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Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/60

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

proceed," i.e. were they quarrelling, etc., as usual. Further, Johnson's letter of enquiry was dated April 18, and was from Ashbourne, and Mrs Thrale's is dated on the same day.

Thrale, wrote Johnson, to distract his grief for his son's death, said that "he would go to the house. I hope he has found something that laid hold of his attention." "The House of Commons, I conjecture" says our editor. Amazing! He, of course, meant the house at Southwark; the house of business, where he would find something to lay hold of his attention. But on his conjecture the editor conjectures afresh. "On April 1, if he had attended, he heard a debate on Mr Hartley's motion on the expenses of the American War;" and so, off we now go on a new tack. The amount of these expenses of the war Lord North could not divine. Nor could he have fancied—conjecture again—that the National Debt would have been raised from, etc., to, etc.; neither would Gibbon have ever, etc. That is, if Thrale had been there. For the increase of the National Debt, see 'Penny Cyclopaedia.'" And we get all this from Thrale's saying "he would go to the house." We do not know whether he ever went at all; but we get Lord North, Hartley, Gibbon, National Debt, "Penny Cyclopaedia."

Dr B. Hill has a fashion of imputing degrading motives to his two heroes, when he wants to support one of his imaginary "discoveries." Sastres, "the Italian master," who was with Johnson at his death, is mentioned by Boswell, in illustration of the contrasted classes of per sons with whom Johnson associated. One day he was with Colonel Fox, of the Guards, or the unhappy Levett; with Lady Crewe or Mrs Gardiner, the worthy tallow-chandler; with the Chancellor or "Sastres, the Italian master." Here Dr B. Hill morbidly sees a deliberate intention to degrade Sastres! And why? "Perhaps to punish him." And for what? "For nbt letting him (Boswell) publish Johnson's letters." All these assumptions are unfounded. Johnson himself in his will describes Sastres as "the Italian master"; any appreciator of Boswell's methods will feel that he introduces the name as an effective contrast; there is no proof that letters were asked for or were refused—in fact, they had been published by Mrs Piozzi—and we and more letters, was infuriated because he did not obtain these five! The whole is perfect "moonshine," and, in truth, Dr B. Hill seems to decree a particular state of facts to suit his purpose, just as the Convention "decreed victory." So with Ryland, another correspondent of Johnson's. " Perhaps Boswell passed him over in silence in return for his keeping from him the letters he received from Johnson." As usual, there is no evidence that he refused Boswell any letters; he may have had none to refuse; as it is, only two are known. As to "passing him over in silence," what will be said when we find that Boswell, after mentioning him respectfully as one of his (Johnson's) friends, tells, us that he was really unable to trace anything about him and other friends of Johnson at the time! But no. The editor will have it that Boswell was full of spite; was not Hawkesworth, Ryland's brother-in-law, a person disliked by Boswell? So, naturally, he must dislike Ryland. All which is amazing.

The occult reason for these charges is that the editor is himself very angry when any one re fuses him the use of letters. It would seem that he could not obtain from the great brewery firm the Perkins letters—though, indeed, business houses, it is known, dislike furnishing their papers. He is scornfully indignant.: "When the secret letters and papers of kings have been given to the world, it might have been thought