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in the business is not improbable, for it appears by his letters of this date (August 1738) that he was incapable of attending to any business: but Johnson's Life of Swift proves that his dislike had a more honourable foundation.
About this time Johoson formed a design of studying the civil law, in order to practise in the Commons, yet this also was rendered impossible for want of a degree, and he was obliged to resume his labours in the Gentleman's Magazine. The various articles which came from his pen are enumerated in chronological series by Mr. Boswell. It will be sufficient for the present sketch to notice only his more important productions, or such as were of sufficient consequence to be published separately.
In 1739, he wrote A complete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage, from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, Author of Gustavus Vasa: and a political tract entitled Marmor Norfolciense, or an Essay on an ancient prophetical Inscription, in monkish Rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk, by Probus Britannicus. These pieces, it is almost needless to add, were ironical, a mode of writing in which our author was not eminently successful. Some notice has already been taken of Gustavus Vasa in the life of Brooke. The Marmor Norfolciense was a severe attack on the Walpole admini, stration and on the reigning family : but whether it was not well understood, or when ucderstood, considered as feeble, it certainly was not much attended to by the friends of government, nor procured to the author the reputation of a dange. rous opponent. Sir John Hawkins indeed says, that a prosecution was ordered, but of this no traces can be found in any of the public offices. One of his political enemies reprinted it in the year 1775, to show what a change had been effected in his principles by a pension, but the publisher does not seem to have known how little change was really effected, and how little was necessary to render Johnson a loyal subject to his munificent sovereign, and a determined enemy of the popular politics of that time,
His next publication of any note was his Life of Savage, which he afterwards prefixed to that poet's works when admitted into his collection. With Savage he had been for some time intimately acquainted, but how long is not known. They met at Cave's house. Johnson admired his abilities, and while he sympathized with the very singular train of misfortunes which placed him among the indigent, was not less touched by his pride of spirit, and the lofty demeanour with which he treated those who neglected him. In all Savage's virtues, there was much in common with Johnson, but his narrative shows with what nicety he could sepa. rate his virt from his vices, and blame even firmness and independence when they degene., ed into obstinacy and misanthropy. He has concealed none of Savage's failings, and what appears of the exculpatory kind, is merely an endeavour to present a just view of that unfortunate combination of circumstances by which Savage was driven from the paths of decent and moral life; and to in. cite every reflecting person to put the important question “ who made me to differ?"
This life, of which two editions were very speedily sold, affords an extraordinary proof of the facility with which Johnson composed. He wrote forty-eight pages of the printed copy in the course of a day, or night, for it is not very clear which. His biographer who records this, enters at the same time into a long discussion in. tended to prove that Savage was not the son of the countess of Macclesfield ; but had this been possible, it would surely have been accomplished when the proof might have been rendered unanswerable.
In 1745, he published Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir Thomas Hanmer's edition of Shakspeare, to which he affixed proposals for a new edition of that poet, and it is probable he was now devoting his whole time to this undertaking, as we find a suspension of his periodi. cal contributions during the years 1745 and 1746. It is perhaps too rash to con clude that he declined writing in the Magazine because he would not join in the support of government during the rebellion in Scotland; but there are abundant proofs in Mr. Boswell's Life, that his sentiments were favourable to that attempt. As to his plan of an edition of Shakspeare, he had many difficulties to encounter. Little notice was taken of his proposals, and Warburton was known to be engaged in a simi. Jar undertaking. Warburton, however, had the liberality to praise his observa, tions on Macbeth, as the production of a man of parts and genius: and Johnson never forgot the favour. Warburton, he said, praised him when praise was of value.
In 1747, he resumed his labours in the Gentleman's Magazine, and although many entire pieces cannot be ascertained to have come from his peń, he was frequently, if not constantly, employed to superintend the materials of the magazine, and several introductorý passages may be pointed out which bear evident marks of his composition. In this year his old pupil and friend, Garrick, became manager of Drury-Jane theatre, and obtained from Johnson a prologue, which is generally esteemed one of the finest productions of that kind in our language. In this year also he issued his plan for a Dietionary of the English language.
The design of this great work was at first suggested by Dodsley, and Johnson, having consented to undertakeit, entered into an agreement with the booksellers for the sum of fifteen hundred guineas, which he was to receive in small payments propor. tioned to the quantity of manuscript sent to press. The plan was addressed to the celebrated earl of Chesterfield, who had discovered an inclination to be the patron of the author, and Johnson having made suitable preparations, hired a house in Gough-Square, engaged amanuenses, and began a task which he carried on by fits, as inclination and health permitted, for nearly eight years. His amanuenses were six in number, and employed upon what may be termed the mechanical part of the work, but their expenses and his own were so considerable, that before the work was concluded, he had received the whole of the money stipulated for in his agreement with the proprietors. In what time it might hare been completed, had he, to use his own phrase, “ set doggedly about it,” it is useless to conjecture, and it would perhaps have been hurtful to try. Whoever has been em, ployed on any great literary work knows, not only the pleasure, but the necessity of occasional relaxation; and Johnson's miud, stored with various knowledge, and a rich fand of sentiment, afforded him many opportunities of this kind, in ad, dition to the love of society, which was his predominant passion. We find ac. cordingly, that during the years in which his Dictionary was on hand, he accepted