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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 173 pages of information about Samuel Johnson.
After some months of instruction in English history, he asked them who had destroyed the monasteries?  One of them gave no answer; the other replied “Jesus Christ.”  Johnson, however, could boast of one eminent pupil in David Garrick, though, by Garrick’s account, his master was of little service except as affording an excellent mark for his early powers of ridicule.  The school, or “academy,” failed after a year and a half; and Johnson, once more at a loss for employment, resolved to try the great experiment, made so often and so often unsuccessfully.  He left Lichfield to seek his fortune in London.  Garrick accompanied him, and the two brought a common letter of introduction to the master of an academy from Gilbert Walmsley, registrar of the Prerogative Court in Lichfield.  Long afterwards Johnson took an opportunity in the Lives of the Poets, of expressing his warm regard for the memory of his early friend, to whom he had been recommended by a community of literary tastes, in spite of party differences and great inequality of age.  Walmsley says in his letter, that “one Johnson” is about to accompany Garrick to London, in order to try his fate with a tragedy and get himself employed in translation.  Johnson, he adds, “is a very good scholar and poet, and I have great hopes will turn out a fine tragedy writer.”

The letter is dated March 2nd, 1737.  Before recording what is known of his early career thus started, it will be well to take a glance at the general condition of the profession of Literature in England at this period.

CHAPTER II.

LITERARY CAREER.

“No man but a blockhead,” said Johnson, “ever wrote except for money.”  The doctrine is, of course, perfectly outrageous, and specially calculated to shock people who like to keep it for their private use, instead of proclaiming it in public.  But it is a good expression of that huge contempt for the foppery of high-flown sentiment which, as is not uncommon with Johnson, passes into something which would be cynical if it were not half-humorous.  In this case it implies also the contempt of the professional for the amateur.  Johnson despised gentlemen who dabbled in his craft, as a man whose life is devoted to music or painting despises the ladies and gentlemen who treat those arts as fashionable accomplishments.  An author was, according to him, a man who turned out books as a bricklayer turns out houses or a tailor coats.  So long as he supplied a good article and got a fair price, he was a fool to grumble, and a humbug to affect loftier motives.

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