"THE LIFE OF A MODERN SOLDIER IS ILL REPRESENTED BY HEROIC FICTION": SAMUEL JOHNSON'S ROUSING ANTI-WAR PAMPHLET THOUGHTS ON… FALKLAND'S ISLANDS, 1771
[JOHNSON, Samuel]. Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland's Islands. London: T. Cadell, 1771. Slim octavo, period-style half brown calf gilt, red morocco spine label, marbled boards; pp. 75. $1100.
First edition, second state (as usual), of the second of Johnson's anonymously published political pamphlets from the 1770s, a timely anti-war tract on the Falkland's crisis that placed England and Spain on the edge of war.
"The decision to write these [political] pamphlets was perhaps the most purely surprising of Johnson's life. For at least ten years he had been on a pedestal as the great lexicographer and moralist, the lawgiver on letters and on experience, above every conceivable battle. Now, suddenly, he descended into the arena and began laying about him… Quite probably a large part of the motivation was sheer enjoyment, the love of a free-for-all. Controversy, after all, is quite enjoyable, to write as well as to tread… Certainly, if the pamphlets of the 1770s had never been written, we should lack some of his most vigorous and exhilarating prose… In Johnson's time and for a hundred years afterward, England was never free of a strong lobby who wanted military and naval action as a means of guaranteeing trade routes and opening up markets. Johnson, sickened at the thought of war and what it does to its victims, detested the warmongering profiteer and attacked him in some pages of invective that put Thoughts on Falkland's Islands in a direct line with the anti-war literature of the 1920s" (Wain, Samuel Johnson, 281-82). Of the first edition, 1000 copies were printed in early March, 1771, for March 16 publication. However, the ministry of Lord North halted the sale and required the removal of an allusion to Grenville on page 68 (leaf K2). Several copies were known, however, to escape this censorship. This copy second state, with leaf K2 a cancel with the revised (somewhat more charitable) text on Grenville (page 68): "if he sometime erred, he was likewise sometimes right." With scarce half title. Fleeman's 71.3FI/1b. Courtney & Smith, 115-16.
A fine copy, handsomely bound.