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BIOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL, AND CRITICAL

PREFACE

TO

THE

IDLER.

The last periodical labour of our literary Hercules, was the IDLER. It was written originally for a weekly newspaper, entitled the Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette;' in which Dr. JOHNSON was admitted into copartnership by Mr. John NEWBERY, the proprietor, as a consideration for these essays. It would appear, also, from a singular advertisement from the hand of JOHNSON, which we shall insert in its place, that he received, besides this interest in the paper, a compensation of a pecuniary nature. Mr. NEWBERY distinguished himself by the publication of many entertaining volumes adapted to the capacities of children, and his juvenile library has been a great means of facilitating early instruction. Dr. Johnson is said to have written for him several prefaces and introductions, particularly the historical advertisement prefixed to his amusing Collection of Voyages, entitled the World Displayed. Mr. NEWBERY was, also, an occasional contributor of original matter himself. He died in the year 1776.

b

XXXIII.

The Universal Chronicle, with the first number of the Idler in it-imperium in imperioappeared on Saturday, the 16th of April, 1758. It was continued weekly until Saturday, the 5th of April, 1760, when the IDLER terminated ; and with it, for the want of encouragement, according to Mr. CHALMERS, the Chronicle.

The IDLER is less substantial, and more elastic than the RAMBLER. •It has more variety of real life,' says Mr. Boswell, and greater facility of language. Many of these excellent essays were written as hastily as an ordinary letter. Mr. LANGTON remembers JOHNSON, when on a visit at Oxford, asking him one evening how long it was till the post went out; and on being told about half an hour, he exclaimed, “then we shall do very well.” He upon this instantly sat down and finished an IDLER, which it was necessary should be in London the next day. Mr. LANGTON having signified a wish to read it,

Sir, "said he, you shall not do more than I have done myself." He then folded it up and sent it off. Yet there are in the Idler several papers which shew as much profundity of thought, and labour of language, as any of this great man's writings. No. 14, Robbery of time; No. 24, Thinking; No. 41, Death of a friend; No. 43, Flight of time ; No. 51,-Domestic greatness unattainable; No. 52, Selfdenial, No. 58, Actual, how short of fancied, excellence; No. 89, Physical evil, moral good; and his concluding paper on “The horror of the last,” will prove this assertion. As the IDLER was written in a newspaper, it sometimes bore the impress of passing events, and was the vehicle of occasional politics. But these digressions from the general plan are both few and pardonable. It is also interspersed with animadversions upon the publications of the day. The papers

in the IDLER amount to one hundred and three; of which, ninety are from the pen of JOHNSON, and twelve are the contributions of correspondents. The letter in No. 9, was communicated by an unknown hand, but the closing reflections upon it sufficiently announce themselves.

The Journal of a Junior Fellow, No. 33, which Mr. CHALMERS terms a piece of genuine humour, was furnished by Mr. Thomas WARTON, the younger brother of Dr. JOSEPH WARTON, who enriched the ADVENTURER with his elegant and judicious criticisms. Dr. JOHNSON scarcely allows it originality, and it possesses after all but a moderate share of point. Nos. 93, however, and 96, which were supplied by the same hand, are conceived with much happiness of manner, and may rank with the most standard essays. Sam Lofty is said to have had an archetype in real life, not distantly related to the author.

Thomas WARTON, says Dr. Aikin*, a distinguished poet, and historian of poetry, was born at Basingstoke in 1728+. He manifested an early taste for poetical composition; and an ingenious translation of one of MÁRTIAL's

General Biograpby. + See the account of his brother, Dr. Joseph Warton, in the Preface to the ADVENTURER.

Epigrams, done by him in his ninth year, is said

to be still extant. He was educated under his father, who kept a school at Basingstoke; and at the age of fifteen, he was admitted a commoner of Trinity College, Oxford. Here, his talent for poetry was soon made signally conspicuous, by his triumphant answer to Mason's elegy of Ísis,' a severe satire upon the disloyalty of Oxford. He undertook his reply at the special request of Dr. HUDDESFORD, the president of his college; and while he successfully vindicated the cause of his own university, turned the tables with an admirable felicity of sarcasm upon her venal and sycophantic rival. This piece, which he entitled the Triumph of Isis,' was published with great applause, in 1749; but it was excluded afterwards from his volume of collected poetry. In 1750, he contributed to a miscellany, entitled the STUDENT, his · Progress of Discontent,' which exhibits a great fund of humour, and a power of familiar description seldom so early attained : for it is reported that he had composed it as a college exercise in 1746, when he was only eighteen years of age. At this time also, he was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts, and in the year following elected to a fellowship in his college.

He now abandoned himself entirely to elegant literature and the muses; and successively gave to the world his poem of Newmarket,' directed against the ruinous passion of the turf; an Ode for Music; and Verses on the Death of the Prince of Wales. In 1753, he edited a small

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