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" Why, sir, my Dictionary shows you the accents of words, if you can but remember them.” BOSWELL, “ But, sir, we want marks to ascertain the propun. ciation of the vowels : Sheridan, I believe, bas finished such a work." JOHNSON. “Why, sir, consider how much easier it is to learn a language by the ear, than by any marks. Sheridan's Dictionary may do very well; but you cannot always carry it about with you : and, when you want the word, you have not the Dictionary.* It is like a man who has a sword that will not draw: it is an admirable sword, to be sure; but while your enemy is cutting your throat, you are unable to use it. Besides, sir, what entitles Sheridan to fix the pronunciation of English ? He has, in the first place, the disadvantage of being an Irishman : and if he says he will fix it after the example of the best company, why they differ among themselves. I remember an instance: when I published the Plan for my Dictionary, lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should be pronounced so as to rhyme to state ; and sir William Yonge sent me word, that it should be pronounced so as to rhyme to seat, and that none but an Irishman would pronounce it grait. Now here were two men of the highest rank, the one the best speaker in the house of lords, the other the best speaker in the house of commons, differing entirely."
A person was mentioned, who, it was said, could take down in short hand the speeches in parliament with perfect exactness. JOHNSON. “Sir, it is im
• This reinark was equally applicable to his own; but he was no friend to Sheridan.-Ed.
possible. I remember one Angel, who came to me to write for him a preface or dedication to a book upon short hand, and he professed to write as fast as a man could speak. In order to try him, I took down a book, and read while he wrote ; and I faroured him, for I read more deliberately than usual. I had proceeded but a very little way, when he begged I would desist, for he could not follow ine."
Boswell read to him a letter which lord Monboddo had written, containing some critical remarks upon the style of his Journey to theWestern Islands of Scotland. His lordship praised the very fine passage upon landing at Icolmkill: but his own style being exceedingly dry and hard, he disapproved of the richness of Johnson's language, and of his frequent use of metaphorical expressions. Johnson. “
“Why, sir, this criticism would be just, if, in my style, superfluous words, or words too big for the thoughts, could be pointed out; but this I do not believe can be done. For instance, in the passage which lord Mopboddo admires, “We were now treading that illustrious region, the word illustrious coutributes nothing to the mere narration; for the fact might be told without it: but it is not therefore superflu. ous; for it wakes the mind to peculiar attention, where something of more than usual importance is to be presented. Illustrious !'--for what ?-and then the sentence proceeds to expand the circumstances connected with lona. And, sir, as to metaphorical expression, that is a great excellence in style, when it is used with propriety; for it gives you two ideas for one-conveys the meaning more lumi. pously, and generally with a perception of delight."
He found fault with Boswell, for using the phrase
to make money. “ Dou't you see," said he, “the impropriety of it ? To make money is to coin it: you should say get money." The phrase, however, is pretty current. But Johoson was at all times jealous of infractions upon the genuine English lan. guage, and prompt to repress colloquial barbarisms; such as pledging myself, for undertaking ; line, for department or branch, as, the civil line, the banking line. * He was particularly indignant against the almost universal use of the word idea in the sense of notion, or opinion, when it is clear that idea can only signify something of which an image can be formed in the mind. We may have an idea or image of a mountain, a tree, a building; but we cannot surely have an idea or image of an argument or proposition. Yet we hear the sages of the law' delivering their ideas upon the question under consideration ;' and the first speakers in parliament' entirely coinciding in the idea which has been ably stated by an honourable member;'-or,' reprobating an idea as uncon"stitutional, and fraught with the most dangerous consequences to a great and free country.' John. son called this modern cant.'".
E.“ The Irish language is not primitive : it is Teutonic; a mixture of the northern tongues : it has much English in it.” JOHNSON. “ It may have been radically Teutonic; but English and High Dutch have no similarity to the eye, though radically, the same.
Once, when looking into low Dutch, 'I found, in a whole page, only one word similar to English ; stroem, like stream, and it signified tide."
** A chandler's shop is now scarcely ever advertised to be tet or sold, but as “ a shop in the general line,"_Ed.
E.“ I remember having seen a Dutch sonnet,
in which I found this word, roesnopies. Nobody would think at first that this could be English ; but when we inquire, we find roes, rose ; and nopie, knob; so we have rose-buds."
When Johnson was engaged on the Lives of the Poets, Boswell applied to the earl of Marchmont, to give him some information concerning Pope. The earl complied with great readiness, but asked, “Will he write the Lives of the Poets impartially? He was the first that brought Whig and Tory into a Dictionary. And what do you think of his definition of excise ? Do you know the history of his aversion to the word transpire ?” Then taking down the folio Dictionary, he showed it, with this censure on its secondary sense : “ To escape from secrecy to notice; a sense lately innovated from France, without necessity.” “ The truth was," said his lordship," lord Bolingbroke, who left the Jacobites, first used it; therefore it was to be condemned. He should have shown what word would do for it, if it was unnecessary.” Buswell afterwards put the question to Johnson. “Why, sir,” said he,
get abroad.” Boswell." That, sir, is using two words.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, there is no end of this. You may as well insist to have a word for old age." Boswell." Well, sir, Senectus.” JOHNSON.“ Nay, sir, to insist always that there should be one word to express a thing in English, because there is one in another language, is to change the language."
Dr. Johnson seemed to take a pleasure in speak. ing in his own style ; for when he had carelessly missed it, he would repeat the thought translated into it. Talking of the comedy of the Rehearsal, he said, “ It has not wit enough to keep it sweet." This was easy ;-he therefore caught himself, and pronounced a more round sentence" It has not vitality enough to preserve it from putrefaction.”
Boswell, talking of translation, said, he could not define it, nor could he think of a similitude to illustrate it; but that it appeared to him, the translation of poetry could be only initation. JOHNSON. “ You may translate books of science exactly. You may also translate history, in so far as it is not em. bellished with oratory, which is poetical. Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language, if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation : but, as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language."
Johnson told, in his lively manner, the following literary anecdote : “ Green and Guthrie, an Irishman and a Scotchman, undertook a translation of Duhalde's History of China, Green said of Guthrie, that he knew no English; and Guthrie of Green, that he knew no French; and these two undertook to translate Duhalde's History of China. In this translation there was found,- the twenty-sixth day of the new moon. Now, as the whole age of the moon is but twenty-eight days, the moon, in. stead of being new, was nearly as old as it could be. The blunder arose from their mistaking the word neuvième, ninth, for nouvelle, or neuve, new."
Mr. Wilkes described oratory, as accompanied with all the charms of poetical expression. JOHN. son. “ No, sir; oratory is the power of beating down