The Perennial Great Bear

Dr. Johnson blooms again and again, and some say it is because he has that sort of vitality, and others because Boswell was Bozzy. In all the forms of Johnsonian blooming the play has had little part. From time to time the Doctor has appeared on the London stage — nor would we take our oath that he has never been acted in America; but where, among Johnsonian books, are the plays in which he is the leading character? Mr. A. Edward Newton’s play, Dr. Johnson, may one day be acted. It is very certain to be read, and by multitudes of readers, for it is an authentic eighteenth-century book, and excellent reading withal.

Mr. Newton frankly admires its dialogue — on the modest ground that it is not his own. Yet despite the derivation of nearly all of it from Boswell and other contemporary sources, it would be unfair to the creator of this play were not someone else to say that Mr. Newton’s saturation in the eighteenth century and his sense of dramatics and character have stamped this piece of work with his distinctive mark.

By the time the book is ready for distribution,— April 1, — indeed, even before these words are printed, Mr. Newton will have quitted Philadelphia for a holiday in Italy. Meanwhile the illustrations for the book, contemporaneous drawings by George Dance and others, with a larger variety in the limited than in the trade edition, will have added their enrichment to the text. The frontispiece of both editions will reproduce that extraordinary portrait of Dr. Johnson as an old man, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which Mr. Newton has recently added to his Johnsonian collection.