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spring, may be anticipated, we are anxious to avail ourselves of the temporary pause, to urge some of these matters on the consideration of the metropolitan publishers. They must all perceive that this business, owing principally to the application of steam to printing, is about to undergo a complete revolution; and whether that revolution shall end in great good, or in immeasurable evil, to the literature of the country, and the intellectual cultivation of the people, will as undoubtedly depend in no trivial measure upon them. If they persist in applying the new facilities for feeding an indefinitely extending market, to the forcing of new books, a few good new books may, no doubt, be elicited in the course of their exertions, but the general effect will be to swamp the solid classics of the land amidst a chaos of crude abridgments, and tasteless rifaccimentos. It was a saying of, if we recollect rightly, Bishop Warburton—there are two things every man thinks himself fit for-managing a small farm and driving a whiskey.' To write a compendious history of any given great man or nation
Pour diriger et l'esprit et le cœur,
Avec préface et l'avis au lecteurwould now appear to be an achievement within the reach of any individual, male or female, who has ever been permitted to scribble a page in a magazine, or report a speech in the House of Commons. The booksellers will, however, discover in the course of time, that this particular species of ambition may be indulged somewhat to their cost, and sooner or later arrive at the conclusion which we beg leave to recommend to their attention now -to wit, that it would be safer and better for themselves, as well as infinitely more conducive to the spread of real information, and the maintenance of manly tastes, were they to direct their thoughts to a more rational system of editing, in conjunction with their daily and hourly expanding means of circulating, the good books
It is also probable, that many of those industrious persons who are now employed in the manufacture of flimsy novelties, might, in the end, be gainers in purse, as well as reputation, by having their field of exertion changed in the manner we have been now suggesting. We know, for instance, few English books of reference which might not be doubled in value, merely by that patient examination of works on similar subjects extant in the German alone, which any man of decent education and industry might accomplish. Even in this department, however, the modern Mecænases must be on their guard, and not be too ready to consider that the best bargain which infers the least immediate outlay. To edit worthily any book, the chief value of And
which lies elsewhere than in the mere accumulation of facts, will always demand talents very far above those which of late have presumed to trample so audaciously upon the difficult and delicate, though not, perhaps, dignified art, of epitomizing; and if the course we are recommending should be pursued by the booksellers, the fastidiousness of the public will, of necessity, be year after year, visibly on the increase. A few such specimens as that now on our table would, indeed, go far to banish from all that is worth consideration in this department, dull plodding drudgery on the one hand, and on the other, what is a worse, as well as now-a-days a more common thing, smart, impudent, jobbing shallowness.
We have no doubt, that to the early education and mental habits of the lawyer, we owe the chief merits, both of this edition of Boswell, and of its editor's late anti-revolutionary stand in the House of Commons. In either exertion we trace the same, perhaps, in these days, unrivalled combination of the patience that deems no detail too minute to be below notice, and the intellectual grasp that, clutching no matter how many apparently worldwide details together, can squeeze out of the mass results which hardly any one could have clearly anticipated, and yet in which, when once eliminated, no thinker can hesitate to acquiesce. it will hardly be denied, that there was no book in the language more worthy of calling the latter at least of these qualifications into play. Though, in many respects, the best of biographers, Boswell was perhaps more utterly devoid of some of the most important requisites for that species of composition, in regard to such a subject as Dr. Johnson, than any other author of his class whose performance has obtained general approbation. Never did any man tell a story with such liveliness and fidelity, and yet contrive to leave so strong an impression that he did not himself understand it. This is, in one view, the main charm of his book. A person accustomed to exercise his mind in critical research feels, in reading it, as a practised juryman may be supposed to do, when the individual in the box is giving a clear and satisfactory evidence, obviously unconscious, all the while, of the real gist and bearing of the facts he is narrating. One of the oldest adages in Westminster-hall is, in a bad case, the most dangerous of witnesses is a child ;' and it holds not less true, that, in a good cause, a child is the best. But all jurymen cannot be expected to combine and apply for themselves, with readiness, or to much purpose, a long array of details, dropped threadless and unconnected from the lips of veracious simplicity. Comparatively few, in a difficult case, can turn such evidence to much use, until they have had their clue from the summing up; and, if
the judge happens to be a Wynford or a Lyndhurst, wielding strong intellectual energies with equal quickness, firmness, and fairness, the most accomplished of the assize will probably be not the least thankful for the benefit of his Notes.
If, however, this charming narrative had need of a commentator of a higher cast of mind than belonged to its penman, just as the nine books of Herodotus have gained immeasurably in solid value from the comprehensive resumé in the first sections of Thucydides, no one, most assuredly, will wish that the original task of biographizing Dr. Johnson should have fallen to any hands but Boswell's, any more, if we may hazard so lofty a comparison, than that the immortal stories of Salamis and Marathon should have been reserved for some other spirit, no matter how much more profound, so it were also more ambitious, fastidious, and disposed to generalize, than that of the father of profane history. Who, to put the strongest possible case, would, with his Boswell before him, wish that the author had been too modest to grapple with a theme unquestionably worthy of the greatest talents, and that a humbler and really more just self-appreciation on his part, had devolved the task upon the only associate of Johnson, whom posterity classes in the same intellectual rank with himself, Mr. Burke? Happy indeed for the lovers of wit and wisdom, the students of human character, above all for those who are in any degree capable of sympathising with the struggles, the sorrows, and the triumphs of genius-happy for all such persons, were the day and the hour that first brought the unmeasuring enthusiasm, the omnivorous curiosity, the unblushing, utterly unconscious indelicacy, the ebullient self-love, combined with almost total negation of self-respect, and the perhaps unrivalled memory, of the young laird of Auchinleck, into contact with that man whom, of all living men, one would have à priori pronounced the least likely to tolerate those innumerable weaknesses, absurdities, and impertinencies, which rendered him, in the eyes of general society, at best a walking caricatura, and a harmless butt-only wanting a slight tinge of gravity—or perhaps in those days, a coronet might have served the turn-to take rank as the very beau-ideal of the genus Bore.
To that casual introduction at good Mr. Dilly's dinner-table, we owe, however, not only a more satisfactory style of record, than any other human being was at all likely to have adopted, but much also of what is most amusing, and even instructive, in the subject matter of the record itself. But for Boswell, Johnson would never have gone to the Hebrides—he would probably have died without having virtually extended his sphere of personal observation beyond Litchfield and London--certainly without having had any opportunity of enlarging his sympathies, by the contemplation of a totally and most
picturesquely new system of natural scenery, and human manners. We should have lost the northern tour—the best and most characteristic, except the Lives of the Poets, of all his prose works. But it was not merely by taking his chief to the Ultima Thule, that the most assiduous of henchmen rendered us good service in this way. We owe still more, perhaps, to the Scotch optics, which, whether in the Canongate of Edinburgh, or amid the wilds of Sky
• Ponti profundis clausa recessibus,
Strepens procellis, rupibus obsita' or in the Mitre tavern (while Johnson took his ease in his inn), or in Mrs. Montague's boudoir, or in the kind brewer's warm diningroom at Streatham, or amidst the sober repose of Dr. Taylor's rectory,—wherever, in short, another touch was to be added to the eternal picture, James Boswell could not help carrying about with himself. It is to this circumstance at least, that the readers of other countries, and distant times, will owe some of their weightiest obligations. Much about Johnson, which would have been passed over as too familiar for special notice, by any Englishınan, was quite new, and, being Johnsonian, of grand importance to his Ostade--and of this much, not a little is already almost as remote from the actual observation of living Englishmen, as it could then have been note-worthy in the eyes of a Scotchman of Boswell's condition. In like manner, in talking with one whom, as being a Scotchman, he always assumed to be grossly ignorant of England, Johnson was naturally led to speak out his views and opinions on a thousand questions, which, under other circumstances, he might never in all probability have thought of stirring-questions nevertheless of lasting interest, and views and opinions, which were it but that they mark what could be said in regard to such questions by a man of genius and authority, at that particular time, would gain in historical value by every year that
passes over the record. The interfusion of the three nations, as to manners, opinions, feelings, and in a word, character, bas proceeded at so rapid a pace within the last half-century, and is so likely to go on, and to end in all but a complete amalgamation before another period of similar extent shall have expired, that if it were but for having given us, ere it was too late, a complete portrait of the real native uncontaminated Englishman, with all his tastes and prejudices fresh and strong about him,—even if it were possible to consider Boswell's delineation of Samuel Johnson merely as a character in a novel of that period, the world would have owed him, and acknowledged, no trivial obligation.
But what can the best character in any novel ever be, compared to a full-length of the reality of genius? and what specimen of such reality will ever surpass the
• Omnis votivâ veluti depicta tabella
Vita Senis? —the first, and as yet by far the most complete picture of the whole life and conversation of one of that rare order of beings, the rarest, the most influential of all, whose mere genius entitles and enables them to act as great independent controlling powers upon the general tone of thought and feeling of their kind, and invests the very soil where it can be shown they ever set foot, with a living and sacred charm of interest, years and ages after the loftiest of the contemporaries, that did or did not condescend to notice them, shall be as much forgotten, even by the heirs of their own blood and honours, as if they had never strutted their hour on the glittering stage ? Enlarged and illuminated, as we now have it, by the industrious researches and the sagacious running criticism of Mr. Croker, Boswell's Johnson' is, without doubt,-excepting, yet hardly excepting, a few immortal monuments of creative genius,—that English book, which, were this island to be sunk tomorrow with all that it inhabits, would be most prized in other days and countries, by the students of us and of our history. We may easily satisfy ourselves as to this point : what is that Greek or Latin book which the most ardent scholar would not sacrifice, so he could evoke from some sepulchral palimpsest, a life of
intellectual giant of antiquity, a first rate luminary, both social and literary, of old Rome or Athens, conceived and executed after this model ? Probably every one will answer · Homer :' but who will make three exceptions besides ? or at all events, who are the three persons that will agree as to what the three other exceptions ought to be?
Mr. Croker has handled throughout with exquisite skill the character of Boswell himself, especially as elicited in the turn and colouring of particular statements with regard to which we have the means of comparing him with other witnesses. The result is, that while the lively lady,' Mrs. Piozzi, and some others, whom he could never altogether pardon for having poached on his manor, are often satisfactorily vindicated from the charge of wilful misrepresentation, and the biographer himself is shown to have relied, in certain instances,—in the sheer spirit of opposition to them, as it would seem,-on testimony of the most worthless description, especially that of Miss Seward, whose faithless impertinence comes out in a style quite fatal to her reputation (if she ever had any)—in spite of all these things, the result is honourable to Mr. Boswell; and we quote the fol