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seventieth year,) said, “ It is a man's own fault, it 1778. is from want of use, if his mind grows torpid in old
Ætat, 69, age.” 4 The Bishop asked, if an old man does not lose faster than he gets. Johnson. “I think not, my Lord, if he exerts himself.” One of the company rashly observed, that he thought it was happy for an old man that insensibility comes upon him. John
* [Hobbes was of the same opinion with Johnson on this subject; and in his answer to D'Avenant's Preface to GONDIBERT, with great spirit explodes the current opinion, that the mind in old age is subject to a necessary and irresistible debility.
“ And now while I think on't, (says the philosopher,) give me leave, with a short discord, to sweeten the harmony of the approaching close. I have nothing to object to your poem, but dissent only from something in your preface, sounding to the prejudice of age. It is commonly said, that old age is a return to childhood : which methinks you
insist on so long, as if you
desired it should be believed. That's the note I mean to shake a little. That saying, meant only of the weakness of body, was wrested to the weakness of mind, by froward children, weary of the control. ment of their parents, masters, and other admonitors.
“ Secondly, the dotage and childishness they ascribe to age, is never the effect of time, but sometimes of the excesses of youth, and not a returning to, but a continual stay with, childhood. For they that want the curiosity of furnishing their memories with the rarities of nature in their youth, and pass their time in making provision only for their ease, and sensual delight, are children still, at what years soever; as they that coming into a populous city, never going out of their inn, are strangers still, how long soever they have been there.
Thirdly, there is no reason for any man to think himself wiser to-day than yesterday, which does not equally convince he shall be wiser to-morrow than to-day.
“ Fourthly, you will be forced to change your opinion heren after, when you are old; and in the mean time you discredit all I have said before in your commendation, because I am old already. But no more of this."
Hobbes, when he wrote these pleasing and sensible remarks, was sixty-two years old, and D'Avenant forty-five. MALONE.]
1778. SON: (with a noble elevation and disdain)
Sir, I should never be happy by being less rational." Ætat. 69.
BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH. “ Your wish then, Sir, is γηρασκειν διδασκομενος.” JOHNSON. «
Yes, my Lord.” His Lordship mentioned a charitable establishment in Wales, where people were maintained, and supplied with every thing, upon the condition of their contributing the weekly produce of their labour ; and he said, they grew quite torpid for want of property. JOHNSON. “ They have no object for hope. Their condition cannot be better. It is rowing without a port."
One of the company asked him the meaning of the expression in Juvenal, unius lacerte. JOHNSON. " I think it clear enough; as much ground as one may have a chance to find a lizard upon.”
Commentators have differed as to the exact meaning of the expression by which the poet intended to enforce the sentiment contained in the
where these words occur. It is enough that they mean to denote even a very small possession, provided it be a man's own:
“ Est aliquid, quocunque loco quocunque recessu, “ Unius sese dominum fecisse lacertæ."
This season there was a whimsical fashion in the newspapers of applying Shakspeare's words to describe living persons well known in the world ; which was done under the title of " Modern Characters from Shakspeare; many of which were admirably adapted. The fancy took so much, that they were afterwards collected into a pamphlet. Somebody said to Johnson, across the table, that he had not been in those characters, “ Yes (said he) I have. I should have been sorry to be left out.” He then repeated what 1778. had been applied to him,
Etat. 69. “ You must borrow me GARAGANTUA's mouth."
Miss Reynolds not perceiving at once the meaning of this, he was obliged to explain it to her, which had something of an awkward and ludicrous effect.
Why, Madam, it has a reference to me, as using big words, which require the mouth of a giant to pronounce them. Garagantua is the name of a giant in Rabelais.” Boswell. “ But, Sir, there is another amongst them for
you: • He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
Or Jove for his power to thunder.” Johnson. “ There is nothing marked in that. No. Sir, Garagantua is the best.” Notwithstanding this ease and good humour, when I, a little while afterwards, repeated his sarcasm on Kenrick, 4 which was received with applause, he asked, 66 Who said that?" and on my suddenly answering -Garagantua, he looked serious, which was a sufficient indication that he did not wish it to be kept up.
When we went to the drawing-room, there was a rich assemblage. Besides the company who had been at dinner, there were Mr. Garrick, Mr. Harris of Salisbury, Dr. Percy, Dr. Burney, the Honourable Mrs. Cholmondeley, Miss Hannah More, &c. &c.
After wandering about in a kind of pleasing distraction for some time, I got into a corner, with Johnson, Garrick, and Harris. GARRICK. (to Harris.) “ Pray, Sir, have you read Potter's Æschylus?”
4 See Vol. I. p. 479.
1778. HARRIS. “ Yes; and think it pretty.” GARRICK. Ætat. 69.
(to Johnson.) “ And what think you, Sir, of it ?” Johnson. “I thought what I read of it verbiage : but upon Mr. Harris's recommendation, I will read a play. (To Mr. Harris.) Don't prescribe two." Mr. Harris suggested one, I do not remember which. JOHNSON. “ We must try its effect as an English poem ; that is the way to judge of the merit of a translation. Translations are, in general, for people who cannot read the original.” I mentioned the vulgar saying, that Pope's Homer was not a good representation of the original. JOHNSON. - Sir , it is the greatest work of the kind that has ever been produced.” BOSWELL. “ The truth is, it is impossible perfectly to translate poetry. In a different language it may be the same tune, but it has not the same tone. Homer plays it on a bassoon ; Pope on a flagelet.” HARRIS. “ I think, heroick poetry is best in blank verse; yet it appears that rhyme is essential to English poetry, from our deficiency in metrical quantities. In my opinion, the chief excellence of our language is numerous prose." Johnson. “ Sir William Temple was the first writer who gave cadence to English prose.
English prose. Before his time they were careless of arrangement, and did not mind 1778. whether a sentence ended with an important word
s [The authour in Vol. I, p. 199, says, that Johnson once told him, “ that he had formed his style upon that of Sir William Temple, and upon Chambers's Proposal for his Dictionary. He certainly was mistaken; or, if he imagined at first that he was imitating Temple, he was very unsuccessful, for nothing can be more unlike than the simplicity of Temple and the richness of Johnson."
This obseryation of our authour, on the first view, seems perfectly just; but, on a closer examination, it will, I think, appear to haye been founded on a misapprehension, Mr. Boswell understood Johnson too literally. He did not, I conceive, mean, that he endeavoured to imitate Temple's style in all its parts; but that he formed his style on him and Chambers, (perhaps the paper published in 1737, relative to his second edition, entitled CONSIDERATIONS, &c.) taking from each what was most worthy of imitation. The passage before us, I think shows, that he learned from Temple to modulate his periods, and, in that respect only, made him his pattern. In this view of the subject there is no difficulty. He might learn from Chambers, compactness, strength, and precision (in opposition to the laxity of style which had long prevailed); from Sir Thomas Browne, (who was certainly one of his archetypes,) pondera verborum, vigour and energy of expression; and from Temple, harmonious arrangement, the due collocation of words, and the other arts and graces of composition here enumerated : and yet, after all, his style might bear no striking resemblance to that of any of these writers, though it had profited by each. MALONE.]
Ætat. 69. or an insignificant word, or with what part of speech it was concluded.” Mr. Langton, who now had joined us, commended Clarendon. JOHNSON. “ He is objected to for his parentheses, his involved clauses, and his want of harmony. But he is supported by his matter. It is, indeed, owing to a plethory of matter that his style is so faulty: every substance, (smiling to Mr. Harris,) has so many accidents. To be distinct, we must talk analytically. If we analyse language, we must speak of it grammatically; if we analyse argument, we must speak of it logically." GARRICK. “ Of all the translations that ever were attempted, I think Elphinston's Martial the most extraordinary. He consulted me upon it, who am a little of an epigrain matist myself, you know. I told him freely, 'You don't seem to have that turn. I asked him if he was serious; and finding he was, I