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Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/86

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

refers to the Rota Club, in which," etc. Of course he does, for he says he does.

The editor is always rather weak when he would be sarcastic. Mr Cradock mentions a dinner at which were the Duke of Cumberland and Johnson, which Mr Croker is inclined to doubt. "It is hardly possible that Dr Johnson should have met the Duke of Cumberland without Boswell having mentioned it." This was reasonable criticism enough. But hearken further. Dr B. Hill: "Mr Croker forgets that there are men who can dine with a Duke, and not boast of it." Who denidges of it? No one could suppose that Johnson would boast of meeting great folk, and Mr Croker did not suppose it. But how natural that Johnson would tell "Bozzy" what he thought of so remarkable a personage as the Duke of Cumberland. His account would have been a most interesting one, and to none more so than to Dr B. Hill.

There is one word that the editor has vainly looked for in the great Dictionary, viz. "Spavined." Most readers know what a spavined animal is, and most readers would be content to know that it meant a disease in a horse's leg. True, the editor admits plaintively, "He only gives 'spavin.'" That surely will do us very well, and help us on to "spavined."

The editor is inclined to depreciate Reynolds, who, as the world knows, was the most amiable, engaging, and popular of men. He was an admirable family man, affectionate, kind, charitable. But to our astonishment, the editor announces that "he seems to have had but little sympathy with his sisters." By way of establishing this, he quotes an abusive letter from one, a Mrs Johnson, who cast him off because he would not be "converted," and repent of his sins. It is also stated that this lady refused his offer to take her son and teach him his own art—an odd way of his showing "little sympathy." "Renny," the other sister, lived with him for many years, until her "tiresome fidgetiness," Miss Burney tells us, and general nagging, made them part company. She then proposed that he should give up his house at Richmond to her, to be her property, though she would allow him to use it—a proposal he rejected, from his "little sympathy." Again, Reynolds had invited Boswell to dine with him at Painters' Stainers' Hall, "as you love," he said, "to see life in all its modes. I will (call for you) about two; the blackguards dine at half an hour after." From which the editor extracts the theory that Reynolds, who dined always at five, was exasperated at having to go and dine at two! that he used "strong language" in consequence, "perhaps owing to his vexation at losing two or three hours of his working day." And further, "none of his hours were spent in idleness, or lost in dissipation." All which is a dream, and disposed of by the fact that Reynolds could have declined the invitation if he chose; that he was so willing to go that he brought a friend with him; that he used no "strong" language, for by "blackguards" he humorously alluded to the fraternity to which he himself belonged, or to the inferior branch of the profession. As to none of his hours "being spent in idleness, or lost in dissipation," if this refers to a dinner, it is notorious that he dined out, and spent much time at the club, at Garrick's, and was, in fact, recherché everywhere.

Johnson's happy jest on the congé d'élire leads the editor to a general examination of this thorny subject. He must first, of course, hurry to his "Johnson's Dictionary," and after a due definition of the words, takes us next to—but no one will guess whither—to the Dr Hampden of modern times—the well-known Bishop of Hereford! We have his case and his conge d'élire, Lord John Russell's letter, and details of the