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BOSWELL'S Life of Johnson was published on May 16th, 1791, in two volumes quarto. A supplementary volume was added in 1794, followed almost immediately by a second edition in three volumes octavo, in which however the fresh materials, instead of being incorporated in the text, were clumsily placed at the beginning and end of the book. Boswell was engaged in arranging these materials for a third edition when he died on May 19th, 1795. The work was then taken up by Malone, who had watched and helped its progress from the first, and published in four volumes octavo in 1799. The author's plan, so far as he had lived to indicate it, was carefully followed. The fresh materials were distributed throughout the text according to his directions; his new notes, and his corrections of the old ones, were all faithfully printed ; all additions, in the shape of letters or notes, were marked with crotchets so as to distinguish the editor's responsibility from the author's; but for some reason the proof-sheets did not pass through Malone's hands. The fourth edition, which followed in 1804, was published under his own supervision, with some fresh additions of letters and notes distinguished as before from Boswell's own work. From this text the present edition has been printed.
It would be tedious to enumerate all the editions that have been published of this famous biography. Malone issued two more before his death in 1812. From that year onwards the book was more than once reprinted under various hands, but still practically remained much as Malone had left it till Croker's edition appeared in 1831. The new editor was, as everyone knows, severely chastised by both Macaulay and Carlyle, and much of the chastisement was undoubtedly deserved. His liberties with Boswell's text were indefensible on any grounds; he sometimes blundered in his notes, and he was sometimes foolish. The success of his work has however been often made use of as a triumphant refutation of Macaulay's charges ; but in fact it has succeeded because he had the good sense to recognise their substantial justice. In a second edition most of his worst offences were removed, and still further improvements were made in a third. In įts new shape Croker's work became a very different thing from the object of Macaulay's censure, and in that shape has ever been deservedly popular. It has indeed been the foundation of all subsequent editions, and it must always be so; for in truth, with all his faults, posterity owes much to Croker. Not only was his work done in the very nick of time, but he was probably the only man then living who was capable of doing it. He knew the most celebrated survivors of the generation which could remember Johnson and Boswell; his industry was untiring, and his social position enabled him to prosecute his researches in every direction. Though not a man of great literary abilities, nor very widely or deeply read, his curiosity and fondness for the ana of literature stood him in good service, while his knowledge of the political and social history of Johnson's time was perhaps second to Macaulay's alone. He may be said indeed to have possessed all the qualifications for an editor, except that most important one which we call the editorial instinct, and that the strictures of his critics in some degree helped to supply. Mr. Napier has aptly fitted to him one of Johnson's criticisms on Warburton : “He has a rage for saying something when there is nothing to be said.” It is true ; but it is also true that he has said much which it was important to say and which, but for him, had never been said at all, But for Croker
many of the allusions to persons and things, which Boswell's first readers had no difficulty in interpreting, or of which the interpretation was for various reasons left in a decent uncertainty, must have for ever remained hopelessly obscure to posterity; and his successors, while they have wisely retrenched some of his superfluities and corrected some of his errors, have been able to add little that is on this side essential to his work.
Of these successors the most important are the Reverend Alexander Napier and Dr. Birkbeck Hill. Mr. Napier's edition was published in 1884 in six volumes, of which four were occupied with the text, and two with the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and a mass of familiar, but always welcome extracts from the Johnsoniana of Mrs. Thrale, Madame D'Arblay, Hannah More, Miss Reynolds, Percy, Hawkins, Tyers, and other members of the great man's circle. Among these, however, was one document which is undoubtedly the most interesting contribution to the great Johnsonian legend that our times have seen. This is The Diary of a Visit to England by Dr. Thomas Campbell. Dr. Campbell was an Irish clergyman, of some note in his day as a writer on the history and the church of his country, who visited England at various times during the years 1775—92. He made what may be called the provincial's “grand tour" of London, visited the theatres, coffee-houses, and auctionrooms, heard all the popular preachers, and was introduced to the studios of Reynolds and Gainsborough; he met Johnson often at the Thrales's and elsewhere, besides visiting him at his own house, and though they seem to have been good friends enough, his portrait of the Doctor is certainly not flattering. In directness and vivacity he sometimes runs even Boswell close, and his diary often supplies an entertaining commentary on the biography. The existence of this curious work, which was published in 1854 at Sydney, was first made known in this country by an article in The Edinburgh Review, written in 1859 at the instance of, and partly from materials supplied by, Macaulay. The manuscript had been discovered in one of the
offices of the Supreme Court at Sydney, behind an old press which had not been moved for years. Its authenticity has fortunately been proved beyond suspicion, and its strange hiding-place has been explained by the fact that one of its author's nephews was Sheriff and Provost-Marshal of the capital of New South Wales.
Ex Africâ semper aliquia novi ; but literary discoveries are not now looked for outside the Land of the Nile. Yet only three years after the publication of Campbell's diary in Australia, appeared in our own country a work scarcely its inferior in interest and even surpassing it in the singular circumstances of its discovery. The Rev. William Temple, whose name often occurs in the biography, had been in Boswell's closest confidence since they had studied together at Glasgow University. He survived his friend only one year, dying in 1796, when all his papers passed into the hands of his son-in-law, a Mr. Powlett. Powlett soon afterwards retired to France and died there, and the papers, so far as the family could tell, disappeared with him. Between forty and fifty years ago a clergyman, purchasing some articles in a shop at Boulogne, noticed that the paper in which they were wrapped was the fragment of an English letter. A date and some names were detected; the fragment was found to be part of a large bundle of paper lately purchased from a French hawker. How it came into his hands could never be ascertained; the Fates had been gracious enough, and would lift the veil no further. The bundle was at once secured, and in 1857 the correspondence was published by Mr. Bentley. The curiosities of literary history can show few happier chances than those which have so marvellously rescued from oblivion these two interesting contributions to the great Johnsonian cycle. Of the correspondence with Temple Napier made some use ; but the distinguishing mark of his edition is his publication of Campbell's diary.
In 1887 Dr. Birkbeck Hill's edition was published by the Clarendon Press in a style worthy of that famous institution. Four stately volumes contain the biography; the fifth is occupied with