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Nympha Caledonia, &c. and spoke with enthusiasm of the beauty of Latin verse.
* All the languages,” said he,
cannot furnish so melodious a line as
For mosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvas."
“ Buchanan," he observed, has fewer centoes than any modern Latin poet. He not only had great knowledge of the Latin language, but was a great poetical genius. Both the Scaligers praise him."
Boswell told him, that Voltaire, in a conversation with him, had distinguished Pope and Drydeu thus :
Pope drives a handsome chariot, with a couple of neat triin nags; Dryden a coach, and six stately horses." JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, the truth is, they both drive coaches and six; but Dryden's horses are either galloping or stumbling ; Pope's go at a steady even trot." He said of Goldsmith's Traveller, which had been published in Boswell's absence, " There has not been so fine a poem since Pope's time."
After dinner, where the conversation first turned upon Pope Johnson said, his characters of men were admirably drawn ; those of women, not so well, He repeated, in his forcible melodious manner, the coneluding lines of the Dunciad. While he was talking loudly in praise of these lines, one of the company ventured to say, “ Too fine for such a poem :-a poem on what ?" JOHNSON. (with a disdainful look,) « Why, on dunces. It was worth while being a dunce then. Ah, sir, hadst thou lived in those days !—It is not worth while being a dunce now, when there are no wits," Bickerstaff ob. served, as a peculiar circumstance, that Pope's fame was higher when he was alive, than it was ther. Johnson said, his pastorals were poor things, though the versification was fine. He told us, with high satisfaction, the anecdote of Pope's inquiring who was the author of his London, and saying—he will be soon deterré. He observed, that in Dryden's poetry there were passages drawn from a profundity which Pope could never reach.' He repeated some fine lines on love, by the former, and gave great applause to the character of Zimri. Goldsmith said, that Pope's character of Addison showed a deep knowledge of the human heart. Johnson said, that the description of the temple, in The Mourving Bride,* was the finest poetical passage he had erer read; he recollected none in Shakspeare equal to it.
"But,” said Garrick, all alarmed for the god of his idolatry,'" we knownot the extent and variety of his powers. We are to suppose there are such passages in his works, Shakspeare must not suffer from the badness of our memories." Johnson, divert. ed by this enthusiastic jealousy, went on with great ardour, No, sir, Congreve has nature ;" (smiling on the tragic eagerness of Garrick ;) but, composing himself, he added, “Sir, this is not comparing Congreve on the whole with Shakspeare on the whole; but only maintaining, that Congreve has one finer pr 'age than any that can be found in Shakspeare. Sii, a man may have no more than ten guineas in the world, but he may have those ten guineas in one piece; and so may have a finer piece than a man who has ten thousand pounds : but then he has only
Act ii. sc. 3.-Malone.
one ten-guinea piece. What I mean is, that you can show me to passage where there is simply a description of material objects, without any inter. mixture of moral notions, which produces such an effect. Mr. Murphy mentioned Shakspeare's de. scription of the night before the battle of Agin. court; but it was observed, it had men in it. Mr. Davies suggested the speech of Juliet, in which she figures herself awaking in the tomb of her ancestors. Some one mentioned the description of Dover cliff. JOHNSON. “ No, sir, it should be all precipice all vacuum. The crows impede your fall. The diminished appearance of the boats, and other circumstances, are all very good description, but do not impress the mind at once with the horrible idea of immense height. The impression is di. vided; you pass on, by computation, from one stage of the tremendous space to another. Had the girl in The Mourning Bride, said, she could not cast her shoe to the top of one of the pillars in the temple, it would not have aided the idea, but weakened it."
Another time, he talked of the passage in Congreve with high commendation, and said, “ Shakspeare never has six lines together without a fault, Perhaps, you may find seven ; but this does not refute my geueral assertion. If I come to an orchard, and say there's no fruit here, and then comes a poring man, who finds two apples and three pears, and tells mé, 'Sir, you are mistaken, I have found both apples and pears,' I should laugh at him. What would that be to the purpose ?”
Boswell. “ What do you think of Dr. Young's Night. Thoughts, sir?" JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, there are many five things in them."
One Sunday, Boswell dined with him at Mr. Hoole's. They talked of Pope. JOHNSON.“ He wrote his Dunciad for fame; that was his primary motive. Had it not been for that, the dunces might have railed against him till they were weary, without his troubling himself about thein. He delighted to vex them, no doubt; but he had more delight in seeing how well he could vex them."
The Odes to Obscurity and Oblivion, in ridicule of “cool Mason, and warm Gray,” being mentioned, Johnson said, “ They are Colman's best things." Upon its being observed, that it was believed these odes were made by Colman and Lloyd jointly ;JOHNSON. “ Nay, sir, how can two people make an ode? Perhaps, one made one of them, and one the other." Boswell observed, that two people had made a play, and quoted the anecdote of Beaumont and Fletcher, who were brought under suspicion of treason, because, while concerting the plan of a tra. gedy when sitting together at a tavern, one of them was overheard saying to the other, “ I'll kill the king.” JOHNSON. “ The first of these odes is the best; but they are both good. They exposed a very bad kind of writing." Boswell.“ Surely, sir, Mr. Mason's Elfrida is a fine poem : at least, you will allow there are some good passages in it.” JOHNSON. “ There are now and then some good imitations of Milton's bad manner.”
Mrs. Thrale disputed with him on the merit of Prior. He attacked him powerfully; said he wrote of love like a man who had never felt it : his lore yerses were college verses; and he repeated the song “ Alexis shunn'd his fellow swains,' &c. in soludi. crous á manner, as to make us all wonder how any one could have been pleased with such fantastical stuff. Mrs. Thrale stood to her gun with great cou. rage, in defence of amorous ditties, which Johnson despised, till he at last silenced her by saying, “My dear lady, talk no more of this : nonsense can be defended but by nonsense."
Mrs. . Thrale then praised Garrick's talents for light gay poetry; and, as a specimen, repeated his song in Florizel and Perdita, and dwelt with peculiar pleasure on this line :
I'd smile with the simple, and feed with the poor.
JOHNSON. “ Nay, my dear lady, this will never do. Poor David! Smile with the simple;—what folly is that! And who would feed with the poor, that can help it? No, no ; let me smile with the wise, and feed with the rich,” Boswell repeated this sally to Garrick, and wondered to find his sensibility as a writer not a little irritated by it. To soothe hiut, he observed, that Johnson spared nobody; and quoted the passage in Horace, in which he compares one who attacks his friends for the sake of a laugh, to a pushing ox, that is marked by a bunch of hay put upon his horos: fænum habet in cornu. " Ay,” said Garrick vehemently, “ he has a whole mow of it."
Speaking of Homer, whom he venerated as the priuce of poets, Johnson remarked, that the advice given to Glaucus by his father, when he sent him to the Trojan war, was the noblest exhortation that could be instanced in any heathen writer, and comprised in a single line :
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