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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 fufficient to fill its columns. If this was the case, it is a curious particular 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 publie 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 are very short, and were written with little effort, but afford evident marks of the same depth of thought which predominates in the RAMBLER, although committed to writing 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 sometimes catches himself relapsing into his more solemn periods, and 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 has 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, he had not a very éxalted opinion of the importance of newspaper opposition or information, and No. 7 is one instance of the ridicule with which he contemplated the labours of his fellow-journalists.
These political allusions, however, are specks which will be pardoned when we contemplate the general merit of the IDLER. The character he assumed was in some degree, and by his own
"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. 3. p. 502. Edit. 2d.