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TO THE PRESENT EDITION.
In this edition, no alteration has been made beyond the correction of errors of the press, but an addition of considerable interest will be found in seven letters of Boswell to Sir David Dalrymple (Lord Hailes), portions of which were published in Mr. Rogers' “ Boswelliana” (1874), but which are here for the first time printed in extenso from the originals at New Hailes.
R. N. 1884.
" 5 Never
HAVE somewhere heard or read, that the Preface before a
book, like the portico before a house, should be contrived, so as to catch, but not detain the attention of those who desire admission to the family within, or leave to look over the collection of pictures made by one whose opportunities of obtaining them we know to have been not unfrequent. I wish not to keep my readers long from such intimacy with the manners of Dr. Johnson, or such knowledge of his sentiments as these pages can convey. To urge my distance from England as an excuse for the book's being ill written, would be ridiculous; it might indeed serve as a just reason for my having written it at all; because, though others may print the same aphorisms and stories, I cannot here be sure that they have done so. As the Duke
however to the Weaver, in “A Midsummer Night's Dream," excuse ; if your play be a bad one, keep at least the excuses to yourself.”
I am aware that many will say, I have not spoken highly enough of Dr. Johnson; but it will be difficult for those who say so, to speak more highly. If I have described his manners as they were, I have been careful to show his superiority to the common forms of common life. It is surely no dispraise to an oak that it does not bear jessamine; and he who should plant honeysuckle round Trajan's column, would not be thought to adorn, but to disgrace it.
When I have said, that he was more a man of genius than of learning, I mean not to take froin the one part of his character that which I willingly give to the other. The erudition of Mr. Johnson proved his genius ; for he had not acquired it by long or profound study: nor can I think those characters the greatest