Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/74

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62

A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

letters." What is the connection, particularly in that "moreover"? So with the odd proof of great prosperity—"for he had 150 letters." Equally mysterious is how it all proves that Johnson "never turned to Garrick in his distresses."

Johnson, speaking of a chapel in which were some gravestones, said: "Without some of the ancient families … still continued their sepulture." Who could fail to understand this? Some people buried in the chapel, but the more ancient families preferred the churchyard. But no: "What Johnson means by 'without' in this passage at first sight is not clear."

He himself will strive to make clearer the clearest statements. Thus Johnson wrote: "Boswell wishes to draw me to Lichfield, and, as I love to travel with him, I have a mind to be drawn." But this must be obscure to readers, the editor thinks, so it is explained to us: "Boswell, who was returning to Scotland, no doubt, wished Johnson to accompany him as far as Lichfield." No doubt he did. Again, when Johnson says, as plainly as he can, that some one "had offered Perkins money, but that it was not wanted," the editor obligingly tells us that the person in question "had offered, no doubt, to advance money to Perkins, if any were needed." These are wonderful "no doubts."

Where "Mr C." is mentioned, the editor, speculating whether it be Mr Crutchley or Mr Cator that is intended, always contrives to mistake. Johnson states that a "Mr C." had offered Perkins money, but that it was not wanted. The editor assures us that Cator, who was one of the executors, "had offered, no doubt, to advance money to Perkins, but it was not wanted." Why repeat this bit of information which we had already? But it was surely not Cator, as the editor ought to know, for he presently quotes Miss Burney, who says that Mr Crutchley offered to lend Perkins £1000.

As the editor takes Cator for Crutchley where Crutchley was meant, so he takes Crutchley for Cator where Cator was intended.

Johnson had said: "If he goes to ——, he will be overpowered with words as good as his own." This talker, the editor announces, was Mr Crutchley, who was one of the trustees. But Johnson had just complained of another of the trustees, Mr Cator, who, he said, "speaks with great exuberance." This was surely the person Johnson referred to. He sees this Cator every where. Thus, when some successful and retired tradesman complained that he had no power of talk—"I go to conversations, but I have no conversation " this was, of course, Cator, according to the editor. But, as we have just seen, Cator "speaks with great exuberance." He was a great talker; as Miss Burney says, "gives his opinion upon everything." The truth was, Cator was a man of weight, culture, an M.P., a person of large fortune, a squire, and, certainly not "a retired tradesman."

As to Dr Collier's epitaph, Johnson writes: "You may set S—— S—— at defiance." "The S—— S——," thus the editor objects, "she (Mrs Piozzi) says means 'Streatfield,' forgetful of the final 's,'" a trivial point at most. But the lady was perfectly right. "S—— S——" were the initials of the "nick-name" of the well-known "Sophy Streatfield," for whom Dr Collier has such an attachment, and who figures in Miss Burney's Diary. It was two names, not one.

Dr B. Hill affects a sort of sagacity in "discovering" that a certain letter, without any ad dress, was written to Lord Shelburne; but the letter itself reveals the name as plainly as if it were written on it. Johnson distinguishes between mother and wife—"with Lady Shelburne I once had the honour,"etc.; "to your lady I am a stranger," etc. Plain as a pikestaff.

The strange confusion into which his wild