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They who solicit the favour of the Pub
lick are often led to lament the instability of its regard; and volumes have been written to deter men from trying ever to obtain that which is acknowledged so difficult to keep : yet numbers still endeavour, in spite of admonition, to fit upon themselves that fairy garland, which they have so often seen snatched by malice from the head of the unwary, dropt by a sudden toss from the temples of the arrogant, and fading through mere negligence round the brows of the sluggard. The obsidional crown however, composed only of that grass which grew in the place besieged, -may still, as in the days of ancient Rome perhaps be worn while it lasts without envy; nor can I form pretensions to any higher reward, for having made known the true character of a dead friend, by printing his opinions, sentences, and letters, which best explain it. Vol. I,
An An Editor's duty is indeed that of most danger and least renown through all the ranks of literary warfare; all merit is attributed (and justly) to the author ; for faults, the person who publishes must be responsible.
It is difficult enough too, in a previous address, to defend one's self from censures, of which we yet know not the form or force; the first and greatest danger is here indeed little to be dreaded: as these letters will doubtless be deemed authentick, even by those who profess themselves least pleased with their perusal—and he was accounted among the wisest of the ancients, who chose rather to displease by truth, than give delight by falsehood.
None but domestick and familiar events can be expected from a private correspondence; no reflexions but such as they excite can be found there; yet whoever turns away disgusted by the insipidity with which this, and I suppose every correspondence must naturally and almost necessarily begin—will here be likely to lose some genuine pleasure, and some useful knowledge of what our heroick Milton was himself contented to respect, as Tbat which before thee lies in daily life. '
And should I be charged with obtruding trifles on the Publick, I might reply, that the meanest animals preserved in amber become of value to those who form collections of natural history, that the fish found in Monte Bolca ferve as proofs of sacred writ, and that the cart-wheel stuck in the rock of Tivoli, is now found useful in computing the rotation of - the earth.
Were I disposed to deprecate future criticism, I might here undertake the defence of Dr. Johnson's sentiments, as they will be found strewed up and down these volumes; but for the Editor it is sufficient, that they are the sentiments of him who, when living, above all men knew how to compel acquiescence, even from the few who forbore a loud and clamos rous applause. The letters therefore remain just as he wrote them; and I did not like to mutilate such as contained either fallies of humour or precepts of morality, because they might be mingled with family affairs ; nor will I much extend myself in empty apologies for letting such passages stand, which at worst may serve to gratify petty curiosity, while teaders who search for something better will not long be detained, and consequently can complain but little.
: It has been frequently lamented, that we have few letters in our language printed from genuine copies—scarce any from authors of eminence; such as were prepared for the press by their writers, have forfeited all title to the name of letters; nor are I believe ever confidered as familiar chat spread upon paper for 'the advantage or entertainment of a distant
friend. Here might I add much about epiftolary style, echoing perhaps with less novelty than pleasure, the just praises of Sevigne's tenderness, and Maintenon's piety; but who could hope to add one useful observation to those contained in No. 152 of the Rambler? It were easy to dilute the salt of Johnson's expressions by pages of my own insipidity; but very different is the compensation deserved by those who received my Anecdotes with a degree of approbation I had not dared to hope.
May these letters in some measure pay my debts of gratitude! they will not surely be the first, the only thing written by Johnson, with which our nation has not been pleased. The good taste by which our countrymen are diftinguished, will lead them to prefer the native thoughts and unstudied phrases scattered over these pages, to the more laboured elegance of