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1776. them, “ This is the finest man I have ever seen.
1 Ætat, 67.
will not deliver your message. I will drink his smallbeer.”
Somebody observed that Garrick could not have done this. · WILKES. " Garrick would have made the small-beer still smaller. He is now leaving the stage; but he will play Scrub all his life.” I knew that Johnson would let nobody attack Garrick but himself, as Garrick said to me, and I had heard him praise his liberality; so to bring out his commendation of his celebrated pupil, I said, loudly, “I have heard Garrick is liberal.” JOHNSON. “ Yes, Sir, I know that Garrick has given away more money than any man in England that I am acquainted with, and that not from ostentatious views. Garrick was very poor when he began life; so when he came to have money, he probably was very unskilful in giving away, and saved when he should not. But Garrick began to be liberal as soon as he could; and I am of opinion, the reputation of avarice which he has had, has been very lucky for him, and prevented his having many enemies. You despise a man for avarice, but do not hate him. Garrick might have been much better attacked for living with more splendour than is suitable to a player: if they had had the wit to have assaulted him in that quarter, they might have galled him more. But they have kept clamouring about his avarice, which has rescued him from much obloquy and
envy." Talking of the great difficulty of obtaining authentick information for biography, Johnson told us, “ When I was a young fellow I wanted to write the
Life of Dryden,' and in order to get materials, I applied to the only two persons then alive who had
seen him ; these were old Swinney, and old Cibber. 1776. Swinney's information was no more than this, • That
Ætat. 67. at Will's coffee-house Dryden had a particular chair for himself, which was set by the fire in winter, and was then called his winter-chair; and that it was carried out for him to the balcony in summer, and was then called his summer-chair.' Cibber could tell no more but That he remembered him a decent old man, arbiter of critical disputes at Will's.' You are to consider that Cibber was then at a great distance from Dryden, had perhaps one leg only in the room, and durst not draw in the other.” BosWELL. “ Yet Cibber was a man of observation?” JOHNSON. " I think not.” BosWELL. “ You will allow his “ Apology' to be well done." JOHNSON. "Very well done, to be sure, Sir. That book is a striking proof of the justice of Pope's remark :
“ Each might his several province well command, “Would all but stoop to what they understand."
Boswell.“ And his plays are good.” Johnson. “Yes; but that was his trade; l'esprit du corps ; he had been all his life among players and play-writers. I wondered that he had so little to
in conversation, for he had kept the best company, and learnt all that can be got by the ear.
He abused Pindar to me, and then shewed me an ode of his own, with an absurd couplet, making a linnet soar on an
s Owen M‘Swinney, who died in 1754, and bequeathed his fortune to Mrs. Woffington, the actress. He had been a Manager of Drury Lane Theatre, and afterwards of the Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket. He was also a dramatick writer, having produced a comedy entitled—“ The Quacks, or Love's the Phy. sician," 1705, and two operas. MALONE.]
1776. eagle's wing. I told him that when the ancients Ætat. 67.
made a simile, they always made it like something real.”
Mr. Wilkes remarked, that “among all the bold flights of Shakspeare's imagination, the boldest was making Birnam-wood march to Dunsinane ; creating a wood where there never was a shrub; a wood in Scotland ! ha! ha! ha!” And he also observed, that “ the clannish slavery of the Highlands of Scotland was the single exception to Milton's remark of. The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty,' being worshipped in all hilly countries."-"When I was at Inverary (said he,) on a visit to my old friend Archibald, Duke of Argyle, his dependents congratulated me on being such a favourite of his Grace. I said It is then, gentlemen, truly lucky for me ; for if I had displeased the Duke, and he had wished it, there is not a Campbell among you but would have been ready to bring John Wilkes's head to him in a charger.
It would have been only
• Off with his head! so much for Aylesbury.' I was then member for Aylesbury."
Dr. Johnson and Mr. Wilkes talked of the contested passage in Horace's Art of Poetry, Difficile est propriè communia dicere.” Mr. Wilkes, according to my note, gave the interpretation thus : “ It is difficult to speak with propriety of common things ; as, if a poet had to speak of Queen Caroline drinking tea, he must endeavour to avoid the vulgarity of cups and saucers.” But upon reading my note, he tells me that he meant to say, that “ the word communia, being a Roman law-term, signifies here things
• See page 385 of Vol. I.
communis juris, that is to say, what have never yet 1776. been treated by any body; and this appears clearly Ætat. 67. from what followed,
-Tuque « Rectiùs Iliacum carmen deducis in actus
Quàm si proferres ignota indictaque primus."
You will easier make a tragedy out of the Iliad than on any subject not handled before. JOHNSON. “ He
? My very pleasant friend himself, as well as others who remember old stories, will no doubt be surprized, when I observe that John Wilkes here shews himself to be of the WARBURTONIAN School. It is nevertheless true, as appears from Dr. Hurd the Bishop of Worcester's very elegant commentary and notes on the “ Epistola ad Pisones.”
It is necessary to a fair consideration of the question, that the whole
passage in which the words occur should be kept in view :
Interpres; nec desilies imitator in arctum
“ The “ Note" is
1776. means that it is difficult to appropriate to particular
persons qualities which are common to all mankind, Etat. 67.
as Homer has done."
For my own part (with all deference for Dr. Hurd, who thinks
The explication which my Lord of Worcester treats with so much contempt, is nevertheless countenanced by authority which I find quoted by the learned Baxter in his edition of Horace, “ Difficile est propriè communia dicere, h.e. res vulgares disertis verbis enarrare, vel humile thema cum dignitate tractare. Difficile est communes res propriis explicare verbis. Vet. Schol." I was much disappointed to find that the great critick, Dr. Bentley, has no note upon this very difficult passage, as from his vigorous and illuminated mind I should have expected to receive more satisfaction than I have yet had,