Johnson’s considerable familiarity with Arcadia, no doubt increased by his research for the Dictionary (see (a) below), is further evidenced by two passing references in The Letters of Samuel Johnson, ed. Bruce Redford, 5 vols, Oxford, 1992-4, vol. 3, p. 57, and vol. 4, p. 198. To Boswell (1 September 1777; later quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson) he writes whimsically that he will leave plans for ‘some other little adventure’ like the Hebridean journey ‘To vertue, fortune, wine, and woman’s breast’ (OA 65, with ‘wine’ for ‘time’). To Hester Thrale’s daughter Susanna (9 September 1783) he instances the fate of the painter who ‘mingled in the battle, that he might know how to paint it’, only to have his hands cut off (see NA, p. 282), to show that ‘it is better to know vice and folly by report than by experience’.
Johnson did not, however, grant Sidney and his contemporaries the accolade of inclusion in The Lives of the Poets. For many in the mid-eighteenth century Sidney’s language, and his work more generally, are frontier country: ‘the boundary, beyond which I make few excursions.’ (See George Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets, London, 1790, pp. ii-iii, for one expression of the view that Johnson could have recommended the works of Surrey, Wyatt, Sidney and Ralegh ‘as justly and successfully’ as those of Blackmore, Sprat and Yalden.)
…as every language has a time for rudeness antecedent to perfection, as well as of false refinement and declension, I have been cautious lest my zeal for antiquity might drive me into times too remote, and croud my book with words now no longer understood. I have fixed Sidney’s work for the boundary, beyond which I make few excursions. From the authours which rose in the