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Sir Joshua Reynolds's with the learned Dr. Musgrave, Counsellor Leland of Ireland, son to the historian, Mrs. Cholmondeley, and some more ladies.
“ The Project,” a new poem, was read to the company by Dr. Musgrave. Johnson. “Sir, it has no power.
Were it not for the well-known names with which it is filled, it would be nothing: the names carry the poet, not the poet the names." MUSGRAVE. “A temporary poem always entertains us.” JOHNSON. “So does an account of the criminals hanged yesterday entertain us."
He proceeded ;-"Demosthenes Taylor, as he was called, (that is, the Editor of Demosthenes) was the most silent man, the merest statue of a man that I have ever seen. dined in company with him, and all he said during the whole time was no more than Richard. How a man should say only Richard, it is not easy to imagine. But it was thus: Dr. Douglas was talking of Dr. Zachary Grey, and ascribing to him something that was written by Dr. Richard Grey. So to correct him, Taylor said, (imitating his affected sententious emphasis and nod) • Richard."
Mrs. Cholinondeley, in a high flow of spirits, exhibited some lively sallies of hyperbolical compliment to Johnson, with whom she had been long acquainted, and was very easy. He was quick in catching the manner of the moment, and answered her somewhat in the style of the hero of a romance," Madam, you crown me with unfading laurels.”
I happened, I know not how, to say that a pamphlet meant a prose piece. Johnson. “No,
Sir. A few sheets of poetry unbound are a pamphlet as much as a few sheets of prose. MUSGRAVE. “A pamphlet may be understood to mean a poetical piece in Westminster-Hall, that is, in formal language; but in common language it is understood to mean prose. Johnson. (and here was one of the many instances of his knowing clearly and telling exactly how a thing is,) “A pamphlet is understood in common language to mean prose, only from this, that there is so much more prose written than poetry; as when we say a book, prose is understood for the same reason, though a book may as well be in poetry as in prose. We understand what is most general, and we name what is less frequent.”
We talked of a lady's verses on Ireland. Miss REYNOLDS. “ Have you seen them, Sir ?" JOHNSON. No, Madam, I have seen a translation from Horace, by one of her daughters. She shewed it me." Miss REYNOLDS. how was it, Sir?” JOHNSON. “Why, very welt for a young Miss's verses ; that is to say, compared with excellence, nothing; but, very well, for the person who wrote them. I am vexed at being shewn verses in that manner.” Miss REYNOLDS, “ But if they should be good, why not give them hearty praise ?" JOHNSON.
Why, Madam, because I have not then got the better of my bad humour from having been shewn them. You must consider, Madam ; before-hand they may be bad, as well as good. Nobody has a right to put another under such a difficulty, that he must either hurt the
person by telling the truth, or hurt himself by telling
what is not true.” Boswell. “A man often shews his writings to people of eminence, to obtain from thein, either from their good nature, or from their not being able to tell the truth firmly, a commeudation, of which he may af terwards avail himself.” JOHNSON.
“ Very true, Sir. Therefore the man, who is asked by an authour what he thinks of his works, is put to the torture, and is not obliged to speak the truth; so that what he says is not considered as his opinion; yet he has said it, and cannot retract it; and this authour, when mankind are hunting him with a cannister at his tail, can say, 'I would not have published, had not Johnson, or Reynolds, or Musgrave, or some other good judge commended the work. Yet I consider it as a very difficult question in conscience, whether one should advise a man not to publish a work, if profit be his object; for the man may say, 'Had it not been for you, I should have had the money.' Now, you cannot be sure; for you have only your own opinion, and the publick may think very differently.” SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. * You must upon such an occasion have two judgments; one as to the real value of the work, the other as to what may please the general taste at the time.” JOHNSON. you can be sure of neither; and therefore I should scruple much to give a suppressive vote. Both Goldsmith's comedies were once refused; his first by Garrick, his second by Colman, who was prevailed on at last by much solicitation, nay, a kind of force, to bring it on.' His • Vicar of Wakefield' I myself did not think
would have had much success. It was written and sold to a book seller, before his · Traveller;' but published after; so little expectation had the bookseller from it. Had it been sold after the Traveller,' he might have had twice as much money for it, though sixty guineas was no mean price. The bookseller had the advantage of Goldsmith's reputation from “The Traveller' in the sale, though Goldsmith had it not in selling the copy.” Sur Joshua REYNOLDS. The Beggar's Opera affords a proof how strangely people will differ in opinion about a literary performance. Burke thinks it has no merit.” JOHNSON. “It was refused by one of the houses : but I should have thought it would succeed, not from any great excellence in the writing, but from the vovelty, and the general spirit and gaiety of the piece, which keeps the audience always attentive, and dismisses them in good humour.”
We went to the drawing-room, where was a considerable increase of company. Several of us got round Dr. Johnson, and complained that he would not give us an exact catalogue of his works, that there might be a complete edition. He smiled, and evaded our entreaties. That he intended to do it, I have no doubt, because I have heard him say soi and have in my possession an imperfect list, fairly written out, which he entitles Historia Studiorum. I once got froin one of his friends a list, which there was pretty good reason to suppose was accurate, for it was written down in his presence by this friend, who enumerated each article aloud, and had some of them mentioned to him by Mr.
Levett, in concert with whom it was made out; and Johnson, who heard all this, did not contradict it. But when I shewed a copy of this list to him, and mentioned the evidence for its exactness, he laughed and said, “I was willing to let them go on as they pleased, and never interfered.” Upon which I read to him, article by article, and got bim positively to own or refuse: and then, having obtained certainty so far, I got some other articles confirmed by him directly, and afterwards, from time to time, made additions under his sanction.
His friend, Edward Cave, having been mentioned, he told us, “Cave used to sell ten thousand of “The Gentleman's Magazine;' yet such was then bis minute attention and anxiety that the sale should not suffer the smallest decrease, that he would name a particular person who he heard had talked of leaving off the Magazine, and would say, “Let us have something good next month.”
It was observed, that avarice was inherent in some dispositions. Johnson.
JOHNSON. “No man was borne a miser, because no man was born to possession. Every man is born cupidusdesirous of getting; but not avarus—desirous of keeping.” BOSWELL. “ I have heard old Mr. Sheridan maintain, with much ingenuity, that a complete miser is a happy man; a miser who gives himself wholly to the one passion of saving." Johnson. “That is flying in the face of all the world, who have called an avaricious man a miser, because he is miserable. No, Sir, a man who both spends and saves