26 September (1753): Samuel Johnson to Samuel Richardson

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson regarded Samuel Richardson as “an author from whom the age has received greater favours, who has enlarged the knowledge of human nature, and taught the passions to move at the command of virtue.” By his own admission, Richardson was one of the few men whose friendship he had ever actively sought after. Below, Johnson discusses with Richardson the first volumes of  the latter’s epistolary novel, The History of Charles Grandison.


September 26, 1753, London


I return you my sincerest thanks for the volumes of your new work; but it is a kind of tyrannical kindness to give only so much at a time, as makes more longed for; but that will probably be thought, even of the whole, when you have given it.

I have no objection to the preface, in which you first mention the letters as fallen by chance into your hands, and afterwards mention your health as such, that you almost despaired of going through your plan. If you were to require my opinion which part should be changed, I should be inclined to the suppression of that part which seems to disclaim the composition. What is modesty, if it deserts from truth? Of what use is the disguise by which nothing is concealed?

You must forgive this, because it is meant well.

I thank you once more, dear Sir, for your books; but cannot I prevail this time for an index?—such I wished, and shall wish, to Clarissa. Suppose that in one volume an accurate index was to made to the three works—but while I am writing an objection arises—such an index to the three would look like the preclusion of a forth, to which I will never contribute; for if I cannot benefit mankind, I hope never to injure them.

I am, Sir,

Your most obliged and most humble servant,




For Johnson’s (admiring) estimation of Richardson (from Boswell’s Life of Johnson), click here.

For a worthwhile essay on Johnson’s estimation of/relationship with Richardson (and also Fielding), click here.

For an article that Richardson wrote (with an introduction by Johnson) for Johnson’s periodical, The Rambler, click here

For Richardson’s extant correspondence, click here.

For Johnson’s extant correspondence, click here.