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76. False Criticisms on Painting.
77. Easy Writing
97. Narratives of Travellers considered JOHNSON
HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL
THE IDLER Was originally written by Dr. Johnson for a newspaper called The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette,' projected in the year 1758, by Mr. John Newbery, Bookseller, whom Sir John Hawkins justly characterizes as "a man of good understanding, and great integrity." He suggested the plan of many useful compilations for the young, or those who had more curiosity than leisure to read; and generally employed men of considerable abilities in such undertakings. Among the best of them may be mentioned, a collection of voyages, entitled, "The World Displayed,' to which Dr. Johnson wrote an historical introduction; and many now living may perhaps remember the pleasure they derived from Mr.
Newbery's excellent little books, for "masters and misses," of some of which he was the reputed author. He died in the year 1776.
Dr. Johnson is said to have been allowed a share in the profits of the Universal Chronicle, for which he was to furnish a short essay on such subjects of a general or temporary kind as might suit the taste of newspaper readers, and distinguish this publication from its contemporaries. Sir John Hawkins assigns as a reason for Mr. Newbery's wishing to have an Essay in his paper, that the occurrences during the intervals of its publication were not sufficient to fill its columns. If this was the case, it is a curious fact in the history of political intelligence. Those who now print weekly papers find it not only difficult but impossible to contain half of the articles, which have entertained other readers during the intervals of publication, and which, from the common impulses of domestic or public curiosity, their readers think they have a right to expect.
The Universal Chronicle appeared on Saturday, April 15th, 1758, containing the Idler, No. 1, and continued to be published on the same day, weekly, until April 5th, 1760, when the Idler was concluded, and with it, if I am not mistaken, the Chronicle was dropped for want of encouragement.
These Essays, which are very short, and were written with little effort, afford evident marks of the same depth of thought which predominates in the Rambler, although expressed with more ease and familiarity of style, and more general
gaiety of manner. In his characteristic correspondence also, the Author unbends with considerable felicity, as in the first letter from Betty Broom* in No. 26, and where he catches himself relapsing into his more solemn periods, he immediately descends to common language, as in the beginning of the second letter from that correspondent in No. 29.
As he wrote in a newspaper, by the success of which he expected to profit, he sometimes forgot the exclusive business of the moral Essayist, meddled with the occasional politics of the day, and no doubt gratified many of his readers, by censuring the conductors of state-affairs, with whom he appears to have been out of humour. Nos. 5, 8, and part of 39, are admirable effusions of the splenetic kind. In the supposititious French account of the capture of Louisburg in No. 20, he expresses some sentiments on the rights of conquest on Indian territory, which have often been repeated and expanded by those who are disaffected to the English empire in the Eastern world; but still at this time, whatever he might think of the weight of his own sentiments, he had not a very exalted opinion of the importance of newspaper opposition or information, and No. 7 is one instance of the ridicule with which he viewed the labours of his fellowjournalists.
"Mrs. Gardiner was very zealous for the support of the Ladies' Charity School, in the parish of St. Sepulchre. It is confined to females, and, I am told, it afforded a hint for the story of Betty Broom in the Idler." Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. 4. p. 261, edit. 5th. Mrs. Gardiner died in 1789.