1750 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Edward Cave to Samuel Richardson, 23 August 1750; Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 1:168-70.



St. John's Gate, August 3, 1750.

DEAR SIR,

... Excuse this ramble from the purpose of your letter. I return to answer, that Mr. Johnson is the Great Rambler, being, as you observe, the only man who can furnish two such papers in a week, besides his other great business, and has not been assisted with above three.

I may discover to you, that the world is not so kind to itself as you wish it. The encouragement, as to sale, is not in proportion to the high character given to the work by the judicious, not to say the raptures expressed by the few that do read it; but its being thus relished in numbers gives hope that the sets must go off, as it is a fine paper, and, considering the late hour of having the copy, tolerably printed.

When the author was to be kept private (which was the first scheme), two gentlemen, belonging to the Prince's court, came to me to enquire his name, in order to do him service; and also brought a list of seven gentlemen to be served with the Rambler. As I was not at liberty, an inference was drawn, that I was desirous to keep to myself so excellent a writer. Soon after, Mr. Doddington sent a letter directed to the Rambler, inviting him to his house, when he should be disposed to enlarge his acquaintance. In a subsequent number a kind of excuse was made, with an hint that a good writer might not appear to advantage in conversation. Since that time, several circumstances, and Mr. Garrick and others, who knew the author's powers and stile from the first, unadvisedly asserting their (but) suspicions, overturned the scheme of secrecy. (About which there is also one paper.)

I have had letters of approbation from Dr. Young, Dr. Hartley, Dr. Sharpe, Miss C—, &c. &c. most of them, like you, setting them in a rank equal, and some superior, to the Spectators (of which I have not read many for the reasons which you assign): but, notwithstanding such recommendation, whether the price of two-pence, or the unfavourable season of their first publication, hinders the demand, no boast can be made of it.

The author (who thinks highly of your writings) is obliged to you for contributing your endeavours; and so is, for several marks of your friendship,

Good Sir,

Your admirer,

and very humble servant,

E. CAVE.