The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 20. The Idler
His assistance was, once again, sought to give weight and dignity to a new periodical, and the starting of The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette was the occasion of his second series of essays, The Idler. They began 15 April, 1758, and appeared every Saturday till 5 April, 1760. The fact that The Idler was not an independent publication, but merely a section of a journal, will account for most of the differences between it and the Rambler. The papers are much shorter and do not show the same sense of sole responsibility. In one respect, however, they have a clear superiority. Their lighter touch is better suited to portraiture. Dick Minim the critic, Johnson’s only character that may still be said to live, is a perfect example of his art at its best; nor can there be any difference of opinion about the shorter sketches of Jack Whirler and Tom Restless, or of Mr. Sober, in which the author represented himself. That the characters should no longer bear Latin names indicates a wider change. The critical papers also show the growth of ease and confidence. There is an obvious interest in those on “Hard Words,” “Easy Writing” and “The Sufficiency of the English Language.”