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Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/69

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

not matter, as Johnson was dealing with the latter portion. Our old friend Walpole is then introduced to confirm this general "wetness," though it has to be admitted that by the end of September, more than a month after Johnson wrote, "all was lustre and brilliancy." This is likely enough; for we may conclude, cheerfully, that at one time it may have been fine and at another wet. Still he is troubled by the thought that Johnson had stated that about the middle of September "we have at last fine weather—in Derbyshire"; but we are reassured by the news that "the weather in Staffordshire had been extraordinarily fine nearly three weeks earlier." This is an odd mania, and we really do not know what to make of it. It suggests a comic character in "Money," who is always remarking that it is "seasonable weather"!

Writing to India, Johnson said piously, and picturesquely, too: "Prayers can pass the line and tropics." The editor cannot resist having his "little joke" here: "Prayers would, apparently, take the longer course round the Cape of Good Hope." This alone would show little feeling by Dr B. Hill for the duty he has undertaken.

Walpole described Dr Birch as "running about in quest of anything new or old." On which the editor: "He ran about in more senses than one, for he walked round London." How could he run about if he "walked"? The truth was, Dr Birch made an interesting peregrination round London, and this was not "running about in more senses than one," or in any sense. Walpole's meaning was figurative. Dr Birch was an ardent antiquary, who, like Boswell, hunted for information everywhere; but he did not actually "run" as he enquired.

The editor has an odd phobia as to apply ing the term "girl" to any one over twenty, He will not have it. Johnson wrote affectionately to his "Tetty": "Now, my dear girl." The editor objects that "she was past forty or fifty." On another occasion Johnson called Hannah More "a saucy girl." Again the editor interposes: "She was between thirty and forty." Surely he must have heard of "an old girl." But this is sheer trifling. As we saw, he will not have "boy" either.

And again: Did you stay all night at Sir J. Reynolds's," wrote Johnson to Mrs Thrale, "and keep Miss up again?" Anyone would understand this. But the editor supplies this comment: Miss, who was kept up again, was Miss Thrale." And if we are to be so minute, why alter the sense? Miss was not kept up; Johnson merely enquired if she had been.

Once on the tour Johnson described how there were no seats for the ladies in the boat, or, as he put it, "accommodations." This the editor explains in a rather amusing way. "Johnson commonly says accommodations where we should say 'conveniences.'" Where has Dr B. Hill been living all this time? Should we, or do we, say this? On a boating party at Oxford, for instance, would one of the young oarsmen announce that there were no "conveniences for the ladies." For this word "accommodation," the editor seems to have an odd fancy. In another place, we find him lingering fondly over it, and quoting "who do not obstruct accommodation," etc., which he explains as "provision of consideration," with much more.

He sometimes makes wild conjectures—apparently for the reason that he thinks the thing ought to be so. Thus we are told: " It is probable that Mrs Cobb and Mrs Adey, with their brother, were joint owners of Edial Hall when Johnson took it for an academy." There is not the faintest ground for this assertion. Dr B. Hill must know that it is no more "probable" that it belonged to these people