Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

PREFACE.

TN the Notes to these editions of Johnson's “ Lives” the

| Editor has endeavoured to consider not only the wants of young students, but also those of older readers, who may wish to know the authorities on which Johnson's statements are based. For the first time, nearly all the author's facts, and nearly all his quotations, have been traced back to their original sources, and chapter and verse given for them. The annotations of Cunningham and later editors have been very largely supplemented; and the present Editor ventures to believe that his work will be of service to all readers of the “ Lives.”

PUTNEY,

INTRODUCTION.

I. LIFE OF JOHNSON.

CAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Lichfield on Septem

ber 18th, 1709. His father, Michael Johnson, was a bookseller, who, at one time a well-to-do magistrate of the city, fell before his death into distressed circumstances. He was a high churchman and a Tory, with Jacobite leanings.

The child's physical organization was undermined by scrofula, the king's evil as it was then called, which afterwards scarred and distorted his features and left him a prey to extreme mental depression and other symptoms of nervous disease. As he grew older he was afflicted with convulsive movements, and he lost the sight of one eye. About his fifth year-he could not have been six-he was brought to London to be touched for the evil by Queen Anne. He was sent to Lichfield Grammar School, then under a very severe master, Mr. Hunter, one of the Cathedral clergy. He afterwards went to Stourbridge Grammar School (in Worcestershire), where he remained a year; but his school days were over at the age of sixteen. A couple of years at home were spent in desultory reading, “not voyages and travels” (he told Boswell), “but all literature, Sir, all ancient writers, all manly; though but little Greek . ... so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams, now Master of Pembroke College, told me I was the best qualified for the University that he had ever known come there.” 1

He went up to Oxford (Pembroke College), in the October of 1728, and he remained there, according to Boswell, until the autumn of 1731, although Croker and other recent authorities? believe that he left the University after only fourteen months' residence, in December, 1729. Who supplied the necessary funds for his University course is still an unsolved question; it could hardly have been his father, who was very badly off, and who died in an insolvent condition in 1731. However long he remained at the University, Johnson took no degree. He seems to have been a somewhat troublesome undergraduate; as a rough and self-reliant lad with the learning of a don might easily become. But he fell under the influence of that half-forgotten High Church revival which preceded the great Evangelical movement of the Wesleys; and religion became a great reality for him after he had read William Law's “ Serious Call to a Holy Life.”

After his departure from Oxford and the death of his father, Johnson passed a year of struggle, apparently without definite occupation except during the few months he spent as usher in the Grammar School of Market Bosworth, months of “complicated misery” which he recalled with “ even a degree of horror.” 3 In 1733 he went to stay for six months with his old school-fellow Hector, now a surgeon at Birmingham. Here he was thrown into the company of the chief bookseller of the town; and this circumstance seems to have led him to take up literary work. He settled in Birmingham, and in the next year or two wrote contributions for a sort of local “ Spectator," besides translating and abridging Father Lobo's “ Voyage to Abyssinia" from a French translation. In 1735 he married Mrs. Porter, 1 Boswell, Bohn, i. 30.

? Boswell, Bohn, i. 405-409. 3 Boswell, Bohn, i. 50.

« AnteriorContinuar »