16 JANUARY 1948, Page 28

Shorter Notices

THIS agreeable and convenient edition of the well-known Prayers and Meditations will arouse mingled feelings in Johnsonians. Dr. Trueblood argues with some force that the prayers gain much by separation from the journal entries, sometimes relatively trivial, in which they are often embedded, and his examination of the original manuscript at Pembroke College, Oxford, has enabled him to testify to the care—evidenced by the frequent erasions and emendations— with which the petitions and thanksgivings were put into their final form. Not that the prayers are beyond all criticism. When Johnson elaborates, almost grangerises, a familiar collect from the Book of Common Prayer sentence by sentence he is tampering with some- thing which even he can do nothing to improve. But as a whole the collection is something to keep constantly at hand and take up often. Dr. Trueblood's introduction gives the prayers their right setting, but there is loss as well as gain in his decision to abandon the chronological order followed in Prayers and Meditations and re-arrange the contents under eight general headings, such as " For Amendment of Life," " For Health of Body and Mind," etc. The headings given to individual prayers are not always satisfactory. "Novum Museum," for example, conveyi little to anyone. Even the original " For D:ligence in Study—Entering Novum Museum " tells none too clear a story, and there is only loss in abbreviating it. Some of the explanatory notes in the original might, moreover, well have been retained.