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THE

L I F E

OF

SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

CHAPTER I.

1754.

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Johnson writes the Life of Cave.The Dictionary.

- Lord Chesterfield. His alleged Neglect of Johnson. His Papers in The World,in Recommendation of the Dictionary. Letter to the Earl. -Bolingbroke's Works edited by Mallet. - Johnson visits Oxford for the Purpose of consulting the Libraries. His Conversations with Mr. Warton, Mr. Wise, and others. Sir Robert Chambers. — Letters to Warton. Collins.

In 1754 I can trace nothing published by him, except his numbers of the Adventurer, and “ The Life of Edward Cave,” in the Gentleman's Magazine for February. In biography there can be no question that he excelled, beyond all who have attempted that species of composition; upon which, indeed, he set the highest value. To the minute

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selection of characteristical circumstances, for which the ancients were remarkable, he added a philosophical research, and the most perspicuous and energetic language.(1) Cave was certainly a man of estimable qualities, and was eminently diligent and successful in his own business, which, doubtless, entitled him to respect. But he was peculiarly fortunate in being recorded by Johnson; who, of the narrow life of a printer and publisher, without any digressions or adventitious circumstances, has made an interesting and agreeable narrative.

The Dictionary, we may believe, afforded Johnson full occupation this year. As it approached to its conclusion, he probably worked with redoubled vigour, as seamen increase their exertion and alacrity when they have a near prospect of their haven.

Lord Chesterfield, to whom Johnson had paid the high compliment of addressing to his lordship the Plan of his Dictionary, had behaved to him in such a manner as to excite his contempt and indignation. The world has been for many years amused with a story confidently told, and as confidently repeated with additional circumstances, that a sudden disgust was taken by Johnson upon occasion of his having been one day kept long in waiting in his lordship’s

(1) This is not Johnson's appropriate praise; and, indeed, his want of attention to details is his greatest, if not his only, fault, as a biographer. In the wholo Life of Savage there is not one date. Several details and corrections of errors, with which he was furnished for his Lives of the Poets, were wholly neglected. But in truth Mr. Boswell himself has, more than any other writer, contributed to create the public taste for biographical details; “ the minute selection of cha-. racteristic circumstances” was neither the style of Johnson, nor the fashion of his day.- CROKER.

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