time to time to give it me (1); till at last, in 1781, when we were on a visit at Mr. Dilly's, at Southhill in Bedfordshire, he was pleased to dictate it to me from memory. He afterwards found among his papers a copy of it, which he had dictated to Mr. Baretti, with its title and corrections, in his own hand-writing. This he gave to Mr. Langton; adding, that if it were to come into print, he wished it to be from that copy. By Mr. Langton's kindness, I am enabled to enrich my work with a perfect transcript of what the world has so eagerly desired to see.
(1) Dr. Johnson appeared to have had a remarkable delicacy with respect to the circulation of this letter; for Dr. Douglas, bishop of Salisbury, informs me, that having many years ago pressed him to be allowed to read it to the second Lord Hardwicke, who was very desirous to hear it (promising at the same time that no copy of it should be taken), Johnson seemed much pleased that it had attracted the attention of a nobleman of such a respectable character; but after pausing some time, declined to comply with the request, saying, with a smile, “ No, Sir; I. have hurt the dog too much already;” or words to that purpose. -- BOSWELL.
LETTER 25. TO THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD.
“ February 7. 1755. “My LORD,—I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of 'The World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honour, which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
“ When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre; — that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending ; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. (1) When I had once addressed your lordship
(1) Johnson's personal manners and habits, even at a later and more polished period of his life, would probably not have been much to Lord Chesterfield's taste; but it must be remembered, that Johnson's introduction to Lord Chesterfield did not take place till his lordship was past fifty, and he was soon after attacked by a disease which estranged him from society. The neglect lasted, it is charged, from 1748 to 1755: his private letters to his most intimate friends will prove that during that period Lord Chesterfield may be excused for not cultivating Johnson's society: - e. g. 20th Jan. 1749. “ My old disorder in my head hindered me from acknowledging your
former letters.” 30th June, 1752. “ I am here in my hermitage, very deaf, and consequently alone ; but I am less dejected than most people in my situation would be." 10th Oct. 1753. “ I belong no more to social life.” 16th Nov. 1753. “ I know my place and form my plan accordingly, for I strike society out of it.”. 10th July, 1755. i My deafness is extremely increased, and daily increasing, and cuts me wholly off from the society of others, and my other complaints deny me the society of myself,” &c. &c. Johnson, perhaps, knew nothing of all this, and imagined that Lord Chesterfield declined his acquaintance on some opinion derogatory to his personal pretensions. Mr. Tyers, however, suggests a more