IN 1948, William and Margaret Wimsatt added sixteen examples of Samuel Johnson quoting from his own works in the Dictionary to the thirty-three previously identified.1 Less than a decade later, William Keast supplied three more entries, bringing to a total fifty-two self-quotations of this kind.2 Recently, while searching the Dictionary for quite different purposes, I detected another one, one that enlarges the list to fifty-three items. Beneath the definition of ‘bribe’ in the 4th edition of 1773, we read: To BRIBE. 1. To gain by bribes; to give bribes, rewards, or hire, to bad purposes. The great, ’tis true, can still th’ electing tribe, The bard may supplicate, but cannot bribe. Prologue to Good-natured Man 2. It is seldom, and not properly, used in a good sense. How pow’rful are chaste vows! the wind and tide You brib’d to combat on the English side. Dryden The 1773 revision expands the 1755 entry, which offered only one definition, the first given here, illustrated by the Dryden lines cited under the second definition in the fourth edition. The fact that Johnson edits the later entry by splitting it into two different definitions with two separate illustrations suggests a lexicographical motivation for the change. In the Advertisement to the fourth edition, he writes: ‘Many faults have I corrected … I have methodised some parts that were disordered, and illuminated some that were obscure’.3 Providing as it did an admonitory negative illustration without a contrasting positive definition, the 1755 entry may have been deemed unsatisfactorily ‘obscure’. Hence, perhaps, the expansion. But why does Johnson quote himself, rather than any of the numerous other distinguished options at hand? For example, elsewhere in the Dictionary, under ‘emulously’, he draws from George Granville’s ‘Epistle to the Earl of Peterborough’, ll. 35–36, ‘So tempt they him, and emulously vie / To bribe a voice, that empires would not buy’; likewise, he quotes a passage from Swift’s Directions to Servants at least three times (under ‘mamma’, ‘master’ [definition ten], and ‘papa’): ‘Little masters and misses are great impediments to servants; the remedy is to bribe them, that they may not tell tales to papa and mamma’.4 As Allen Reddick has shown, Johnson meticulously reviewed his copy of illustrative quotations from 1755 as he reshaped the authorities for the later edition—the part of this project he was more committed to than any other.5 He thus had at his disposal other authorities for the predicate form of ‘bribe’ to draw upon. Are there perhaps non-lexicographical motives underlying the alteration? One possibility is that Johnson was proud of his lines from the Prologue and wished to publicly exhibit them, however furtively. As is often the case, Johnson alters the wording of the original.6 Here is the authentic version: The great, ’tis true, can charm th’ electing tribe; The bard may supplicate, but cannot bribe.7 These form verses 25–26 of the thirty-line poem that was recited at the opening performance of Goldsmith’s The Good-Natur’d Man on 29 January 1768 and that was published, along with the play itself, in its definitive version, on 5 February. The lines under scrutiny here participate in an extended conceit running throughout the Prologue (one prompted by the imminent general election in March of that year) that contrasts the politician soliciting votes with the playwright supplicating audience applause. In this comparison, the poet emerges with much greater honour than the venal or indifferent politician. It is a conceit not at all unfamiliar to Johnson; we see it, for example, in his earlier poems London (ll. 35–40) and The Vanity of Human Wishes (ll. 165–174), and we see it exhibited perhaps most brilliantly in the Chesterfield Letter, where Johnson writes angrily about his perceived mistreatment by the aristocratic MP famous for his oratory.8 This political context of the distich and larger passage point to a second possibility noted above. Johnson worked on his revisions between August 1771 to 12 December 1772,9 a span coinciding with a period when his interest in political affairs was re-energized. A year earlier, he had penned in white-heat fury his The False Alarm; during the time of revision he applied himself to his second major tract, Thoughts on the Falkland Islands. Thus, the political ferment of the 1760 s and 1770 s may have catalysed a trembling fault-line within his encyclopaedic memory. A third possibility, the one I find most attractive, is that Johnson inserted the verses as a tribute to his friend Oliver Goldsmith. In the 1755 Preface to the Dictionary, he had written: My purpose was to admit no testimony of living authours, that I might not be misled by partiality, and that none of my cotemporaries might have reason to complain; nor have I departed from this resolution, but when some performance of uncommon excellence excited my veneration, when my memory supplied me, from late books, with an example that was wanting, or when my heart, in the tenderness of friendship, solicited admission for a favourite name. (Yale Works, XVIII, 95) Johnson’s ‘tenderness of friendship’ led him to quote, among other living writers, David Garrick on at least three occasions, William Law on at least two, Samuel Richardson at least twice, and Charlotte Lennox an astonishing twenty times.10 However, Goldsmith’s rise to fame occurred about a decade after publication of the Dictionary, precluding any possibility of a reference.11 Therefore, nearly twenty years later, Johnson could have been making up for this omission by citing a work that he wrote at Goldsmith’s request, and a work whose title, The Good-Natur’d Man, aptly describes the eccentric poet and playwright himself,12 using lines that pay direct tribute to the ‘bard’.13 And less than a decade after the fourth edition of the Dictionary appeared, Johnson more directly honoured his late friend in the first two paragraphs of the ‘Life of Parnell’, saying that the composition of this Life (one based upon Goldsmith’s own 1770 ‘Life of Parnell’) gave him ‘an opportunity of paying tribute to the memory of Goldsmith’ (he then quotes in Greek from the Odyssey (XXIV, 190: ‘for that is the due of the dead’) (Yale Works, XXII, 561)). My third hypothesis is further supported by Johnson’s decision to add two quotations from Goldsmith’s own writings to the fourth edition. One is found under ‘breast’ (v.a.): ‘The hardy Swiss / Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes’, a misquotation from The Traveller, the poem that first elevated Goldsmith to sudden, widespread fame.14 The other appears under ‘venerate’ (v.a.): ‘Ev’n the peasant dares these rights to scan, / And learn to venerate himself as man’, also misquoted from The Traveller.15 This last couplet in particular might be read as a tribute to Goldsmith himself, as a man deserving of ‘veneration’ and respect16 especially given his rise from obscurely rustic roots to a European-wide reputation—a path that Johnson had previously undertaken and modelled for his protégé when establishing his literary name in the 1730 s and 1740 s, and one that Goldsmith in all likelihood consciously pursued.17 Note that the subject in ‘ev’n the peasant dares these rights to scan’ recalls Johnson’s early autobiographical poem about literary ambition, ‘The Young Author’, ll. 1–2: ‘When first the peasant, long inclin’d to roam, / Forsakes his rural seats and peaceful home’ (Poems, 33). The possible personal affinities and verbal resonance linking these two early poems may be seen to cement, at some psychic level, in Johnson’s own admiration for Goldsmith’s couplet; he recited it and the passage from which it comes (ll. 325–334) from memory while travelling in Scotland, ‘with such energy, that the tear started in his eye’.18 Hence, both the couplets from The Traveller and Johnson’s own Prologue to The Good-Natur’d Man may be interpreted as coalescing into a distinct verbal and aesthetic artefact. This intertextual triangulation forms a panegyric that is at once sincere and complex. In addition to contributing the Prologue to The Good-Natur’d Man, Johnson also revised and contributed to The Traveller, perhaps as many as eighteen lines.19 His involvement led some contemporaries to suspect that Johnson ghost-wrote most or perhaps even all of it.20 Hence, these three authorities, insofar as they are read as a cohesive intertextual ensemble, unite to acknowledge of the debts that Goldsmith owed to his older friend. Johnson’s homage to Goldsmith’s greatness, then, in the 1773 Dictionary, may bear subtle witness to the competitive energies that informed almost all his literary friendships, save, perhaps, the last, that with his ‘little Burney’.21 Footnotes 1 W. K., Wimsatt, Jr., and Margaret H. Wimsatt, ‘Self-Quotations and Anonymous Quotations in Johnson’s Dictionary’, ELH, xv, 1 (1948), 60–68. Wimsatt also discusses self-quotations in his article ‘Johnson’s Dictionary’, in Frederick W. Hilles (ed.), New Light on Dr. Johnson: Essays on the Occasion of his 250th Birthday (New Haven, CT, 1959), 76. W. K. and M. H. Wimsatt listed twelve quotations attributed to ‘Anonymous’, a designator that Johnson, on occasion, used to refer to himself, which they were unable to identify. I have checked all twelve; none belong to Johnson. 2 W. R. Keast, ‘Self-Quotation in Johnson’s Dictionary’, N&Q (September 1955), 392–93 and ‘Another Self-Quotation in Johnson’s Dictionary’, N&Q (June 1956), 262. 3 The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, gen. ed. Robert DeMaria, Jr., 21 of 23 vols published to date (New Haven, CT, 1958–), XVIII, 375. 4 My emphases. For other examples, see ‘elude’, def. 1: John Rogers’ Sermon on Proverbs 12:26: ‘He who looks no higher for the motives of his conduct than the resentments of human justice, whenever he can presume himself cunning enough to elude, rich enough to bribe, or strong enough to resist it, will be under no restraint’; ‘grease’ (n.s.) def. 1: Dryden’s Juvenal: ‘To compass wealth, and bribe the god of gain’; ‘have’ (v.a.), def. 15: Dryden’s ‘On the Young Statesmen’: ‘first they would bribe us without pence’; etc. 5 See The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 1746–1773, rev. edn. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), 97–98, 96. 6 Typically, Johnson diverges from precise quotation of the original for one of two reasons. (1) At times, he relies upon his encyclopaedic memory with faulty results; see, for example, his conspicuous misquotation of himself, under ‘spare’, where he cited his own work, Irene’s ‘grant me one hour’ as ‘spare me one hour’; cf. also his later criticism in the Lives of the Poets, where he exercised his critical analysis of the plays of Congreve and Rowe entirely from memory (Lives of the English Poets, ed. Roger Lonsdale, 4 vols (Oxford, 2006), III, 320, n36). (2) The second reason derives from printing constraints, the need to compress quotations to their essential kernel, in order to save space. In an apologetic paragraph from the Preface to the Dictionary, Johnson extenuates his rationale for these ‘truncations’: The examples are too often injudiciously truncated, and perhaps sometimes, I hope very rarely, alleged in a mistaken sense; for in making this collection I trusted more to memory, than, in a state of disquiet and embarrassment, memory can contain, and purposed to supply at the review what was left incomplete in the first transcription. (Yale Works, XVIII, 99) (See also the ‘when my memory supplied me’ passage from the Preface cited below.) 7 I quote from The Poems of Samuel Johnson, ed. David Nichol Smith, Edward L. McAdam [and J. D. Fleeman], 2nd edn (Oxford, 1974), 179. 8 The Letters of Samuel Johnson: The Hyde Edition, ed. Bruce Redford, 5 vols (Princeton, NJ, 1992–94), I, 95. 9 See Reddick, Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 89 and Poems of Samuel Johnson, 187. 10 See Yale Works, XVIII, 95, n9 and Charlotte Brewer, ‘ “A Goose-Quill or a Gander’s”: Female Writers in the Dictionary’, in Freya Johnston and Lynda Mugglestone (eds), Samuel Johnson: The Arc of the Pendulum (Oxford, 2013), 124. 11 The Traveller was first published 19 December 1764 to ‘almost unmixed praise’ (Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith, ed. Arthur Friedman, 5 vols [Oxford 1966], IX, 236). However, see R. S. Crane’s note, in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill; rev. L. F. Powell, 2nd edn, 6 vols (Oxford, 1934–64), III, 502. Johnson and Goldsmith probably first met in 1759: see The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, and Oliver Goldsmith, ed. Roger Lonsdale (New York, 1972), 572. 12 One of Goldsmith’s twentieth-century biographers, Leonard Wibberley, entitled his book The Good-Natured Man: A Portrait of Oliver Goldsmith (New York, 1979). Johnson’s admiration for this play was high: ‘He praised “Goldsmith’s Good-natured Man”; said it was the best comedy that had appeared since “The Provoked Husband” ’ (Boswell’s Life, II, 48). 13 For the identification of Goldsmith with the ‘bard’ of the Prologue, see Poems, 177. 14 Johnson appears to collate two separate lines, ll. 166, 186: ‘Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread / Breasts the keen air, and carrols as he goes’ (Friedman, Collected Works, IV, 256). 15 ‘While even the peasant boasts these rights to scan, / And learns to venerate himself as man’, (ll. 333–334; Friedman, Collected Works, IV, 263). 16 We know that Johnson used other quotations of contemporary authors in the Dictionary to indicate their character or vocation. For example, he slides a satiric barb at Lord Chesterfield, the would-be patron of the Dictionary, under ‘ridiculer’ (4th edn only): ‘The ridiculer shall make only himself ridiculous’. He paid a left-handed compliment to David Garrick under ‘giggler’, which he defines as ‘A laugher; a titterer; one idly and foolishly merry’, before quoting from the Epilogue to Edward Moore’s The Foundling (written by Garrick): ‘We shew our present, joking, giggling race; / True joy consists in gravity and grace’. (Boswell once noted, ‘ “it is observed, Sir, that you attack Garrick yourself, but will suffer nobody else to do it”. JOHNSON, (smiling) “Why, Sir, that is true” ’. [Boswell’s Life, 1: 393, n1]; here, we seem to have Johnson teasing Garrick, suggesting he is perhaps ‘one idly and foolishly merry’, even as he acknowledges the actor’s good humour and comedic abilities.) Finally, under the entry for ‘portrait’ (4th edn only), Johnson quotes from Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Discourses on Art, Lecture 4, subtly intimating his friend’s status as the great portrait painter of his day. 17 See, e.g., Anthony W. Lee, Mentoring Relationships in the Life and Writings of Samuel Johnson: A Study in the Dynamics of Eighteenth-Century Literary Mentoring (Lewiston, 2005), 129–31, 166–78. 18 Boswell’s Life, V, 344–5. Johnson’s admiration for the entire poem was high: ‘There has not been so fine a poem since Pope’s time’ (Boswell’s Life, II, 5). 19 See Lonsdale, Poems of Goldsmith, 624–25. The fact that Johnson identified only half of the eighteen lines he admitted to contributing to the poem invites an extremely attractive hypothesis that the lines he quotes from The Traveller in the 1773 Dictionary are partly or wholly his own—especially the lines under ‘venerable’, which brought tears to his eyes in 1773. As tantalizing as this invitation is, it is one too speculative to follow without additional corroboration. 20 See Boswell’s Life, II, 253; Lonsdale, Poems of Goldsmith, 624–25. 21 See Frances Burney, The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney, ed. Lars E. Troide, et al., 5 vols (Montreal, 1988–2012), III, 168. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 17, 2018
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