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The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 1   By: (1709-1784)

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First Page:

DR. JOHNSON'S WORKS.

LIFE, POEMS, AND TALES.

THE

WORKS

OF

SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

IN NINE VOLUMES.

VOLUME THE FIRST.

MDCCCXXV

ADVERTISEMENT.

It may be asserted, without a partial panegyric of the object of our praise, that the works of no single author in the wide range of British literature, not excepting, perhaps, even Addison, contain a richer and more varied fund of rational entertainment and sound instruction than those of Dr. Johnson. A correct edition of his works must, therefore, be an acceptable contribution to the mass of national literature. That the present edition has, perhaps, fairer claims on public approbation than most preceding ones, we feel ourselves justified in asserting, without envious detraction of those who have gone before us. It has been our wish and diligent endeavour to give as accurate a text as possible, to which we have subjoined notes, where elucidation seemed to be required. They have been collected with care, and will prove our impartiality by their occasional censures of the faults and failings of the writer whose works it is our office to illustrate, and our more common and more grateful task to praise. Though, being diffused over a wide space, they appear less numerous than they really are, it has been our incessant care to abstain from that method of redundant annotation, which tends to display the ingenuity or mental resources of an editor, much more than to illustrate the original writer. Notes have been chiefly introduced for the purpose of guarding our readers against some political sophisms, or to correct some hasty error. But happily, in the writings to which we have devoted our time and attention, the chaff and dross lie so open to view, and are so easily separated from purer matter, that a hint is sufficient to protect the most incautious from harm. Accordingly, in our notes and prefaces we have confined ourselves to simple and succinct histories of the respective works under consideration, and have avoided, as much as might be, a burdensome repetition of criticisms or anecdotes, in almost every person's possession, or an idle pointing out of beauties which none could fail to recognise. The length of time that has elapsed since the writings of Johnson were first published, has amply developed their intrinsic merits, and destroyed the personal and party prejudices which assail a living author: but the years have been too few to render the customs and manners alluded to so obsolete as to require much illustrative research.[a] It may be satisfactory to subjoin, that care has been exercised in every thing that we have advanced, and that when we have erred, it has been on the side of caution.

All the usually received works of Dr. Johnson, together with Murphy's Essay on his Life and Genius, are comprised in this edition. In pursuance of our plan of brevity, we shall not here give a list of his minor and unacknowledged productions, but refer our readers to Boswell; a new, amended, and enlarged edition of whose interesting and picturesque Memoirs we purpose speedily to present to the public, after the style and manner of the present work.

One very important addition, however, we conceive that we have made, in publishing the whole of his sermons. It has been hitherto the practice to give one or two, with a cursory notice, that Johnson's theological knowledge was scanty, or unworthy of his general fame. We have acted under a very different impression; for though Johnson was not, nor pretended to be, a polemical or controversial divine, he well knew how to apply to the right regulation of our moral conduct the lessons of that Christianity which was not promulged for a sect, but for mankind; which sought not a distinctive garb in the philosopher's grove, nor secluded itself in the hermit's cell, but entered without reserve every walk of life, and sympathized with all the instinctive feelings of our common nature. This high privilege of our religion Johnson felt, and to the diffusion of its practical, not of its theoretical advantages, he applied the energies of his heart and mind; and with what success, we leave to every candid reader to pronounce... Continue reading book >>


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