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JOHNSON, Samuel.

A Miscellany of Poems by Several Hands.

Publish'd by J. Husbands, A. M. Fellow of Pembroke-College, Oxon.

Oxford: Printed by Leon. Lichfield, 1731 Stock Code: 125411
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Samuel Johnson's first appearance in print

First and sole edition, celebrated for including Samuel Johnson's first appearance in print and the mention of him in the preface as "a Commoner of Pembroke-College in Oxford". Johnson spent only thirteen months at Pembroke (October 1728 to December 1729), forced to leave through financial constraints. His stay may have been short but the nineteen-year old Johnson made a strong impression on his fatherly tutor William Jorden. The distinguished biographer Walter Jackson Bate relates that "within a few weeks Jorden, by now quite aware of his pupil's talents, suggested that he translate, as a Christmas exercise, Alexander Pope's poem Messiah (1712) into Latin verse... The premise of Pope's Messiah is the medieval belief that Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, which predicts the birth of a child who will bring a golden age, is a prophecy of Christ... Johnson plunged into the translation with extraordinary speed. These 119 lines pp. 111-117 of Latin verse would have been an impressive performance if they had taken a month or even two. But he wrote half of them in one afternoon, according to his former schoolmate Edmund Hector, and finished the poem the following morning... A year or so after Johnson left Oxford, the work was included in a Miscellany of Poems (1731) edited by a young Pembroke tutor, John Husbands, who died a year after the collection appeared. The list of subscribers included almost half of all the members of Pembroke College who were present at the time Johnson was there. But Johnson's own name is not among them, in this book that contains the first surviving publication of any of his works. He may not even have known that the book was appearing. Or, if he did, he could have hardly wished to be reminded - at that time - of the year at Oxford. That year and all it meant, or could mean, was by then hopelessly finished; his ties with it had been cut" (Samuel Johnson, 1984, pp. 91-93).

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Octavo in half sheets (205 x 121 mm). Contemporary panelled calf, sometime recornered and rebacked with original spine laid down, red speckled edges.


19th-century engraved armorial bookplate of W. J. Humfrys (a Hereford solicitor). Spine showing some craquelure, a little expert repair and furbishment to joints and tips, title page a little dusty, leaves Q4, S1-4 and T3-4 trimmed by the binder (shaving a few headlines), scattered foxing, yet still an appealing copy, clean and sound.


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