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Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/66

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

man's Magazine? There I found it, "Caleb Harding, Mansfield, Notts, Physician"—and without any conjecturing.

But here is a strange surmise. When Mrs Thrale was christening one of her daughters, Johnson wrote: "You must let us have a Bessy another time." "No doubt Johnson had asked that one of Thralls daughters should bear the name of his wife"! As if he would speak in this jocular way of his loved "Tetty," or thrust her name on a family who knew nothing of her! He surely meant that it was a good old English name, or a family name.

In some trifling points Dr B. Hill's blindness is perfectly confounding. Johnson wrote to Mrs Thrale from the country of the high price of malt, that little profit was made: "But there is often a rise upon stock. Some in the town have made £50 by the rise upon stock," i.e. the funds. But hearken to our editor: "Johnson refers, I suppose, to the rise in the value of the stock of malt"(!) With due caution he adds: "He may be speaking of the funds." "May"! And then, to demolish his own theory, he quotes the prices of the year, showing a rise of ten pounds in the funds!

Once Johnson, returning to town, took boat at Gravesend, and landed at Billingsgate, whence he had to walk some distance before he found a coach. The editor is much dissatisfied at this arrangement. He finds out that a bell was rung at Gravesend at high tide by night and day. "Surely the bell was rung at low tide," Dr B. Hill says piteously, "so that the boat might be carried up by the flow." We cannot tell anything about this bell. The rule applied to, we are assured, "tilt boats" also—that is, boats with sails as well as to wherries—and the bell rang at Billingsgate also, where the high tide would suit the voyage to Gravesend. In any case, the ringing of the bell or the tide had nothing to do with Johnson. Then, John son, in his honest way, says, when he landed, he had to carry his budget to Cornhill before he got a coach. But the editor, not quite satisfied with this, could have told him what to do: "From Billingsgate the most convenient way for Johnson would have been to take a sculling-boat to Temple Stairs." Still, he can make allowance for Johnson's behaviour on this occasion. He knew what was in' his mind. "Doubtless the state of the tide made it dangerous to pass under London Bridge." There is no evidence of this. The truth was, Billingsgate was the end of the journey. Johnson, "I conjecture," had had enough of the water, and a coach would cost him but little more. Well, he carried his "budget" part of the way. Budget? thinks our editor, what is this? "Johnson defines it as a bag easily carried." And then, to prevent mistakes of careless people who might fancy Johnson was helping the Exchequer in some way by "carrying his Budget," we are assured "that the sense in which it is commonly used, of the yearly financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is not given in the Dictionary."

"Of this parcel," wrote Johnson of some MS. submitted to him, "I have rejected no poetry." Is it not plain, and Johnsonian, too? But the editor must oddly amend, and puts "ejected": "Of this parcel I have ejected no poetry." To see Johnson ejecting poetry from parcels must have been a rare sight.

But here is a very elaborate blunder. John son wrote jocosely of a day "that you never saw before, as Doodle says," etc. Now, who was Doodle? The editor makes diligent research, and finds out that Doodle was a character in one of Ravenscroft's plays, called "The London Cuckolds," and in which Doodle figured as an alderman. This is very precise. We have then