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Being disappointed in my hopes of meeting Johnson this year, so that I could hear none of his admirable sayings, I shall compensate for this want by inserting a collection of them, for which I am indebted to my worthy friend Mr. Langton, whose kind cominunications have been separately interwoven in many parts of this work. Very few articles of this collection were committed to writing by himself, he not having that habit; which he regrets, and which those who kuow the numerous opportunities he had of gathering the rich fruits of Johnsonian wit and wisdom, must ever regret. I however found, in conversation with him, that a good store of Johnsoniana was treasured in his, mind; and I compared it to Herculaneum, or some old Roman field, which when dug, fully rewards the labour employed. The authenticity of every article is unquestionable. For the expression, I, who wrote them down in his presence, am partly answerable.
Theocritus is not deserving of very high respect as a writer ; as to the pastoral part, Virgil is very evidently superior. He wrote, when there had been a larger influx of knowledge into the world than whea Theocritus lived. Theocritus does not abound in description, though living in a beautiful country ; the manners painted are coerse and gross, Virgil has much more description, more sentiment, more of nature, and more of art. Some of the most excellent parts of Theocritus are, where Castor and Pollux, going with the other Argonauts, land on the Bebrycian coast, and there fall into a dispute with Amycus, the King of that country; which is as well conducted as Euripides could have done it; and the battle is well related. Afterwards they carry off a woman, whose two brothers coine to recover her, and expostulate with Castor and Pollux on their injustice; but they pay ng regard to the brothers, and a battle ensues, where Castor and his brother are triumphant. Theocritus seems not to have seen that the brothers have the advantage in their argument over his Argonaut heroes.--the Sicilian Gossips' is a piece of merit.
Callimachus is a writer of little excellence; The chief thing to be learned from him is his account of Rites and Mythology; which, thougta desirable to be known for the sake of understanding other parts of anciept authors, is the least pleasing or valuable part of their writiugs.
Mattaire's account of the Stephani is a heavy book. He seems to have been a puzzle-lieaded man, with a large share of scholarship, but with little geometry or logic in his head, without method, and possessed of little genius. He wrote Latin verses from time to time, and published a set in his old age, which he called • Senilia ;' in which he shews so little learning or taste in writing, as to make Carteret a dactyl.-la matters of genealogy it is necessary to give the bare names as they are; but in poetry, and in prose of any elegauce in the writing, they require to have inflection given to them. His book of the Dialects is a sad heap of confusion ; the only way to write on them is to tabulate them with Notes added at the bottom of the page, and references.
It may be questioned, whether there is not soine mistake as to the methods of employing the poor, seemingly on a supposition that there is a certain portion of work lest undone for want of persons to do it ; but if that is otherwise, and all the materials we have are actually worked up, or all the manufactures we can use or dispose of are already executed, then what is given to the poor, who are to be set at work, must be taken from some who now have it; as time must be taken for learning, (according to Sir William Petty's observation,) a certain purt of those very materials that, as it is, are properly worked up, must be spoiled by the voskilfulness of novices. We may apply to well-meaning, but misjudging persons in particulars of this nature, what Giappone suid to a monk, who wanted what he called to convert hit : Tu sei santo, ma tu non sei filosopho.'— It is an unhappy circumstance that one might give away five hundred pounds in a year to those that importune in the streets, and not do any good.
There is nothing more likely to betray a man into absurdity, than condescension ; when he seems to suppose his understanding too powerful for nis company.
Having asked Mr. Langton if his father and mother had sat for their pictures, which he thought it right for each generation of a family to do, and beiug told they had opposed it, he said, Sir, among the anfractuosities of the humau mind, I know not if it may not be one, that there is a su, perstitious reluctance to sit for a picture.
John Gilbert Cooper related, that soon after the publication of his Dictionary, Garrick being asked by Johnson what people said of it, told him, that among other animadversions, it was objected that he cited authorities which were beneath the dignity of such a work, and mentioned Richardson. • Nay, (said Johnson,) I have done worse than that : I have cited thee, David.
Talking of expence, he observed, with what muuificence a great merchant will speud his money, both from his having it at command, and from his enlarged views by calculation of a good effect upon the whole. Whereas (suid he) you will hurdly ever find a country gentleman, who is not a good deal disconcerted at an unexpected occasion for his being obliged to lay out ten pounds.
When in good humour he would talk of his own writings with a wonderful frankness and candour, and would even criticise them with the closest severity. One day, having read over one of his Ramblers, Mr Langton asked him, how he liked that paper; he shook his head, and answered, too wordy,' At another time, when one was reading his tragedy of Irene,' to a company at a house in the country, he left the room : and somebody having asked him the reason of this, he replied, Sir, I thought it had been better.
Talking of a point of delicate scrupulosity of moral conduct, he said to Mr. Langton, “Men of harder minds than ours will do many things from which you and I would shriuk; yet, Sir, they will, perhaps do
more good in life than we. But let us try to help one another. If there be a wrong twist, it may be set right. It is not probable that two people wrong
the same way.' Of the Preface to Chapel's Shakspeare, he said, “If the man would have come to me, I would have endeavoured to. eodow his purposes with: words ;' for as it is, be doth gabble moostrously.
He related, that he had once in a dream a contest of wit with some other
person, and that he was very vouch mortified by imagining that his opponent had the better of him. Now, (said he) one may mark here the effect of sleep in weakening the power of reflection ; for had not my judgment failed me, I should have seen, that the wit of this supposed antagonist, by whose superiority I felt myself depressed, was as much furnished by me, as that which I thought I had been uttering in my own character.
Ove evening in company, an ingenious and learned gentleman read to him a letter of compliment which he had received from one of the Proe fessors of a foreign University. Johnson, in an irritable fit, thinking there was too much ostentation, said, “I never receive any of these tributes of applause from abroad. One instance I recollect of a foreiga publication, in which inention is made of l' illustre Lockman.
Of Sir Joshua Reynolds, he said, 'Sir, I know no man who has passed through life with inore observation than Reynolds.
He repeated to Mr. Langton, with great energy, in the Greek, our Saviour's gracious expression concerning the forgiveness of Mary Magdalen, “Η πιστες σε σισωκε σε πορευου εις ειρηνην. Τhy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. He said, the manner of this disipission is exceedingly affecting
He thus defined the difference between physical and moral truth: Physical truth, is, when you tell a thing as it actually is. Moral truth is, when you tell a thing sincerely and precisely as it appears to you. I say such a one walked across the street; if he really did so, I told a physical truth. If I thought so, though I should have been mistaken, I told a moral truth.
Huggins, the translator of Aristo, and Mr. Thomas Warton, in the early part of his literary life, had a dispute concerning that poet, of whom Mr. Warton, in bis • Observations on Spenser's Fairy Queen,' gave some account which Huggins altempted to answer with violence, and said, “I will millitate no longer against his nescience.' Huggins was master of the subject, but wanted expression. Mr. Wartou's knowledge of it was then imperfect, but l:is manner lively and elegaut. Johnson said, 'It appears to me, that Huggins has ball withont powder, and Warton powder without ball.
Talking of the Farce of High Life below Stairs,' he said, Here is a Farce, which is really very diverting, when you see it acted; and yet one way read it, and not know that one has been reading any thing at all.
He used at one time to go occasionally to the green-room of Druryo lane Theatre, where he was much regarded by the players, and wag very easy and facetious with them. He had a very high opinion of Mrs. Clive's corpic powers, and conversed more with her than with any of them. He said, Clive, Sir, is a good thing to sit by; she always understands what you say. And she said of him, I love to sit by Dr. Johnson; he always entertains me. Ooe night, when“ The Recruiting Officer' was acied, he said to Mr. Holland, who had been expressing an apprehension that Dr. Johnson would disdain the works of Farquhar; No, Sir, I think Farquhar a man whose writings have considerable merit.
His friend Garrick was so busy in conducting the drama, that they could not have so much intercourse as Mr. Garrick used to profess an anxious wish that there should be. There might, indeed, be something in the contemptuous severity as to the merit of acting, which his old preceptor nourished in himself, that would mortify Garrick after the great applause which he received from the audience. For though Johoson said of him, Sir, a man who has a nation to admire him every night, may well be expected to be somewhat elated; yet he would treat theatrical matters with a ludicrous slight. He mentioned one evening, I met David coming off the stage, drest in a woman's riding hood, when he acted in the Wonder ;' I came full upon him, and I believe he was not pleased.
Once he asked Tom Davis, whom he saw drest in a fine suit of clothes, And what art thou to-night ¿ Tom answered, The Thane of Ross; (which it will be recollected is a very inconsiderable character.) O brave ! said Johnson.
Of Mr. Longley, at Rochester, a gentleman of very considerable learning, whom Dr. Johnson met there, he said, My heart warms towards him. I was surprised to find in him such a nice acquaiotance with the metre in the learned languages: though I was somewhat mortified that I had it not so much to myself, as I should have thought.
Talking of the minuteness with which people will record the sayings of eminent persons, a story was told, that when Pope was on a visit to Spence at Oxford, as they looked from the window they saw a Gentleman Commoner, who was just come in from riding, amusing himself with whipping at a post. Pope took occasion to say, That young gentleman seems to bave little to do. Mr. Beauclerk observed, Then to be sure, Spence turned round and wrote that down; and went on to say to Dr. Johnson, Pope, Sir, would have said the same of you, if he had seen you distilling. Johnson. Sir, if Pope had told me of my distila liog, I would have told him of his grotto.
He would allow no settled indulgence of idleness upon principle, and always repelled every attempt to urge excuses for it. A friend one day suggested, that it was not wholesome to study soon after dioner. Johna son. Ah, Sir, dori't give way to such a fancy. At one time of my life I had taken it into my head that it was not wholesome to study bear
tween breakfast and dinner.
Mr. Beauclerk one day repeated to Dr. Johnson, Pope's lipes,
"Let modest Foster, if he will, excel
Then asked the Doctor, Why did Pope say this ? Johnson. Sir, he hoped it would vex somebody.
Dr. Goldsmith, upon occasion of Mrs. Lennox's bringing out a play, suid to Dr. Johnsou at the Club, that a person had advised bim to go and hiss it, because she had attacked Shakspeare in her book called
Shakspeare Illustrated.' Johnson. Avd did not you tell him thas he was a rascal? Goldemith. No, Sir, I did not. Perhaps he might not mean what he said. Johnson. Nay, Sir, if he lied, it is a different thing. Colman slily said, (but it is believed Dr. Joboson did pot hear him,) Then the proper expression should have been, -Sir, if you don't lie, you're a rascal.
His affection for Topham Beanclerk was so great, that when Beau. clerk was labouring under that severe illness wbich at last occasioned his death, Johnson said, (witb a voice faultering with emotion,) Sir, I would walk to the extent of the diameter of the earth to save Beauclerk.
One night at the Club he produced a translation of an Epitaph which Lord Elibank had written in English, for his Lady, and requested of Johnson to turn it into Latin for him. Having read Domina de North et Gray, be said to Dyer, You see, Sir, what barbarisms we are compelled to make use of, when modern titles are to be specifically mentioved in Latin inscriptions. When he had read it once aloud, and there had been a general approbation expressed by the company, he addressed himself to Mr. Dyer in particular, and said, Sir, I beg to have your judgment, for I know your nicely. Dyer then very properly desired to read it over again ; which having dope, he pointed out an incongruity in one of the sentences. Johnson immediately assented to the observation, and said, Sir, this is owing to an alteration of a part of the sentence, from the form in which I had first written it; and I believe, Sir, you may have remarked, that the making a partial change, without a due regard to the general structure of the sentence, is a very frequent cause of error iu composition.
Johnson was well acquainted with Mr. Doesie, author of a treatise on Agriculture; and said of him, Sir, of the objects which the Society of Arts have chiefly in view, the chymical effects of bodies operating upon other bodies, he knows more than almost any man, Johnson, in order to give Mr. Dossie bis vote to be a member of this Society, paid up an arrear which had run on for two years. On this occasion he mentioned a circumstance, as characteristic of the Scotch. One of that pation, (said he,) who has been a candidate, against whom I had voted, came up to sge with a civil salutation. Now, Sir, this is their way. Au Eu