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Johnson till the month of March, 1742-3. From that time the Magazine was conducted by Dr. Hawkesworth.
In 1743-4, Osborne, the bookseller, who kept a shop in Gray’s-Inn, purchased the Earl of Oxford's library, at the price of thirteen thousand pounds. He projected a catalogue in five octavo volumes, at five shillings each. Johnson was employed in that painful drudgery. He was likewise to collect all such small tracts as were in any degree worth preserving, in order to reprint and publish 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 live66 lihood in this town ?" “ By my literary labours," was the answer. Wilcox, fta
ring 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, “Wil
cox 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 occafionally 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. ) **
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 æra 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 Obfervations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir Thomas Hanmer's 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 : " to all those things, which have been pub“ lished 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 edi“ tion, and written, as appears, by a man “ of parts and genius, the rest are abso
lutely below a serious notice." But the attention of the publick 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 4
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 near his printer and friend Mr. Strahan, he ventured to take a house in Gough-square, Fleet-street. He was told that the Earl 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 competition, 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 Mæcenas, and was disappointed. No patronage, no afVOL. I.
sistance followed. Visits were repeated; but the reception was not cordial. Johnson one day was left a full hour, waiting in an antichamber, 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 *. “ There is a man, whose moral character,
deep learning, and superior parts, I ac“ knowledge, 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 figure (without being " deformed) seems made to disgrace or ridi“ cule the common structure of the human
body. His legs and arms are never in the
position which, according to the situation “ of his body, they ought to be in, but con“ stantly employed in committing acts of
hostility upon the Graces. He throws any “ where, but down his throat, whatever he “ means to drink; and mangles what he 6. means to carve. Inattentive to ali the re* Letter CCXII.