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SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709–84)

Few personalities of famous men are so well-known to us as the personality of that great Cham of literature, Samuel Johnson.' The son of a poor Lichfield book-seller, Johnson had the advantages of the local grammar-school and a few poverty-stricken months at Pembroke College, Oxford; served for a time as usher in a boy's school; married for true love's sake, a woman much his senior; and set up a private academy near his native city. This enterprise proving neither agreeable nor profitable, in his twenty-eighth year, with little in his uncouth person, his ponderous genius, or in the sturdy independence of his character, to recommend him to the rich and fortunate, Johnson had the hardihood to seek a living among the penurious publishers and starving hack writers of London. For nearly a quarter of a century, he earned a precarious subsistence by huge odd jobs' of literature I which now have little interest except as a part of his biography. The greatest of these, his Dictionary of the English Language, was published in 1755, after seven years of continuous labor. During a part of this time he had supported himself by writing The Rambler (1750-52), and, in ensuing years, The Idler (1759-60) and Rasselas (1759) helped to defray expenses while he was preparing his edition of Shakspere (1765). He was now famous. A pension of three hundred pounds, granted by government in 1762, had relieved him from the pressure of necessity. Thereafter he wrote but little, and his social talents expanded. In 1764, he joined with Sir Joshua Reynolds in founding the renowned Literary Club which had the good fortune to gather to its convivial meetings such men as Burke, Goldsmith, Gibbon, Garrick, Adam Smith, the two Wartons, Bishop Percy of ballad fame, and many others whose names are still remembered. The previous year, Boswell had made his acquaintance and had begun to gather materials for the record of those 'nights and suppers of the gods' with which we are regaled in his Life. If we may trust Boswell's vivid and, apparently, accurate account, Johnson inspired in his comrades not only unusual affection, but a degree of respect which approximated reverence. His conversation was witty, powerful, and varied and gives us a higher idea of his genius than anything which he wrote. His eccentricities both of behavior and of opinion were extraordinary; but the prevailing impression left by Boswell's picture of his mind is one of massive common-sense, united with great depth and benignity of soul.

Johnson's most important contribution to literature is his Lives of the Poets, which he undertook toward the end of his life (1779-81), when his powers were in their fullness and after years of polite conversation had favorably affected his style. They are the outpouring of a capacious mind stored by a lifetime of reading, experience, and reflection. His judgments are often marred by his peculiar crochets of opinion or temper; but his sayings are almost always invigorating, for they are the abrupt utterances of an honest and strong man who knew much of the world and of letters.

THE LIFE OF ADDISON

Not to name the school or the masters of men illustrious for literature, is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously diminished: I would 5 therefore trace him through the whole process of his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his twelfth year, his father, being made Dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new residence, and, I believe, placed him for some time, probably not long, under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father of the late Dr. Peter Shaw. Of this interval his biographers have given no ac15 count, and I know it only from a story

Joseph Addison was born on the Ist of May, 1672, at Milston, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then rector, near Ambrosebury, in Wiltshire, and, appearing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day. After the usual domestic education, which from the character of the father may be reason- 10 ably supposed to have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mr. Naish at Ambrosebury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor at Salisbury.

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