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which has not been as well acted by somebody else, as he could do it. Boswell. Why then, Sir, did he talk so? Johnson, Why, Sir, to make you answer as you did. Boswell. I don't know, Sir; be seemed to dip deep into his mind for the reflection. Johnson. He had not far to dip, Sir; he had said the same thing, probably, twenty times before.
Of a nobleman raised at a very early period to high office, he said, “ His parts, Sir, are pretty well for a Lord; but would not be distinguished in a man who had nothing else but his parts.”
A journey to Italy was still in his thoughts. He said, “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see. The grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean. On those shores were the four great Empires of the world; the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman.-All our religion, almost all our law, almost all our arts, almost all that sets us above sa vages, has come to us from the shores of the Mediterranean. The General observed, that “THE MEDITERRANEAN would be a noble subject for a poem.
We talked of translation. I said, I could not define it, por could I think of a similitude to illustrate it : but that it appeared to me the translation of poetry could be only imitation. Johnson. translate books of science exactly. You may also translate history, in so far as it is not embellished 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.
A gentleman maintained that the art of printing had hurt real learnjug, by disseminating idle writings. Johnson. Sir, if it had not been for the art of printing, we should now have no learning at all: for books would have perished faster than they could have been transcribed. This observation seems not just, considering for how many ages books were preserved by writing alone.
The same gentleman maintained, that a general diffusion of knowledge among a people was a disadvantage: for it made the vulgar rise above their bumble sphere. Johnson. Sir, while knowledge is a distinction, those who are possessed of it will naturally rise above those who are not. Merely to read and write was a distinction at first; but we see when reading and writing have become general, the common people keep their station. And so, were higher attainments to become general, the effect would be the same.
Goldsmith (he said,) referred every thing to vanity; his virtues, and his vices too, were from that motive. He was not a social man. He never exchanged mind with you.
We spent the evening at Mr. Hoole's. Mr. Mickle, the excellent translator of “ The Lusiad," was there. I have preserved little of the
conversation of this evening. Dr. Johnson said, “ Thomson had a true poetical genius, the power of viewing every thing in a poetical light. His fault is such a cloud of words sometimes, that the sense can hardly peep through. Shiels, who compiled “Cibber's Lives of the Poets," was one day sitting with me. I took down Thomson, and read aloud a large portion of him, and then asked,- Is not this fine ? Shiels having expressed the highest adairation; Well, Sir, (said I,) I have omitted every other line.
I related a dispute between Goldsmith and Mr. Robert Dodsley, one day when they and I were dining at Tom Davies's, in 1762. Gold. smith asserted, that there was no poetry produced in this age. Dodsley appealed to his own collection, and maintained, that though you could not find a palace like Dryden's “Ode on St. Cecilia's Day," you had villages composed of very pretty houses; and he mentioned particularly « The Spleen." Jobinson. I think Dodsley gave up the question. He and Goldsmith said the same thing; only he said it in a softer manner than Goldsmith did; for he acknowledged that there was no poetry, nothing that towered above the common mark. You may find wit and humour in verse, and yet vo poetry. “Hudibras” has a profusion of these; yet it is not to be reckoned a poem. “ The Spleen" in Dodsley's collection, on which you say he chiefly rested, is not poetry. Boswell. Does not Gray's poetry, Sir, tower above the common mark ? John800. Yes, Sir; but we inust attend to the difference between what men in general cannot do if they would, and what every man may do if he would. Sixteen-string Jack towered above the common mark. Boswell. Then, Sir, what is poetry? Johnson. Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is; but it is not easy to tell what it is.
On Friday, April 12, I dined with him at our friend Tom Davies's, where we met Mr. Cradock, of Leicestershire, author of " Zobeide," a tragedy; a very pleasing gentleman, to whom my friend Dr. Farmer's very excellent Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare is addressed; and Dr. Harwood, who has written and published various works; particularly a fantastical translation of the New Testament, in modern phrase, and with a Socinian twist.
I introduced Aristotle's doctrine in his “ Art of Poetry,'” of “the Kalapous TWY manuatwy, the purging of the passions, as the purpose of tragedy. But how are the passions to be purged by terror and pity ? (said ), with an assumed air of ignorance, to incite him to talk, for which it was often necessary to employ some address.) Johnson), Why, Sir, you are to consider what is the meaning of purging in the origioal sense. It is to expel impurities from the human body. The mind is subject to the same imperfection. The passions are the great movers of human actions; but they are mixed with such impurities, that it is necessary they should be purged, or refined by means of terror and pity. For instance, ambition is a noble passion; but by seeing upon
the stage, that a inan who is so excessively ambitious as to raise himself by injustice, is punished, we are terrified at the fatal consequences of such a passion. In the same manner a certain degree of resentment is necessary; but if we see that a man carries it too far, we pity the object of it, and are taught to moderate that passion. My record upon this occasion does great injustice to Johnson's expression, which was so for. cible and brilliant, that Mr. Cradock whispered me, “O that his words were written in a book !"
I observed the great defect of the tragedy of “ Othello" was, that it had not a moral; for that no man could resist the circumstances of suspicion which were artfully suggested to Othello's mind. Johnson. In the first place, Sir, we learn from Othello this very useful moral, not to make an unequal match ; in the second place, we learn not to yield too readily to suspicion. The handkerchief is merely a trick, though a very pretty trick; but there are no other circumstauces of reasonable suspicion, except what is related by Iago of Cassio's warm expressions concerning Desdemona in his sleep; and that depended entirely upon the assertion of one man. No, Sir; I think Othello has more moral than almost any play.
Talking of a penurious gentleman of our acquaintance, Johnson said, “Sir, he is narrow, not so much from avarice, as from impotence to spend his money. He cannot find in his heart to pour out a bottle of wine; but he would not much care if it should sour.”
He said, he wished to see “ John Dennis's Critical Works" collected. Davies said, they would not sell. Dr. Johnson seemed to think otherwise.
Davies said of a well known dramatic author, that “he lived upon polied stories, and that he made his way as Hannibal did, by vinegar; having begun by attacking people, particularly the players.”
He reminded Dr. Johnson of Mr. Murphy's having paid him the highest compliment that ever was paid to a Jayman, by asking his pardon for repeating some oaths in the course of telling a story.
Johnson and I supped this evening at the Crown and Anchor tavern, in company with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Mr, Nairne, now one of the Scotch Judges, with the title of Lord Dunsinan, and my very worthy friend, Sir William Forbes, of Pitsligo.
We discussed the question, whether drinking iimproved conversation and benevolence. Sir Joshua maintained, it did. Johnson. No, Sir; before dinner men meet with great inequality of understanding; and those who are conscious of their inferiority, have the modesty not to talk, When they have drunk wine, every man feels himself happy, and loses that modesty, and grows impudent and vociferous: but he is not im. proved : he is only not sensible of his defects. Sir Joshua said the Doctor was talking of the effects of excess in wide; but that a moderate glass eulivened the mind, by giving a proper circulation to the blood. I am, (said he,) in very good spirits, when I get up in the morning. By
dinger time I am exhausted ; wine puts me in the same state as when I got up: and I am sure that moderate drinking makes people talk better. Johnson. No, Sir; wine gives not light, gay, ideal, hilarity; but tumultuous, noisy, clamorous merriment. I have heard none of those drunken, -nay, drunken is a coarse word, -none of those vinous flights. Sir Joshua. Because you have sat by, quite sober, and felt an envy of the happiness of those who were drinking. Johnson. Perhaps, contempt. -And, Sir, it is not necessary to be drunk one's self, to relish the wit of drunkenness. Do we not judge of the drunken wit of the dialogue between Iago and Cassio, the most excellent in its kind, when we are quite sober? Wit is wit, by whatever means it is produced; and, if good, will appear so at all times. I admit that the spirits are raised by drinking, as by the common participation of any pleasure : cock-fighting, or bear baiting, will raise the spirits of a company, as drinking does, though surely they will not improve conversation. I also admit, that there are some sluggish men who are improved by drinking; as there are fruits which are not good till they are rotten. There are such men, but they are medlars. I indeed allow that there have been a very few men of talents who were improved by drinking; but I maintain that I am right as to the effects of drinking in general: and let it be considered, that there is no position, however false in its universality, which is not true of some particular man. Sir William Forbes said, Might not a man warmed with wine be like a bottle of beer, which is made brisker by being set before the fire !-Nay, (said Johnson, laughing,) I cannot answer that: that is too much for me.
I observed, that wine did some people harm, by inflaming, confusing, and irritating their minds; but that the experience of mankind had declared in favour of moderate drinking. Johnson. Sir, I do not say it is wrong to produce self-complacency by drinking; I only deny that it improves the mind. When I drank wine, I scorned to drink it when in company. I have drunk many a bottle by myself; in the first place, because I had need of it to raise my spirits: in the second place, because I would have nobody to witness its effects upon me.
He told us, “almost all his Ramblers were written just as they were wanted for the press; that he sent a certain portion of the copy of an essay, and wrote the remainder, while the former part of it was printing. When it was wanted, and he had fairly sat down to it, he was sure it would be done."
He said, that for general improvement, a man should read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to; though to be sure, if a man has a science to learn, he must regularly and resolutely advance. He added, “what we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention ; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read." He told us, he read Fielding's “ Amelia" through, without stopping. He said, "if a man begins to read in the middle of a book, and feels an inclination to go on, let him pot quit it, to go to the begin ning. He may perhaps not feel again the inclination.”
Sir Joshua mentioned Mr. Cumberland's Odes, which were just pub lished. Johnson. Why, Sir, they would have been thought as good as Odes commonly are, if Cumberland had not put his name to them; but a nawe immediately draws censure, unless it be a name that bears down every thing before it. Nay, Cumberland has made his Odes subsidiary to the fame of another man. They might have run well enough by themselves; but he has not only loaded them with a name, but has made them carry double.
We talked of the Reviews, and Dr. Johnson spoke of them as be did at Thrale's. Sir Joshua said, what I have often thought, that he wondered to find so much good writing employed iq them, when the authors were to remain unknown, and so could not have the motive of fame. Johnson. Nay, Sir, those who write in them, write well, in order to be paid well.
Soon after this day, he went to Bath with Mr. and Mrs Thrale. I had never seen that beautiful city, and wished to take the opportunity of visiting it, while Johnson was there. Having written to him, I received the following answer.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
Why do you talk of neglect? When did I neglect you? If you will come to Bath, we shall all be glad to see you. Come, therefore, as soon as you can.
But I have a little business for you at London. Bid Francis look in the paper drawer of the chest of drawers in my bed-chamber, for two cases; one for the Attorney-General, and one for the Solicitor-General. They, lie, I think, at the top of my papers; otherwise they are somewhere else, and will give me inore trouble.
Please to write to me immediately, if they can be found. Make my compliments to all our friends round the world, and to Mrs. Williams at home. I am, Sir, your &c.
Search for the papers as soon as you can, that, if it is necessary, I may write to you again before you come down.
On the 26th of April, I went to Bath; and on my arrival at the Pelican inn, found lying for me an obliging invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, by whom I was agreeably entertained almost constantly during my stay. They were gone to the rooms : but there was a kind gote from Dr. Johnson, that he should sit at home all the evening. I went to him