The Johnson-Newton Affair

In writing about Mr. A. Edward Newton’s play, Doctor Johnson, Mr. Christopher Alorley describes it as ‘ testimony to one of the happiest love-affairs of our time, Mr. Newton’s amour for Dr. Johnson. It is a literary blood-transfusion; some of the rich humanity of Johnson’s own veins moves’ here before us.’
This is a felicitous manner of acknowledging Mr. Newton’s identification with his eighteenth-century subjects. If he were dealing with a condemned criminal of his adopted period, one might well imagine him exclaiming ‘ There, but for the grace of God, goes A. Edward Newton!'
Far be it from a purveyor of Shop-Talk to encourage scandal; but the love-affair between Mr. Newton and the reading public is one of the things that will bear watching. In a review of his latest book, printed on an earlier page of this issue of the Atlantic, Professor Tinker of Yale warns the reader, in effect, not to expect of Mr. Newton the accuracies of a doctoral thesis. None would disclaim such adherences to the letter more enthusiastically, as Professor Tinker is well aware, than Mr. Newton himself. He and his readers bear a common resemblance to Gallio in caring for none of these things. At hat concerns both them and him more intimately is the zest with which he writes about the things for which he does care. At the very core of this category is the figure of Dr. Johnson; and, in the play to which the Doctor gives his reverberating name, Mr. Newton has plied his task of creating a dramatic cento which is at the same time an excellent play, with an enthusiasm quite extraordinarily contagious.