1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

John Wilson Croker, Note in Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 5:43-44n, 47n.



["He talked with regret and indignation of the factious opposition to government at this time [1783], and imputed it in a great measure to the revolution. 'Sir,' said he, in a low voice, having come nearer to me, while his old prejudices seemed to be fermenting in his mind, 'this Hanoverian family is 'isolee' here. They have no friends. Now the Stuarts had friends who stuck by them so late as 1745. When the right of the king is not reverenced, there will not be reverence for those appointed by the king.'"]

Even Johnson's mind was not superior to early prejudices. When he was young, no doubt there was a great body, perhaps the numerical majority of the nation, who were opposed to, or, at least, not cordial to the Hanover succession; but the events of 1745 showed how small in number and how weak in feeling the jacobites had become. The revolution, no doubt, and a great accession of strength to the democratic branch of the constitution — the more general diffusion of knowledge, and the greater spread of political discussion, led to what Dr. Johnson called "faction," to the American revolt, and to all the important consequences which, since his time, have resulted from that event; amongst which is, no doubt, the looking upon the king rather as the first magistrate than as the object of personal reverence and feudal enthusiasm of former days: but that any jacobite tendency, or any doubt of the right of the reigning family, entered directly into the political difficulties of the period in question, Dr. Johnson could not have dispassionately believed....

When Johnson asserted so distinctly that he could not trace the cause of his antipathy to the Scotch, it may seem unjust to attribute to him any secret personal motive: but it is the essence of prejudice, to be unconscious of its cause; and the editor is convinced in his own mind that Johnson received in early life some serious injury or affront from the Scotch. If Johnson's personal history during the years 1745 and 1746 were known, something would probably be found to account for this (as it now seems) absurd national aversion.