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Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/76

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

the will of a man. When Johnson said "no man can run away from himself," he was thinking, we are told, of the familiar quotation, "cœlum non animum" etc. Every scholar will supply the true line, which is even more hackneyed, "Patrice quis exul se quoque fugit."

When Johnson writes to Mrs Thrale of the polling at Oxford, the editor supplies us with a long analysis of the voters, and finally tells us that "only fourteen had two Christian names; not quite one in thirty-five" Is childish too strong a word for this sort of "information"?

There is a delightful "characteristical" note on "Mussels and Whilks." Johnson on one occasion writes that " I saw mussels and whilks." Most people would know what these words meant. But we must go far deeper. "Johnson only gives this word (whilk) incidentally in his Dictionary." Wise Johnson! The next best thing is to look out the word welk, under "to welk." Our editor tells us "Whilk is used for a small shell-fish." Further, whelk Johnson defines as (1), an inequality, a protuberance; (2), a pustule, and so on.

The editor has, as he fancies, discovered two blunders of the late Mr John Forster's, in his popular "Life of Goldsmith." Knowing how this admirable critic and correct writer was distinguished for accuracy and knowledge of his subject, I was certain—before examination even—that these charges would prove unfounded. And so it turned out. There was one Cooke, a friend of Goldsmith's, whom Mr Forster de scribed as a young Irish law student, living near Goldsmith in the Temple. Now, as Gold smith, the editor tells us, did not reside in the Temple till 1763, and as Cooke was old enough to have published his "Hesiod" in 1728, and to have found a place in the "Dunciad," poor foolish Mr Forster must have been quite astray in his facts. But the editor has confounded an English Thomas Cooke, who lived near the beginning of the century, with a William Cooke of Cork, who was alive in 1820—a personage that Dr B. Hill ought to have heard of. This is a serious blunder. He then deals with Mr Forster's other mistake, of confusing "Moore the Fabulist," better known as the writer of "The Gamester," with Dr Moore, the author of "Zeluco." Well, we turn to the text of "The Life," and find, to our astonishment, that Mr Forster was speaking of Edward Moore (who was the "fabulist"), and not of Dr John Moore of "Zeluco" fame. So there could be no possible foundation for this rather wanton charge; but I at last discovered that in the Index Moore was described as the author of "Zeluco." Mr Forster, as I learned from him self, did not prepare his own indexes, and I recollect his telling me he was not satisfied with the index to "The Life." The author is fairly only accountable for his text. Of course, had he, like Dr B. Hill, prepared his own monumental index, a volume strong, he would be chargeable.

When the Hebridean Tourists were proceeding from Montrose to Laurencekirk, they crossed a certain bridge. They little dreamed what a mysterious incident was occurring close by. The editor's note is so astonishing that I must give it in full. He begins: "James Mill was born on April the 6th, 1773, at Northwater Bridge, Parish of Logic, Pert, Forfar. The bridge was on the great central line of communication from the North of Scotland. The hamlet is right and left of the road. Bain's 'Life of Mill,' p. i. Boswell and Johnson, on the road to Laurencekirk, must have passed by close to the cottage in which he was lying, a baby not five months old." Observe, not even John Stuart Mill, but the more obscure James. Nor is there even a certainty that he was "lying there a baby." And what had it all to do with