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glishman would have stomached it, and been sulky, and never have taken further notice of you ; but a Scotchman, Sir, though you vote nineteen times against him, will accost you with equal complaisance after each time, and the twentieth time, Sir, he will get your vote.
Talking on the subject of toleration, one day when some friends were with him in his study, he made his usual renuark, that the Stale has a right, to regulate the religion of the people, who are the children of the State. A clergyman having readily acquiesced in this, Johnson, who loved discussion, observed, But, Sir, you must go round to other States than our own, You do not know what a Bramio has to say for himself. In short, Sir, I have got no further than this; Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test,
A man, he observed, should begin to write soon ; for, if he waits till his judgment is matured, his inability, through want of practise to express his conceptions, will make the disproportion so great between what he sees, and what he can attain, that he will probably be discouraged from writing at all. As a proof of the justoess of this remark, we may instance what is related of the great Lord Granville ; that after he had written his letter giving an account of the battle of Dettingen, he said, “ Here is a letter expressed in terms not good enough for a tallow chandler to have used.'
Talking of a Court-martial that was sitting upon a very momentous public occasion, he expressed much doubt of an enlightened decision ; and said, that perhaps there was not a member of it, who in the whole course of his life, had ever spent an hour by himself in balancing proba, bilities.
Goldsmith one day brought to the Club a printed Ode, which he, with others, had been hearing read by its author in a public rooin, at the rate of five shillings each for admission. One of the company having read it aloud, Dr, Johnson said, Bolder words and more timorous meaning, 1 think, never were brought together.
Talking of Gray's Odes, he said, “They are forced plants, raised in a hot-bed; and they are poor plants; they are but cucumbers after all, A geotleman present, who had been running down Ode-writing in general, as a bad species of poetry, unluchily said, Had they been literally cucumbers, they had been better things than Odes.' -Yes, Sir, (said Johoson,) for a hog.
His distinction of the different degrees of attainment of learning was thus marked upon two occasions. Of Queen Elizabeth he said, She had learning enough to have given dignity to a bishop; and of Mr. Thomas Davies he said, Sir Davies has learning enough to give credit to a clergymao.
He used to quote, with great warmth, the saying of Aristotle record, ed by Diogenes Laertius; that there was the same difference between one learned and unlearned, as between the living and the dead,
It is very remarkable, that he retained in his memory very slight and trivial, as well as important, things. As av instance of this, it seems that an inferior domestic of the Duke of Leeds had fattempted to celebrate his Grace's marriage in such homely rhymes as he could make; and this curious composition having been sung to Dr. Johnson, he got it by heart, and used to repeat it is a very pleasant manner, Two of the stanzas were these :
When the Duke of Leeds shall married be
Sbe shall have all that's fine and fair,
To hear a man, of the weight and dignity of Johnson, repeating such humble attempts at poetry, had a very amusing effect. He, however, seriously observed of the last stanza repeated by him, that it nearly com. prised all the advantages that wealth can give.
An eminent foreigner, when he was shewn the British Museum, was very troublesome with many absurd enquiries. Now there, Sir, (said be,) is the difference between an Englishman and a Frenchman. A Frenchman must be always talking, whether be knows any thing of the matter or not; an Englisbman is content to say nothing, when he has pothing to say
His upjust contempt for foreigners was, indeed, extreme. One evening, at Old Slaughter's coffee-house, when a number of them were talking aloud about little mattess, he said, Does not this confirm old Meynell's observation, “ For any thing I see, foreigners are fools.”
He said, that once, when he had a violent tooth-ach, a Frenchman accosted him thus : “ Ah Monsieur, vous etudiez trop.”
Having spent an eveniog at Mr. Langton's with the Reverend Dr. Parr, he was much pleased with the conversation of that learned geotleman: and, after he was gone, said to Mr. Langtoo, Sir, I am obliged to you for having asked me this evening. Parr is a fair man. I do not know when I have had an occasion of such free controversy. It is remarkable how much of a man's life may pass without meeting with any instance of this kind of open discussion.
We may fairly institute a criticism between Shakspeare and Corneille, as they both had, though in a different degree, the lights of a latter age. It is vot so just between the Greek dramatic writers and Shakspeare. It may be replied to what is said by one of the remarkers ou Sbakspeare, that though Darius's shade had prescience, it does not necessarily follow that he had oil past particulars revealed to him.
Spanish plays, being wildly and improbably farcical, would please children here, as children are entertained with stories full of prodigies ; their experience not being sufficient to cause them to be so readily star, tled at deviations from the natural course of life. The machinery of the Pagans is uninteresting to us: when a Goddess appears in Homer or Virgil, we grow weary; still more so in the Grecian tragedies, as in that kind of composition a nearer approach to Nature is intended. Yet there are good reasons for reading romances; as--the fertility of invention, the beauty of style and expression, the curiosity of seeing with what: kind of performances the age and country in which they were written was delighted; for it is to be apprehended, that at the time when very wild improbable tales were well received, the people were in a barbarou state, and so on the footing of children, as has been explained.
It is evideot enough that no one who writes von can use the Pagan deities and mythology; the only machine, therefore, seems that of ministering spirits, the ghosts of the departed, witches, and fairies, though these latter, as the vulgar superstition concerning them (which, while in force, infected at least the imagination of those that had more advantage in education, though their reason set thein free from it,) is every day wearing out, seem likely to be of little further assistance in the machinery of poetry. As I recollect, Hammond introduces a bag or witch into one of his love elegies, where the effect is unmeaning and disgusting.
The man who uses his talent of ridicule in creating or grossly exaygerating the instances he gives, who imputes absurdities that did not happen, or when a man was a little ridiculous, describes him as having been very much so, abuses his talents greatly. The great use of delineating absurdities is, that we may know how far human foliy can go; the account, therefore, ought of absolute necessity to be faithful. A certain character (naming the person) as to the general cast of it, is well described by Garrick, but a great deal of phraseology he uses in it, is quite his ows, particularly in the proverbial comparisons, obstinate as a pig,' &c. but I don't know whether that might uot be true of Lord that from too great eagerness of praise and popularity, and a politeness carried to a ridiculous excess, he was likely, after asserting a thing in general, to give it up again in parts. For instance, if he had said Reynolds was the first of painters, he was capable enough of giving up, as objections might happen to be severally made, first, his outline,-then the grace in form,--then the colouring, -and lastly, to have owned that he was such a munderest, that the disposition of his pictures was all alike.
For hospitality, as formerly practised, there is no longer the same reason; heretofore the poorer people were more numerous, and from want of commerce, their means of getting a livelihood more difficult; therefore the supporting them was an act of great benevolence; now that the poor can find maintenance for themselves, and their labour is wanted, a general undiscerning hospitality teads to ill, by withdrawing them from their work to idleness and drunkenness. Then, formerly, rents were received ju kind, so that there was a great abundance of prorisions in possession of the owners of lands, which, since the plenty of money afforded by commerce, is no longer the case.
Hospitality to strangers and foreigners in our country is now almost at an end; since, from the increase of them that come to us, there have been a sufficient pumber of people that have found an interest in providing inns and proper accommodations, which is in general a more expedient method for the entertainment of travellers. Where the travellers and strangers are few, more of that hospitality subsists, as it has not been worth while to provide places of accommodation. Iu Ireland, there is still hospitality to strangers, in some degree: in Hungary and Poland, probably more.
Colman, in a' dote on his translation of Terence, talking of Shak. speare's learning, asks, “What says Farmer to this ? What says Johnson?” Upon this he observed, Sir, let Farmer answer for himself: I never engaged in this controversy. I always said, Shakspeare had Latin enough to grammaticise his English.
A clergyman, whom he characterised as one who loved to say little oddities, was affecting one day, at a Bishop's table, a sort of slyuess and freedom not in character, and repeated, as if part of The old Man's wish,' a song by Dr. Walter Pope, a verse bordering ou liceutiousness. Johnson rebuked him in the finest manner, by first shewing him that he did not know the passage that he was aiming at, and thus humbling him : Sir, that is not the song: it is thos. And be gave it right, Then looking steadfastly on him, Sir, there is a part of that song which I should wish to exemplify in my own life,
“May I govern my passions with absolate sway!"
Being asked if Barnes knew a good deal of Greek, he answererl, I doubt, Sir, he was unoculus inter cæcos.
He used frequently to observe, that men might be very eminent in a profession, without our perceiving any particular power of mind in them in conversation. It seems strange, said he, that a man should see so far to the right, who sees so short away to the left. Burke is the only man whose common conversation corresponds with the general fame he has in the world. Take up whatever topic you please, he is ready to meet you.
A gentleman, by no means deficient in literature, having discovered less acquaintance with one of the Classics than Johnson expected, when the gentleman left the room, he observed, You see, now, how little any body reads. Mr. Langton happened to mention his baving read a good deal in Clenardus's Greek Grammar, Why, Sir, suid be, who is there in this town who knows any thing of Clenardus but you and I ? And upon Mr. Langton's mentioning that he had taken the pains to learn by heart the Epistle of St. Basil, which is given in that grammar as a praxis, Sir, said he, I never made such an effort to attain Greek.
of Dodsley's “Public Virtue, a Poem," he said, It was fine blank; (meaning to express his usual contempt for blank verse :) however, this miserable poem did not sell, and my poor friend Doddy said, Public Virtue was not a subject to interest the age.
Mr. Langton, when a very young man, read Dodsley's “Cleone, a Tragedy,” to him, not aware of his extreme impatience to be read to. Asit went on he turned his face to the back of the chair, and pat himself into various attitudes, which marked his uneasiness. At the end of an act, however, he said, Come, let's have some more, let's go into the slaughter-house again, Lanky. But I am afraid there is more blood than brains. Yet he afterwards said, When I heard you read it, I thought higher of its power of language: when I read it myself, I was more sensible of its pathetic effect; and then he paid it a compliment which many will think very extravagant. Sir, said he, if Otway had written this play, no other of his pieces would have been remembered. Dodsley himself, upon this being repeated to him, said, It was too much : it must be remembered, that Johnson always appeared not to be sufficiently sensible of the merit of Otway.
Snatches of reading, said he, will not make a Beatly or a Clarke. They are, however, in a certain degree advantageous. I would put a child into a library (where no unfit books are) and let him read at his choice. A child should not be discouraged from reading any thing that he takes a liking to, from a notion that it is above his reach. If that be the case, the child will soon find it out and desist; if not, he of course gains instruction ; which is so much the more likely to come, from the iuclination with which he takes up the study.
Though he used to censure carelessness with great vehemence, he owned, that he once, to avoid the trouble of locking up five guineas, hid them, he forgot where, so that he could not find them.
A gentleman who introduced his brother to Dr. Johnson, was earnest to recommend him to the Doctor's notice, which he did by saying, When we have sat together some time, you'll find my brother very entertaining.-Sir, said Johnson, I can wait.
Whea the rumour was strong that we should have a war, because the French would assist the Americans, he rebuked a friend with some asperity fur supposing it, saying, No, Sir, national faith is not yet sunk so low.
In the latter part of his life, in order to satisfy himself whether bis mental faculties were impaired, he resolved that he would try to learn a new language, and fixed upon the Low Dutch, for that purpose, and this he continued till he had read about one half of " Thomas à Kempis;" and fiuding that there appeared no abatement of his power of acquisition, he then desisted, as thinking the experiment had been duly tried. Mr. Burke justly observed, that this was not the inost vigorous trial, Low Dutch being a lanauage so near to our owu: bad it been one of the languages entirely difereat, he might have been very soon satisfied.