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afterwards informed of this circumstance, he ex. pressed some displeasure at Dr. Fordyce's having suggested the topic, and said, "I am not sorry that they got thus much for their pains.”
“ The poem of Fingal,” he said, “ is a mere unconnected rhapsody, a tiresume repetition of the same images. In vain shall we look for the lucidus ordo, where there is neither end or object, design or moral, nec certa recurrit imago."
He was vehement on the subject of the Ossian controversy, observing, “ We do not know that there are any aucient Erse manuscripts, and we have no other reason to disbelieve that there are men with three heads, but that we do not know that there are any such men,” He also was outrageous upon this supposition, that M'Pherson's countrymen “ loved Scotland better than truth," saying, all of them,-nay not all,--but droves of them, would come up, and atteșt auy thing for the honour of Scotland.”
Another time, Ossian being mentioned-JOHNSON. “ Supposing the Irish and Erse languages to be the same, which I do not believe-yet, as there is no reason to suppose that the inhabitants of the Highlands and Hebrides ever wrote their native language, it is not to be credited that a long poem was preserved among them. If we had no evidence of the art of writing being practised in one of the counties of England, we should not believe that a long poem was preserved there, though in the neighbouring counties, where the same language was spoken, the inhabitants could write.”. BEAUCLERK. “ The bal. lad of Lilliburlero was once in the mouths of all the people of this country, and is said to have had a great effect in bringing about the Revolution ; yet, i question whether any body can repeat it now; wbich shows how improbable it is that much poetry should be preserved by tradition."
One of the company suggested an internal objection to the antiquity of the poetry said to be Ossian's, that we do not find the wolf in it, which must have been the case had it been of that age.
Johnson informed Boswell that he made the bargain for Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, and the price was sixty pounds. “And sir,” said he, “a sufficient price too, when it was sold; for then the farne of Goldsmith had not been elevated, as it afterwards was, by his Traveller; and the bookseller had such faint hopes of profit by his bargain, that he kept the manuscript by him a long time, and did not publish it till after The Traveller had appeared. Then, to be sure, it was accidentally worth more money."
Boswell mentioned the periodical paper called The Connoisseur: Johnson said it wanted matter. “ No doubt,” adds the former, “ it has not the deep thinking of Johnson's writings ; but, surely, it has just views of the surface of life, and a very sprightly manner. His opinion of The World was not much higher than of the Counoisseur."
Mr. Alexander Donaldson, bookseller of Edinburgh, had for some time opened a shop in London, and sold his cheap editions of the most popular English books, in defiance of the supposed commonlaw right of literary property. Johnson, though he concurred in the opinion, which was afterwards sanctioned by a judgment of the house of lords, that there was no such right was at this time very auc
gry, that the booksellers of London, for whom he uniformly professed much regard, should suffer from av invasion of what they had ever considered to be secure; and he was loud and violent against Mr. Donaldson. " He is a fellow who takes advantage of the law to injure his brethren; for notwithstanding that the statute secures only fourteen years of exclusive right, it has always been understood by the trade, that he who buys the copy-right of a book from the author, obtains a perpetual property; and, upon that belief, numberless bargains are made to transfer that property after the expiration of the statutory term. Now Donaldson, I say, takes advartage here of people who have really an equitable title froin usage ; and if we consider how few of the books, of which they buy the property, succeed so well as to bring profit, we should be of opinion, that the term of fourteen years is too short; it should be sixty years." DEMPSTER. “ Donaldson, sir, is anxious for the encouragement of literature, He reduces the price of books, so that poor students may buy them.” Johnson. (laughing) “ Well, sir, allowing that to be his motive, he is no better than Robin Hood, who robbed the rich in order to give to the poor."
It is remarkable, that when the great question concerning literary property came to be ultimately tried before the supremne tribunal of this country, in consequence of the very spirited exertions of Mr. Donaldson, Dr. Johnson was zealous against a perpetuity; but he thought that the term of the exclusive right of authors should be considerably enlarged. He was then for granting a hundred years.
On another occasion, he thus descanted on the subject of literary property: “There seems to be in anthors a stronger right of property than that by occupancy; a metaphysical right, a right as it were of creation, which should, from its nature, be perpetual.; but the consent of nations is against it : and indeed reason, and the interest of learning are against it; for were it to be perpetual, no book, however useful, could be universally diffused amongst maukind, should the proprietor take it into his head to restrain its circulation : no book could have the advantage of being edited with notes, however ne. cessary to its elucidation, should the proprietor perversely oppose it. For the general good of the world, therefore, whatever valuable work has once been created by an author, and issued out by him, should be understood as no longer in his power, but as belonging to the public; at the same time, the author is entitled to an adequate reward : this he should have by an exclusive right to his work for a considerable number of years.”
He said, Dr. Joseph Warton was a very agreeable man, and his Essay on the Geuius and Writings of Pope, a very pleasing book. Boswell wondered that he delayed so long to give us the continuation of it. JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, I suppose he finds himself a little disappointed, in not having been able to persuade the world to be of his opinion as to Pope.”
Dr. Johnson frequently visited the library at Buckingham-house. His majesty having been informed of his occasional visits, was pleased to signify a desire that he should be told when Dr. Johnson came next to the library. Accordingly, the
next time that Johnson did come, as soon as he was fairly engaged with a book, on which, while he sat by the fire, he seemed quite intent, Mr. Barnard stole round to the apartment where the king was, and, in obedience to his majesty's commands, mentioned that Dr. Johnson was then in the library. His majesty said he was åt leisure, and would go to him; upon which Mr. Barnard took one of the candles that stood on the king's table, and lighted his majesty through a suite of rooms, till they came to a private door into the library, of which his majesty had the key. Being entered, Mr. Barnard stepped forward hastily to Dr. Johnson, who was still in a profound study, and whispered him, “ Sir, here is the king.” Johnson started up, and stood still :-his majesty approached him, and at once was courteously easy.
His majesty began by observing, that he understood he came sometimes to the library; and then, mentioning his having heard that the doctor had been lately at Oxford, asked him if he was not fond of going thither. To which Johnson answered, that he was indeed fond of going to Oxford sometimes, but was likewise glad to come back again. The king then asked him what they were doing at Oxford. Johnson answered, he could not much commend their diligence, but that in some respects they were mended, for they had put their press under better regulations, and were at that time printing Polybius. He was then asked whether there were better libraries at Oxford or Cambridge. He answered, he believed the Bodleian was larger than any they had at Cambridge, at the same time addjug, “ I hope, whether we have more books or not