Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/97

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

thus anticipating further quarrel, he came to the formal resolution of taking no further notice of his dying friend. "I was with much regret long silent," and for three months not a line came from him. Johnson, who was within six weeks of his death, in vain wrote to him kindly and tenderly, describing his own wretched state, and saying that Boswell's letters were a comfort. "Are you sick, or are you sullen?" he asked. The morbid Boswell, however, could nurse his grievances: "It was painful to me to find that he still persevered in arraigning me as before, which was strange in him who had so much experience of what I had suffered." This shows clearly that he was trying to throw the blame on Johnson, and thus show that it was the ill-humour of the testator that caused his exclusion from the will. At last, with a great effort, Boswell forced himself to write, "two as kind letters as I could," one of which was dated in the first week of November, the second about six weeks later. This arrived, however, when Johnson was actually dying, and could not be read by him. Can we wonder, therefore, that Johnson was deeply offended by such neglect, and that he left the name of Boswell out of his will.

The latter must have been deeply mortified, as he knew what malicious remarks would be made on the. omission. There were memorials left to all the intimate friends, Hawkins, Langton, Reynolds, Dr Scott, Windham, Strahan, the four doctors, Gerard Hamilton, Miss Reynolds, the two Hooles, Desmoulins, Sastres, and Mrs Gardiner, the tallow chandler! But not even a book to Boswell. Nothing could be more deliberate or more pointed. Boswell very feebly urges, and he had better have passed over the matter, that Johnson had also omitted many of his friends, such as Murphy, Adams, Taylor, Dr Burney, Hector, and "the author of this work." But none of these except Taylor and Boswell could be placed in the same category with those named in the will.

On the whole of this curious episode, Dr B. Hill has nothing to contribute save a far-fetched theory, that Johnson only named such friends as he saw, and whose presence therefore was a reminder. Yet he saw his old favourite "Queenie" Thrale, and made no mention of her. Gerard Hamilton was not with him, yet he mentioned him. Burke was sitting with him, and attending him, yet he was not mentioned. Like the editor's other theories this one will not hold.[1]

There are some oddities in the arrangement of the volumes. It seems "a freak," for instance, the placing the index not at the end, but before a portion of the text. Having done with the index, we begin again with what is oddly called—by another freak—"A Concordance of Johnson's Sayings." Now, as Dr B. Hill might learn from the Oxford Dictionary, a concordance means "a citation of parallel passages in a book," or as in the case of the Gospels, "a book which shows in how many texts of Scripture any word occurs," a definition which is in Johnson's Dictionary. The editor's description is, therefore, meaningless. To our surprise, however, we find at the beginning of the volumes another batch of Johnson's sayings, entitled "Johnson's apothegms, opinions, etc." Surely these ought to be in the misnamed "Concordance." This specimen, however, is a fair illustration of the methods of our mercurial editor.

And now, having made these serious charges, and having given good evidences for them, I think it is incumbent on Dr B. Hill to come out "into the open," and defend his edi-

  1. Since the former portions of this Examination were printed, I have been informed, on good authority, that the lady who refused the editor admission to Auchinleck is not dead, as I stated she was.