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L I F E
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL. D.
AN ACCOUNT OF HIS STUDIES,
AND NUMEROUS WORKS,
IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER;
A SERIES OF HIS EPISTOLARY CORRESPONDENCE
AND CONVERSATIONS WITH MANY EMINENT PERSONS ;
VARIOUS ORIGINAL PIECES OF HIS COMPOSITION,
NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED:
THE WHOLE EXHIBITING A VIEW OF LITERATURE AND LITERARY
DURING WHICH HE FLOURISHED.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL. D.
BEING disappointed in my hopes of meeting Johnson this year, so that I could hear none of his admirable sayings, I shall compensate for this want by inserting a collection of them, for which I am indebted to my worthy friend Mr. Langton, whose kind communications have been separately interwoven in many parts of this work. Very few articles of this collection were committed to writing by himself, he not having that habit; which he regrets, and which those who know the numerous opportunies he had of gathering the rich fruits of Johnsonian wit and wisdom, must ever regret. I however found, in conversation with him, that a good store of JohnSONIANA was treasured in his mind; and I compared it to Herculaneum, or some old Roman field, which when dug, fully rewards the labour employed. The authenticity of
article is unquestionable. For the expression, I, who wrote them down in his presence, am partly answerable.
“ Theocritus is not deserving of very high respect. as a writer; as to the pastorał part, Virgil is very
1780. evidently superiour. He wrote, when there had been Ætat. 71,
a larger influx of knowledge into the world than when Theocritus lived. Theocritus does not abound in description, though living in a beautiful country: the manners painted are coarse and gross. Virgil has much more description, more sentiment, more of nature, and more of art. Some of the most excellent parts of Theocritus are, where Castor and Pollux, going with the other Argonauts, land on the Bebrycian coast, and there fall into a dispute with Amycus, the King of that country; which is as well conducted as Euripides could have done it; and the battle is well related. Afterwards they carry off a woman, whose two brothers come to recover her, and expostulate with Castor and Pollux on their injustice ; but they pay no regard to the brothers, and a battle ensues, where Castor and his brother are triumphant. -Theocritus seems not to have seen that the brothers have the advantage in their argument over his Argonaut heroes.— The Sicilian Gossips' is a piece of merit.”
« Callimachus is a writer of little excellence. The chief thing to be learned from him is his account of Rites and Mythology; which, though desirable to be known for the sake of understanding other parts of ancient authours, is the less pleasing or valuable part of their writings."
“ Mattaire's account of the Stephani is a heavy book. He seems to have been a puzzle-headed man, with a large share of scholarship, but with little geometry or logick in his head, without method, and possessed of little genius. He wrote Latin verses from time to time, and published a set in his old age, which he called “Senilia ;' in which he shews so little learning or taste in writing, as to make Car- 1780. teret adactyl.-In matters of genealogy it is necessary Ætat. 71. to give the bare names as they are ; but in poetry, and in prose of any elegance in the writing, they require to have inflection given to them.-His book of the Dialects is a sad heap of confusion; the only way to write on them is to tabulate them with Notes, added at the bottom of the page, and references.”
“ It may be questioned, whether there is not some mistake as to the methods of employing the poor, seemingly on a supposition that there is a certain portion of work left undone for want' of persons to do it; but if that is otherwise, and all the materials we have are actually worked up, or all the manufactures we can use or dispose of are already executed, then what is given to the poor, who are to be set at work, must be taken from some who now have it: as time must be taken for learning, (according to Sir William Petty's observation,) a certain part of those very materials that, as it is, are properly worked up, must be spoiled by the unskilfulness of novices. We may apply to well-ineaning, but misjudging persons in particulars of this nature, what Giannone said to a monk, who wanted what he called to convert him : “ Tu sei santo, ma tu non sei filosopho.'—It is an unhappy circumstance that one might give away five hundred pounds in a year to those that importune in the streets, and not do any good.”
“ There is nothing more likely to betray a man into absurdity, than condescersion ; when he seems to suppose his understanding too powerful for his company.'
" Having asked Mr. Langton if his father and mother had sat for their pictures, which he thought