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“ He observed, that the influence of London now extended every where, and that from all manner of communication being opened, there shortly would be no remains of the ancient simplicity, or places of cheap retreat to be found.
“He was no admirer of blank verse, and said it always failed, unless sustained by the dignity of the subject. In blank verse, he said, the language suffered more distortion, to keep it out of prose, than any incon. venience or limitation to be apprehended from the shackles and circumspection of rhyme. .“ He reproved me once for saying grace without mention of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and hoped in future I would be more mindful of the apostolical injunction. (1)
“ He refused to go out of a room before me at Mr. Langton's house, saying he hoped he knew his rank better than to presume to take place of a doctor in divi. nity. I mention such little anecdotes, merely to show the peculiar turn and habit of his mind.
“ He used frequently to observe, that there was more to be endured than enjoyed, in the general condition of human life ; and frequently quoted those lines of Dryden :
"Strange cozenage! none would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure from what still remain.' For his part, he said, he never passed that week in his life which he would wish to repeat, were an angel to make the proposal to him.
“He was of opinion, that the English nation cultivated both their soil and their reason better than any other people ; but admitted that the French, though not the highest, perhaps, in any department of literature, yet
(1) Alluding, probably, to Ephesians, ch. v. ver. 20.—“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – C.
in every department were very high. Intellectual preeminence, he observed, was the highest superiority; and that every nation derived their highest reputation from the splendour and dignity of their writers. Voltaire, he said, was a good narrator, and that his principal merit consisted in a happy selection and arrangement of circumstances.
“ Speaking of the French novels, compared with Richardson's, he said, they might be pretty baubles, but a wren was not an eagle.
“ In a Latin conversation with the Père Boscovich (1), at the house of Mrs. Cholmondely, I heard him maintain the superiority of Sir Isaac Newton over all foreign philosophers (2), with a dignity and eloquence that surprised that learned foreigner. It being observed to him, that a rage for every thing English prevailed much in France after Lord Chatham's glorious war, he said, he did not wonder at it, for that we had drubbed those fellows into a proper reverence for us, and that their national petulance required periodical chastisement.
“Lord Lyttelton's Dialogues(3) he deemed a nugatory performance. "That man,' said he, 'sat down to write a book, to tell the world what the world had all his life been telling him.'
“Somebody observing that the Scotch Highlanders, in the year 1745, had made surprising efforts, consider
(1) See post, Dec. 1775, where Mr. Murphy states that this or a similar conversation took place in the house of Dr. Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury. — C.
(2) In a Discourse by Sir William Jones, addressed to the Asiatic Society, February 24. 1785, is the following passage:« One of the most sagacious men in this age, who continues, I hope, to improve and adorn it, Samuel Johnson, remarked, in my hearing, that if Newton had flourished in ancient Greece, he would have been worshipped as a divinity." - M.
(3) We shall hereafter see more of Johnson's low opinion of Lord Lyttelton.-C.
ing their numerous wants and disadvantages ; 'Yes, sir,' said he, their wants were numerous : but you have not mentioned the greatest of them all the want of law.'
« Speaking of the inward light, to which some methodists pretended, he said, it was a principle utterly incompatible with social or civil security. If a man,' said he, 'pretends to a principle of action of which I can know nothing, nay, not so much as that he has it, but only that he pretends to it; how can I tell what that person may be prompted to do? When a person professes to be governed by a written ascertained law, I can then know where to find him.'
“ The poem of Fingal, he said, was a mere uncon. nected rhapsody, a tiresome repetition of the same images. 'In vain shall we look for the lucidus ordo, where there is neither end nor object, design or moral, nec certa recurrit imago.'
“ Being asked by a young nobleman, what was become of the gallantry and military spirit of the old English nobility, he replied, “Why, my lord, I'll tell you what is become of it: it is gone into the city to look for a fortune.
“ Speaking of a dull, tiresome fellow, whom he chanced to meet, he said, “That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that is a wrong one.'
“Much inquiry having been made concerning a gentleman, who had quitted a company where Johnson was, and no information being obtained, at last Johnson observed, that he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney.'
“ He spoke with much contempt of the notice taken of Woodhouse, the poetical shoemaker. (1) He said, it was all vanity and childishness; and that such objects
were, to those who patronised them, mere mirrors of their own superiority. They had better,' said he, “furnish the man with good implements for his trade, than raise subscriptions for his poems. He may make an excellent shoemaker, but can never make a good poet. A schoolboy's exercise may be a pretty thing for a schoolboy ; but it is no treat for a man.'
“ Speaking of Boetius, who was the favourite writer of the middle ages, he said, it was very surprising that, upon such a subject, and in such a situation, he should be magis philosophus quam Christianus.
“Speaking of Arthur Murphy, whom he very much loved, I don't know,' said he, that Arthur can be classed with the very first dramatic writers; yet at present I doubt much whether we have any thing superior to Arthur.'
Speaking of the national debt, he said, it was an idle dream to suppose that the country could sink under it. Let the public creditors be ever so clamorous, the interest of millions must ever prevail over that of thousands. (1)
“Of Dr. Kennicott's Collations (2) he observed, that though the text should not be much mended thereby, yet it was no small advantage to know that we had as
(1) He meant evidently that if the interest of millions — the country at large required that the national debt should be sponged off, it would prevail over the interest of thousands the holders of stock. - C.
(2) Dr. Benjamin Kennicott, - born in 1718, A.M., and Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, in 1750, and D.D. in 1760, - having distinguished himself by a learned dissertation on the state of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, was, about 1759, persuaded by Archbishop Secker, and encouraged by a large subscription, to undertake a collation of all the Hebrew MSS. of the Old Testament. The first volume of his learned labour was, however, not published till 1776; and the second, with a general dissertation, completed the work in 1783. He was Radcliffe librarian, and canon of Christ Church; in which cathedral he was buried in 1783.-C.
good a text as the most consummate industry and diligence could procure.
" Johnson observed, that so many objections might be made to every thing, that nothing could overcome them but the necessity of doing something. No man would be of any profession, as simply opposed to not being of it; but every one must do something. • “He remarked, that a London parish was a very comfortless thing: for the clergyman seldom knew the face of one out of ten of his parishioners.
“Of the late Mr. Mallet he spoke with no great respect : said, he was ready for any dirty job; that he had wrote against Byng at the instigation of the ministry, and was equally ready to write for him, provided he found his account in it.
“A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage, married immediately after his wife died : Johnson said, it was the triumph of hope over experi. ence.
“He observed, that a man of sense and education should meet a suitable companion in a wife. It was a miserable thing when the conversation could only be such as, whether the mutton should be boiled or roasted, and probably a dispute about that.
“He did not approve of late marriages, observing that more was lost in point of time, than compensated for by any possible advantages. Even ill-assorted marriages were preferable to cheerless celibacy.
« Of old Sheridan he remarked, that he neither wanted parts nor literature ; but that his vanity and Quixotism obscured his merits.
“He said, foppery was never cured ; it was the bad stamina of the mind, which, like those of the body, were never rectified: once a coxcomb, and always a coxcomb.
“Being told that Gilbert Cooper called him the