Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Basic Reading Skills; Assistant Boxing Team Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Repentant Mohock, the Olney Community College Press
Illustrated by rhoda penmarq for “penmarq intercosmiq studios™ (lettering by eddie el greco; coloring by roy dismas).
In 1757 it does not appear that he published any thing, except some of those articles in The Literary Magazine, which have been mentioned. That magazine, after Johnson ceased to write in it, gradually declined, and in July 1758 it expired.
He probably prepared a part of his Shakspeare this year, and he dictated a speech on the subject of an Address to the Throne, after the expedition to Rochfort, which was delivered by one of his friends, I know not in what publick meeting. It is printed in The Gentleman's Magazine for October 1785 as his, and bears sufficient marks of authenticity.
By the favour of Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker, of the Treasury, Dublin, I have obtained a copy of the following letter from Johnson to the venerable authour of Dissertations on the History of Ireland.
'To CHARLES O'CONNOR, ESQ.
'I have lately, by the favour of Mr. Faulkner,seen your account of Ireland, and cannot forbear to solicit a prosecution of your design. Sir William Temple complains that Ireland is less known than any other country, as to its ancient state. The natives have had little leisure, and little encouragement for enquiry; and strangers, not knowing the language, have had no ability.
I have long wished that the Irish literature were cultivated. Ireland is known by tradition to have been once the seat of piety and learning; and surely it would be very acceptable to all those who are curious either in the original of nations, or the affinities of languages, to be further informed of the revolution of a people so ancient, and once so illustrious.
'What relation there is between the Welch and Irish language, or between the language of Ireland and that of Biscay, deserves enquiry. Of these provincial and unextended tongues, it seldom happens that more than one are understood by any one man; and, therefore, it seldom happens that a fair comparison can be made. I hope you will continue to cultivate this kind of learning, which has too long lain neglected, and which, if it be suffered to remain in oblivion for another century, may, perhaps, never be retrieved. As I wish well to all useful undertakings, I would not forbear to let you know how much you deserve in my opinion, from all lovers of study, and how much pleasure your work has given to, Sir,
'Your most obliged,
'And most humble servant,
'London, April 9, 1757.'
Mr. Burney having enclosed to him an extract from the review of his Dictionary in the Bibliothèque des Savants, and a list of subscribers to his Shakspeare, which Mr. Burney had procured in Norfolk, he wrote the following answer:
'To MR. BURNEY, IN LYNNE, NORFOLK.
'That I may shew myself sensible of your favours, and not commit the same fault a second time, I make haste to answer the letter which I received this morning. The truth is, the other likewise was received, and I wrote an answer; but being desirous to transmit you some proposals and receipts, I waited till I could find a convenient conveyance, and day was passed after day, till other things drove it from my thoughts; yet not so, but that I remember with great pleasure your commendation of my Dictionary. Your praise was welcome, not only because I believe it was sincere, but because praise has been very scarce.
A man of your candour will be surprised when I tell you, that among all my acquaintance there were only two, who upon the publication of my book did not endeavour to depress me with threats of censure from the publick, or with objections learned from those who had learned them from my own Preface. Your's is the only letter of goodwill that I have received; though, indeed, I am promised something of that sort from Sweden.
'How my new edition will be received I know not; the subscription has not been very successful. I shall publish about March.
'If you can direct me how to send proposals, I should wish that they were in such hands. '
‘I remember, Sir, in some of the first letters with which you favoured me, you mentioned your lady. May I enquire after her? In return for the favours which you have shewn me, it is not much to tell you, that I wish you and her all that can conduce to your happiness.
'I am, Sir,
'Your most obliged,
'And most humble servant,
'Gough-square, Dec. 24, 1757.'
In 1758 we find him, it should seem, in as easy and pleasant a state of existence, as constitutional unhappiness ever permitted him to enjoy.
'To BENNET LANGTON, ESQ., AT LANGTON, LINCOLNSHIRE.
'I must indeed have slept very fast, not to have been awakened by your letter. None of your suspicions are true; I am not much richer than when you left me; and, what is worse, my omission of an answer to your first letter, will prove that I am not much wiser. But I go on as I formerly did, designing to be some time or other both rich and wise; and yet cultivate neither mind nor fortune. Do you take notice of my example, and learn the danger of delay. When I was as you are now, towering in the confidence of twenty-one, little did I suspect that I should be at forty-nine, what I now am.
'But you do not seem to need my admonition. You are busy in acquiring and in communicating knowledge, and while you are studying, enjoy the end of study, by making others wiser and happier. I was much pleased with the tale that you told me of being tutour to your sisters. I, who have no sisters nor brothers, look with some degree of innocent envy on those who may be said to be born to friends; and cannot see, without wonder, how rarely that native union is afterwards regarded. It sometimes, indeed, happens, that some supervenient cause of discord may overpower this original amity; but it seems to me more frequently thrown away with levity, or lost by negligence, than destroyed by injury or violence. We tell the ladies that good wives make good husbands; I believe it is a more certain position that good brothers make good sisters.
'I am satisfied with your stay at home, as Juvenal with his friend's retirement to Cumæ: I know that your absence is best, though it be not best for me.
'The two Wartons just looked into the town, and were taken to see Cleone, where, David says, they were starved for want of company to keep them warm. David and Doddy have had a new quarrel, and, I think, cannot conveniently quarrel any more. Cleone was well acted by all the characters, but Bellamy left nothing to be desired. I went the first night, and supported it, as well as I might; for Doddy, you know, is my patron, and I would not desert him. The play was very well received. Doddy, after the danger was over, went every night to the stage-side, and cried at the distress of poor Cleone.
'I have left off housekeeping, and therefore made presents of the game which you were pleased to send me. The pheasant I gave to Mr. Richardson, the bustard to Dr. Lawrence, and the pot I placed with Miss Williams, to be eaten by myself. She desires that her compliments and good wishes may be accepted by the family; and I make the same request for myself.
'Mr. Reynolds has within these few days raised his price to twenty guineas a head. I know not any body else whose prosperity has encreased since you left them.
‘Murphy is to have his Orphan of China acted next month; and is therefore, I suppose, happy. I wish I could tell you of any great good to which I was approaching, but at present my prospects do not much delight me; however, I am always pleased when I find that you, dear Sir, remember,
'Your affectionate, humble servant,
'Jan. 9, 1758.'
(To be continued. This week’s episode sponsored by Bob’s Bowery Bar™, at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “Try our Passover Special ‘Mama’s Home Made’ Kosher Beef Wieners ‘n’ Beans! Goes great with Our House Special Basement-Brewed Bock!”)