By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Deformities of Samuel Johnson, Selected from his Works
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Deformities of Samuel Johnson, Selected from his Works" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


    A number of alterations have been made with the aim of correcting
    printing errors, while changing the text as little as possible.
    No attempt has been made to alter spellings, or to modernise
    punctuation or grammar. The complete list of all such changes
    appear at the end of this text.





  _Introduction by_




    William E. Conway, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_
    George Robert Guffey, _University of California, Los Angeles_
    Maximillian E. Novak, _University of California, Los Angeles_


    David S. Rodes, _University of California, Los Angeles_


    Richard C. Boys, _University of Michigan_
    James L. Clifford, _Columbia University_
    Ralph Cohen, _University of Virginia_
    Vinton A. Dearing, _University of California, Los Angeles_
    Arthur Friedman, _University of Chicago_
    Louis A. Landa, _Princeton University_
    Earl Miner, _University of California, Los Angeles_
    Samuel H. Monk, _University of Minnesota_
    Everett T. Moore, _University of California, Los Angeles_
    Lawrence Clark Powell, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_
    James Sutherland, _University College, London_
    H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., _University of California, Los Angeles_
    Robert Vosper, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_
    Curt A. Zimansky, _State University of Iowa_


    Edna C. Davis, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_


    Lilly Kurahashi, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_


During the early part of his literary career, James Thomson Callender
(1758-1803)[1] belittled Samuel Johnson; during the later, he denigrated
Thomas Jefferson. Thus his reputation as a Scots master of scurrility
and a vicious scandalmonger was earned on both sides of the Atlantic.

Probably because his anonymous pamphlets about Johnson's writings--the
_Deformities of Dr. Samuel Johnson, Selected from his Works_ (1782) and
_A Critical Review of the Works of Dr. Samuel Johnson_ (1783)--were not
both ascribed to him until 1940, Callender first came into public notice
in 1792, when in Scotland he published _The Political Progress of
Britain, or An Impartial Account of the Principal Abuses in the
Government of this Country from the Revolution in 1688_. For these
intemperate remarks, though anonymous, he was indicted in 1793 for
sedition. He fled from Edinburgh and made his way, "with some
difficulty," soon thereafter to Philadelphia.

During the first several years in Philadelphia, he was reporter of the
Congressional debates for the Philadelphia _Gazette_ and did some
editorial hackwork. He also published the third edition of the
_Political Progress_, which was favorably noticed by Jefferson. In 1797
he published _The History of the United States for 1796: Including a
Variety of Particulars Relative to the Federal Government Previous to
that Period_, which brought the charge against Alexander Hamilton of "a
connection with one James Reynolds for purpose of improper pecuniary
speculation." Hamilton, after making preliminary preparations for a
duel, came to the conclusion that he would have to sacrifice his private
reputation to clear his public actions. So he calmly wrote, "My real
crime is an amorous connection with his [Reynolds'] wife for a
considerable time, with his privity and connivance, if not originally
brought on by a combination between the husband and wife with the design
to extort money from me."[2]

In _The Prospect before Us_ (1800), written under the secret patronage
of Jefferson, Callender assailed John Adams and lashed through Adams at
his predecessor, Washington. Ending his diatribe, he said, "Take your
choice, between Adams, war and beggery and Jefferson, peace and
competency." Because of his remarks about Adams, he was tried under the
Sedition Law, fined $200, and sent to prison for nine months. While in
prison he wrote two fiery anti-Federalist pamphlets, for which Jefferson
advanced money under ambiguous terms. When Jefferson became President in
1801, he pardoned Callender (and all others convicted under the unwise
Sedition Law), and Callender's fine was remitted. But Callender was not
satisfied; he wanted Jefferson to appoint him postmaster of Richmond,
Virginia. Jefferson refused, in spite of the tone of blackmail which now
pervaded Callender's importunities. Soon he turned his political coat
and began editing the most scurrilous anti-Jefferson paper in the
country, the Richmond _Recorder_, to the infinite delight of the
Federalists, who immediately circulated the periodical far and wide.
Callender accused Jefferson of dishonesty and cowardice, but pure malice
inspired his most injurious charges.

     It is well known that the man, _whom it delighted the people to
     honor_, keeps ... as his concubine, one of his own slaves. Her
     name is Sally. The name of her eldest son is Tom. His features
     are said to bear a striking resemblance to those of the president
     himself.... By this wench Sally, our President has had several
     children. There is not an individual in the neighborhood of
     Charlottesville who does not believe the story; and not a few
     who _know it_.... Behold the favorite! the first born of
     republicanism! the pinnacle of all that is good and great! If the
     friends of Mr. Jefferson are convinced of his innocence, they will
     make an appeal.... If they rest in silence, or if they content
     themselves with resting upon a _general denial_, they cannot hope
     for credit. The allegation is of a nature too _black_ to be
     suffered to remain in suspense. We should be glad to hear of its
     refutation. We give it to the world under the firmest belief that
     such a refutation _never can be made_. The AFRICAN VENUS is said
     to officiate as housekeeper at Montecello. When Mr. Jefferson has
     read this article, he will find leisure to estimate how much has
     been lost or gained by so many unprovoked attacks upon J. T.

Callender's ignominious end came on 17 July 1803. The _Gentleman's
Magazine_ declared (LXXIII [September 1803], 882) that he, "after
experiencing many varieties of fortune as Iscariot Hackney ... drowned
himself ... in James River": the coroner's jury, however, declared that
his death was accidental, following intoxication.

There can be scant doubt that the _Deformities_ and _A Critical
Review_[4] have a common origin. The paper, type, and makeup of the
title-pages indicate that they were issued from the same press. In the
"Introduction" to _A Critical Review_, the statement is made that "The
author of the present trifle was last year induced to publish a few
remarks on the writings of Dr. Samuel Johnson.... Like the former essay,
these pages will endeavour to ascertain the genuine importance of Dr.
Johnson's literary character" (pp. iii, v). In the text on page 50, the
_Deformities_ is cited in proprietary tones; and it is also mentioned in
notes on pages 19, 37, 55, and 63. Moreover, the tell-tale words
"deformities" and "deformity" appear (pp. 31, 43) in the text, and there
is an advertisement for the _Deformities_ on page 72.

An attempt to identify the author of the _Deformities_ was made by
George Steevens when it appeared. In a letter to William Cole dated 14
May 1782, he says that it was "written by a Club of Caledonian Wits."[5]
The _Critical Review_ for August 1782 (LIV, 140) surmised that "the
pamphlet ... is apparently written by some angry Caledonian, who, warmed
with the deepest resentment for some real or supposed injury, gives vent
to his indignation, and treats every part of Dr. Johnson's character
with the utmost asperity." A month later, the _Gentleman's Magazine_
(LII [September 1782], 439), "reciting the circumstance" of the origin
of the _Deformities_, contended that it was a revenge pamphlet inspired
by an anti-Ossian publication by William Shaw ("Nadir" Shaw, in the
_Deformities_), who "'denied the existence of Gaelic poetry....'" "Dr.
Johnson was his patron; and THEREFORE this Essayist, 'by fair and
copious quotations from Dr. Johnson's ponderous performances, has
attempted to illustrate'" his extraordinary defects. And in February
1783 (LXVIII, 185-186), the _Monthly Review_ briefly noted:

     This seems to be the production of some ingenious but angry
     Scotchman, who has taken great pains to prove, what all the world
     knows, that there are many exceptionable passages in the writings
     of Dr. Johnson. There are, however, few spots in this literary
     luminary now pointed out that have not been discovered before.
     So that the present map must be considered rather as a monument of
     the delineator's malignity, than of his wit.--His _personalities_
     seem to indicate personal provocation; though perhaps it may be
     all pure _nationality_.

Though Boswell mentions the pamphlet and quotes a letter in which
Johnson comments on it,[6] neither he nor any of his editors before L.
F. Powell try to identify the incensed author. In 1815 Robert Anderson
said that the _Deformities_, "an invidious contrast to 'The Beauties of
Johnson,'" is "the production of Mr. Thomson Callender, nephew of
Thomson the poet."[7]

When the _Deformities_ was catalogued in the Bodleian Library in
1834,[8] it was attributed to John Callander of Craigforth. In _A
Critical Review of the Works of Dr. Samuel Johnson_, the statement is
made (p. 4) that "Mr. Callander of Craigforth ... observes" that "'Had
the laborious Johnson been better acquainted with the oriental tongues,
or had he even understood the first rudiments of the northern languages
from which the English and Scots derive their origin, his bulky volumes
had not presented to us the melancholy truth, that unwearied industry,
_devoid of settled principles_, avails only to add one error to
another.'" This latter blast, taken from the "Introduction" to
Callander's _Two Ancient Scottish Poems, The Gaberlunzie Man and
Christ's Kirk on the Green_ (Edinburgh, 1782), may well have been the
evidence that caused _A Critical Review_ to be attributed to John
Callander of Craigforth; then, because of the interconnections between
it and the _Deformities_ and because of their convincing similarity, the
_Deformities_ was also assigned to him. On the other hand, one is
puzzled by the Bodleian's failure to accept the passage from John
Callander in _A Critical Review_ as conclusive evidence that he was not
the author of that work.[9]

When the _Deformities_ and _A Critical Review_ were catalogued in the
British Museum, in 1854 and 1862, they were likewise attributed to John
Callander of Craigforth. In 1915 Courtney and Smith seemed to doubt that
John Callander wrote them; for, they noticed, "strangely enough no
mention of them is made by Robert Chambers in his memoir of
Callander."[10] The _Catalogue of Printed Books in the Edinburgh
Library_ (1918) assigns _A Critical Review_ to John Callander; it does
not list the _Deformities_. Arthur G. Kennedy, in _A Bibliography of
Writings on the English Language_ (1927), attributes the _Deformities_
to John Callander; he lists the 1787 issue of _A Critical Review_ as
anonymous. In their _Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English
Literature_ (1926-1932), Halkett and Laing assign _A Critical Review_ to
John Callander on the authority of the British Museum; the _Deformities_
is also assigned to him on the authority of a note by Chalmers in 1782.

Finally, L. F. Powell, _primus editorum_, in his revision of G. B.
Hill's edition of Boswell's _Life_ (1934-1950), quoted from a letter by
James Thomson Callender to John Stockdale, dated 4 October 1783, which
says: "I will be greatly obliged to you, for delivering the remaining
Copies of Deformities of Johnson to the bearer, and sending me his
Receipt for them." Dr. Powell thinks--rightly, we believe, when all the
other evidence is taken into account--that this letter "shows" that
Callender "was the author of the book."[11]

Then in 1940, D. Nichol Smith, no doubt having followed the suspicion he
and W. P. Courtney expressed in 1915, and having available the proof
unearthed by Dr. Powell, attributed both items to J. T. Callender in the
_CBEL_ (II, 627), listing two editions of the _Deformities_ in 1782 and
two of _A Critical Review_ in 1783. The British Museum _Catalogue_ also
now credits the same Scotsman with both works.

The information in Callender's letter to Stockdale, Anderson's
identification, a fairly plausible reason that the _Deformities_ was so
long attributed to John Callander, the similarity of the styles and
contents of the two pamphlets, the parallel circumstances of
publication, the virtual acknowledgement of the _Deformities_ in _A
Critical Review_--all point to a safe conclusion that the two works were
the creations of James Thomson Callender.

Though students of Johnson have frequently noticed the bitter ridicule
in the _Deformities_ and _A Critical Review_, they (since the author of
the pamphlets was unknown) have seldom,[12] if ever, detailed
Callender's turbulent career in America. Similarly, students of American
history have studied Callender's attacks on early American statesmen;
but they have been completely unaware, it seems, that the pamphleteer
who wrote them began his career by making fun of Samuel Johnson. Now
that the authorship of these two early productions has been established,
a study of them provides details that illuminate the foreground of
Callender's career in America. Likewise, of course, the particulars of
his activities in America illuminate the background of his career in
Great Britain.

Near the conclusion of the _Deformities_, Callender relates the
"circumstances which," as he says, "gave ... birth" to the work.

     In 1778, Mr William Shaw published an Analysis of the Gaelic
     language. He quoted specimens of Gaelic poetry, and harangued on
     its beauties.... A few months ago, he printed a pamphlet. He
     traduced decent characters. He denied the existence of Gaelic
     poetry, and his name was echoed in the newspapers as a miracle of
     candour. Is there in the annals of Grubæan impudence any parallel
     to this?... This incomparable bookbuilder, who writes a
     dictionary before he can write grammar, had previously boasted
     what a harvest he would reap from English credulity. He was not
     deceived. The bait was caught.... Mr Shaw wants only money....
     But better things might have been expected from the moral and
     majestic author of the Rambler. He must have seen the Analysis of
     the Gaelic language, for Shaw mentions him as the patron of that
     work. He must have seen the specimens of Celtic poetry there
     inserted. That he is likewise the patron of this poor scribble,
     no man, I suppose, will offer to deny. From this single
     circumstance, Dr Johnson stands convicted of _an illiberal
     intention to deceive_. Candour can hardly hesitate to sum up his
     character in the vulgar but expressive pollysyllable [pp. 86-87].

Readily available facts support some of the central assertions in this
rather heated description of the inception of the _Deformities_.
Specifically, as readers of Boswell's _Life_ may recall, Johnson must be
considered a--if not the--principal patron of the Scotsman William
Shaw's _Analysis of the Gaelic Language_: he wrote the official
proposals for the work, he solicited subscribers to it, and he received
from the grateful author a public acknowledgement (in the
"Introduction") that "To the advice and encouragement of Dr. Johnson,
the friend of letters and humanity, the public is indebted for these
sheets."[13] It is probable, too, that he examined the book at least
cursorily[14] and that in doing so he caught sight of one or more of the
references to Ossian's poetry, perhaps including the "specimen" on pages
145-149. Moreover, in the pamphlet Callender mentions, entitled _An
Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems Ascribed to Ossian_ (1781),
Shaw, setting out to demolish the arguments favoring the ostensible
origins of the purported translations, accords (p. 2) Johnson pride of
place in starting "objections" to the poems and quotes (pp. 6-12)
approvingly first a lengthy passage from _A Journey to the Western
Islands of Scotland_ (1775) and then Johnson's famous letter to James
Macpherson. In addition, Boswell records Johnson's later assistance to
Shaw in composing a reply to John Clark's pro-Ossian _Answer to Mr.
Shaw's Inquiry_ (1781).[15] But to admit all this is scarcely to
"convict" Johnson of a deliberate "_intention to deceive_." On the
contrary, since by 1778 his scepticism regarding the Ossianic writings
was widely known, his _Journey_ having appeared three years earlier, it
could be argued that his patronage of Shaw's _Analysis_ revealed a
degree of understanding and tolerance not always associated with his

For the irate Callender, however, such "shameful" conduct demanded
countermeasures--even by "a private individual, without interest or
connections." The self-appointed champion both of "virtue" and also of
"a world ... weary of" the culprit's "arrogant pedantry" and "officious
malice," he hoped "to humble and reform" Johnson by "glean[ing] the
tithe of" his "absurdities," which, Callender declares, illustrate,
among other defects, Johnson's "prolixity," "corruptions of our
language," "want of general learning," "antipathy to rival merit,"
"paralytick reasoning," "adherence to contradictions," "defiance of
decency," and "contempt of truth" (pp. 87-88).

After garnering the supposed proofs of these multitudinous
"deformities," Callender published his book at Edinburgh (where it was
sold by "W. Creech") in the early part of 1782.[16] The pamphlet, priced
at a shilling and consisting of a two-page introduction and sixty-three
pages of text, was also sold at London by "T. Longman, and J.
Stockdale."[17] Towards the end of the same year (probably in
December),[18] encouraged by the initial "reception," he brought out a
second, enlarged edition of the work, which he had "perused ... with
honest attention, from the first line to the last, that he might
endeavour to supply its deficiencies, and to correct its errors" (p.
vi). Selling for "eighteen pence"[19] and appearing at both Edinburgh
and London, this edition includes a separate preface and comes to a
total of eighty-nine pages. We have chosen it as the text for the
present reproduction of the _Deformities_.

Callender's very limited powers of ridicule and exposure reside largely
in his amassment of material, not in his ability to arrange and
synthesize that material. Indeed, one looks in vain at the work for
anything more than the most obvious and elementary form of organization.
The Preface begins with brief general remarks on "man's" incapacity to
"reform" his "follies" and the "prejudice" and "good nature" of the
"public" respecting this human frailty, offers "Dr. Samuel Johnson" as a
capital example of the general observation, proceeds to "enquire" how
"such a man crawled to the summit of classical reputation," and
concludes, rather abruptly, with a short postcript on the second edition
of the _Deformities_ itself. The Introduction stresses the enormous
differences that, according to Callender, often exist between a man's
words and deeds--particularly, so the reader is told repeatedly if a bit
obliquely, between Johnson's writings (especially the _Dictionary_) and

The body of the pamphlet may be divided into five unequal parts. In the
first (pp. 11-15), Callender launches a freewheeling attack on Johnson,
accusing him of "ill-nature," a revengeful spirit, peevishness, and
insolence (among other lamentable traits), and announces his chosen mode
of chastisement: "From the Doctor's volumes I am to select some
passages, illustrate them with a few observations, and submit them to
the reader's opinion." In the second (pp. 15-47), he presents a
disconnected string of quotations drawn from a number of Johnson's
works and embellished with caustic strictures on their creator's
presumed moral, intellectual, and literary shortcomings. In the third
and longest section (pp. 47-82), separated from the second by a small
printer's device, Callender, after "quoting [pp. 47-51] the remarks
already made by a judicious friend,[20] on this subject," begins a
series of disjointed, angry comments on the supposed weaknesses of "the
Doctor's English Dictionary." Thirty-one pages later, having vented his
ire on the choice and definitions of hundreds of words in the
_Dictionary_, he "take[s] leave" of the "enormous compilation,"
stigmatized as "perhaps ... the strangest farrago which pedantry ever
produced," and "return[s]" briefly, in part four (pp. 82-86; set off
from part three by another small device), "to the rest of" Johnson's
publications, extracts from which he again employs as a means of
exhibiting his subject's supposed faults. Finally, he brings the
rambling essay to a close (pp. 86-89) by recounting its origins,
repeating his principal charges against Johnson, and reasserting his
hopes for the Doctor's "reformation."

Although it contains some lively reading (with the author himself being
the center of our interest about as often as his subject) and should
certainly be readily accessible to students of eighteenth-century
literature, the _Deformities_ merits only restricted attention as a
valid critique of Johnson's character and writings. Ostensibly
employing, by and large, an inductive argument, it professes to
demonstrate the pronounced ethical and mental flaws of the Great Cham,
who enjoys, so Callender freely confesses, an unrivalled reputation
among his contemporaries for his achievements in letters and
lexicography. Besides the deplorable qualities mentioned above and
excluding for the moment a consideration of those most evident in the
_Dictionary_, Johnson's faults are alleged to include dishonesty, pride,
vulgarity, slovenliness, dullness, contempt for other persons, prejudice
(especially against the Scots), ingratitude, "gross expressions," turgid
language, and, above all, ignorance, "nonsense," and countless
inconsistencies. To this sweeping broadside of invective, the modern
reader must respond with steady, sometimes amused, sometimes annoyed
disbelief. He recognizes, to be sure, certain points of likeness between
Callender's abusive imputations and (say) Boswell's highly laudatory
portrait. But the former's accusations are so irresponsible and
intemperate, so obviously the outburst of a quivering Scotsman's intense
indignation, and the evidence adduced is so often wrenched from its
context and misapplied, that the reader inevitably finds himself a
partisan of Johnson even when he might be occasionally inclined to admit
the tenability of Callender's criticism.

Among Johnson's works, the _Dictionary_, as already indicated, bears the
brunt of Callender's heaviest, most sustained assault. Its principal
"deformities," to judge from the amount of space devoted to them, occur
in its definitions and word-list. In Callender's opinion, "most of the
definitions ... may be divided into three classes; the erroneous,
oenigmatical, and superfluous" (p. 58); many of them explicate
"indecent," "blackguard" expressions (pp. 54, 74); and some,
exemplifying the lexicographer's "political tenets," are downright
"seditious and impudent" (p. 13). Of the word-list itself, probably "two
thousand" members, comprising a "profusion of trash," are "not to be
found at all in any other book" (p. 70).

A short introduction is scarcely the place to examine the presumed
existence of these defects in the _Dictionary_. Nevertheless, a few
facts, based on a random sampling of passages in the _Deformities_, may
provide a partial historical perspective for Callender's censures. Of
the group of 210 words on pages 71-72 whose real currency he doubts or
denies, 190 also appear in the second edition (1736) of Nathan Bailey's
_Dictionarium Britannicum_, a copy of which Johnson interleaved and used
as he compiled his own _Dictionary_. Equally revealing, the _OED_
includes 204 of the 210, the second edition of _Webster's International_
158, and the third edition 108. Again, of the 65 words on pages 51-53
whose definitions Callender objects to, 48 also appear, with comparable
explanations, in Bailey's dictionary. Finally, an unsystematic
comparison of Bailey's and Johnson's works reveals a much higher
incidence of so-called "indecent"--at least sexual--terms in the former
than in the latter. The author of the _Deformities_, it is quite
obvious, knew what he disliked about the _Dictionary_; when pressing his
strictures against the book, however, as when mounting his other attacks
on Johnson, his violent passions rode roughshod over his faint
pretensions to fairness and objectivity.

    University of Chicago
    Findlay College


1. The _DNB_ and the _DAB_ both contain accounts of Callender
(complete, of course, with lists of their primary sources) to which we
are indebted for various details in our own sketch of his life. However,
neither mentions his pamphlets on Johnson.

2. Quoted from Hamilton by David Loth in _Alexander Hamilton: Portrait
of a Prodigy_ (New York, 1939), p. 249.

3. From the Richmond _Recorder_ as printed in the New York _Evening
Post_, 10 September 1802; quoted from _Jefferson Reader_, ed. Francis
Coleman Rosenberger (New York, 1953), pp. 109-111.

4. There were apparently three editions of _A Critical Review_: (1)
Edinburgh: Printed for J. Dickson, and W. Creech, 1783. (2) Second
Edition. London. Printed for the Author, and sold by T. Cadell and J.
Stockdale; at Edinburgh, by J. Dickson and W. Creech, 1783. (3) London.
Printed for R. Rusted, 1787. We are indebted to the Pierpont Morgan
Library for a photographic reproduction of its copy of the first edition
of the pamphlet.

5. Brit. Mus. Addit. MS 6401, f. 175 b. Part of this letter is quoted
by L. F. Powell in Boswell's _Life of Johnson_, IV, 499 (cited hereafter
as _Life_).

6. Writing to Boswell on 28 March 1782, Johnson remarks: "The Beauties
of Johnson are said to have got money to the collector; if the
'Deformities' have the same success, I shall be still a more extensive
benefactor" (_The Letters of Samuel Johnson_, ed. R. W. Chapman [Oxford,
1952], II, 475).

7. _Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. With Critical Observations on His
Works_ (3rd ed.; Edinburgh, 1815), p. 231. Anderson is apparently
incorrect in saying that Callender was Thomson's nephew.

8. There is apparently no copy of _A Critical Review_ in the Bodleian.

9. In his Introduction to a recent reprint (New York, 1965) of John
Rae's _Life of Adam Smith_ (1895), Jacob Viner (who expresses his
indebtedness to "Herman W. Liebert for bringing _A Critical Review_ to
my attention and for warning me that J. T. Callender, its author, was
probably also the author of _Deformities of Dr. Samuel Johnson_")
concludes that the quotation from John Callander in _A Critical Review_
is sufficient "to acquit John Callander of any responsibility for
authorship of either _Deformities of Samuel Johnson_ or _A Critical
Review_" (p. 68; see also pp. 62-69).

10. William P. Courtney and D. Nichol Smith, _A Bibliography of Samuel
Johnson_ (Oxford, 1915; reissued with facsimiles, 1925), p. 136.

11. _Life_, IV, 499. Callender's letter itself, reproduced in the _R.
B. Adam Library_ (III, 48), is now in the Hyde Collection. Dr. Powell,
like Robert Anderson, says that James Thomson Callender was a nephew of
the poet James Thomson, and gives the _DNB_ as the source of his

12. In 1962, one of the present writers, J. E. Congleton, published an
article on "James Thomson Callender, Johnson and Jefferson" (_Johnsonian
Studies_ [Cairo, 1962], pp. 161-172) which forms the basis of a part of
the present introduction.

13. _Life_, III, 106, 107, 214, 488.

14. _Ibid._, III, 106.

15. _Ibid._, IV, 252-253, 526.

16. The work appeared well before 28 March 1782 when Johnson referred
to it in the letter of Boswell cited above in note 6. In the _Life_ (IV,
148), Boswell remarks that he had previously "informed" Johnson "that as
'The Beauties of Johnson' had been published in London, some obscure
scribbler had published at Edinburgh, what he called 'The Deformities of

17. On p. 63, Callender calls the work "a shilling pamphlet." We are
grateful to the Pierpont Morgan Library for a photographic reproduction
of its copy of the first edition of the _Deformities_.

18. Since its Preface is dated 21 November 1782, the second edition was
presumably published after that time but before the beginning of 1783.

19. At the end of the second edition, Callender declares: "To collect
every particle of _inanity_ which may be found in our _patriot's_ works
is infinitely beyond the limits of an eighteen-pence pamphlet" (p. 88).

20. In a footnote on p. 51, Callender tells us that the "remarks" of
the "judicious friend" appear in No. 12 of the _Weekly Mirror_, a
periodical which, according to the _CBEL_ (II, 665, 685), was published
at Edinburgh from 22 September 1780 through 23 March 1781, for a total
of 26 numbers; the editor was apparently James Tytler, the publisher J.


The text of this facsimile reprint of the second edition of Callender's
_Deformities_ (1782) is published with the kind permission of the
University of Chicago Library.





_Nihil rerum mortalium tam instabile ac fluxum est, quam fama_--TACITUS.

The diversion of _baiting_ an AUTHOR has the sanction of all ages and
nations, and is more lawful than the sport of teizing other _animals_
because for the most part HE comes voluntarily to the stake.

                                                       RAMBLER, No. 176.



Printed for the AUTHOR; and sold by J. STOCKDALE;


W. CREECH, Edinburgh.




Man is endowed with sagacity sufficient to discover his errors, but
seldom has fortitude to forsake them. Hence it arises that even the
weakest of the species can point out the follies of his companions, and
fancies that he can reform his own. We are amazed that a being like
ourselves should thus deliberately act below the dignity of reason, but
we forget that our own conduct may also be reviewed with contempt and

The world is buried in prejudice: Every department of knowledge is
deeply infected by its fatal poison. Thus we frequently respect or
reprobate a book without a perusal, merely on account of the Author's
name. Not one in ten thousand of his panegyrists hath ever comprehended
the system of Newton.--What then is the value of _their_ approbation?
The public have long heard that a late English Dictionary is a most
masterly performance; but is there a single man in England who ever read
it half through? No. The school-boy imagines that it is above his
capacity: The man of letters feels it to be below his; but being
considered as a fashionable decoration in a closet of books, it is
bought without the least chance of being perused, and WE (for the
_first_ time to be sure) have been admiring we know not what.

However as the variety of our sentiments is without end, it often
happens, that while a philosopher is celebrated by one part of his
readers, he is despised by some of the rest. Almost all the great
authors of the present age have been more bitterly reviled than any
other subjects of England, the Ministry excepted. But in a matter so
frivolous as the merit of a book, the public are seldom guilty of gross
injustice. Indeed, when an acute historian continues, in contempt of his
own conviction, to persist in a falsehood, merely because he hath once
affirmed it--when an elegant poet, in search of sublimity, soars, or
rather sinks beyond the kenn of common sense[1]--when an astronomer
treats his antagonist like a felon--when an advocate of piety
impregnates his pages with slander, scurrility, and treason--then the
world may be pardoned though they abate something of their veneration
for the dignity of the learned.

We can hardly produce a stronger evidence of the prejudice, and the good
nature of the public, than their indulgence to the foibles of Dr Samuel
Johnson; nor a stronger evidence of the force of self-conceit, than that
disdain of admonition which forms the capital feature in his character.
He seems to fancy that his opinions cannot be disputed; and many of his
admirers acquiesce in his idea; yet his volumes are of no great value;
his personal appearance cannot much recommend him; his conversation
would shock the rudest savage. His ignorance, his misconduct, and his
success, are a striking proof that the race is not always to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong. Let us enquire by what singular series of
accidents, such a man crawled to the summit of classical reputation?

Most of his verses were among his early productions, and they merit
abundant praise. His account of Savage compelled our approbation, and
discovered a species of excellence but very little known in the annals
of English literature. The force of language and of thought which he
displayed in the Rambler, extended his reputation, and atoned for his
numerous imperfections. He had by this time engaged to write an English
Dictionary. Wise men are known by their work, says the Proverb. After
many years he produced a performance of which I shall only say what can
easily be proved, that few books are so unworthy of the title which they
bear, and so void of every thing intellectual.

But Dr Johnson's credit was supported by something very different from
intrinsic merit. As he was not worth a shilling, his work was printed
and patronized by a phalanx of booksellers; and we can have no doubt
that much of his success was owing to their vigorous but interested
exertions. He had likewise other assistance, which would have been more
than sufficient to support the reputation of an ordinary writer. He was
protected by Mr. Garrick, the darling of mankind. England herself never
produced a more generous friend: And though he seldom wrote lessons of
morality, nothing could exceed the clearness of his understanding, but
the benevolence of his heart. By him, it is probable, Dr Johnson was
introduced to the late Earl of Chesterfield; a Minister, a man of
letters, and a friend to merit. His Lordship was persuaded to celebrate,
by anticipation, the merits of the Doctor's Dictionary[2], and his
condescension is said to have been repaid by the most ungrateful
insolence. Of these two illustrious men it may almost be affirmed that
their influence was universal, and when supported by the weight of the
booksellers, opposition sunk before it. The Doctor soon after received a
pension from the most unfortunate of all Statesmen, a Statesman whom
North Britons ought to mention as seldom as possible, and his name
acquired additional splendour from the dignity of Independence.

Since that period his reputation, or at least his popularity, has been
rather on the decline. His edition of Shakespeare was with difficulty
forced upon the world by every artifice of trade. His political pieces
have long since insured the detestation of his countrymen, a few
individuals excepted. His Tour, considered as a whole, is a ridiculous
performance. His lives of English Poets abound with judicious
observations; but the great misfortune is, that our historian can very
seldom conceal the narrowness of his soul.

Of the present trifle the Author has very little to say. The reception
which it at first met with has induced him to risk a second edition. He
has perused it with honest attention, from the first line to the last,
that he might endeavour to supply its deficiencies, and to correct its
errors. In the execution of this task, he has frequently had occasion to
remark, that it is more easy to demolish a palace than to erect a

    EDINBURGH,        }
    _Nov. 21, 1782_.  }


When a boy peruses a book with pleasure, his admiration riseth
immediately from the work to its author. His fancy fondly ranks his
favourite with the wise, and the virtuous. He glows with a lover's
impatience, to reach the presence of this _superior being_, to drink of
science at the fountain-head, to complete his ideas at once, and riot in
all the luxuries of learning.

The novice unhappily presumes, that men who command the passions of
others cannot be slaves to their own: That a historian must feel the
worth of justice and tenderness, while he tells us, how kings and
conquerors are commonly the burden and the curse of society: That an
assertor of public freedom will never become the dupe of flattery, and
the pimp of oppression: That the founder of a system cannot want words
to explain it: _That_ the compiler of a _dictionary_ has at least a
common degree of knowledge: _That_ an inventor of _new_ terms can tell
what they mean: _That_ he, who refines and fixes the language of
empires, is able to converse, without the pertness of a pedant, or the
vulgarity of a porter: _That_ a preacher of morality will blush to
persist in vindictive, deliberate, and detected falsehoods: _That_ he
who totters on the brink of eternity will speak with caution and
humanity of the dead: And _that_ a traveller, who pretends to veracity,
dares not avow contradictions.

But in learning, as in life, much of our happiness flows from deception.
Ignorance, the parent of wonder, is often the parent of esteem and love.
While devouring Horace we venerate the Deserter of Brutus, and the
Slave of Cæsar. Transported by his sublime eloquence, the reader of
Cicero forgets that Cicero himself was a plagiarist and a coward: That
Rome was but a den of robbers: That Cataline resembled the rest; and
that this rebel was only revenging the blood of butchered nations, of
Samnium, of Epirus, of Carthage, and of--HANNIBAL.

'The laurels which human praise confers are withered and blasted by the
unworthiness of those who wear them.' There is often a curious contrast
between an author and his books. The mildest, the politest, the wisest,
and the most _worthy_ man alive, pens five hundred pages to display the
pleasures of friendship and the beauties of benevolence; but alas! he is
a theorist only, for his sympathy never cost him a shilling. A
party-tool talks of public spirit. A pedant commands our tears. A
pensioner inveighs against pensions; and a bankrupt preaches public
oeconomy. The philosopher quotes Horace, while he defrauds his valet.
A mimick of Richardson, is a domestic tyrant: A Sydenham, the rendezvous
of diseases: A declaimer against envy, of all men the most invidious.
The satirist has not a reformer's virtues. The poet of love and
friendship is without a mistress, or a friend; while a time-server
celebrates the valour of heroes, and exults in the _freedom_ of England.
Like Penelope, most writers employ part of their time to undo the
labours of the rest. Judging by their lives one would think it were
their chief study to render learning ridiculous. We lose all respect for
teachers, who, when the lesson is ended, are 'no wiser or better than
common men.' To be convinced that books are trifles, let us only remark
how little good they do, and how little those, who love them, love each
other. The monopolists of literary fame, for the most part, regard a
rival as an enemy. Their mutual hostilities, like those of aquatick
animals, are unavoidable and constant; and their voracity differs from
that of the shark, but as a half-devoured carcase, from a murdered
reputation. The existence of many books depends on the ruin of some of
the rest; yet, with our _English Dictionary_, a few _immortal_
compositions are to live unwounded by the shafts of envy, and to descend
in a torrent of applause from one century to another. A thousand of
their critics will exist and be forgotten; a thousand of their imitators
will sink into contempt; but THEY shall defy the force of time; continue
to flourish thro' every _fashion_ of philosophy, and, like Egyptian
pyramids, perish but in the ruins of the globe.


In the number of men who dishonour their own genius, ought to be ranked
Dr Samuel Johnson; for his abilities and learning are not accompanied by
candour and generosity. His life of Pomfret concludes with this maxim,
that 'he who pleases many, must have merit;' yet, in defiance of his own
rule, the Doctor has, a thousand times, attempted to prove, that they
who please many, have _no_ merit. His invidious and revengeful remark on
Chesterfield, would have disgraced any other man. He said, and nobody
but himself would have said it, that Churchill was a shallow fellow. And
he once told some of his admirers, that SWIFT was a _shallow_, a _very
shallow_ fellow: reminding us of the Lilliputian who drew _his_ bow to
Gulliver[3]. For the memory of this man, who may be classed with Cato
and Phocion, the Doctor feels no tenderness or respect. And for that[4],
and other critical blasphemies, he has undergone innumerable floggings.
No writer of this nation has made more noise. None has discovered more
contempt for other men's reputations, or more confidence in his own. I
would humbly submit a few hints for his improvement, if he be not 'too
old to learn.' And, whatever freedoms I take, the Doctor himself may be
quoted as a precedent for insolent invective, and brutal reproach. He
has told us[5], that 'the two lowest of all human beings are, a
scribbler for a party, and a commissioner of excise.' This very man was
himself the hired scribbler of a party; and why should a commissioner of
excise be one of the meanest of mankind? In the preface to his octavo
Dictionary, the Doctor affirms, that, 'by the labours of all his
predecessors, not even the _lowest_ expectation can be gratified.' The
author of a revisal of Shakespeare[6] attacks (he says) with '_gloomy
malignity_, as if he were dragging to justice an assassin or incendiary.
He bites like a viper, and would be glad to leave inflammations and
gangrene behind him.' For this shocking language, which could have been
answered by nothing but a blow, the _primum mobile_, perhaps, was, that
the critic had dedicated his book to Lord Kaims, (a Scotsman, and
another very _shallow_ fellow) 'as the truest judge, and most
intelligent admirer of Shakespeare.'

His treatment of Colley Cibber is, if possible, worse. That great
ornament of the stage was a man of genius, at least equal to Dr
Johnson--but they had a quarrel, and though Cibber has been more than
twenty years buried, the Doctor, in his life of Pope, studies to revenge
it. His expressions are gross. 'In the Dunciad, among other _worthless_
scribblers he (Pope) had mentioned _Cibber_. The dishonour of being
shewn as _Cibber's_ antagonist could never be compensated by the
victory. _Cibber_ had nothing to lose--The shafts of satire were
directed in vain against _Cibber_, being repelled by the impenetrable
impudence,' &c.[7] We have been deafened about the Doctor's private
virtues; of which these passages are a very poor evidence.

It is believed by some, that Dr Johnson's _admirable_ Dictionary is the
most capital monument of human genius; that the studies of Archimedes
and Newton are but like a feather in the scale with this amazing work;
that he has given our language a stability, which, without him, it had
never known; that he has performed alone, what, in other nations, whole
academies fail to perform; and that as the fruit of _his_ learning and
sagacity, our compositions will be classical and immortal. This may be
true; but the book displays many proofs or his _ill-nature_, and evinces
what I want to insist on, viz. that _he who despises politeness cannot
deserve it_. For his seditious and impudent definitions[8] he would, in
Queen Anne's reign, have had a fair chance of mounting the pillory.
Hume, Smith, and Chesterfield may be quoted to prove, that Walpole and
Excise were improper objects of execration; but an _emanation_ of royal
munificence has, of late, relaxed the Doctor's _frigorific_ virtue; and,
in his _False Alarm_, he affirms, that our government approaches nearer
to perfection, _than any other that fiction has feigned, or history
recorded_. This is going pretty far; but the peevish, though
_incorruptible_ patriot, proceeds a great deal farther. His political
pieces have great elegance and wit; yet, if the tenth part of what he
advances in them be true, his countrymen are a mob of ignorant,
ungrateful, rebellious ruffians. Every member in Opposition is a fool, a
firebrand, a monster; worse, if that were possible, than Ravillac,
Hambden, or Milton[9]. Here is a short specimen:

'On the original contrivers of mischief let an insulted nation pour out
its vengeance. With whatever design they have inflamed this pernicious
contest, they are themselves equally detestable. If they wish success to
the colonies, they are TRAITORS to this country; if they wish their
defeat, they are TRAITORS at once to America and England. To them
(Mess. Burke & Co.) and them only, must be imputed the interruption of
commerce, and the miseries of war, the sorrow of those who shall be
ruined, and the blood of those that shall fall[10].'

From the Doctor's volumes I am to select some passages, illustrate them
with a few observations, and submit them to the reader's opinion. These
pages aim at _perspicacity_. They are ambitious to record TRUTH.

'He that writes the life of another, is either his friend or his enemy,
and wishes either to exalt his praise, or aggravate his infamy[11].' The
Doctor betrays a degree of inconsistency incompatible with his reputed
abilities. After such a confession, what have we to hope for in _his_
lives of English poets?

Having thus denied veracity both to Plutarch and _himself_, this Idler,
in the very next page, leaps at once from the wildest scepticism to the
wildest credulity. The paragraph is too long for insertion; but the
tenor of it is, that 'a man's account of himself, left behind him
unpublished, may be _depended on_;' because, 'by self-love all have been
so often betrayed, _that_ (now for the strangest flight of nonsense) all
are on the watch against its artifices.'

In his Dictionary, _temperance_ is defined to be '_moderation opposed to
gluttony and drunkenness_.' And he has since defined 'sobriety or
temperance' to be '_nothing_ but the forbearance of _pleasure_[12].'
This maxim needs no comment.

'A man will, in the hour of darkness and fatigue, be content to leave
behind him every thing but _himself_[13].' Here the Doctor supposes,
that a person can leave _himself_ behind _himself_. When the reader
examines the passage in the original, he will be convinced, that this
cannot be an error of the press only. Had the Rambler, when he crossed
Tweed, left behind him his pride, his indolence, and his vulgarity, he
would have returned a much wiser, better, and happier man than he did.

_Form_, he explains to be, 'the external appearance of any thing,
shape;' but, when speaking of hills in the North of Scotland, he says,
'the appearance is that of matter incapable of FORM[14]!' He has seen
_matter_, not only destitute, but incapable of _shape_. He has seen an
_appearance_ which is incapable of _external_ appearance. And yet, in
the same book, he seems to regret the weakness of his vision.

Beauty is 'that assemblage of graces which pleases the eye.' But, in the
Idler[15], he displays his true idea of beauty; and it is a very lame
piece of philosophy. Judge from a few samples: 'If a man, born blind,
was to recover his sight, and the most beautiful woman was to be brought
before him, he could not determine whether she was handsome or not. Nor
if the most handsome and most deformed were produced, could he any
better determine to which he should give the preference, having seen
only these two.' And again, 'as we are then more accustomed to beauty
than deformity, we may conclude _that_ to be the reason why we approve
and admire it.' Moreover, 'though habit and custom cannot be said to be
the cause[16] of beauty, IT is certainly the cause of our liking it[17].
I have no doubt, but that, if we were more used to deformity than
beauty, deformity would then lose the idea now annexed to it, and take
that of beauty; as if the whole world should agree that _yes_ and _no_
should change their meanings, _yes_ would then deny, and _no_ would
affirm.' This is such a perfection of nonsense, that the reader will,
perhaps, think it a forgery; but he will find it _verbatim et
literatim_, and the whole number is in the same stile.

'Swift in his _petty_ treatise on the English language, allows that new
words _must_ sometimes be introduced, but proposes that _none_ should be
suffered to become obsolete[18].' The Doctor has not given a fair
quotation from Swift. One would imagine that Swift had proposed to
retain every word which is to be found in any of our popular authors,
but he neither said nor meant any such thing. His words are these:
'They' (the members of the proposed society) 'will find many words _that
deserve to be utterly thrown out of our language_!' And the Dean says
nothing afterwards which infers a contradiction[19].

In his account of Lyttleton, the Doctor's good nature is evident. He
speaks not a word as to the merit of the history of Henry II. but--'It
was published with such anxiety as only _vanity_ can dictate.' We are
next entertained with a page of dirty anecdotes concerning its
publication, which the Doctor seems to have picked up from some
printer's journeyman. 'The Persian Letters have something of that
indistinct and headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius
_always_ catches when he enters the world, and _always_ suffers to cool
as he passes forward.' Of the admired monody to the memory of Lady
Lyttleton, we are told only that it is _long_. 'His dialogues of the
dead were very eagerly read, tho' the production rather, as it seems of
leisure than of study, rather effusions than compositions. The names of
his persons too often enable the reader to anticipate their
conversation; and when they have met, they too often part without a
conclusion.' These remarks apply with peculiar justice to Dr Johnson's
dictionary, for that work is an _effusion_ rather than a _composition_.
His reader is for the most part able to anticipate his definitions, and
they generally end without conclusion. Lord Lyttleton's poems 'have
_nothing_ to be _despised_ and _little_ to be _admired_.' But here, as
usual, the Doctor contradicts himself, and in the very next line 'of his
Progress of Love, _it is sufficient blame to say_ that it is pastoral.
His blank verse in Blenheim has neither much force, nor much elegance.
His little performances, whether songs or epigrams, are sometimes
spritely, and sometimes _insipid_'--and of course _despicable_. The
candid and accurate author of the Rambler has forgot the existence of
that beautiful blossom of sensibility, that pure effusion of friendship,
the prologue to Coriolanus.

The life of Dr Young has been written by a lawyer, who conveys the
meanest thoughts in the meanest language. His stile is dry, stiff,
grovelling, and impure. His anecdotes and ideas, are evidently the cud
of Dr Johnson's conversation. He continues in the same fretful tone from
the first line to the last. He is at once most contemptuous and
contemptible. Whatever he says is insipid or disgusting. He is the bad
imitator of a bad original; and an honest man cannot peruse his libel
without indignation. He steps out of his way to remind us of Milton's
_corporal correction_, a story fabricated, as is well known, by his
Employer. His ignorance has already been illustrated in a periodical
pamphlet. Johnson himself, with all his imperfections, is often as far
superior to this unhappy penman, as the author of the Night-Thoughts is
superior to Johnson. And yet this critical assassin, this literary
jackall, is celebrated by the Doctor[20]. _Pares cum paribus facile

'Dryden's poem on the death of Mrs Killigrew is undoubtedly the noblest
ode that our language ever has produced. The first part flows with a
torrent of enthusiasm. All the stanzas, indeed, are not equal.' He
proceeds to compare it with an imperial crown, &c. But, a little after,
'the ode on St Cecilia's day is allowed _to stand without a rival_[21].'
These are his identical words; and his admirers may reconcile them if
they can. Indeed, he seems ashamed of his own inconsistency, and is
ready to relapse; but thinks, upon the whole, that Alexander's Feast
'may, _perhaps_, be pronounced superior to the ode on Killigrew.' Dr
Johnson is said to be the greatest critic of his age; yet the verses on
Mrs Killigrew are beneath all criticism; and, perhaps, no person ever
read them through, except their author, and himself.

Dryden's fable 'of the Cock and Fox seems hardly worth the labour of
_rejuvenescence_[22].' Some _narcotic_ seems to have _refrigerated_ the
red liquor which circulates in the Doctor's veins[23], and to have
_hebetated_ and _obtunded_ his powers of _excogitation_[24], for
elegance and wit never met more happily than here. Peruse only the first
page of this poem, and then judge. The nonsense which has been written
by critics is, in quantity and absurdity, beyond all conception. Perhaps
his admirers may answer, that my remark is but the _ramification_ of
envy, the _intumescence_ of ill-nature, the _exacerbation_ of 'gloomy
malignity.' However, it would not be amiss to commit that page of
_inanity_ to the power of _cremation_; and let not his fondest idolaters
confide in its _indiscerptibility_. In painting the sentiments and the
scenes of common life, to write English which Englishmen cannot read, is
a degree of insolence hardly known till now, and seems to be nothing but
the poor refuge of pedantic dullness.

His Abyssinian tale hath many beauties, yet the characters are insipid,
the narrative ridiculous, the moral invisible, and the reader
disappointed. '_Intercepting interruptions_ and _volant_ animals' are
above common comprehension. The Newtonian system had reached the happy
valley; for its inhabitants talk of the earth's _attraction_ and the
body's _gravity_[25]. To tell a tale is not the Doctor's most happy
talent; he can hardly be proud of his success in _that_ species of

Speaking of Scotland, he says, 'The variety of sun and shade is here[26]
utterly unknown. There is no tree for either shelter or timber. The oak
and the thorn _is_ equally a stranger. They have neither wood for
palisades, nor thorns for hedges. A tree may be shown in Scotland as a
horse in Venice[27].' An _English_ reader may, perhaps, require to be
told, that there are thousands of trees of all ages and dimensions,
within a mile of Edinburgh; that there are numerous and thriving
plantations in Fife; and that, as some of them overshadow part of the
post-road to St Andrew's, the Doctor must have been blinder than
darkness, if he did not see them. But why would any man travel at all,
who is determined to believe nothing which he _hears_, and who, at the
same time, cannot _see_ six inches beyond his nose?

'We are not very sure that the bull is ever _without horns_, though we
have been told that such bulls there are[28].' Who are the _we_ he
refers to? and who but the Doctor ever started so weak a question? His
ignorance is below ridicule. It is true, that, in England, bulls which
_want_ horns are less numerous than husbands who _have_ them; yet such
bulls are always to be found. For the performance which contains this
profound remark, this _agglomerated ramification of torpid imbecility_,
be it known, that _we_ have paid six shillings, which verifies the
proverb, that _a fool and his money are soon parted_.

'We found a small church, clean to a degree unknown in any other part of
Scotland[29]!' Here the fact _may_ be true; but Dr Johnson _must_ be
ignorant whether it is or not. It is certain, that some buildings of
that kind in Edinburgh, are no high specimens of national taste; but, if
the Rambler would insinuate that this want of elegance is general, we
must impeach his veracity; we must remind him, that there are gloomy,
dirty, and unwholesome cathedrals in _both_ countries; and we must
lament, that, when entering Scotland, the Doctor _left every thing
behind him but_ HIMSELF.

'Suspicion has been always considered, when it exceeds the common
measure, as a token of depravity and corruption; and a Greek writer has
laid it down as a standing maxim, that _he who believes not the oath of
another, knows himself to be perjured_.--Suspicion is, indeed, a temper
so uneasy and restless, that it is very justly appointed the
concomitant of guilt. Suspicion is not less an enemy to virtue than to
happiness. He that is already corrupt, is naturally suspicious, and he
that becomes suspicious, will quickly be corrupt[30].' This cannot
always be true; but, if it were, the Rambler is by far the greatest
miscreant who ever infested society. Speaking of Scotland, he says, 'I
know not whether I found man or woman whom I interrogated concerning
payments of money, that could surmount the illiberal desire of
_deceiving me_, by representing every thing as dearer than it is.--The
Scot must be a sturdy moralist who does not love Scotland better than
truth[31].' Apply the Doctor's maxims to his own conduct, and then judge
of his honesty. He adds a little after: 'The civility and respect which
we found at every place, it is _ungrateful_ to omit, and tedious to
repeat[32].' He should not have spoke of ingratitude. The picture grows
quite shocking.

'How they lived without kail, it is not easy to guess. They cultivate
hardly any other plant for common tables; and, when they had not kail,
_they probably had_ NOTHING[33].' As the word _kail_ is not to be found
in his Dictionary, an English reader will be at a loss to find out what
he means. His conjecture is ridiculous; and here a _new_ contradiction
must be swallowed by the Doctor's believers; for, if OATS be 'a grain,
which, in England, is generally given to horses, but, in Scotland,
_supports_ the people[34],' in that case, it is easy to guess how they
lived without _kail_. Any thing else had surely been better than to fill
up his heavy folios with such peevish nonsense.

In his life of Butler, the Doctor has confined his remarks to
_Hudibras_, though the rest of that author's works, both in prose and
verse, merit equal attention. What are we to think of this invidious and
culpable omission? Hudibras itself would, perhaps, have been omitted, if
the book had not tended to ridicule dissenters; for no man in England
seems to hate that sect so heartily. In Watt's life, he takes care to
tell us, that the author was to be praised in every thing but his
_non-conformity_; and, in his ever memorable Tour, the Rambler says, 'I
found several (Highland Ministers), with whom I could not converse,
without wishing, as my respect increased, that they had not been
presbyterians[35].' Here a critic has very properly interrogated the
Doctor, what he would have said or thought, if the Highland ministers
had lamented that _he_ was _not_ a presbyterian? This man has no
tincture of the liberal and humane manners of the present age; and yet,
with his peculiar consistency, he laughs at the dissenter who refused to
eat a Christmas pye[36]. This quondam believer in the Cocklane ghost
says, 'though I have, like the rest of mankind, many failings and
weaknesses, I have not yet, by either friends or enemies, been charged
with _superstition_[37];' yet, with all the Doctor's 'contempt of old
women and their tales[38],' he would, if a Roman consul, have disbanded
his army for the scratching of a rat[39].

'We found tea here, as in every other place, but our spoons were of
horn[40].' This important fact had been hinted in a former page; and
such is the Doctor's politeness!

    Some rugged rock's hard entrails gave thee form,
    And raging seas produc'd thee in a storm.            POPE.

'They do what I found it not very easy to endure. They _pollute_ the
tea-table by plates piled with large slices of Cheshire cheese[41].' The
happiness of this remark will be fully felt by those acquainted with the
peculiar purity of Pomposo's person.

'M'Leod left them _lying_ dead by families as they _stood_[42].' This is
_profound_; for no man can stand and lie at the same time. The line
ought to be read thus: 'M'Leod left them lying _dead_ by families as
they HAD _stood_.'

Of the Memoirs of Scriblerus, the Doctor says: 'If the whole may be
estimated by this specimen, which seems to be the production of
Arbuthnot, with a few touches, perhaps, by Pope, the want of more will
not be much lamented; for the follies which the writer ridicules, are so
little practised, that they are not known; nor can the satire be
understood but by the learned: He raises phantoms of absurdity, and then
drives them away: He cures diseases that were never felt.

'For this reason[43], the joint production of three great writers has
never obtained _any_ notice from mankind. It has been little read, or
when read, has been forgotten, as no man could be wiser, better, or
merrier by remembering it.

'The design cannot boast of much originality; for, besides its general
resemblance to _Don Quixote_, there will be found in it particular
imitations of the history of Mr Ouffle.

'Swift carried so much of it into Ireland as supplied him with hints for
his travels; and with those the world might have been contented, though
the rest had been suppressed[44].'

Here we have a copious specimen of the Doctor's _taste_; and all the
volumes of English criticism cannot produce a poorer page.

The work thus condemned, displays a very rich vein of wit and learning.
The follies which it exposes, though a little heightened, were, in that
age, frequent, and perfectly well known. The writers whom it ridicules,
have sunk into _nihility_. The book is always reprinted with the prose
works of Pope, and Swift, and Arbuthnot; and what stronger mark of
_notice_ can the public bestow? Every man who reads it, must be the
wiser and the merrier; and the satire may be understood with very little

Dr Arbuthnot was a Scotsman, and, probably, a Presbyterian. He was an
amiable man. He is _dead_. Dr Johnson feels himself to be his inferior;
and, therefore, endeavours to murder the reputation of his works. To
gain credit with the reader, he artfully draws a very high character of
Arbuthnot, a few pages before, and here, in effect, overturns it. He had
said that Arbuthnot was 'a scholar, with great brilliancy of wit.' But,
if his wit and learning are not displayed in the Memoirs of Scriblerus,
we may ask where wit and learning are to be found?

Of this extract, the style is as slovenly as the leading sentiments are

The book is said to be, the 'production of Arbuthnot.' Within ten lines,
it is 'the joint production of _three_ great writers.' How can follies
be practised which are not known? or diseases cured, which were never
felt? He claims the attributes of omniscience when saying, that 'it has
been little read, or when read, has been forgotten;' for, as it has been
so frequently reprinted, no human being can be certain that it has been
little read, or forgotten; but there is the strongest evidence of the
contrary. This period concludes, as it began, with a most absurd
assertion. If 'the design cannot boast of much originality,' there is
nothing original in the literary world. Who is Mr Ouffle? and who told
the Doctor that Swift carried any part of Scriblerus into Ireland, to
supply hints for his travels? When Gulliver was published, Dr Arbuthnot,
as appears from their correspondence, did not know whether that book was
written by Swift or not; so that we are sure the Dean carried _nothing_
of Arbuthnot's along with him. Had Dr Johnson 'flourished and stunk' in
their age, he would have been the hero of Martin's memoirs; and, to
suppose him conscious of this circumstance, will account for the
Rambler's malevolence, and explain why the bull broke into a

I beg particular attention to the following passage.

'His (Pope's) version may be said to have tuned the English tongue; for,
since its appearance, no writer[45], however deficient in other powers,
has wanted _melody_[46].' This is wild enough; but, of Gray's two
longest Odes, 'the language is laboured into _harshness_.' Hammond's
verses 'never glide in a stream of _melody_.' The diction of Collins
'was often _harsh_, unskilfully laboured, and injudiciously selected.
His lines, commonly, are of slow motion, clogged and impeded with
clusters of consonants.' Of the style of Savage, 'The general fault is,
_harshness_.' The diction of Shenstone 'is often _harsh_, improper, and
affected,' &c.

Of these five poets, some were not born when Pope's version was
published; and, of the rest, not one had penned a line now extant. They
are all here charged, in the strongest terms, with _harshness_; and yet,
(_mirabile dictu!_) since the appearance of Pope's version, 'no writer,
however deficient in other powers, has wanted _melody_.'

It is no less curious, that the author of this wonder-working
translation is himself charged with want of melody; and that too in a
poem written many years after the appearance of Pope's Homer. 'The essay
on man contains more lines unsuccessfully laboured, more _harshness_ of
diction, more thoughts imperfectly expressed, more levity without
elegance, and more heaviness without strength,[47]' &c.

'Gray thought his language more poetical, as it was more remote from
common use[48].' This assertion is not entirely without foundation, but
it is very far from being quite true.

'Finding in Dryden, honey _redolent of spring_, an expression that
reaches the utmost limits of our language, Gray drove it a little more
beyond common apprehension, by making _gale_ to be _redolent of joy and
youth_[49].' The censure is just. But Dr Johnson is the last man alive,
who should blame an author for driving our language to its utmost
limits: For a very great part of his life has been spent in corrupting
and confounding it. In some verses to a Lady, he talks of his
_arthritic_ pains[50], an epithet not very suitable to the dialect of
Parnassus. Dr Johnson himself cannot always write common sense. 'In a
short time many were content to be shewn beauties which _they could not
see_[51].' He must here mean--'Beauties which they could not have
seen;'--for it is needless to add, that no man can be shewn what he
cannot see.

It is curious to observe a man draw his own picture, without intending
it. Pomposo, when censuring some of Gray's odes, observes, That 'Gray is
too fond of words arbitrarily compounded. The mind of the writer seems
to work with unnatural violence. _Double, double, toil and trouble._' He
(the author of an Elegy in a country church-yard) 'has a kind of
strutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tip-toe. His art and his
struggle are too visible, and there is too little appearance of ease, or
nature. In all Gray's odes, there is a kind of cumbrous splendour which
we wish away[52].' We may say like Nathan, _Thou art the man_.

Mr. Gray, and Mr. Horace Walpole, are said to have _wandered_ through
France and Italy[53]. And as a contrast to this polite expression, I
shall add some remarks which have occurred on the Doctor's own mode of

'It must afford peculiar entertainment to see a person of his character,
who has scarcely ever been without the precincts of this metropolis
(London), and _who has been long accustomed to the adulation of a little
knot of companions of his own trade_, sallying forth in quest of
discoveries--Neither the people nor the country that he has visited will
perhaps be considered as the most extraordinary part of the phænomena he
has described.--The Doctor has endeavoured to give an account of his
travels; but he has furnished his readers with a picture of himself. He
has seen very little, and observed still less. His narration is neither
supported by vivacity, to make it entertaining, nor accompanied with
information, to render it instructive. It exhibits the pompous
artificial diction of the Rambler with the same _vacuity of
thought_.--The reader is led from one Highland family to another merely
to be informed of the number of their children, the barrenness of their
country, and of the kindness with which the Doctor was treated. In the
Highlands he is like a foolish peasant brought for the first time into a
great city, staring at every sign-post, and gaping with equal wonder and
astonishment at every object he meets[54].'

'At Florence they (Gray and Walpole) quarelled and parted; and Mr.
Walpole is _now_ content to have it told that it was by his fault[55].'
This is a dirty insinuation; and the rant which follows in the next
period is of equal value.

He observes, That '_A long story_ perhaps adds little to Gray's
reputation[56].' _Perhaps_ was useless here, and indeed the Doctor has
introduced it in a thousand places, where it was useless, and left it
out in as many where it was necessary. In justice to Gray, he ought to
have added, that their Author rejected, from a correct edition of his
works, this insipid series of verses.

'Gray's reputation was now so high that he had the honour of refusing
the laurel[57].' No man's reputation has ever yet acquired him the
laurel, without some particular application from a courtier. What
honour is acquired by refusing the laurel? An hundred pounds a-year
would have enabled an oeconomist like Mr Gray to preserve his
independence and exert his generosity. The office of laureat is only
ridiculous in the hands of a fool. Mr. Savage in that character produced
nothing which would dishonour an Englishman and a poet. It is probable
that Mr. Gray, a very costive writer, could hardly have made a decent
number of verses within the limited time. From the passage now quoted
the reader will not fail to remark, that the Rambler 'nurses in his mind
a foolish disesteem of kings[58].'

Mr. Gray 'had a notion not very peculiar, that he could not write but at
certain times, or at happy moments; a fantastic foppery to which _my_
kindness for a man of learning and of virtue wishes him to have been
superior[59].' Milton, who was no doubt a shallow fellow compared with
the Reformer of our language, had the same 'fantastic foppery.' Mr Hume
remarks that Milton had not leisure 'to watch the returns of
genius.'--Every man feels himself at some times less capable of
intellectual effort, than at others. The Rambler himself has, in the
most express terms, contradicted his present notion. In Denham's life he
quotes four lines which must, he says, have been written 'in some _hour
propitious to poetry_.' In another place in the same lives his tumid and
prolix eloquence disembogues itself to prove, what no man ever doubted,
viz. 'That a tradesman's hand is often out, he cannot tell why.' And an
inference is drawn, That this is still more apt to be the case with a
man straining his mental abilities.

In Gray's ode on spring, 'The thoughts have nothing new, the morality is
natural, but too stale[60].' Read the poem, and then esteem the critic
if you can. Speaking of _the Bard_ he says, 'Of the first stanza the
abrupt beginning has been celebrated; but _technical_ beauties can give
praise only to the inventor[61].' The question here is, What he means
by a _technical_ beauty? That word he explains, 'Belonging to arts; not
in common or popular use'--How can this word in either of these senses
apply here with propriety?

What he says of 'these four stanzas[62]'--conveys, I think, no
sentiment. Every word may be understood separately, but in their present
arrangement they seem to have no meaning, or they mean nonsense, and
perhaps, contradiction; but this passage I leave to the supreme tribunal
of all authors--to the reason and common sense of the reader. He can
best determine whether he has 'never seen the notions in any other
place, yet persuades himself that he always felt them.' These ideas are
very beautifully expressed in many passages of Gaelic poetry: and Mr.
Gray, let it be remembered, to the honour of his taste and candour, was
the warm admirer of Fingal.

Comparing Gray's ode with an ode of Horace[63], he says, 'there is in
_the Bard_ more force, more thought, and more variety'--as indeed there
very well may, for in the one there are thirty-six lines only, and in
the other one hundred and forty-four. His whole works are full of such
trifling observations. 'But to copy is less than to invent, theft is
always dangerous.' If he means to insinuate that Gray's Bard is a copy
of Horace, (and this is the plain inference from his words) I charge him
in direct terms as _an atrocious violator of_ TRUTH.

'The fiction of Horace was to the Romans credible; (NO) but its revival
disgusts _us_ with apparent and unconquerable falsehood, _Incredulus
odi_[64].' How will the Doctor's verdict be digested at Aberdeen by 'a
poet, a philosopher, and a good man[65].' It is diverting to remark how
these _mutual admirers_ clash on the clearest point, with not a
possibility of reconcilement.

I pass by five or six lines, which are not worth contradiction, though
they cannot resist it. 'I do not _see_ that _the Bard_ promotes any
truth moral or political[66].' The Rambler's intellect is _blind_.--He
seems to have stared a great deal, to have seen little or nothing. The
Bard very forcibly impresses this moral, political, and important truth,
that eternal vengeance would pursue the English Tyrant and his
posterity, as enemies to posterity, and exterminators of mankind. Dr
Johnson, a stickler for the _jus divinum_, did not relish this idea.

He commends the 'Ode on Adversity,' but the hint was at 'first taken
from Horace[67].' The poem referred to has almost no resemblance to Mr
Gray's. And if we go on at this rate, where will we find any thing
original? He mistakes the title of this poem, which is not an 'Ode on,'
but a 'Hymn to' Adversity. This is a clear though trifling proof of his
inattention. As he dare not condemn this piece, it is dismissed in six
lines, to make room for '_The wonderful wonder of wonders_, the two
Sister Odes, by which many have been persuaded to think themselves
delighted[68].' He chews them through four tedious octavo pages. We come
then to Gray's Elegy, which occupies an equal share of a paragraph
containing only fourteen lines. So much more plentiful is the critic in
gall than honey! And in reading this fragment we may remark that
_nonsense_ is not _panegyric_.

Speaking of Welsh Mythology, he says, 'Attention recoils from the
repetition of a tale that, even when it was _first_ heard, was heard
with scorn[69].' There is no reason to think that the Welsh disbelieved
these fictions. It is much more likely that many believe them at this
day. Shakespeare has from this superstition made a whimsical picture of
Owen Glendower: He painted nature. This is one of those assertions which
our dictator should have qualified with a _perhaps_, an adverb, which,
wherever it _ought_ to be met with in the Doctor's pages, 'will not
easily be found[70].'

'But I will no longer look for particular faults; yet let it be observed
that the ode might have been concluded with an action of better example;
but suicide is always to be had without expence of thought[71].'

The lines objected to are these:

    'He spoke, and headlong from the mountains height,
    Deep in the roaring tide, he plung'd to endless night.'

Let the Doctor, if he can, give us a better conclusion.

'_The Prospect of Eaton College_ suggests nothing to Gray, which every
beholder does not equally think and feel[72].' He might as well have
said, that every man in England is capable of producing Paradise Lost.

We have seen with what tenderness Dr Johnson speaks of the dead, we
shall now see his tenderness to the living. 'Let us give the Indians
arms, and teach them discipline, and encourage them now and then to
plunder a plantation. Security and leisure are the parents of
sedition[73].' The Doctor seems here to be serious. The proposal must
reflect infinite honour on his wisdom and humanity.

'No part of the world has yet had reason to rejoice that COLUMBUS found
at last reception and employment[74].' This wild opinion is fairly
disproved by Dr Smith, a philosopher not much afraid of novelty; for he
has advanced a greater variety of original, interesting, and profound
ideas, than almost any other author since the first existence of books.

'Such is the unevenness of Dryden's compositions that ten lines are
seldom found together without something of which the reader is
ashamed[75].' This is a very wide _aberration_ from truth. In Dryden's
fables we may frequently meet with five hundred lines together, without
_ten_ among them, which could have disgraced the most eminent writer.
His prologues and epilogues are a never failing fountain of good sense
and genuine poetry. But it were insulting the taste of the English
nation to insist any farther on this point. We shall presently see how
far Dr Johnson's Dictionary will answer the foregoing description.

Dryden it is said discovers 'in the preface to his fables, that he
translated the first book of the Iliad without knowing what was in the
second[76].' This insinuation revolts against all probability; and
whoever peruses that elegant and delightful preface will find it to be

'The highest pleasure which nature has indulged to sensitive perception
is that of rest after fatigue[77].' And _sensitive_ is defined '_having
sense or perception; but not reason_.' If I understand the meaning of
this passage, it is, that no pleasure communicated through any of the
organs of sense is equal to that of _rest_. This assertion leads to the
most absurd consequences. In man, to separate sensitive from rational
perception appears to be simply impossible. Even rest is not in strict
language any pleasure. It is merely a mitigation of pain. The reader
will decide whether I do the Doctor justice, while I say, that he must
have been petrified when he composed this maxim. Thirst and hunger had
been long forgot. Handel and Titian had no power to charm. We learn that
a lover can receive, and his mistress can bestow nothing which is equal
to the rapturous enjoyment of an _easy chair_. The thought is new; no
human being ever did, or ever will conceive it, except this immortal

'Physicians and lawyers are no friends to religion, and many
_conjectures_ have been formed to discover the _reason_ of such _a
combination_ between men who agree in _nothing else_, and who seem to be
less affected in their own provinces by religious opinions than any
other part of the community[78].' He then proceeds in the tone of an
author, who has made a discovery to inform us of the cause. 'They have
all seen a parson, seen him in a habit different from their own, and
therefore _declared war_ against him.' But _this_ can be no motive for
peculiar antipathy to parsons, allowing such antipathy to exist; for in
habit all other classes differ no less from the clergy, than the lawyer
and physician. But the remark itself is frivolous and false. Boerhaave
and Hale were men of eminent piety. Physicians and lawyers have as much
regard for religion as any other people generally have. Their _agreeing
in nothing else_ is another of the blunders crowded into this passage.
But I have too much respect for the reader's understanding to insist any
farther on this point. The _conjecturers_, the _combination_, and the
_declaration of war_, exist no where but in the Doctor's pericranium. He
was at a loss what to say, and the position is only to be regarded as a
_turbid ebullition of amphibological inanity_. But while we thus meet
with something which is ridiculous in every page, we are not to forget
even for a moment, what we have often heard, and what is most
unquestionably _true_, viz. That Dr Johnson is the father of British
literature, capital author of his age, and the greatest man in

'We are by our occupations, education, and habits of life, divided
almost into different species, who regard one another for the most part
with scorn and malignity[80].' The Doctor is himself a proof, that a man
may look upon almost all of his own profession with scorn and malignity:
So that between his precept and his practice, the world seems bad
enough. But I hope every heart revolts at this gross insult on the
characters of mankind. He brings as an instance the aversion which
subsists between soldiers and sailors. There no doubt have been
jealousies and bloodshed between these two classes of men, but the same
accidents fall out more frequently between soldiers themselves. The
_scorn_ and _malignity_ of admirals seldom affect any line of service
but their own. His captain of foot[81], who saw no danger in a sea-fight
was a fool, and just such a specimen of English officers, as the Doctor
himself is of English travellers. Our repulse at Carthagena was not
owing to an antipathy between the _common_ men. Our late victory at
Savannah proves with what ardour they can unite. The Doctor has insulted
almost every order of society.

      Coblers with coblers smoke away the night,
    Even players in the common cause, unite.
    AUTHORS alone with more than mortal rage,
    Eternal war with brother authors wage[82].

'To raise esteem we must benefit others,' is an assertion advanced in
the same page. But the Doctor, if he knows any thing, must know that
_esteem_ is often felt for an enemy. We value for his courage or
ingenuity the man who never heard our name, or who would not give a
guinea to save us from perdition. We can esteem the hero who butchers
nations, and the pedant who perplexes truth. Marlborough's avarice led
him to continue the continental war, till he had laid the great
foundation of our public debt. He was detested as much as any general
_now_ in England, and yet 'he was so great a man (said one of his
enemies) that I have forgot his faults.' Posterity, while they suffer
for his baseness, pay the due tribute of esteem to his genius and

In every point of view this maxim is 'the baseless fabrick of a vision.'
And what had so far _obumbrated_ the Rambler's powers of
_ratiocination_, it is not easy to guess. We sometimes feel it
impossible to esteem even our benefactor. 'I have received obligations
(said Chatterton) without being obliged.' And of consequence, his
benefactors had forfeited his esteem. The father of British literature
has in forty other places contradicted his own words. He has proved that
esteem is involuntary, and that benefits do not always procure it.

The Doctor says, 'That Cowley having, when very young, read Spenser,
became _irrecoverably_ a poet[83].' And he adds a remark that shows his
good sense: 'Such are the accidents which, sometimes remembered, and
sometimes perhaps forgotten, PRODUCE that particular designation of mind
and propensity for some certain science or employment, which is commonly
called genius. The true genius is a mind of large general powers,
_accidentally_ determined to some particular direction. The great
painter of the present age had the first fondness for his art excited by
a perusal of Richardson's treatise.' This drawling definition
contradicts common sense. Does the Doctor mean that Cowley would have
become a painter by perusing Richardson? or that Reynolds would have
become a poet by perusing Spenser? This is the clear inference from his
words, and its absurdity is 'too evident for detection, and too gross
for aggravation[84].' At this rate Garrick might have eclipsed Newton,
and Voltaire defeated Frederick. Plato possessed 'a mind of large
general powers.' He read Homer. He wrote verses, and he found that he
could not be a poet. The Doctor himself has 'large general powers;' but
he could never have been made a decent dancing master. Marcel might have
broke his heart, before his pupil had acquired three steps of a minuet.
In his dictionary the Doctor, without a word of _accidental_
determination, defines genius to be 'disposition of _nature_, by which
any one is qualified for some peculiar employment.' And here I cannot
help adding, that 'the great painter' has by stepping out of his own
line, discovered the narrowness of even a great man's knowledge. He
affirms[85], That _scarce a poet from Homer down to Dryden ever felt his
fire diminished merely by his advance in years_. There is nothing more
absurd, says Cicero, than what we hear asserted by some of the
philosophers. Even in painting, the President's own profession, that
rule does not hold. Cellini tells us, that Michael Angelo's genius
decayed with years; and he speaks of it as common to all artists. His
notion was perhaps grafted on an opinion of the Doctor's about the
durability of Waller's genius[86]. But Waller was a feeble poet; he
never had a genius, so that we need not wonder he never lost it. All his
verses are hardly worth one of Dr Johnson's imitations of Juvenal.

Rowe (the famous tragic poet) 'seldom moves either pity or terror[87].'
Paradise Lost is a work which 'the reader admires, and lays down, _and
forgets to take up again_[88],' But Rowe's Lucan, which is very little
read, the Doctor pronounces to be 'one of the _greatest_ productions of
English poetry.' Dr Johnson's sycophants have asserted, that 'in the
walks of criticism and biography he has long been without a rival.' And
they are no doubt willing to support their idol in his infamous
assertion, that Swift 'excites neither surprise nor admiration[89].' The
Doctor's disregard for the unanimous sentiments of mankind often excites
surprize, but never admiration. Let us here apply his own observation,
that 'there is often found in commentaries a spontaneous train of
invective and contempt, more eager and venemous than is vented by the
most furious controvertist in politics, against whom he is hired to
defame[90].' We may illustrate the Rambler's remark by his own example:
'Theobald, a man of narrow comprehension, and small acquisitions, with
no native and intrinsick splendour of genius, with little of the
artificial light of learning--his contemptible ostentation I have
frequently concealed[91].' The definer of a fiddlestick proceeds thus:
'I have in some places shewn him, as he would have shewn himself for the
reader's diversion, that the _inflated_ emptiness of some notes may
justify or excuse the contraction of the rest.'--The advocate for
tenderness and decorum goes on to tell us, that 'Theobald, thus weak and
ignorant, thus _mean_ and FAITHLESS, thus petulant and ostentatious, by
the good luck of having Pope for his enemy, has escaped, and escaped
_alone_ with reputation from this undertaking. So easily is he praised
whom no man can envy[92].' How does it appear that Theobald was weak and
ignorant? The Doctor himself had in the preceding page told us, that 'he
(Theobald) collated the antient copies, and rectified _many_ errors.'
This assertion our author, with his wonted consistency, has flatly
contradicted in the very next line. 'What _little_ he (Theobald) did was
commonly right.' Has the Doctor adduced, or has he attempted to adduce
evidence, that Theobald was _mean_ and _faithless_, or what provocation
has he to load this man's memory with such injurious epithets? His burst
of vulgarity can reflect disgrace on nobody but himself. It is evident,
tho' he thinks proper to deny it, that he considered Theobald as an
object of envy; yet he is obliged to confess that Theobald 'escaped, and
escaped _alone_, with reputation,' from the talk of amending
Shakespeare. In assigning a reason for this applause of Theobald, Dr
Johnson pays a very poor compliment to the penetration of the public,
for surely to combat a writer of so much merit and popularity as Pope,
was not the plainest road to eminence in the literary world.

'In his (Shakespeare's) tragic scenes there is _always something
wanting_'----NO[93]----'In his comic scenes he is seldom very
successful, when he engages his characters in _reciprocations_ of
smartness, and contests of sarcasms; their ideas are _commonly gross_,
and their pleasantry _licentious_.' This accusation is cruel and unjust,
as all the world knows already. But a great part of that preface is an
incoherent jumble of reproach and panegyrick[94]. If any thing can be
yet more faulty than what we have just now seen, it is what follows:
'Whenever he (Shakespeare) solicits his invention, or strains his
faculties[95], the offspring of his _throes_ is _tumour_ (i. e. _puffy_
grandeur[96]), _meanness_, _tediousness_, and _obscurity_. His
declamations or set speeches are _commonly cold and weak_.' The _set
speeches_ (as the Doctor elegantly terms them) of Petruchio, of Jacques,
of Wolsey, and of Hamlet, are _perhaps_ neither cold nor weak. The
conclusion of this period is worthy of such a beginning; he mentions
certain attempts from which Shakespeare 'seldom escapes without the pity
or resentment of his reader.' The Doctor himself is an object of pity.
Shakespeare has been in his grave near two centuries--His life was
innocent--His writings are immortal. To feel resentment against so great
a man because his works are not every where equal, is an idea highly
becoming the generosity of Dr Johnson.

What 'truth, moral or political,' is promoted by telling us, that, when
Thomson came to London, _his first want was a pair of shoes_; that Pope
'wore a kind of fur doublet, under a shirt of very coarse warm linen,
with fine sleeves[97];' and a long string of such tiresome and disgusting
trifles, which make his narrative seem ridiculous. Had Dr Johnson been
Pope's apothecary, we would certainly have heard of the frequency of his
pulse, the colour of his water, and the quantity of his stools.

'Though Pope seemed angry when a dram was offered him, he did not
forbear to drink it[98].' And who the Devil cares whether he did or not?
The Doctor needed hardly to have told us, that 'his petty peculiarities
were communicated by a female domestic;' for no gentleman would have
confessed that they came within the reach of his observation.

The _truly illustrious_ author of the RAMBLER, has exerted his venemous
eloquence, _through several pages_, in order to convince us, that 'never
were penury of knowledge and _vulgarity_ of sentiment so happily
disguised,' as in Pope's Essay on Man. For this purpose, the Doctor
celebrates the character of Crousaz, whose intentions 'were _always_
right, his opinions were solid, and his religion pure[99].' In
opposition to such authorities, let us hear the great and immortal
citizen of Geneva.

'M. de Crousaz has lately given us a refutation of the ethic epistles of
Mr Pope, which I have read; but it did not please me. I will not take
upon me to say, which of these two authors is in the right; but I am
persuaded, that the book of the former will never excite the reader to
do any one virtuous action, whereas _our zeal for every thing great and
good is awakened by that of_ POPE[100].'

The Essay on Man, he says, 'affords an egregious instance of the
predominance of genius, the dazzling splendour of imagery, and the
seductive powers of eloquence. The reader feels his mind full, though he
learns NOTHING; and when he meets it in its new array, no longer knows
the talk of his mother, and his nurse[101].' If the conversations of Dr
Johnson's mother and his nurse were equal to Mr Pope's verses, it is a
pity the Doctor had not preserved them. He could hardly have spent his
time so well. And it is a wonder that with so many rare opportunities of
improvement, the Doctor has never yet eclipsed his nurse. Voltaire
pronounces Pope's Essay to be the finest didactick poem in the world,
and he would no doubt have replied to the Doctor's objections in that
tone of contempt with which the Doctor replied to some of his--'These
are the petty cavils of petty minds[102].'

In the Essay on Man 'so little was any evil tendency discovered, that,
as innocence is unsuspicious, many read it for a manual of
piety[103];'--and will continue to read it, when the cavils of Dr
Johnson are forgotten or despised.

'He (Pope) nursed in his mind a foolish disesteem of Kings.' And again,
'He gratified that ambitious petulance with which he affected to insult
the great[104].'

Dr Johnson himself is by no means remarkable for his respect to the
great. In the preface to his folio Dictionary, he tells us, that it was
written 'without any patronage of the _great_,' which is a mistake; for
he had published a pamphlet, some years before, wherein he acknowledges,
that Chesterfield had patronized him; and why the Doctor should retract
his own words, it is hard to say; for Chesterfield continued his friend
to the last; and such a man was very likely _the strongest spoke in the
Doctor's wheel_. But his Lordship is now dead, and the Doctor is always
and eminently _grateful_.

'It has been maintained by some, _who love to talk of what they do not
know_, that pastoral is the _most antient_ poetry.' But in the next
period, 'pastoral poetry was the _first_ employment of the human
imagination[105].' The Doctor, therefore, by his own account, is one of
those, _who love to talk of_ (and what is yet worse, to assert) _what
they do not know_. In North America, the natives have no conception of
pastoral life among themselves, and their poetry, such as it is, hath no
relation to that state of society.

Pastoral poetry 'is generally pleasing, because it entertains the mind
with representations of scenes, familiar to _almost every_ imagination,
and of which _all_ can equally judge whether they are well described, or

This period is so closely interwoven with nonsense, that it will take
some pains to disentangle it. Rural scenes are not familiar to _almost
every_ imagination. In England half the people are shut up in large
towns, and such is the gross ignorance of some of them, that an old
woman in London once asked, _whether potatoes grew on trees_. Neither is
every man an equal judge even of what is familiar to him. Observe how
the Rambler confounds the distinction between _all_, and _almost every_.
The whole number is in the same stile.

'At this time a long course of opposition to Sir Robert Walpole had
filled the nation with clamours for liberty, of which no man felt the
want, and with care for liberty which was not in danger[107].'

No man was more violent than Dr Johnson in abusing Walpole. We have
already seen some of those political definitions, which at this hour
deform the Doctor's Dictionary. His late zeal for government could arise
from self interest only. And to take his own words, he comes under
suspicion _as a wretch hired to vindicate the late measures of the
Court_[108]. He accuses Milton as a tool of authority, as a forger hired
to assassinate the memory of Charles I. These charges came with a very
bad grace from the Rambler. They are long since refuted in a separate
publication, and yet they will be reprinted in every future edition of
his book.

Will any man be the wiser, the better, or the merrier, by reading what
follows--'Lyttleton was his (Shenstone's) neighbour, and his rival,
whose empire, spacious and opulent, looked with disdain on the _petty
state_ that appeared behind it. For a while the inhabitants of Hagley
affected to tell their acquaintance of the _little fellow_ that was
trying to make himself admired; but when by degrees the Leasowes forced
themselves into notice, they took care to defeat the curiosity which
they could not suppress, by conducting their visitants perversely to
inconvenient points of view, and introducing them at the wrong end of a
walk to detect a deception; injuries of which Shenstone would heavily
complain[109].' The paragraph closes with a _deep_ observation.

As the Doctor's own associates[110] have lamented the existence of this
beautiful and important passage, I have only to say, that _Poor_
Lyttleton (as the Doctor calls him) patronized Fielding, and that the
Rambler patronizes William Shaw: That his Lordship was an elegant
writer: That he did not adopt Johnson's new words: That _Lexiphanes_ was
dedicated to him: That he was a great and an amiable man: And that he is

With all his affectation of hard words, the Doctor becomes at once
intelligible when he wishes to reprobate a rival genius, or insult the
ashes of a benefactor. In defiance of Addison, and a thousand other
_shallow fellows_, he asserts that Milton 'both in prose and verse had
formed his stile by a _perverse_ and _pedantick_ principle[111].'

Speaking of Mr Walmsley, he says, 'At this man's table I enjoyed many
chearful and agreeable hours, with companions such as are not often to
be found.--I am not able to name a man of equal knowledge. He never
received _my_ notions with contempt.--He was one of the first friends
whom literature procured me,--and I hope that at least my _gratitude_
made me worthy of his notice. It may be doubted whether a day now
passes, in which I have not some advantage from his friendship[112].'
But then, 'He was a WHIG with ALL the virulence and malevolence of _his_
party.' This is a most beautiful conclusion; and quite in the Doctor's
stile. His accusation is incredible. A monster, such as he draws here,
can seldom deform existence.

We are told that at St. Andrews Cardinal Beaton 'was murdered by the
ruffians of Reformation[113].' And it seems to be the fashion of the
day, to censure that action. Yet it is allowed on all hands that
Wishart's doctrine, in spite of its _incomprehensibilities_, was better
than Popery--that Beaton, a profligate usurping Priest, had committed
every human vice--that, without civil authority, he dragged our Apostle
to the stake--and that his avowed design was to expell or exterminate
the whole Protestant party. Had the Cardinal been permitted to complete
his plan, we durst not at this day have disputed, 'Whether it is better
to worship a piece of rotten wood[114], or throw it in the fire?' It is
therefore evident that to kill this tyrant was highly proper and
laudable. We may just as well censure the centurion who slew Caligula.
When a philosopher, who truly deserves that title, was once in
conversation reprobating Melvil, he was interrupted by this, simple
question, Whether if his own antagonist had conducted _him_ to the
stake, he would not have pardoned a pupil for avenging his blood? 'I
would most certainly,' he replied, and such must be the real sentiments
of all men, whatever they may chuse to print. When we attempt to hide
the feelings of nature, that we may support a favourite system, we never
fail to become ridiculous. In this age and nation, if a magistrate shall
rise above the law; if he rob us of life with the most barbarous
exulation; if his guilt equal whatever history hath recorded; if he want
nothing but the purple and the legions to rival Domitian, the voice of
nature will be heard. The brave will reject such unmanly, such fatal
refinements of speculation. Like Hambden and Melvil, they will stand
forth in defence of themselves, and their posterity. They will relieve
their fellow citizens from temporal perdition. They will drive insolence
and injustice from the seat of power. They will exult in danger, and
rush to revenge or death. They will plunge their swords in the heart of
their oppressor; or they will teach him, like Charles, to atone upon the
scaffold for the tears and the blood of his people; and while in the
eyes of their countrymen, they read their glory[115], they will perhaps
reflect with a smile, that some slavish pedant, some pensioned traitor
to the rights of mankind, is one day to mark them out as objects of
public detestation[116].

'The theatre, when it is under any other direction, is peopled by such
characters as were never seen, conversing in a language which was never
heard, upon topics which will never arise in the commerce of
mankind.--Upon every other stage the universal agent is love, by whose
power all good and evil is distributed, and every action quickened or
retarded. To bring a lover, a lady and a rival into the fable; to
entangle them in contradictory obligations, perplex them with
oppositions of interest, and harrass them with violence of desires
inconsistent with each other; to make them meet in rapture, and part in
agony; to fill their mouths with hyperbolical joy, and outrageous
sorrow; to distress them as nothing human ever was distressed; to
deliver them as nothing human ever was delivered, is the business of a
modern dramatist. For this probability is violated, life is
misrepresented, and language is depraved[117].' The weakest of Dr
Johnson's admirers will blush in reading this passage. He very fairly
denies every degree of merit, to every dramatic writer, of every age or
nation, Shakespeare alone excepted. What can be more ridiculous than

'Every man finds his mind more strongly seized by the tragedies of
Shakespeare than of any other writer; others please us by particular
speeches, but he always makes us anxious for the event, by exciting
restless and _unquenchable_[118] curiosity, and compelling him that
reads his work to read it through[119].' But the Doctor overthrows all
this within a few pages, for Shakespeare has '_perhaps_ not _one_ play,
which, if it were now exhibited as the work of a cotemporary writer,
_would be heard to the conclusion_[120].' The Rambler cannot always
suppress his thorough contempt for the taste of the public. He no doubt
laughs internally at their folly in admiring him.

       *       *       *       *       *

I proceed to the Doctor's English Dictionary, and shall begin with
quoting the remarks already made by a judicious friend, on this subject.

'Among the many foibles of the human race, we may justly reckon this to
be one, that when they have once got any thing really useful, they apply
it in all cases, proper or improper, till at last they make it quite
ridiculous. Nothing can possibly be more useful than a just and accurate
_definition_, because by this only we are able to distinguish one thing
from another. It is obvious, however, that _in definitions we ought
always to define a thing less known, by one which is more so, and those
things which are known to every body, neither can be defined, nor ought
we to attempt a definition of them at all; because we must either
explain them by themselves, or by something less known than themselves,
both of which give our definitions the most ridiculous air imaginable_.

'A certain right reverend gentleman, not many miles from Edinburgh, and
whom, out of my great regard for the cloth, I put in the first place,
gave the following definition of a thief. "A thief," says he, "my
friends, is a man of a _thievish disposition_." Now though this
definition is somewhat imperfect, for a thief also exerts that _thievish
disposition_ which lurks in his breast, I intend to take it for my
model, on account of its great conformity to many of the definitions
given by the most celebrated authors.--I remember to have seen in one of
the Reviews a definition of _Nature_, which began in the following
manner. "Nature is that _innate_ celestial fire."--The rest has in truth
escaped my memory, though I remember the Reviewers indecently compared
it to the following lines, which they say were a description of a

    'And his evacuations
      Were made _a parte post_.
    _A parte post!_ these words so hard
      In Latin though I speak 'em,
    Their meaning in plain English is,
      He made pure _Album Græcum_.

'This definition rather goes a step beyond that of the clergyman, as it
explains the words _a parte post_ by _Album Græcum_, which are more
obscure than the former, and neither of which, out of my great regard to
decency, I choose to translate.--Whether Dr Johnson composed his
dictionary, after hearing the above-mentioned clergyman's sermon, or
not, I cannot tell, but he seems very much to have taken him for his
model, even though the said clergyman was a Presbyterian, and Dr Johnson
has an aversion at Presbyterians. Thus, when he tells us, that _short_
is _not long_, and that _long_ is _not short_, he certainly might as
well have told us that a thief is a man of a thievish disposition. I am
surprised indeed how the intellects of a human creature could be
obscured by pedantry, and the love of words, to such a degree, as to
insert this distinction in a book, pretended to be written for the
instruction and benefit of society. Much more am I surprised how the
authors of all dictionaries of the English language have followed the
same ridiculous plan, as if they had positively intended to make their
books as little valuable as possible. Nay, I am almost tempted to think,
that the readers have a natural inclination to peruse nonsense, and
cannot be satisfied without a considerable quantity of that ingredient
in every book which falls into their hands. _Long_ and _short_ are terms
merely relative, and which every body knows; to explain them therefore
by one another, is to explain them by themselves. But besides this
ridiculous way of explaining a thing by itself, pedants, of whom we may
justly reckon Dr Johnson the Prince, have fallen upon a most ingenious
method of explaining the English by the _Latin_, or some other language
still further beyond the reach of vulgar ken. Thus, when Dr Johnson
defines _fire_, he tells us it is the _igneous element_. _To water_ (the
verb) he tells us, is to _irrigate_, by which no doubt we are greatly
edified. _To do_ is to _practise_, and _to practise_ is _to do_, &c.

'But the most curious kind of definitions are these oenigmatical ones
of our author, by which he industriously prevents the reader from
knowing the meaning of the words he explains. Thus, the _hair_ he tells
us is one of the common _teguments_ of the body; but this will not
distinguish it from the skin, and shews the extreme poverty of judgment
under which the Doctor laboured, when he could not point out the
distinguishing mark between the hair and skin. A dog is "a domestic
animal remarkably various in his species," but this does not
distinguish him, except to natural historians, from a cow, a sheep, or
a hog; for of these there are also different _breeds_ or species. A cat
is "a domestic animal that catches mice;" but this may be said of an
owl, or a dog; for a dog will catch mice if he sees them, though he does
not watch for them as a cat does. Nay, if we happen to overlook the word
_animal_, or not to understand it, we may mistake the cat for a
mouse-trap. The earth, according to our learned author, is "the element
distinct from fire, air, or water;" but this may be light or electricity
as well as earth.--Air is "the element encompassing the terraqueous
globe;" but an unlearned reader would be very apt to mistake this for
the ocean, &c.

'When the Doctor comes to his _learned_ definitions, he outdoes, if
possible, his oenigmatical ones. Network is "any thing _reticulated_
or _decussated_ at equal distances." A nose is "the prominence on the
face which is the organ of scent, and the emunctory of the brain."--The
heart is "the muscle which by its contraction and dilatation propells
the blood through the course of circulation, and is therefore considered
as the source of vital motion."--Now let any person consider for whom
such strange definitions can possibly be intended. To give instruction
to the ignorant they certainly are not designed; neither can they give
satisfaction to the learned, because they are not accurate. The nose,
for instance, he says is the emunctory of the brain; but every anatomist
knows that it performs no such office, neither hath the nose any
communication with the brain, but by means of its nerves.--Yet this
dictionary is reckoned the best English one extant. What then must the
rest be; or what shall we think of those who mistake a book, stuffed
with such stupid assemblages of words, for a _learned_ composition?
Definitions undoubtedly are necessary, but not such as give us no
information, or lead us astray. Neither can any thing shew the
sagacity, or strength of judgment, which a man possesses, more clearly
than his being able to define exactly what he speaks about; while such
blundering descriptions as these, above quoted, shew nothing but the
Doctor's insignificance[121].'

That the courteous reader may be qualified to judge for himself, I shall
now insert a variety of quotations from this wonderful, amazing,
admirable, astonishing, incomparable, immortal, and inimitable book. Too
much cannot be said in its praise. I shall however let it speak for
itself. Every page, indeed, is so pregnant with superexcellent beauties,
that in selecting them, the critic's situation resembles that of the
schoolman's ass between two bundles of hay; his only difficulty is where
to begin. The pious husband of Bathsheba had asked 'What is MAN?' But
let it be told in Rome, and published in the streets of Paris, to the
honour of the English nation, that her greatest philosopher has received
300l. a-year for informing us that--

MAN is a 'Human being. 2. Not a woman. 3. Not a boy. 4. _Not a beast._'
Woman. 'The female of the human race.' Boy. '1. A male child; not a
girl. 2. One in the state of _adolescence_.' Girl. 'A young woman or
child.' (_Female_ child he should have said.) Damsel. 'A young
gentlewoman; a wench; a country lass.' Lass. 'A girl; a maid; A young
woman.' Wench. '1. A young woman. 2. A young woman in contempt. 3. A
strumpet.' Strumpet. 'A whore, a prostitute.' Whore. '1. A woman who
converses unlawfully with men; a fornicatress; an adultress; a strumpet.
2. a prostitute; a woman who receives men for money.' To whore, _v. n._
(from the noun) 'To converse unlawfully with the other sex.' To whore,
_v. a._ 'To corrupt with regard to chastity.' Whoredom, _s._ (from
whore) 'Fornication.' (Here follow several other definitions on the
same pure subject, which every body understands as well as Dr Johnson.)
Young. 'Being in the first part of life. _Not old._' Youngster, younker.
'A young person.' (I pass by _ten_ other articles, about _youthful_
compounded of _youth_ and _full_, &c. &c. because young people are in no
danger of thinking themselves old.) Yuck, _s._ (_jocken_, Dutch.)
'Itch,' Old. 'Past the middle part of life; _not young_; not new;
ancient; not modern. OF OLD. Long ago; from ancient times.' Hum, interj.
'A sound implying doubt and deliberation, _Shakespeare_.' Fiddlefaddle,
_s._ (a cant word) 'Trifles.' Fiddlefaddle, _a._ 'Trifling; giving

    (----His own example strengthens all his laws,
    Sam is himself the true sublime he draws.)

Fiddler, _s._ (from _fiddle_) 'A musician, one that plays upon a
fiddle.' Here follow fiddlestick, compounded of fiddle and stick, and
warranted an English word by Hudibras; and Fiddle-string, _s._ (Fiddle
and string) 'the string of a fiddle. _Arbuthnot._' Sheep's eye. '_A
modest and diffident look, such as lovers cast at their mistresses._'
Love. 'Lewdness.' And _thirteen_ other explanations. _Lovemonger._ 'One
who deals in affairs love.' (Besides about twenty other articles
concerning this subject of equal obscurity and importance.) Sweetheart.
'A lover or mistress.' Mistress. 'A woman beloved and courted; a whore,
a concubine.' Wife. 'A woman that has a husband.' A Runner. 'One who
runs.' Husband. 'The _correlative_ to wife.' Shrew. '_A peevish,
malignant, clamorous, spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman._' Scold. '_A
clamorous, rude, mean, low, foul mouthed woman._' Henpecked, _a._ (_hen_
and _pecked_) 'Governed by the wife.' Strap. 'A narrow long slip of
cloth or _leather_.' Whip. 'An instrument of correction _tough_ and
_pliant_.' Cuckingstool, _s._ 'An engine invented for the punishment of
scolds and _unquiet_ women.' Cuckoldom. 'The state of a cuckold.'
(Cuckold, _s._ Cuckold, _v. a._ Cuckoldy, _a._ and Cuckoldmaker, _s._
(compounded of _cuckold_, and _maker_) I leave out, as the reader is,
perhaps, already initiated in the mysteries of that subject.) Arse, _s._
'The buttocks' To hang an arse. 'To be tardy, sluggish' Buttock. 'The
rump, the part near the _tail_' Rump. '1. The end of the backbone. 2.
The buttocks.' Thimble. 'A metal cover by which women (yea and _taylors_
too Doctor) secure their fingers from the needle.' Needle. 'A small
instrument pointed at one end to pierce cloth, and _perforated_ at the
other to receive the thread.' Gunpowder. '_The powder put into guns to
be fired._' Maidenhead. Maidenhode. Maidenhood. 'Virginity, virgin
purity, freedom from contamination.' Oh, _interj_ 'An exclamation
denoting pain, sorrow, or surprise.' Hope '_That which gives_ HOPE. _The
object of_ HOPE.' Fear. '1. Dread; horror; apprehension of danger. 2.
Awe; dejection of mind. 3. Anxiety, solicitude,' &c. Impatience. 'Heat
of passion; _inability_ to suffer delay, eagerness.' Virgin. '_A woman
not a mother._' Virginity. 'Maidenhead; unacquaintance with man.' Fart.
'Wind from behind. _Suckling_' To fart. 'To break wind behind. _Swift._'
Marriage. 'The act of uniting a man and woman for life.' Repentance.
'Sorrow for any thing past.' Kiss. 'Salute given by joining lips.'
Kisser. 'One that Kisses.' To piss, _v. n._ 'To make water.
_L'Estrange._' Piss _s._ (from the verb) 'Urine; animal water. _Pope._'
Pissburnt, _a._ 'Stained with urine.' Pedant. 'A man vain of _low_

Of these extracts, I suppose opinion is uniform. Every man who reads
them, reads them with contempt. To tell us that a _man_ is not a
_beast_, seems to be an insult, rather than a definition. To say, that
_young_ is _not old_, and, that _old_ is _not young, of old_, &c. is to
say nothing at all. There is a medium; there is a state between these
periods of life. And his definitions convey no meaning; for a man may be
_not old_ tho' he is _not young_. Many articles, such as whoring,
whoremaster, whoremonger, whorishly, &c. are as indecent, as they are
impertinent, and seem only designed to divert school boys. Hum, Yuck,
Fiddle, Fiddler, Fiddlefaddle, _s._ Fiddlefaddle, _a._ Fiddlestick,
Fiddlestring, Thimble, Needle, Gunpowder, Hope, O, and O--and Oh, and
twenty-eight or thirty explanations of the particle _on_, are left
without remark to the reader's penetration. Some are well enough
acquainted with a _maidenhead_, and such as are not, will be no wiser by
reading Dr Johnson: For he says, That it is _virginity_, and that again
is explained (like more than half the words in his book) by the word it
explains. Neither can a _maidenhead_ ensure freedom from _pollution_;
for a girl may be polluted, without losing her _maidenhead_; and on the
other hand, the Doctor dare not say that a _married_ woman is, for that
reason, _polluted_. Love, he calls _lewdness_, and he may as well say,
that _light_ is _darkness_. His admirers will answer, that he also gives
the right meaning; but let them tell, why he gave any besides the right
meaning, and why he collected such a load of blunders into his book. Or
since he did collect them, why he did not mark them down as wrong. For
in the preface to his octavo, he tells us, that it is written for
'explaining terms of science.' But to select twenty barbarous
misapplications of a word, is not explaining the word, but only
_confusion worse confounded_. Indeed that whole preface is a piece of
the most profound nonsense, which ever insulted the common sense of the
world. A virgin, is _a woman not a mother_. But many wives, and many
concubines too, have never propagated the species, though they had (as
Othello says) a thousand times committed the act of shame. From this
literary chaos, a foreigner would be apt to imagine that _they_ were

Corking pin. 'A pin of the largest size.' Bum. '_The part upon which we
sit._' Butter. 'An _unctuous_ substance.' Buttertooth. '_The_ great
broad foretooth.' Off. prep. '_Not on._' Potato. 'An _esculent_ root.'
Turnip. 'A white _esculent_ root.' Parsley, 'A plant.' Parsnep. 'A
plant.' Colliflower. '_Cauliflower._' Cauliflower. 'A species of
_cabbage_.' Cabbage. 'A plant.' Pit. 'A hole in the ground.' Pin. 'A
short wire, with a sharp point, and round head, used by women to fasten
their cloaths.' Plate. 'A small shallow vessel of metal (or of stone or
wood Doctor) on which meat is eaten.' Play. '_Not work._' Poker. 'The
iron bar with which _men_ stir the fire.' Pork. 'Swine's flesh
_unsalted_.' (Here you may find _Porker_, _Porkeater_, _Porket_,
_Porkling_, with all their derivations, definitions, and authorities.)
Porridge. 'Food made by boiling meat in water.' Porridge-pot,
(_porridge_ and _pot_) 'The pot in which meat is boiled for a family.'
Porringer, (from _porridge_) 'a vessel in which broth is eaten.' Part.
'_Some thing less than the whole._' And _thirteen_ other
_ramifications_. Pulse. '_Oscillation_; _vibration_.' Puff. 'A quick
blast with the mouth.' Vid. in same page, Pudding, _s._ from the
_Swedish_, (which is a mistake, for it is from the French _boudin_)
_Pudding Pie_, from _Pudding_ and _Pie_, and _Pudding-time_, from
_Pudding_ and _time_. Puddle, _s._ Puddle, _v. a._ & Puddly, &c. Shadow.
'_Opacity_, darkness, _Shade._' Shade. 'The cloud or _opacity_ made by
interception of the light.' Darkness. 'Obscurity. _Umbrage._' Shadiness,
'The state of being _shady_; _umbrageousness_.' Shady. 'Full of _shade_;
MILDLY _gloomy_.'

     (No light, but rather darkness visible.)

Sevenscore. 'Seven times twenty.' Shadowy. 'Dark, _opake_.' To yawn. 'To
gape, to _oscitate_,' Yawn, _s._ '_Oscitation_, HIATUS.' Yea. 'Yes.'
Yes, 'A term of affirmation, the affirmative particle opposed to _no_.'
See also in the same place, Yest. Year. (12 months) Yesterday, _s._ The
day last past, the next day before to-day. Yesterday, _ad._ Yesternight,
_s._ Yesternight, _ad._ Yet, _con._ Yet, _ad._ Nine times explained.
Vent. 'A small _aperture_; a hole; a _spiracle_.' Wind. 'A _flowing_
wave of air; _flatulence_; windiness.' Winker. 'One who winks.' To
wink. 'To shut the eyes.'

     (No, Sir, unless you open them again directly.)

Window. 'An _aperture_ in a building by which air and light are
_intromitted_.' _N. B._ Almost the whole of the same page is daubed over
with such jargon. Said. 'Aforesaid.' Scoundrel. 'A mean rascal; a low
petty villain.' Rascal. 'A mean fellow; a scoundrel.' Villain. 'A wicked
wretch.' Wretch. 'A miserable mortal.' No, _ad._ 'The word of refusal.
2. The word of denial.' No, _a._ '1. Not any; NONE. 2. _No one_; NONE:
_not any one_.' (Had this word _none_ altered its meaning, before the
Doctor got to the end of the line?) Nobody. (_No_ and _body_) 'No one;
not any one.' (See also Nod, _v. a._ Nod, _s._ Nodder. Noddle. Noddy,
&c.) None. '1. Not one. 2. Not any. 3. Not other.' Nothing. '_Negation_
of being; not any thing,' and _seventeen_ other definitions. Afore. (_a_
and _fore_) '_before_, nearer in place to any thing.'

'There is a certain line, beyond which, if ridicule attempts to go, it
becomes itself ridiculous, and there is a sphere of criticism in that
particular region, in which, if the critic plays his batteries on too
_contemptible_ objects, he must unavoidably depart from his proper
dignity, and must himself be an object of the raillery he would


Music. '1. The science of _harmonical_ sounds. 2. Instrumental, or vocal
_harmony_.' Harmony. 'Just proportion of sound.' Melody. 'Music;
_harmony_ of sound.' Tune. '_Tune_ is a diversity of notes put
together.' _Locke_, _Milton_, _Dryden_. Tenour, _s._ 'A _sound_ in

One requires little skill in music to see that the Doctor knows nothing
of that science. He confounds _melody_ with _harmony_; the one
consisting in a succession of agreeable sounds, and the other arising
from coexisting sounds. His account of a _tune_ is curious. And we may
say in his own stile, that his dictionary is 'a diversity of _words_ put
together.' His numerous omissions on this head will neither afflict, nor
surprise us; but we must be mortified and amazed to reflect on the
partial and injurious distribution of fame. For his book exhibits in
every page, perhaps without a single exception, a variety of errors and
absurdities. They are clear to the darkest ignorance. They are level to
the lowest understanding, and yet our language is exhausted in praise of
_their_ author. _Pronis animis audiendum!_

Poem. 'The work of a poet; a _metrical_ composition.' Poet. 'An
inventor; an author of fiction; a writer of poems; one who writes in
measure.' Poetess. 'A _she_ poet.' Poetry. '_Metrical_ composition; the
art or practice of writing poems. 2. Poems, poetical pieces.' _To
circumscribe poetry by a_ DEFINITION _will only shew the narrowness of
the definer_[123]. Tragedy. 'A dramatic representation of a _serious_
action.' Comedy. 'A dramatic representation of the _lighter faults_ of
mankind.' Eclogue. 'A pastoral poem, so called, because Virgil called
his pastorals eclogues.' Tragic-comedy. 'A drama compounded of _merry_
and _serious_ events.' Farce. 'A dramatic representation written
_without_ regularity.' Elegy. '1. A mournful song. 2. A funeral song. 3.
A short poem, without points or turns.' Idyl. 'A small short poem.'
Epigram. 'A short poem terminating in a _point_.' Epic, _a._ 'Narrative;
comprising narrations, not acted, but rehearsed. It is usually supposed
to be heroic.' Epistle. 'A letter;' and a letter again is 'an epistle.'
Ode. 'A poem written to be _sung_ to music; a lyric poem.' Ballad. 'A
song.' Song. 'A poem to be _modulated_ by the voice.' Catch. 'A song
sung in _succession_.'

I believe that Dr Johnson has written better verses than any man now
alive in England. He is said to be the first critic in that country,
and therefore we had the highest reason to expect elegant entertainment
and philosophical instruction, when the poet and critic was to speak in
his own character.

But here, as in the rest of this work, the native vigour of his mind
seems entirely to leave him. We look around us in vain for the well
known hand of the Rambler, for the sensible and feeling historian of
Savage, the caustic and elegant imitator of Juvenal, the man of
learning, and taste, and genius. The reader's eye is repelled from the
Doctor's pages, by their hopeless sterility, and their horrid nakedness.

Most of the definitions in this work may be divided into three classes;
the erroneous, oenigmatical, and superfluous. And of the nineteen last
quoted, every one comes under some, or all of these heads.

A poem is said to be the work of a _poet_: And so were Dryden's
prefaces. Again it is _a metrical composition_. No age had ever a
greater profusion of rhimes than the present. In Oxford there are two
thousand persons all of whom can occasionally make verses. Yet in this
abundance of _metrical composition_, we have very few poems.

A poet is--1. '_An inventor_,' but so was Tubal Cain. 2. '_An author of
fiction_,' but so was Des Cartes. 3. '_A writer of poems_;' but as he
has not been able to point out what a poem is, the definition goes for
nothing. 4. 'One who writes _in measure_.' But in Cowley's life, the
Doctor himself speaks of men, who thought they were writing _poetry_,
when they were only writing _verses_. We are still exactly where we set

The third definition is superfluous, and the fourth is very clumsy. The
fifth and sixth are still worse, for comedy[124] is frequently very
_serious_ and tender, as well as tragedy; and that again represents the
_lighter_ faults of mankind, as well as comedy. By the way, what are
these _lighter_ faults, which our comedy is said to represent. In our
comic scenes, adultery, and profaneness, appear to be the chief pulse
of merriment. What the Doctor says of a farce is not true, nor is elegy
_always_ mournful[125]. What can he mean by a poem without points or
turns? An Idyll is a small short poem. An Epigram is a _short_ poem; but
so is an Epitaph, or a Sonnet, and often an Ode, a Fable, &c. An Epigram
terminates in a _point_. Wonderful! Of the rest of these definitions,
the reader will determine whether they be not every one of them pitiful;
and if it was possible for the Doctor, or any other man, to convey
_less_ information, on so plain a subject.

'In comparing this with other dictionaries of the same kind, it will be
found that the senses of each word are more _copiously_ enumerated, and
more _clearly_ explained[126].'

Of his _clear_ and _copious_ explanations, here is an additional

Beast. 'An animal distinguished from birds, insects, fishes, and man.'
It is also distinguished from _reptiles_, though the Doctor cannot tell
us _how_. A Reptile is (but sometimes only) '_An animal that creeps upon
many feet_.' A Snail is 'A slimy animal that creeps upon plants.' Many
animals creep on plants besides a Snail. He dare not venture to say that
a Snail is _a Reptile_, for he had said that a Reptile creeps upon many
feet, and a Snail has none. Locke is quoted to prove that a _Bird_ is a
_fowl_, and we are edified by hearing that a _fowl_ is a '_bird_, or a
_winged_ animal.' But this may be the butterfly, the bat, or the flying
fish. He should have said a _feathered_ animal. We are informed from
Creech and Shakespeare, that a fish is _an animal that inhabits the
water_. But besides amphibious animals, from the crocodile down to the
water-mouse, we have seen _Erucæ Aquaticæ_, or Water Caterpillars, which
are truly aquatic animals, yet are perfectly different from all fish.
Insects are 'so called from a separation in the middle of their bodies,
whereby they they are cut into two parts, which are joined together by a
small ligature, as we see in common flies.'

_Quere._ How many insects answer this description?

Dr. Johnson had certainly no great occasion to quote Peacham and Swift
before he durst tell us, (as he does) that a _Lily_ is a _flower_, and
_Posteriors_ the _hinder_ parts. He forgot to introduce the Dean when
affirming, that a T----d is _excrement_; but both Pope and Swift (among
others) are cited for P--ss and F--t.

His learning and his ignorance amaze us in every page. Pox are, '1.
_Pustules_; _efflorescencies_; _exanthematous_ eruptions. 2. The
venereal disease.' A particular species of it _only_. The first part of
this _clear_ explanation would puzzle every old woman in England, though
most of them know more of small pox than the Rambler himself.

Day. '1. The time between the rising and the setting of the sun, called
the _artificial_ day. 2. The time from noon to noon, called the
_natural_ day.' Natural. 'What is produced by nature,' therefore as the
day from sunrise to sunset is 'produced by nature,' _that_, and that
only, must be the _natural_ day. Artificial. 'Made by _art_, not
natural, fictitious, not genuine.' The day from noon to noon is
certainly _not_ natural, and of consequence, _that_, and that only, must
be the _artificial_ day.

Night is, '1. The time of darkness. 2. The time between sunset, and
sunrise.' When the Doctor acquires the first elements of geography, he
will learn, that in no climate of the world is the time between sunset
and sunrise all of it a time of _darkness_. Even at the equator, night
does not succeed till half an hour after sunset. If he has ever seen the
sun rise here, he must also have seen that we have always day light long
before the sun appears. In June our nights are never entirely dark.
Neither is _night_, when it really comes on, constantly the 'time of
darkness,' for the Doctor may frequently see to read his own mistakes by
moonshine. Of this profound period, the first part contradicts the
second, and every body sees the absurdity of both. What are we to think
of such a definer of 'scientific terms,' when his errors have not even
the negative merit of consistency.

Snowbroth, _s._ (_snow_ and _broth_) 'very cold liquor.' And Shakespeare
is quoted; but when the poet said[127] that the blood of an old courtier
was as cold as _Snowbroth_, he meant _melted snow_. Now it is somewhat
odd that every body can see Shakespeare's idea exactly, except this
learned commentator. Lion. 'The fiercest and most magnanimous of
four-footed beasts.' But fierceness cannot consist with
magnanimity[128]. Other animals exceed the Lion in fierceness; and a
Horse, an Elephant, or a Dog, equal his magnanimity. This definition
contains nothing but a glaring contradiction, of which neither end is
true! Thunder 'Thunder is a most _bright flame_ rising on a sudden,
moving with great violence, and with a very _rapid_ velocity, through
the air, _according_ to any determination, and commonly ending with a
loud noise or rattling.' _Shakespeare._ _Milton._

It is needless to say that the learned and ingenious Pensioner has
confounded thunder with lightning. The inelegance and tautology of this
definition I pass by; but why should he profane the names of Milton and
Shakespeare to support such monstrous nonsense?

Stone. 'Stones are bodies insipid, hard, not _ductile_ or _malleable_,
nor _soluble_ in water.' This definition answers wood, or glass, or the
bones of an animal. One. 'Less than two; single; denoted by an unit.'

Without consulting Raleigh, we know that a man may have 'less than
_two_' guineas in his pocket, and yet have more than _one_. But still we
are not sure, that he has even a single farthing. One is _single_, but
we are only where we started, for _single_ (_more Lexiphanico_) is
'_one_, not double; not more than one.' The matter is little mended,
when he subjoins that one is _that which is expressed by an unit_, for
this may be the numerator of _any_ fraction. Take his book to pieces,
put it into the scales of common sense, and see how it kicks the beam.

A circle is, '1. A line continued till it ends where it began. 2. The
space inclosed in a _circular_ line. 3. A round body, an orb.'

The first of these definitions does not distinguish a circle from a
triangle, or any other plain figure. He might have found a circle
properly defined in Euclid, and a hundred other books. What are we to
think of the rest of his mathematical definitions? Well, but he clears
up this point, for a circle is 'the _space inclosed_ in a _circular_
line,' The third definition is no less erroneous than the second, for if
a man were to mention the circle of the earth, we could not suspect that
he meant the globe itself.

Botany and the electrical fluid, are not inserted. Electricity he terms
_a property_ in bodies. From this expression, and from all he says on
the subject, we can ascertain his ignorance of that most curious and
important branch of natural philosophy. _Electricity_ in general
signifies 'the operations of a very subtile fluid, commonly invisible,
but sometimes the object of our sight and other senses. It is one of the
chief agents employed in producing the phænomena of nature.' Its
identity with lightning was discovered in 1752, three years before the
publication of Dr. Johnson's folio dictionary. For the author then to
talk of it as 'a _peculiar_ property, supposed once to belong chiefly to
amber,' is shameful. It shews us the depth of his learning, and the
degree of attention which he thought proper to bestow on his _great_

Elasticity. 'Force in bodies, by which they endeavour to _restore_
themselves.' To what? To their former figure, after some external
pressure? And without adding some words like these the definition
conveys no meaning.

Of Water, we get a very long winded account, which neither Dr. Johnson
nor any body else can comprehend, for he sinks into mere jargon. Canst
thou conceive (gentle reader) what are 'small, _smooth_, hard, _porous_,
spherical particles' of water! _Water_, says Newton, 'is a fluid
tasteless salt, which nature changes by heat, into vapour, and by cold
into ice, which is a hard fusible brittle stone, and this stone returns
into water by heat[129].' Boerhaave calls water, 'a kind of glass that
melts at a heat any thing greater than 32 degrees of Farenheit's
thermometer. The boundary between water and ice[130].'

Claw. 'The _foot_ of a beast or bird armed with sharp nails.' Nail. 'The
talons of birds or beasts.' Talon. 'The claw of a bird of prey.' _Dict.
4th edit._

Here a _nail_ is _talons_; Talons are a _claw_; and a claw is said to be
a _foot_ (alias a _nail_) armed with _nails_. The quotations are literal
and complete. The words are all plain English. And if you cannot
comprehend _a nail armed with nails_, wait upon Dr. Johnson, and perhaps
he will explain it.

Legion. 'A body of Roman soldiers, consisting of about _five_ thousand.'

This is not accurate. The number of men in a Roman legion rose by
degrees from about 3200 to about 7000.

Decemvirate. 'The dignity and office of the _ten_ governors of Rome.'
Tribune. 'An officer of Rome chosen by the people.' Censor. 'An officer
of Rome, who had the power of correcting manners.' Consul. 'The chief
magistrate in the Roman republic.'

Wherein did the Decemviri differ from the King, the Consul, the
Dictator, the Triumvir, the Military Tribune, the Cæsar, and the
Emperor, for all these were likewise 'Governors of Rome?' The Decemviri
were also an inferior set of men appointed to take care of the Sybil's
books, to conduct colonies, &c. So that this definition is very
incompleat. A Tribune was 'chosen by the people.' But this does not
distinguish him from many other magistrates. The Censor had 'the power
of correcting manners;' but he had other powers beside that, and every
magistrate had that power as well as he, though it was a province more
peculiarly his. The Censor is an officer still known in Venice, and in
countries where the liberty and abuse of the press are unknown, the
licensers of books are called Censors, though the Doctor does not give
us these two explanations of the word. A Consul is 'the chief magistrate
in the Roman republic.' He was a magistrate long after the republic was
dissolved; for Caligula made his horse a Consul! But tho' the Consul was
commonly _one_ of the chief magistrates in Rome, he was never the
_chief_, as the Doctor roundly expresses it, for he had always a
colleague. The Censor was at least his equal, and the Dictator was by
law his superior. What we learn of the Centurion, the Triumvir, and the
Lictor, is very trifling. Innumerable words which puzzle the plain
reader of a Roman historian are wanting, such as an Ædile, a Prætor, a
Quæstor, a Cæsar, a Military Tribune, the Hastati, Principes, Triarii,
Velites, the Labarum, or Imperial Standard, the Balistæ, the Balearians,
&c. A _Maniple_ is 'a small band of soldiers.' And a Cohort is 'a troop
of soldiers, containing about 500 foot.' A Cohort was in general the
tenth part of the foot in a Roman Legion, consequently their number
varied, and the Prætorian Cohort, or that to which the standard was
intrusted, contained, at least in latter ages, many more men than any of
the rest. But in the very page where this concise author thus blunders
about a Cohort, he takes care to tell us, that _Coition_, is
_copulation_; _the act of generation_. That cold is '_not hot_, not
warm, chill, having sense of cold, having cold qualities.' That _coldly_
is '_without heat_.' that coldness is '_want of heat_;' and a heap of
similar jargon. Blot. 'A blur.' Blur. 'A blot.'

The Doctor's admirers will answer, that in so large a work there was no
room for full definitions. I reply, that his account of Whipgrafting, of
Will-with-a-Wisp, of a Wood-louse, and of the Stool of Repentance, are
very full; that if he was to say no more of a Roman Consul, he should
have said nothing at all; but that there are other books of the same
kind, and of half the price too, which find room for copious and useful
definitions. Pardon's dictionary is not much less than the Doctor's
octavo, though its price is only six shillings; (7th edition) and of
many useful articles, such as the Roman Legion, there is a very clear
and full explanation. Besides which, it contains a description of the
counties, the cities, and the market towns in England; and in the end of
the book there is inserted a list of near 7000 proper names, none of
which are to be found in the Doctor's dictionary. With what then has Dr.
Johnson filled his book? With words of his own coining, with roots, and
authorities often ridiculous, and always useless; or with definitions
impertinent and erroneous. A Bashaw he calls 'the viceroy of a
province;' and he might as well have said that every man in England is
six feet high. A Condoler is 'one who _compliments_ another upon his

From the Rambler's _accurate_ and _profound_ knowledge of anatomy, we
must form very high expectations as to his knowledge of medicine, and we
are not disappointed; for ARTHRITIS is 'the Gout' and the GOUT is
'Arthritis; a _periodical_ disease attended with great pain.' The first
part of this definition is not true; and the second will not distinguish
the Gout from the Gravel, the Tooth-ach, &c. &c. GRAVEL is 'sandy matter
concreted in the kidneys,' and as often in the bladder too. His account
of a Gonnorhoea is no less incomplete. A _Headach_ is 'a pain in the
head.' _Jaundice_ is 'a distemper from obstructions of the glands of the
liver, which prevent the gall being duly separated from the blood.' The
Doctor seems to have borrowed his system of anatomy from the antients;
for the moderns have discovered that the liver (which he ingeniously
calls 'one of the entrails') is itself an indivisible gland. The
Jaundice arises from an obstruction in the biliary ducts. Tympany is 'a
kind of obstructed _flatulence_, that swells the body like a drum.'
_Flatulence_ is not inserted; but Flatulency is said to be 'windiness;
fulness of wind.' And what does he mean by an obstructed fullness of
wind, or by his elegant simile of a drum? His descriptions of the
Rickets, Rupture, Rheumatism, Scrophula, Dropsy, Scurvy, &c. are equally
perspicuous and perfect. The Doctor had no great occasion to attest,
that '_the_ English dictionary was written with little assistance of the
_learned_[131].' For in almost every department of learning, from
astronomy down to the first principles of grammar, his ignorance seems
amazing. His book is a mass of words without ideas. Through the whole
there runs a radical corruption of truth and common sense. It is most
astonishing that the _Idler_ has hardly ever been attacked in this
quarter by any of his innumerable invidious and inveterate enemies.

I anticipate the answer of his admirers, viz. That 'the _nature_ of his
work did not admit of a copious explanation for every word.' But let
them first tell why he gave such a strange jumble of quotations, to
support a word of which he himself knows not the meaning, and are we to
be told that the _nature_ of _any_ work whatever, can entitle its author
to write nonsense, or to write on a subject of which he knows nothing.
Indeed the Doctor himself has repeatedly declared, that his book is
deformed by a profusion of errors, and those who decline to credit my
assertion, ought, PERHAPS, to credit _his own_. He says, 'I cannot hope,
in the warmest moments to preserve so much caution through so long a
work, as not OFTEN _to sink into negligence_, or to obtain so much
knowledge of all its parts as not FREQUENTLY _to fail by ignorance_. I
expect that sometimes the desire of accuracy will urge me to
superfluities, and sometimes the fear of prolixity betray me to
_omissions_; that in the extent of such variety, I shall be OFTEN
_bewildered_, and in the mazes of such _intricacy_[132], be _frequently
entangled_, &c.[133]' Here is a beautiful confession, which he
afterwards recants: for 'despondency has never so far prevailed, as to
depress me to _negligence_,' &c.[134] But his recantation is in effect
immediately _re-recanted_, and we are informed, 'That a few _wild
blunders_, and RISIBLE _absurdities_, from which no work of such
multiplicity was ever free, _may_ for a time furnish folly with
laughter, and harden ignorance into contempt[135].' That this distrust
of his own merit did not arise from want of pride or vanity we discover
within a few lines: For 'in this work' (_the_ English dictionary, as its
author modestly terms it) 'when it shall be found that _much is
omitted_, let it not be forgotten that _much_ likewise _is performed_.
If our language is not here fully displayed, I have only failed in an
attempt, which no human powers have hitherto completed.--I may surely be
contented without the praise of perfection, which _if_ I could obtain,
in this gloom of solitude' (_London_, or its neighbourhood) 'what would
it avail me[136]?' And again, 'I have devoted this book, the labour of
years, to the honour of my country[137].' _Item._ 'I cannot but have
some degree of parental fondness.' But after all this parental fondness,
this zeal for the honour of his country, the Doctor's extraordinary
preface concludes in perhaps the most extraordinary language that ever
flowed from an author's pen. 'Success and miscarriage are _empty
sounds_, I therefore dismiss it' (his dictionary) 'with frigid
tranquillity, having little to fear or _hope_ from censure, or from
praise.' All this is surely despicable. The booksellers had paid their
workman on the nail, or the Doctor would have had something to hope and
fear. But an honest and sensible tradesman, though paid before-hand,
will always wish and endeavour to please his employers. From this
writer's own words, it would appear that he is incapable of a sentiment
so generous.

Bawd 'A Procurer, or Procuress.' To bawd, _v. n._ 'To procure.' Bawdily
(from _bawdy_) 'obscenely.' Bawdiness (from _bawdy_) 'obsceneness.'
Bawdry, _s._ '1. A wicked practise of procuring and bringing whores and
_rogues_ together. 2. Obscenity.' Bawdy, _a._ (from _bawdy_) 'Obscene,
unchaste.' Bawdyhouse. 'A house where traffic is made by wickedness and
debauchery.' Baggage. 'A worthless woman.' Bitch. '1. The female of the
_canine_ kind. 2. A name of reproach for a woman.' Blackguard[138]. 'A
dirty fellow.' Block. 'A Blockhead.' Blockhead. 'A stupid fellow; a
dolt; a man without parts,' Blunderer. 'A blockhead.' Blockhead 'A
stupid fellow' Bloodletter. '_A Phlebotomist._' Suds. '_A Lixivium_ of
soap and water.' Sun. 'The luminary that makes the day.'

_The_ English dictionary is prodigiously defective--_Nervi desunt._ It
has no force of thought. This wilderness of words displays a mind,
patient, but almost incapable of reasoning; ignorant, but oppressed by a
load of frivolous ideas; proud of its own powers, but languishing in the
last stage of hopeless debility. We have long extolled it with the
wildest luxuriance of adulation, and we pretend to despise the
worshippers of _the golden calf_.

No man has done more honour to England, than Mr Locke. What would he
have said or thought, had Dr Johnson's dictionary been published in his
days? We can easily determine his opinion from several passages in his
works. I select the following, because it is both short and decisive;
and he who feels any respect for Mr Locke will retain little for the
author of the Rambler. His words are these: 'If any one asks _what this
solidity is_[139], I send him to his senses to inform him. Let him put a
flint, or a football between his hands, and then endeavour to join them
_and he will know_. If he thinks this not a sufficient explication of
_solidity_, what it is, and wherein it consists, I promise to tell him,
what it is, and wherein it consists, when he tells me, what _thinking_
is, or wherein it consists, or explains to me what _extension_ or
_motion_ is, which perhaps seems much easier. The simple ideas we have
are such as experience teaches them us; but _if, beyond that, we
endeavour by words to make them clearer_ in the mind, we shall succeed
no better, than if we went about to clear up the darkness of a blind
man's mind by talking, and discourse into him the ideas of light and

In the title page of his octavo, we learn, that 'the words are deduced
from their originals.' And in the preface, he adds, that 'the
etymologies and derivations, whether from foreign languages or native
roots, are more diligently traced, and more distinctly noted, than in
other dictionaries of the same kind.' Mr Whitaker assures us that in
this single article the Doctor has committed upwards of _three thousand_
errors: And the historical pioneer produces abundant evidence in support
of his assertion[141]. But independent of this curious circumstance, let
us ask the Doctor what he means by crouding such trifles into an
abstract, which is, he says, intended for those who are 'to gain degrees
of knowledge suitable to lower characters, or necessary to the common
business of life.' To tell such people, that the word _porridgepot_ is
compounded of _porridge_, and _pot_, is to insult their understandings;
and of his Greek and Saxon roots, not one individual in a thousand can
read even a single letter. The preface commences with a pitiful untruth.
Having mentioned the publication of his folio dictionary, he subjoins,
'it has _since_ been considered that works of that kind are by no means
necessary for the bulk of readers.' Here he would insinuate that the
_abstract_ was an _after-thought_: But every body sees, that its
publication was delayed, only to accelerate the sale of his folio
dictionary. There is not room now left, to dissect every sentence in the
preface to his octavo. I shall therefore conclude that subject with one
particular, wherein the Doctor's taste, learning, and genius, blaze in
their meridian.

In the title page to his octavo dictionary, we are informed, that the
words are 'authorised by the names of the writers in whose works they
are found.' And this tale is repeated at greater length in the preface,
where 'it will be found that truth requires him to say less[142]': For
under letter A only, there are between four and five hundred words, for
which the _Idler_ has not assigned any authority--and of these one
hundred and eighty are to be found in no language under heaven. He
boasts indeed that his dictionary 'contains many words not to be found
in any other.' But it also contains many words, not to be found at all
in any other book. If we compute that letter A has a thirteenth part of
these _recruits_, we shall find that the whole number scattered through
his compilation exceeds two thousand. A purchaser of his _abstract_ has
a title to ask the Doctor, why the work is loaded with such a profusion
of trash, which serves only to testify the folly of him who collected
or created it. Men of eminent learning have been consulted, who disown
all acquaintance (in English) with most articles in the following list:

Abacus, Abandonement, Abarticulation, Abcedarian, Abcedary, Aberrant,
Aberuncate, Abject, _v. a._ Ablactate, Ablactation, Ablation, Ablegate,
Ablegation, Ablepsy, Abluent, Abrasion, Abscissa, Absinthiated,
Abitention, Absterge, Accessariness, Accidentalness, Accipient,
Acclivious, Accolent, Accompanable, Accroach, Accustomarily,
Acroamatical, Acronycal, Acroters, or Acroteria, Acuate, Aculerate,
Addulce, Addenography, Ademption, Adiaphory, Adjectitious, _Adition_,
Abstergent, Acceptilation, Adjugate, Adjument, Adjunction, Adjunctive,
Adjutor, Adjutory, Adjuvant, Adjuvate, Admensuration, Adminicle,
Adminicular, Admix, Admonishment, _Admurmuration_, Adscititious,
Adstriction, Advesperate, Adulator, Adulterant, Adulterine, Adumbrant,
Advolation, Advolution, Adustible, Aerology, Aeromancy, Aerometry,
Aeroscopy, Affabrous, Affectuous, Affixion, Afflation, Afflatus,
Agglomerate, Agnation, Agnition, Agreeingness, Alate, Abb, Alegar,
Alligate, Alligation, Allocution, Amalgmate, Amandation, Ambidexterity,
Ambilogy, Ambiloquous, Ambry, Ambustion, Amende, Amercer, Amethodical,
_Amphibological_, _Amphibologically_, Amphisch, Amplificate, Amygdalate,
Amygdaline, Anacamptick, Anacampticks, _Anaclacticks_, Anadiplosis,
Anagogetical, Anagrammatize, Anamorphosis, Anaphora, Anastomosis,
Anastrope, Anathematical, Androgynal, Androgynally, Androgynus,
Anemography, Anemometer, _Anfractuousness_, Angelicalness,
_Angiomonospermous_, Angularity, Angularness, Anhelation, Aniented,
Anileness, Anility, Animative, Annumerate, Annumeration, Annunciate,
Anomalously, Ansated, Antaphroditick, Antapoplectick, Antarthritick,
Antasthmatick, Anteact, Auscultation, Antemundane, Antepenult,
Antepredicament, Anthology, Anthroposophy, Anthypnotick,
Antichristianity, Auxiliation, Antinephritick, Antinomy, Antiquatedness,
Apert, Apertly, Aphilanthrophy, Aphrodisiacal, Aphrodosiack, Apocope,
Apocryphalness, Apomecometry, Appellatory, Apsis, Aptate, Aptote, Aqua,
Aquatile, Aqueousness, Aquose, Aquosity, Araignee, Aratory, Arbuscle,
Archchanter, Archaiology, Archailogick, Archeus, Arcuation, Arenose,
Arenulous, Argil, Argillaceous, Argute, Arietate, Aristocraticallness,
Armental, Armentine, Armigerous, Armillary, Armipotence, Arrentation,
Arreptitious, Arrison, Authentickness, Arrosion, Articular,
Articulateness, Austral, Arundinaceous, Arundineous, Asbestine,
Ascriptitious, Asinary, Asperation, Asperifolious, Aspirate, _v. a._
Assassinator, Assumptive, Astonishingness, Astrography, Attiguous,
Attinge, Aucupation, Avowee.

Of these words about forty only are proper, yet though they are so, and
though they are frequently to be found in the best authors, yet the
Doctor has not given any authority for them. His reading therefore must
have been very circumscribed, or his negligence very great. Is the word
_Avowee_, for instance, one of those which 'are however, to be yet
considered as resting only upon the credit of former dictionaries[143].'
Besides these forty, there are under letter A, some hundreds of the most
common words, for which no author's name is quoted. A gross omission
according to the plan which he lays down.

Let us put the case, that a foreigner sits down to compose a page of
English, by the help of Dr Johnson's work. The strange combinations of
letters (for I dare not call them words) which swell his book to its
present bloated size, are not marked with an asterisk, to distinguish
them as barbarous: The novice would therefore adopt a stile unknown to
any native of England. Here is a short specimen of what he would say.

'An _Admurmuration_ has long wandered about the world, that the
pensioner's political principles are _anfractuous_. Their
_anfractuousness_, their _insipience_, and their _turpitude_, are no
longer _amphibological_. His _nefarious repercussion_ of _obloquy_ must
_contaminate_, and _obumbrate_, and who can tell but it may even
_aberuncate_ his _feculent_ and _excrementitious celebrity_. His
_perspicacity_ will see without _comity_, or _hilarity_, that his
character as an author and a gentleman, requires _resuscitation_, for it
is neither _immane_ nor _immarcessible_. This is a _homogeneous_
truth[144]. Let him distend, like the _flaccid_ sides of a
football[145], his _sal_, his _sapience_, and his powers of
_ratiocination_. The _mellifluous_ and _numerose cadence_ of
_equiponderant_ periods cannot ensure him from a _luxation_, a
_laceration_, and a _resiliency_ of his _adminicular concatenation_ with
the _rugged mercantile_ race[146]. The loss of this _adscititious
adminicle_ would make the sage's _impeccable_, but _lugubrious_ bosom
vibrate with the horrors of _dilution_ and _dereliction_. His organs of
vision would gush with _salsamentarious_ torrents of spherical
particles, of equal diameters, and of equal specific gravities, as Dr
Cheyne observes--their smoothness--their sphericity--their frictions,
and their hardness,'[147] &c.

To the last edition (the 4th) of the folio dictionary, there is prefixed
an advertisement, from which I have extracted a few lines: 'Finding my
dictionary about to be reprinted, I have endeavoured by a revisal to
make it less reprehensible. I will not deny that I found _many parts
requiring emendation_, and _many more capable of improvement_. _Many
faults_ I have corrected, some superfluities I have taken away, and some
deficiencies I have supplied. I have methodised some parts that were
_disordered_, and illuminated some that were _obscure_. Yet the changes
or additions bear a very small proportion to the whole.' That his
improvements, bear a very small proportion to the quantity of errors
still in his book is true, for after a long and painful search, I have
only been able to trace out ONE alteration. The word _Gazetteer_ is now
defined without that insolent scurrility formerly quoted. But in this
correct edition, thunder continues to be a _most bright flame_. Whig is
still the name of a faction; and a Tory is said to be an adherent to the
antient constitution of England. Oats, Excise, _Monarch_, &c. are all in
the same stile. Nowise, _n. s._ '(_no_ and _wise_: this is commonly
spoken and written by IGNORANT BARBARIANS, _noways_). Not in any manner,
or degree.' Theorem, _n. s._ 'A position laid down as an acknowledged

Here a schoolboy can detect the Doctor's ignorance, for every body knows
that this word has the _opposite_ meaning, which is indeed evident from
the quotations that are intended to exemplify it.

'Having found this the head _theorem_ of all their discourses, we hold
it necessary that the _proofs_ thereof be weighed.' _Hooker._ 'Here are
three _theorems_, that from thence we may draw some conclusions[148].'
_Dryden._ No words can paint the Doctor's want of attention.

To piss, _v. n._ (pisser Fr. pissen Dutch) 'To make water. I charge the
_pissing_ conduit run nothing but claret. _Shakespeare._ One ass pisses,
the rest _piss_ for company. _L'Estrange._ The wanton boys _piss_ upon
your grave. _Dryden._' Whoredom, _n. s._ (from _whore_) 'Fornication.
Some let go _whoredom_ as an indifferent matter. _Hale._' Whorish, _a._
(from whore) 'Unchaste, incontinent. By means of a _whorish_ woman a man
is brought to a piece of bread. _Proverbs._ I had as lief you should
tell me of a mess of _porridge_[149].'

The reader has seen what a profusion of low, and even blackguard
expressions are to be met with in the Doctor's celebrated work. I shall
now give an additional specimen of his _great_ work; and if, like some
American savages, we cannot count our fingers, Dr Johnson himself will
teach us how to do it; for he tells us, on _Shakespeare's_ authority,
that two is, 'one and one,' Pope and Creech are quoted to prove, that
three is, 'two and one.' Four is, 'two and two;' and, if you have the
least doubt that 'four and one' make five, or that five is, 'the half of
ten,' you will be silenced by the name of Dryden. Six is, 'twice three,
one more than five.' Seven is, 'four and three, one more than six.'
Eight is, 'twice four, a word of number.' Nine is, 'one more than
eight.' Ninth is, 'that which precedes the tenth.' Ten is, 'the decimal
number, twice five.' Tenth is, 'first after the ninth, the ordinal of
ten.' Eleven is, 'ten and one.' Eleventh is, 'the next in order to the
tenth, and is derived from eleven.' Twelve is, 'two and ten;' and
twelfth, 'second after the tenth, the ordinal of twelve.' Thirteen is,
'ten and three.' Fourteen is, 'four and ten.' Fifteen is, 'five and
ten.' Fifteen, 'the ordinal of fifteen, the fifth after the tenth;' and,
if you entertain any suspicion as to the verity of these definitions,
read over Boyle, Brown, Dryden, Moses, Raleigh, Sandys, Shakespeare, and
Bacon. Thirdly is, in the 'third place.' Thrice, 'three times,'
threefold, 'thrice repeated, consisting of three.' Threepence, (_three_
and _pence_) 'a small silver coin, valued at thrice a penny.'
Threescore, a. (_three_ and _score_) 'thrice twenty, sixty.' Pope,
Raleigh, Wiseman, Shakespeare, Brown, Dryden, and Spencer, are cited to
convince you, that these explanations are accurate. And the other
articles of numeration, with all their derivations, definitions, and the
passages which are quoted to support them, would fill a sixpenny
pamphlet. And this is one recipe for making a book worth four guineas!

A farthing is, 'the fourth part of a penny, and a penny is, _a small
coin_[150], of which twelve make a shilling.' A shilling is 'now twelve
pence.' A Pound is, 'the sum of twenty shillings;' and, if thou hast
forgot the worth of a Guinea, know that it is 'a gold coin, valued at
one and twenty shillings;' for Dryden, Locke, and Cocker, have said all
this. A Punk is, 'a whore, a common prostitute;' and a Puppy is, 'a
whelp, the progeny of a bitch, a name of contemptuous reproach to a
man.' To _Mew_ is, 'to cry as a cat.' To Kaw is, 'to cry as a Raven,
Crow, or Rook; and the cry of a Raven or Crow (and he might have added,
of a Jack Daw too) is kaw.'

'There are men (says Dr Johnson) who claim the name of authors, merely
to disgrace it, and fill the world with volumes, only to bury letters in
their own rubbish. The traveller who tells, in a pompous Folio, that he
saw the _Pantheon_ at _Rome_, and the _Medicean Venus_ at _Florence_;
the natural historian, who, describing the productions of a narrow
island, recounts all that it has in common with every other part of the
world; the collector of antiquities, that accounts every thing a
curiosity, which the ruins of Herculaneum happen to emit, though an
instrument already shown in a thousand repositories, or a cup common to
the antients, the moderns, and all mankind, may be justly censured as
the persecutors of students, and the _thieves_ of that time, which never
can be restored[151].'

The traveller who visits Rome and Florence, and gives an account of what
he saw to the world, without describing the Pantheon and the Medicean
Venus, will, very properly, be censured as an ignorant and tasteless
wanderer. The historian who describes an island, whether wide or narrow,
ought to begin by telling if it produces water, grass, wood, and corn. A
sword, a bow, and a dagger, are common to the antients, the moderns, and
almost all mankind; yet, if any Roman military weapon were discovered in
the ruins of Herculaneum, it would deservedly be the object of
curiosity, and a collector of antiquities might describe it without
being censured, in Dr Johnson's polite style, as a _thief of time_. Of
this passage, however, the leading idea is just; and, had the Doctor
been able to express himself with precision, it would have served, in an
admirable manner, to delineate the character of the author of those
passages which we have just now been reading from his Dictionary.

A Puppy is said to be, 'the progeny of a bitch,' but so is the bitch
herself. Repleviable is, 'what may be _replevined_.' Repair is,
'reparation;' and reparation is, 'the act of repairing.' A Republican
is, 'one who thinks a commonwealth, without monarchy, the best
government.' But this is only half a definition; for every subject of a
republic, is a republican, whether he think it the best government or
not. Republican, a. (from republic) is, 'placing the government in the
people.' Is Venice under the government of the people? It is curious
enough to hear such an author as Ben Johnson cited to prove what a
republic is. The reader will compute what title the Doctor has to the
character given him by a late writer, viz. that 'his great learning and
genius render him one of the most _shining_ ornaments of the present
age.' A Looking-glass is, 'a glass which shews forms reflected;' but so
will a common glass bottle; though we never term it a looking-glass. He
says it is compounded of _look_ and _glass_; but, if the reader happens
to think it is derived from _looking_ and _glass_, the Doctor cannot
confute him. A knave is, 'a petty rascal, a scoundrel.' A _Loon_ is, 'a
sorry fellow, a scoundrel.' A _Looby_ is, 'a lubber, a clumsy clown.' A
_Lubber_ is, 'a sturdy drone, an idle, fat, bulky _losel_, a booby.' A
_Losel_ is, 'a scoundrel, a sorry worthless fellow.' A _Lubbard_ is, 'a
lazy sturdy fellow.' A _Booby_ is--but you must know what it is, while
you read, in these elegant definitions, the taste and genius of Dr
Johnson. He says, that Bone is, 'the solid parts of the body of an
animal.' Are not the fat and the muscles also solid? A Volume is,
'something rolled or convolved;' and so is a barrel, a foot-ball, and
a blanket. But a volume is likewise '_as much as seems convolved at
once_;' an expression hardly intelligible; and it is a book. A Book, we
are told, is, 'a volume, in which we read or write;' and whether we read
and write in it or not.

'V has two powers expressed in English by two characters, v, consonant,
and u, vowel.' One would think these were two different letters, as much
as any others in the alphabet. The same remark applies to letters I and
J, which the Doctor has blended. It is remarkable that this _English_
Dictionary begins with a _Latin_ word; and the Doctor has inserted it
without giving an authority.

A Ketch is, 'a _heavy_ ship;' and a Junk is, 'a _small_ ship of China.' A
Sloop is, 'a small ship;' and a Brigantine is, 'a light vessel;' but, it
would have required little learning or ingenuity to have said, that, in
our marine, a sloop has only one mast, except sloops of war, which have
three; and, that a brigantine is a merchant ship with two. A brig, a
lugger, a hooker, a schooner, a galliot, a galleon, a proa, a punt, a
xebeque, and a snow, are not inserted in this _compleat_ English
Dictionary; but a Cutter is, 'a nimble boat that _cuts_ the water.' Did
we ever hear of a boat that did not cut the water? This explanation,
like that of at least twenty thousand others, is defective; because,
besides a man of war's boat, the word Cutter is applied to a small
vessel with one mast, rigged as a sloop, that sails very near the
_wind_; from which peculiarity, its appellation is derived.

A Cannon is, 'a gun larger than can be managed by the hand.' Cannon-ball
and Cannon shot are, 'the balls which are shot from great guns.' Mr
Locke is cited to shew, that _cannot_ is compounded of _can_ and _not_.
Menstruous is, 'having the catamenia;' and this last word is wanting, a
frequent mode of _definition_ in this book. The Eye is, 'the organ of
vision.' Eye-drop, (_eye_ and _drop_) 'tear.' See also Eye-ball,
Eye-brow, Eye-glance, Eye-glass, Eyeless, Eye-lid, Eye-sight, Eye-sore,
Eye-tooth, Eye-wink, Eye-witness. Eye-string is, 'the string of the
eye[152].' The following names are cited to support the explanations:
Dryden, Spencer, Newton, Milton, Garth, Bacon, Samuel, Peter, and
Shakespeare four times. The man who can make such a pedantic parade of
erudition, must be a mere quack in the business of book-building; and
the reader who thinks himself edified by hearing, that an eye-wink is,
'a wink as a hint or token,' must be an object of pity. But there is no
such reader. _Quere._ Do we never wink but as a hint or token? Achor is,
'a species of the _Herpes_;' and Hey, 'an expression of joy.' A Mocker
is,'one who mocks;' and a Laughing-stock, (_laugh_ and _stock_) a 'butt,
an object of ridicule.' Iron, a. is, 'made of iron;' and Iron, s. is
said to be, 'a metal common to all parts of the world;' which is not the

Numskull, _s._ (_numb_ and _skull_) 'a _Dullard_; a dunce; a dolt; a
blockhead.' Numskulled, _a._ (from _Numskull_) 'dull; stupid; doltish.'
Nun, _s._ 'a woman dedicated to the severer duties of religion, secluded
in a cloister from the world.' The Nuns of London were _not_ employed in
the severer duties of religion, which has nothing to do with severity.
The institution of nunneries is the most atrocious insult upon human
feelings, that ever disgraced the selfish and brutal policy of the Roman
priesthood, and its consequences are the most shocking and criminal. The
man who would palliate such an outrage on Christianity, deserves no
quarter[153]. From this sample of his good sense and piety, one would
hardly rank the Rambler above 'a domestic animal, that catches mice.'

Jack is, '1. The diminutive of John. 2. The name of _instruments_, which
supply the place of a boy, _as an instrument_ to pull off boots.'
Bronchocele, _s._ 'a tumor of that part of the _aspera tertia_, called
the _Bronchos_,' and this last word is wanting. Broom is 'a shrub;' and
Brogue 'a kind of shoe.' See also Broomstaff, Broomy, Broth, Brothel,
and Brothelhouse. Bubo, 'the groin from the bending of the thigh to the
_scrotum_;' but the _scrotum_ is not explained.

Snot. 'The mucus of the nose.' Nose. 'The prominence on the face, which
is the organ of _scent_, and the emunctory of the brain.'

He should have said the organ of _smell_, for we do not say the sense of
_scenting_. But from what he says of them, it appears that he is
ignorant of the distinction between these two words. If the nose were
the emunctory of the brain (which every surgeon's apprentice knows that
it is _not_), in that case snot could not be the mucus of the nose, but
the mucus of the brain. It belongs to neither. It is entirely, or
principally formed in the glands of the throat, as we see every day in
coughing. To contradict such inconsistencies, would be below the
dignity of any writer, if they were found in a book less famous than the
English Dictionary.

Rust. 'The red _Desquamation_ of old iron.' Desquamation. 'The act of
scaling foul bones.' Sinew. '1. A tendon; the ligaments by which the
joints are moved. 2. _Muscle_ or _nerve_!' Other metals rust as well as
iron, and rust is not always red; that of copper for instance is blue or
green. It is not quite clear why the word _Desquamation_ is introduced.
But his account of _sinew_ exceeds every thing of the kind.

Highflier. 'One that carries his opinion to extravagance.' The word
relates to a particular set of men in this country, and to them only. A
Dervise, a Friar, and a Bramin, profess extravagant opinions; but an
English writer would not call them _Highfliers_, nor would he be
understood if he did.

Chervill. 'An _umbelliferous_ plant.' Periwig. '_Adscititious_ hair.'
Chemist, and Chemistry are omitted, but Chymistry is, 'philosophy by
FIRE;' and Chymist, 'a philosopher by FIRE!' With what inexpressible
contempt would the youngest of Dr Black's audience hear these
definitions? The folly of the man, who can scribble such jargon is
eclipsed by the superlative ignorance of those who vindicate and admire
him. Dr Johnson asserts, that Shakespeare 'has corrupted language by
every mode of depravation[154].' The remark applies to himself. And his
advocates must allow, that 'they endure in _him_ what they should in
another loath and despise[155].' Indeed I can very well believe the
Doctor, when he says, that his book was composed while he was in a state
of DISTRACTION[156]. For the honour of his veracity, we may hope, that
he was likewise _distracted_ when he observed of the social, facetious,
and celebrated John Wilkes, Esq; that 'Lampoon would disdain to speak
ill of him, of whom no man speaks well[157].'

Part of his book has merit; but take it altogether, and perhaps it is
the strangest farrago which pedantry ever produced. It will be said that
these are partial specimens, but we have traced him through various
_ramifications_ of learning, and found his ignorance extreme. A sensible
reader will try his own abilities, in judging of the Doctor's _great_
performance. Nor will he throw down this pamphlet without a candid
perusal, because, by some unaccountable infatuation, the dictionary has
for twenty seven years been admired by thousands and ten thousands, who
have never _seen_ it. Let us exert that courage of thought, and that
contempt of quackery, which to feel, and to display, is the privilege
and the pride of a Briton. In a country where no man fears his king, can
any man fear the sound of a celebrated name, or crouch behind the the
banner of Dullness, because it is born by SAMUEL JOHNSON, A.M. & LL.D.?

I shall now take leave of this enormous compilation, and return, for a
few pages, to the rest of his works.

       *       *       *       *       *

Speaking of Pope's edition of Shakespeare, Dr Johnson observes, 'That on
this undertaking, to which Pope was induced by a reward of two hundred
and seventeen pounds, twelve shillings, he seems never to have reflected
afterwards _without vexation_[158].' The Doctor ought never to reflect
'without vexation' on his own edition of Shakespeare. He published his
proposals in 1756, but the work itself did not appear till 1768, and
then, though the world was warmly prejudiced in his favour, and tho' he
had plundered every thing which he thought valuable, from all his
predecessors, yet his performance was received with general disregard.
His preface was the particular butt of censure; his deficiencies were
detected 'with all the insolence of victory;' and the public were, for
once, inclined to say of him, what he says of Mr Theobald, viz. that he
was 'a man of heavy diligence, with very slender powers[159].'

Indeed the Doctor persecutes the name of Theobald with the most
rancorous spirit of revenge. In his proposals for printing Shakespeare,
he tells us, 'that Mr Theobald, if fame be just to his memory,
considered his learning only as an instrument of gain, and made no
farther enquiry after his authour's meaning, when once he had notes
sufficient to embellish his page with the expected decorations.' If
Theobald was poor, he was certainly prudent in considering his learning
as an instrument of gain. In this point, he has been exactly copied by
no less a personage than Dr Johnson himself. But the Doctor has not
ventured to say that Theobald was a venal prostituted dabbler in
politics; that he insulted his King, till he received a pension; and
that when he had received his pension, he insulted his country. No. 'The
old books, the cold pedantry, and sluggish pertinacity of Theobald,'
never excited the serious contempt or indignation of mankind. Dr Johnson
asserts, 'That when Theobald published Shakespeare in opposition to
Pope, the _best_ notes were supplied by Warburton[160].' This is an
assertion without a proof, and merits no regard; for his veracity keeps
pace with his candour.

The admirers of Pope will be sensible of the good nature and honesty of
Dr Johnson, from the following unqualified assertion: 'The great object
of his (Pope's) ridicule is _poverty_; the crimes with which he
reproaches his antagonists are their debts, their habitation in the
mint, and their want of a dinner. He seems to be of an opinion, not very
uncommon in the world, that to want money is to want every thing[161].'
The crimes with which Pope reproaches the Duncenian heroes are slander
and _forgery_[162], most of them were not only bad writers, but bad
men; and it is only in the latter point of view, that the poet
considered them as fair objects of ridicule. Had Pope been capable of
insulting honest indigence, his reputation and his glory must have been
for ever blasted. The humanity of Englishmen would have rejected, with
horror, such impious wit. The last part of this malicious paragraph is,
after a few pages, contradicted by Dr Johnson himself. Had Pope been of
opinion, that _to want money is to want every thing_, he would not have
assisted Dodsley 'with a hundred pounds that he might open a shop--of
the subscription of forty pounds a-year that he raised for Savage,
TWENTY were paid by himself. He was accused of loving money, but his
love was eagerness to gain, not solicitude to keep it. In the duties of
friendship, he was zealous and constant. It does not appear that he lost
a _single_ friend by coldness, or by injury; those who loved him once,
continued their kindness[163].' This cannot be the picture of a man who
insulted innocent misery.

The Doctor is perpetually giving us strokes of his own character. Thus,
of Mr Thomson we are informed, 'that he was "more fat than bard
beseems," of a _dull_ countenance, and a _gross, unanimated, uninviting_
appearance.' This is the Rambler's portrait, but when applied to the
author of the Seasons, it is not true, for Mr Murdoch assures us, 'that
his worst appearance was, when you saw him walking alone, in a
thoughtful mood; but let a friend accost him, and enter into
conversation, he would instantly brighten into a most amiable aspect,
his features no longer the same, and his eye darting a peculiar animated
fire. His looks always announced, and half expressed what he was about
to say[164].'

The Doctor fills up several pages with blotted variations from Pope's
manuscript translation of the Iliad. He exults in this precious
production, and foresees that the wisest of his readers will wish for
more. Having perused a few lines of it only, I cannot pretend to rate
the value of this commodity: But a plain reader will be apt to suspect
that the Doctor has on this, as on former occasions, adopted the prudent
proverb,_ multum scribere, multum solvere_. If Lexiphanes _overflows
with Greek_, he may, by comparing Pope with Homer, afford much

'Wives and husbands are, indeed, incessantly complaining of each
other[165].'--Not unless both are fools, nor always then. For the credit
of its author, I suppress the sequel of this unhappy period.

Dr Johnson observes, that Mr Addison, 'by a serious display of the
beauties of Chevy Chace, exposed himself to the ridicule of
Wagstaff.--In Chevy Chace there is _not much_ of either bombast or
affectation, but there is chill and lifeless imbecility. The story
cannot possibly be told in a manner that shall make _less_ impression on
the mind[166].' This is a most scandalous criticism; no man who ever
heard the ballad, will hear it with patience. The Doctor's pious
intention seems to have been to lessen the reputation of Addison. Let
him who falsifies without shame, be chastised without mercy[167].

Though Dr Johnson long acted as Reviewer of books for the Gentleman's
Magazine, and though he often exercised his pen in that capacity with
the most grovelling insolence, yet he cannot speak with patience of his
rivals in that branch of trade. 'We have now,' says he, 'among other
disturbers of human quiet, a numerous body of Reviewers and
Remarkers[168].' He is angry with Lord Lyttleton, for having once
condescended to correspond with the Critical Reviewers. He observes,
that the CRITICAL REVIEWERS, 'can satisfy their hunger only by devouring
their brethren. I am far from imagining that they are naturally more
ravenous or blood-thirsty, than those on whom they fall with so much
violence and fury; but they are _hungry_, and _hunger_ must be
satisfied; and these SAVAGES, when their bellies are full, will fawn on
those whom they now bite[169].' They have lately[170] celebrated the
Doctor's great candour, of which this passage is the best evidence that
'will easily be found.'

I finish this essay by reciting the circumstance which gave it birth.

In 1778, Mr William Shaw published an Analysis of the Gaelic language.
He quoted specimens of Gaelic poetry, and harangued on its beauties,
with the aukward elocution of one who did not understand them. A few
months ago, he printed a pamphlet. He traduced decent characters. He
denied the existence of Gaelic poetry, and his name was echoed in the
newspapers as a miracle of candour. Is there in the annals of Grubæan
impudence any parallel to this? Is there any nation in the world except
_one_, perpetually deluded by a succession of impostors? Are these the
blessed fruits of that freedom which patriots perish to defend? If there
be no pillory, no whipping post for such accumulated guilt, we may truly
say with Shakespeare, that 'Liberty plucks Justice by the nose.' This
incomparable bookbuilder, who writes a dictionary before he can write
grammar, had previously boasted what a harvest he would reap from
English credulity. He was not deceived. The bait was caught; and the
voice of truth was for some time drowned in the clamours of the rabble.
Mr Shaw wants only money. He thinks only how to get it, and with a
courage that is respectable, avowed his intentions. But better things
might have been expected from the moral and majestic author of the
Rambler. He must have seen the Analysis of the Gaelic language, for Shaw
mentions him as the patron of that work. He must have seen the specimens
of Celtic poetry there inserted. That he is likewise the patron of this
poor scribble, no man, I suppose, will offer to deny. From this single
circumstance, Dr Johnson stands convicted of _an illiberal intention to
deceive_. Candour can hardly hesitate to sum up his character in the
vulgar but expressive pollysyllable.

It will be demanded, why a private individual, without interest or
connections, presumes to interfere in the quarrels of the learned? But
when the most shameless of mankind, is _hired_ to abuse the characters
of his countrymen, to blast the reputations of the living and the dead;
when _such_ a tool is employed for _such_ a purpose, that those who are
insulted cannot with propriety stoop to a reply,--THEN the highest
degree of goodness may degenerate into the lowest degree of weakness,
silence becomes approbation, and tenderness and delicacy deserve
different names. He is unfit to be the friend of virtue who cannot
defend her dignity; who dares not execute her vengeance. In this
shameful affair, one circumstance does honour to Dr Johnson. _His
friendship is not exhausted in a compliment._ He does not excite
expectation merely to disappoint it. He resembles not some perfidious
wretches, whom his intrepid eloquence hath so properly pointed out to
public indignation. Exerting the generosity which often ennobles the
character of an Englishman, he engages not his dependant in a
performance for which he scruples to pay.

To glean the tithe of this man's absurdities cannot be of peculiar
consequence to me: But the world is long since weary of his arrogant
pedantry, his officious malice, his detested assiduity to undermine his
superiors, and overbear his equals. Reformation is never quite hopeless,
and by submitting to make a catalogue of his errors, there is a chance
to humble and reform him. Perhaps indeed, like '_The drudges of
sedition_, HE will hear in sullen silence, HE will feel conviction
without shame, and be confounded, but not abashed[171].' I have not
arrested a few careless expressions, which, in the glow of composition,
will sometimes escape, but by fair, and copious quotations from Dr
Johnson's ponderous abortions, have attempted to illustrate his covetous
and shameless prolixity; his corruptions of our language; his very
limited literature; his entire want of general learning; his antipathy
to rival merit; his paralytick reasoning; his solemn trifling pedantry;
his narrow views of human life; his adherence to contradictions; his
defiance of decency; and his contempt of truth. I have not been sporting
in the mere wantonness of assertion. I have produced such various, such
invincible, such damning proofs, that the Doctor himself must feel a
burst of conviction. To collect every particle of _inanity_ which may be
found in our _patriot's_ works is infinitely beyond the limits of an
eighteen-pence pamphlet. I stop at present here, but the subject seems



[1] Read Mr Mason's Ode to Truth, and pick out a single sentiment if you

[2] World, No. 100.

[3] Swift had the splendid misfortune to be a man of genius. By a very
singular felicity, he excelled both in verse and prose. He boasted, that
no _new_ word was to be found in his volumes; though, in glory above all
writers of his time, he did not fancy _that_ entitled him to ingross or
insult conversation. He was no less remarkably clean, than _some_ are
remarkably dirty. His love of fame never led him into the lowest of all
vices; and a sense of his own dignity made him respect the importance
and the feelings of others. He often went many miles on foot, that he
might be able to bestow on the poor, what a coach would have cost him.
He raised some hundreds of families from beggary, by lending them five
pounds a-piece only. He inspired his footmen with Celtic attachment.
Whatever was his pride, he shewed none of it in 'the venerable presence
of misery.' Though a poet he was free from vanity; though an author and
a divine, his example did not fall behind his precepts; though a
courtier, he disdained to fawn on his superiors; though a patriot, he
never, like our successive generations of blasted orators, sacrificed
his principles to his passions. 'His meanest talent was his wit.' His
learning had no pedantry, his piety no superstition; his benevolence
almost no parallel. His intrepid eloquence first pointed out to his
oppressed countrymen, that path to Independence, to happiness, and to
glory, which their posterity, at this moment, so nobly pursue. His
treatise on the conduct of their foreign allies, first taught the
English nation the dangers of a continental war, dispelled their
delusive dreams of conquest, and stopt them in the full career to ruin.

[4] See parallel between Diogenes and Dr Johnson in Town and Country
Magazine. In his life of Swift, the Doctor tells us, that 'he relieved
without pity, and assisted without kindness.'

[5] Idler, No. 70.

[6] Preface to Shakespeare.

[7] Life of Pope.

[8] The following extracts from the Doctor's Dictionary are a key to his
political tenets: EXCISE, a hateful tax levied upon commodities, and
adjudged, not by the common judges of property, but _wretches_ hired by
those to whom excise is paid. _Gazetteer_, was lately a term of the
utmost infamy, being usually applied to wretches that were _hired_ to
vindicate the court. _Pension_, an allowance made to any one without an
equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a
state hireling for treason to his country. _Pensioner_, a slave of
state, hired by a stipend to obey his master. KING, monarch, supreme
governour. _Monarch_, a governour invested with _absolute_ authority, a
_King_. _Whig_, 1. whey, 2. the name of a _faction_. _Tory_, one who
adheres to the _antient_ constitution of the state, and the apostolical
hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a _whig_. _Johnson's fol.
Dic._ The word _faction_ is always used in a _bad_ sense; though, in
defining it, the Doctor did not, and, after what he had said of a whig,
perhaps durst not say, that a faction is always a term for the supposed
disturbers of public peace. 'The most obsequious of the slaves of pride,
the most rapturous of the gazers upon wealth, the most officious of the
whisperers of greatness, are collected from seminaries appropriated to
the study of wisdom and of virtue;' _Rambler_, No. 180. That is to say,
men of learning are a set of the most sneaking, pitiful, time-serving
rascals. The reader will make his own applications.

[9] See _Political tracts by the author of the Rambler_. His character
of Hambden, the reader will find in the 1st page of Waller's life. Of
Milton, he says, that 'his impudence had been at least equal to his
other powers. Such was his malignity, that hell grew darker at his
frown. He thought women born only for obedience, and men only for
rebellion.' There is much more in the same tone; and, with what justice
his epithets are applied, let Englishmen judge.

[10] Taxation no tyranny.

[11] Ibid, No. 89.

[12] Idler, No. 85.

[13] Tour, p. 59.

[14] Tour, p. 84.

[15] Idler, No. 82.

[16] He should have said _causes_, for he mentions _two_.--What is the
Doctor's distinction here between habit and custom?

[17] _Quere_, Are we more accustomed to beauty than deformity? or is not
the fact otherwise.--Did habit ever make a sick man fond of disease, or
a poor man fond of poverty?

[18] Vide Preface to folio Dict.

[19] Dr Campbell of Aberdeen, on the use of new words, says, 'That
nothing can be juster than Johnson's manner of arguing on this subject,
in regard to what Swift a little chimerically proposeth, that though new
words be introduced, none should be suffered to become obsolete.' This
Gentleman ought to have consulted Swift himself. Let him peruse the
'petty treatise,' and then let him blush for having trusted an author
void of fidelity.

[20] As the venerable and admirable father of _the_ English Dictionary
has treated the names of such men as Young and Lyttleton with so little
ceremony, the reader will perhaps forgive the insertion of his own
character, as drawn by Chesterfield. 'I am almost in a fever, whenever I
am in his company. His figure (without being deformed) seems made to
disgrace or ridicule the common structure of the human body. His legs
and arms are never in the position, which, according to the situation of
his body, they ought to be in; but constantly employed in committing
acts of hostility upon the graces. He throws any where but down his
throat, whatever he means to drink; and only mangles what he means to
carve. _Inattentive to all the regards of social life_, he mistimes, or
misplaces every thing. He disputes with heat, and indiscriminately,
mindless of the rank, character, and situation, of those with whom he
disputes; absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of familiarity
or respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors, his equals, and his
inferiors; and therefore by a necessary consequence absurd to two of the
three. Is it possible to love such a man? No. The utmost I can do for
him, is to consider him as a respectable Hottentot.' Churchill's account
of our hero comes nearly to the same. And I presume that the inimitable
Dr Smollet, has exhibited a third picture of this illustrious original
in Humphry Clinker, Vol. 1.--Dr Johnson's letter to the Earl of
Chesterfield concludes in these words: 'Whatever be the event of my
endeavours, I shall _not easily_ regret an attempt which has procured me
the honour of appearing thus publicly, my Lord, your Lordship's most
obedient, and most humble servant, Sam. Johnson.' These extracts afford
a striking contrast between the severity of the polite peer, and the
humble politeness (for _once_) of the rugged pedant.

[21] Lives of English poets, vol. iii. p. 243 and 284. 12_mo_ edit.

[22] Vide Life of Dryden.

[23] Vid. Dict. article Blood.

[24] _Excogitation_, this combination of letters is to be found in the
Doctor's works, though not in his Dictionary.

[25] Rasselas, chap. vi.

[26] He meant to say _there_.

[27] Tour, p. 16. and 18. &c.

[28] Tour, p. 186.

[29] Ibid, p. 21.

[30] Rambler, No. 79.

[31] Tour, p. 369 &c.

[32] Tour, p. 373.

[33] Ibid, p. 55.

[34] Vid. folio Dictionary.

[35] Tour, p. 242.

[36] Butler's life.

[37] Rambler, No. 59.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Vid. Plutarch.

[40] Tour, p. 283.

[41] Tour, p. 124.

[42] Ibid, p. 154.

[43] The Doctor ought to have said, 'For _these reasons_,' as he
mentions several.

[44] Pope's life.

[45] He should have said, _no poet_; for that was his meaning, if he had
any. No _writer_, includes prose as well as verse; and this sample may
give us a fair idea of the Doctor's _accuracy_ in point of style.

[46] Life of Pope.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Gray's life.

[49] Gray's life.

[50] Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. XVII.

[51] Gray's life.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Edinburgh Review, Vol. III. P. 55. _et seq._

[55] Gray's life.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Life of Pope.

[59] Gray's life.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Gray's life.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Pastor cum traheret per freta navibus, &c.

[64] Gray's life. Dr. Beattie of Aberdeen differs very widely from Dr.
Johnson on the merit of this poem. He says, 'I have heard the finest Ode
in the world (meaning Gray's Bard) blamed for the boldness of its
figures, and for what the critic was pleased to call obscurity.'
Beattie's Essays on poetry and musick, 3d edit. p. 269. This is,
certainly very strong; yet he seems in some danger of contradicting
himself, when he says in another place, That 'for energy of words,
vivacity of description, and _apposite_ variety of numbers, Dryden's
Feast of Alexander is superior to any ode of Horace or Pindar now
extant.' Ibid, p. 17. One would have been apt to suppose that the Lyrick
Poem which eclipsed Horace, if not the finest, is at least one of 'the
finest in the world.'--But an author has novelty to recommend him, when
he affirms that Gray is superior to Dryden, and Dryden to all Antiquity.

[65] Gray's life.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Gray's life.

[69] Gray's life.

[70] A favourite phrase of the Rambler's.

[71] Gray's life.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Taxation no Tyranny.

[74] Taxation no Tyranny.

[75] Dryden's life.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Rambler, No. 150.

[78] Rambler, No. 9.

[79] Vide the life of Garrick by Mr Davies.

[80] Rambler, No. 160.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Churchill's Apology.

[83] Vide Life of Cowley. His impressions had been very slight, for
Crowley has nothing of the melody, or magnificence of the Fairy Queen.
Of its great author we know little but that he was praised, and
neglected, unfortunate, and poor: and, from his epitaph, that he died
young. His subject is not happy, his words are often obsolete, and his
stanza can hardly please us long. But we may presume that he wanted
leisure to study the great models of antiquity: That he wanted that
tranquillity of mind so requisite to the success of a poet: And that his
defects are owing to the bad taste of his age, and the hardships of his
life. Had he lived longer, and had he enjoyed that competence which a
prudent shoeblack seldom fails to enjoy, Spenser would have been second
in fame to Shakespeare only.

[84] Dr Johnson on Cymbeline. The same sentiment is started in his
account of Pope, 'To the particular species of excellence men are
directed, not by an ascendant planet, or predominant humour, but by the
first book which they read, some early conversation which they heard, or
some accident which excited ardour and emulation.'--The Doctor is in
this passage censuring Pope's ignorance of human nature--while his own
marvellous and extreme stupidity makes him almost beneath censure. The
reader will not realize Montesquieu's remark, That _when we attempt to
prove things so evident we are sure never to convince_.

[85] Annual Register 1779, Part II. p. 148. I abridge his words, but
give their full meaning.

[86] Life of Waller.

[87] Life of Rowe.

[88] Life of Milton.

[89] Life of Swift.

[90] Preface to Shakespeare.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Preface to Shakespeare.

[93] 'He has scenes of _undoubted_ and _perpetual_ excellence.' Ibid. Is
there not some inconsistency in these various assertions.

[94] See in the same style his observations on Prior, Akenside, and

[95] _Quere._ Did ever Shakespeare, or any other man, compose a single
page, or even a single line, on any subject, without either straining
his faculties, or at least soliciting his invention. It is very possible
that the Doctor did not suspect the full extent of his expression.

[96] Vide Dictionary.

[97] Life of Pope.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Pope's life.

[100] Eloisa, Letter 83.

[101] Pope's life.

[102] Preface to Shakespeare.

[103] Pope's life.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Rambler, No. 36.

[106] Ibid.

[107] Thomson's life.

[108] The author has no intention here to disseminate political
opinions--His only meaning is to prove, that _somebody_ has neither
principle, nor consistency, nor shame.

[109] Life of Shenstone.

[110] Gentleman's Magazine.

[111] Vide life of Milton.

[112] Life of Smith.

[113] Tour, p. 8, 12mo edit.

[114] The Crucifix--Gulliver's Travels.

[115] 'And read their history in a nation's eyes.' GRAY'S ELEGY.

[116] On this subject nothing liberal could be expected from Dr Johnson,
who, in spite of his murmurs about Excise, and his actual benevolence in
private life, has always been the firm advocate of oppression. His
project of hiring the Cherokees to massacre the North Americans (vide
supra p. 32) may serve to inform us what he himself would have done, had
he been seated in the saddle of authority. But what shall be said for
some Scottish historians who have adopted the same ideas? One of them
tells us, that Beaton had prepared a list of three hundred and sixty of
the leaders of the Protestant party, whose lives and fortunes were to be
sacrificed to the rapacity and the pride of this ambitious prelate. Yet
he pronounces the killing of such a dangerous monster to be a most
execrable deed. He dwells with studied exultation on the execution of
Charles I. but if our King really deserved his fate, Was not Beaton by
many degrees more criminal? An author can hardly spend his time worse,
than in writing to flatter the prejudices, and to corrupt the common
sense of the world.

[117] Preface to Shakespeare.

[118] _Quere._ What is _unquenchable_ curiosity? and how can a play
excite curiosity which cannot be satisfied by its conclusion?

[119] Preface to Shakespeare.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Weekly Mirror, No. 12.

[122] Monthly Review, on Dr Graham's Pindaricks.

[123] Dr Johnson's life of Pope.

[124] Vide Terence and the Careless Husband.

[125] Vide Dr Johnson's life of Shenstone.

[126] Vide Preface to Dr Johnson's octavo Dictionary, 4th edition.

[127] Vide Measure for measure.

[128] Vide Dictionary.

[129] Optics, P. 349.

[130] Chem. I. P. 399. 614.

[131] Preface to Folio Dictionary.

[132] Perhaps he means, in defining _Thunder_, _Plum porridge_, the
particle _But_, &c.

[133] Letter to the Earl of Chesterfield.

[134] Preface to folio dictionary.

[135] Ibid.

[136] Ibid.

[137] Ibid.

[138] It is said that this word is not to be found in any book previous
to the reign of James II. and that it was derived from the Priests who
surrounded him.

[139] SOLIDITY. '1. Fullness of matter; _not hollowness_. 2. Firmness;
hardness; compactness; _density_;' &c. &c. Dr Johnson's dictionary.
Every page is replete with jargon of this kind.

[140] Essay, &c. Book II. Chap. iv. Sect. 6.

[141] History of Manchester, Vol. II.

[142] Preface to the octavo dictionary.

[143] Vid. Preface to folio Dictionary.

[144] Vide Life of Pope.

[145] Vide Rambler.

[146] The Booksellers, vide Life of Dryden.

[147] Vide Dictionary, article WATER.

[148] Dr Johnson's Dictionary, 4th edition, folio.

[149] Ibid.

[150] It is needless to observe, that there is no such coin in

[151] Idler, No. 94.

[152] What string does the Doctor mean? for, besides the optic nerve,
there are six muscles, four straight, and two oblique, and other small
nervous branches.

[153] It is surprising how some persons acquire the reputation of piety.
The fervour of Dr Johnson's devotion cannot be denied by those who have
seen him rise in the midst of a large company--fall down on his knees
behind his chair, repeat his Pater noster, and then resume his seat.
This is one way to get a character for holiness, and it is an absolute

Laud proved his title to the dignity of a saint, by doing all the
mischief that lay in his power. He lighted up the flames of discord
through three kingdoms. They were extinguished in the course of twenty
years, by rivers of blood.

'Knocking Jack of the North' founded his reputation, by railing at the
damnable sin of fornication, destroying great numbers of fine buildings,
and insulting the person of his Sovereign. His character was completely
detestable, which is evident from the whole tenor of his life and
writings, from his 'Blast against Women,' and above all, from his
insolence to Queen Mary, a Princess the most admired, the most
beautiful, the most injured, and the most unfortunate of her age.

[154] Preface to Shakespeare.

[155] Ibid. Dr Johnson on Shakespeare.

[156] Preface to Folio Dictionary.

[157] False Alarm.

[158] Life of Pope.

[159] Life of Pope.

[160] Ibid.

[161] Ibid.


    Let Budgell charge low Grubstreet on my quill--
    And write whate'er he please, _except my_ WILL!

                                         Epistle to Arbuthnot.

[163] Life of Pope.

[164] Vide life prefixed to his works.

[165] Rambler, No. 45.

[166] Life of Addison.

[167] Dr Johnson's reputation is raised to such a height, that many
writers do not think their productions can be successful, unless they
have his liberty to acknowledge their obligations to him. This tribute
of gratitude generally occupies a splendid dedication, or the second
paragraph in the author's preface, and we are sometimes reminded in a
marginal note of his particular respect for the Doctor. By a man of
tolerable information, such eulogiums cannot be perused without intense
disgust. But one of these gentlemen has boasted of the Doctor's
approbation of a work, which, had he ever been consulted, he would have
_damned beyond all depth_. Dr Percy has published three volumes of
English ballads, and as an apology for this work, he says in his
preface, that he could refuse nothing to such judges as the late Mr
Shenstone, and--the author of the RAMBLER. Now take notice, that the
very first poem in the collection, and one of the very best in the whole
of it, is Chevy Chace! Dr Percy admires it. Dr Johnson ridicules it in
the roughest terms. What are we to think of this; and what must Dr Percy
feel when he reads the passage just now quoted from his friend? If Dr
Johnson thinks Chevy Chace so insufferably dull, how must he have
sickened in the perusal of many pieces in that collection.

[168] Fugitive pieces. Vol. II. p. 136.

[169] Ibid, p. 26.

[170] Review for August 1782.

[171] Vide False Alarm.

[172] Though Dr Johnson has on all occasions expressed the utmost
contempt and aversion for the Scots, yet they have in general been
solicitous to soothe his pride. Dr Smollet says, that 'Johnson, inferior
to none in philosophy, philology, and poetry, stands foremost as an
essayist, justly celebrated for the strength, dignity, and variety of
his stile, &c.' And Beattie affirms, that his dictionary, considered as
the work of one man, is a _most wonderful_ performance! The Doctor's
capital enemies have likewise been Caledonians. The great author of
Lexiphanes was a Scot, and the Rambler is yet smarting under the rough
but irresistible _remarks_ of a Highland reviewer.

Our ingenious advocate for the second sight (vid. Tour) has long been
duped by a succession of rascals. Lawder persuaded him to believe, that
Paradise Lost was compiled from scraps of modern Latin poetry; his
pamphlet bears strong internal evidence that part of it at least (as has
been long alledged) is the production of the Doctor's pen. Compare in
particular the preface with such attempts in prose as we know to be
Lawder's own. Vide Gentleman's Magazine.

Mr Shaw has of late renewed his _enquiries_. They are only to be
regarded as the desperate ravings of a man who believes that, in
consequence of the _new light_, his moral and his literary character
have sunk together into final perdition; that his name, like Lawder's,
will be remembered only to his infamy, and _that_ Dr Johnson himself
despises and abhors him. Do you think me too severe on the Doctor's
infirmities? Can you forgive his injustice to the memory of his
benefactors--his political duplicity--his thirst for blood--his
inveterate antipathy to the most sacred rights of mankind?

Dr Johnson says, that one of the lowest of all human beings is a
Commissioner of Excise. This can hardly be the case, unless himself or
his reverend friend Mr Shaw shall arrive at that dignity. But in the
meantime, there is a Commissioner of Excise, or Customs, (no matter
which) who in the scale of human beings is not much _lower_ than
Lexiphanes himself. This couple stand in the most striking contrast: and
to draw the character of the first is to write an oblique but most
severe censure on the character of the second. Dr Smith's language is a
luscious and pure specimen of strength, elegance, precision, and
simplicity. His _Enquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of
nations_ deserves to be studied by every member of the community, as one
of the most accurate, profound, and persuasive books that ever was
written. In _that_ performance he displays an intimate and extensive
knowledge of mankind, in every department of life, from the cabinet to
the cottage; a supreme contempt of national prejudice, and a fearless
attachment to liberty, to justice, and to truth. His work is admired as
a mass of excellence, a condensation of reasonings, the most various,
important, original, and just.

       *       *       *       *       *

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library: University of California,
Los Angeles



_General Editors_: William E. Conway, William Andrews Clark Memorial
Library; George Robert Guffey, University of California, Los Angeles:
Maximillian E. Novak, University of California, Los Angeles

_Corresponding Secretary_: Mrs. Edna C. Davis, William Andrews Clark
Memorial Library

The Society's purpose is to publish rare Restoration and
eighteenth-century works (usually as facsimile reproductions). All
income of the Society is devoted to defraying costs of publication and

Correspondence concerning memberships in the United States and Canada
should be addressed to the Corresponding Secretary at the William
Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 2520 Cimarron Street, Los Angeles,
California. Correspondence concerning editorial matters may be addressed
to the General Editors at the same address. Manuscripts of introductions
should conform to the recommendations of the MLA _Style Sheet_. The
membership fee is $5.00 a year in the United States and Canada and
£1.19.6 in Great Britain and Europe. British and European prospective
members should address B. H. Blackwell, Broad Street, Oxford, England.
Copies of back issues in print may be obtained from the Corresponding

Publications of the first fifteen years of the Society (numbers 1-90)
are available in paperbound units of six issues at $16.00 per unit, from
the Kraus Reprint Company, 16 East 46th Street, New York, N.Y. 10017.

Make check or money order payable to THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF


  145-146. Thomas Shelton, _A Tutor to Tachygraphy, or,
     Short-writing_, 1642, and _Tachygraphy_, 1647. Introduction
     by William Matthews.

  147-148. _Deformities of Dr. Samuel Johnson_, 1782.
     Introduction by Gwin J. Kolb and J. E. Congleton.

  149. _POETA DE TRISTIBUS: or, the Poet's Complaint_, 1682.
     Introduction by Harold Love.

  150. Gerard Langbaine, _Momus Triumphans: or, the Plagiaries of
     the English Stage_ [_A New Catalogue of English Plays_], 1687.
     Introduction by David Rodes.

Members of the Society will receive copies of Clark Library seminar


  Gerard Langbaine, _An Account of the English Dramatick Poets_
     (1691), Introduction by John Loftis. 2 Volumes. Approximately
     600 pages. Price to members of the Society, $7.00 for the first
     copy (both volumes), and $8.50 for additional copies. Price to
     non-members, $10.00.

Already published in this series:

  1. John Ogilby, _The Fables of Aesop Paraphras'd in Verse_
     (1668), with an Introduction by Earl Miner. 228 pages.

  2. John Gay, _Fables_ (1727, 1738), with an Introduction by
     Vinton A. Dearing. 366 pages.

  3. _The Empress of Morocco and Its Critics_ (Elkanah Settle,
     _The Empress of Morocco_ [1673] with five plates; _Notes and
     Observations on the Empress of Morocco_ [1674] by John Dryden,
     John Crowne and Thomas Shadwell; _Notes and Observations on the
     Empress of Morocco Revised_ [1674] by Elkanah Settle; and _The
     Empress of Morocco. A Farce_ [1674] by Thomas Duffett), with an
     Introduction by Maximillian E. Novak. 348 pages.

  4. _After THE TEMPEST_ (the Dryden-Davenant version of _The
     Tempest_ [1670]; the "operatic" _Tempest_ [1674]; Thomas
     Duffett's _Mock-Tempest_ [1675]; and the "Garrick" _Tempest_
     [1756]), with an Introduction by George Robert Guffey. 332

Price to members of the Society, $3.50 for the first copy of each title,
and $4.25 for additional copies. Price to non-members, $5.00. Standing
orders for this continuing series of Special Publications will be
accepted. British and European orders should be addressed to B. H.
Blackwell, Broad Street, Oxford, England.




     16. Henry Nevil Payne, _The Fatal Jealousie_ (1673).

     18. Anonymous, "Of Genius," in _The Occasional Paper_, Vol. III,
     No. 10 (1719), and Aaron Hill, Preface to _The Creation_ (1720).


     19. Susanna Centlivre, _The Busie Body_ (1709).

     20. Lewis Theobald, _Preface to the Works of Shakespeare_ (1734).

     22. Samuel Johnson, _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ (1749), and two
     _Rambler_ papers (1750).

     23. John Dryden, _His Majesties Declaration Defended_ (1681).


     26. Charles Macklin, _The Man of the World_ (1792).

     31. Thomas Gray, _An Elegy Wrote in a Country Churchyard_ (1751).
     and _The Eton College Manuscript_.


     41. Bernard Mandeville, _A Letter to Dion_ (1732).


     104. Thomas D'Urfey, _Wonders in the Sun; or, The Kingdom of the
     Birds_ (1706).


     110. John Tutchin, _Selected Poems_ (1685-1700).

     111. Anonymous, _Political Justice_ (1736).

     112. Robert Dodsley, _An Essay on Fable_ (1764).

     113. T. R., _An Essay Concerning Critical and Curious Learning_

     114. _Two Poems Against Pope_: Leonard Welsted, _One Epistle to
     Mr. A. Pope_ (1730), and Anonymous, _The Blatant Beast_ (1742).


     115. Daniel Defoe and others, _Accounts of the Apparition of
     Mrs. Veal_.

     116. Charles Macklin, _The Covent Garden Theatre_ (1752).

     117. Sir Roger L'Estrange, _Citt and Bumpkin_ (1680).

     118. Henry More, _Enthusiasmus Triumphatus_ (1662).

     119. Thomas Traherne, _Meditations on the Six Days of the
     Creation_ (1717).

     120. Bernard Mandeville, _Aesop Dress'd or a Collection of
     Fables_ (1704).


     123. Edmond Malone, _Cursory Observations on the Poems
     Attributed to Mr. Thomas Rowley_ (1782).

     124. Anonymous, _The Female Wits_ (1704).

     125. Anonymous, _The Scribleriad_ (1742). Lord Hervey, _The
     Difference Between Verbal and Practical Virtue_ (1742).


     129. Lawrence Echard, Prefaces to _Terence's Comedies_ (1694) and
     _Plautus's Comedies_ (1694).

     130. Henry More, _Democritus Platonissans_ (1646).

     132. Walter Harte, _An Essay on Satire, Particularly on the
     Dunciad_ (1730).


     133. John Courtenay, _A Poetical Review of the Literary and Moral
     Character of the Late Samuel Johnson_ (1786).

     134. John Downes, _Roscius Anglicanus_ (1708).

     135. Sir John Hill, _Hypochondriasis, a Practical Treatise_

     136. Thomas Sheridan, _Discourse ... Being Introductory to His
     Course of Lectures on Elocution and the English Language_ (1759).

     137. Arthur Murphy, _The Englishman From Paris_ (1736).

     138. [Catherine Trotter], _Olinda's Adventures_ (1718).


     139. John Ogilvie, _An Essay on the Lyric Poetry of the Ancients_

     140. _A Learned Dissertation on Dumpling_ (1726) and _Pudding
     Burnt to Pot or a Compleat Key to the Dissertation on Dumpling_

     141. Selections from Sir Roger L'Estrange's _Observator_

     142. Anthony Collins, _A Discourse Concerning Ridicule and Irony
     in Writing_ (1729).

     143. _A Letter From A Clergyman to His Friend, With An Account of
     the Travels of Captain Lemuel Gulliver_ (1726).

     144. _The Art of Architecture, A Poem. In Imitation of Horace's
     Art of Poetry_ (1742).

Publications of the first fifteen years of the Society (numbers 1-90)
are available in paperbound units of six issues at $16.00 per unit, from
the Kraus Reprint Company, 16 East 46th Street, New York, N.Y. 10017.

Publications in print are available at the regular membership rate of
$8.00 yearly. Prices of single issues may be obtained upon request.
Subsequent publications may be checked in the annual prospectus.

       *       *       *       *       *


The text indicated quotes by repeating the open quote character on each
new line. This has not been followed in this transcription.

The text used the 'long s', as is common pre-1800. This has been
converted to a standard 's'.

The text used an 'oe' ligature for several words, which has been changed
to 'oe' in the text edition:


The following misprints have been corrected in the text:

    Page iii "ignominious end". 'ignominous' in page image.
    Page 14. "_False Alarm_". Initial F not italicised in page image.
    Page 24. "'The design". Initial quote doubled in page image.
    Page 35. "a specimen". 'speimen' in page image.
    Page 36. "procure it.'" Removed extra end quote.
    Page 48. "_a parte post_". 'a' not italisised in page image.
    Page 49. "that ingredient". 'ingre-(newline)gredient' on page.
    Page 51. "his only difficulty". 'difficuly' in page image.
    Page 53. "Pissburnt". On page 'Piss-(newline)burnt'
    Page 72. "(for I dare". Open bracked missing in page image.
    Page 75. "for he". Printed as 'forhe'.
    Page 80. "Brothelhouse". On page 'brothel-(newline)house'
    Page 86. "or blood-thirsty". '-' unclear in page image.

Missing singlequote has been added at the end as indicated below:

    Page 17. "these: 'They'"
    Page 24. footnote. "_these reasons_,'"
    Page 27. "have seen;'"
    Page 36. "a poet.'"
    Page 40. "fine sleeves;'"
    Page 53. "animal water. _Pope._'"
    Page 70. "say less'"
    Page 78. "or write;'"
    Page 78. "heavy ship;'"

In addition, missing period has been added as shown below:

    Page 12. "too old to learn."
    Page 13. "the victory. _Cibber_"
    Page 22 footnote. "Ibid, p. 55."
    Page 54. "divert school boys."
    Page 54. "_s._ Fiddlefaddle"
    Page 55. "Yet, _ad._"
    Page 68. "hope and fear."
    Page 74. "_Dryden._' Whoredom"
    Page 74. "piece of bread."
    Page 75. "consisting of three.'"
    Page 75 footnote. "in existence."

The alphabetical list on pages 71-72 has several entries out of order.
The order has been kept from the text, rather than corrected.

On page 73 there is a footnote, "Vide Rambler.", with no footnote marker
on the page. This footnote has been placed where it is in the first

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Deformities of Samuel Johnson, Selected from his Works" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.