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ple as a creature is to its Creator?' 'To this question,' said Dr. Johnson, 'I could have replied, that, in the first place, the idea of a Creator must be such as that he has a power to unmake or annihilate his creature. Then it cannot be conceived that a creature can make laws for his Creator.' 1
"Depend upon it,' said he,' that if a man talks of his misfortunes, there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him; for where there is nothing but pure misery, there never is any recourse to the mention of it.'
"A man must be a poor beast, that should read no more in quantity than he could utter aloud.'
"Imlac, in Rasselas,' I spelt with a c at the end, because it is less like English, which should always have the Saxon k added to the c.' 2
Many a man is mad in certain instances, and goes through life without having it perceived. For example, a madness has seized a person,3 of supposing himself obliged literally to pray continually: had the madness turned the opposite way, and the person thought it a crime ever to pray, it might not improbably have continued unobserved.'
"He apprehended that the delineation of characters in the end of the first book of the 'Retreat of the Ten Thousand' was the first instance of the kind that was known.
"Supposing,' said he, 'a wife to be of a studious or argumentative turn, it would be very troublesome: for instance, if a woman should continually dwell upon the subject of the Arien heresy.
"No man speaks concerning another, even suppose it to be in his praise, if he thinks he does not hear, him, exactly as he would if he though the was within hearing.'
"The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.' This he said to me with great earnestness of manner, very near the time of his decease, on occasion of having desired me to read a letter addressed to him from some person in the north of England; which when I had done, and he asked me what the contents were, as I thought being particular upon it might fatigue him, it being of great length, I only told him in general that it was highly in his praise; and then he expressed himself as above.
"He mentioned with an air of satisfaction what Baretti had told him; that, meeting in the course of his studying English with an excellent paper in 'The
1 His profound adoration of the Great First Cause was such as to set him above that "philosophy and vain deceit" with which men of narrow conceptions have been infected. I have heard him strongly maintain that "what is right is not so from any natural fitness, but because God wills it to be right;" and it is certainly so, be ause he has predisposed the relations of things so, as that which he wills must be right.
2 I hope the authority of the great master of our language will stop that curtailing innovation by which we see critic, public, &c. frequently written instead of critick, publick, &c.— B. Why should we not retrench an obvious superfluity? In the preceding age, public and critic were written publique and critique. Johnson himself, in a memorandum among Mr. Anderson's papers, dated in 1784, writes" cubic feet."-C.
3 Johnson had, no doubt, his poor friend Smart in his recollection.
Spectator,' one of four that were written by the respectable dissenting minister, Mr. Grove of Taunton, and observing the genius and energy of mind that it exhibits, it greatly quickened his curiosity to visit our country; as he thought, if such were the lighter periodical essays of our authors, their productions on more weighty occasions must be wonderful indeed!
"He observed once, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, that a beggar in the street will more readily ask alms from a man, though there should be no marks of wealth in his appearance, than from even a well-dressed woman; which he accounted for from the great degree of carefulness as to money, that is to be found in women; saying further upon it, that the opportunities in general that they possess of improving their condition are much fewer than men have; and adding, as he looked round the company, which consisted of men only, 'There is not one of us who does not think he might be richer, if he would use his endeavour.'
"He thus characterised an ingenious writer of his acquaintance: 'Sir, he is an enthusiast by rule.'
"He may hold up that SHIELD against all his enemies,' was an observation on Homer, in reference to his description of the shield of Achilles, made by Mrs. Fitzherbert, wife to his friend Mr. Fitzherbert of Derbyshire, and respected by Dr. Johnson as a very fine one. He had in general a very high opinion of that lady's understanding.
“An observation of Bathurst's may be mentioned, which Johnson repeated, appearing to acknowledge it to be well founded; namely, it was somewhat remarkable how seldom, on occasion of coming into the company of any new person, one felt any wish or inclination to see him again."
This year the Reverend Dr. Franklin having published a translation of "Lucian," inscribed to him the Demonax thus
"To Dr. Samuel Johnson, the Demonax of the present age, this piece is inscribed by a sincere admirer of his respectable talents,
Though upon a particular comparison of Demonax and Johnson, there does not seem to be a great deal of similarity between them,"
1 Sterne is of a direct contrary opinion. See his "Sentimental Journey;" article, The Mystery.
2 There were, no doubt, some points in which Johnson did not resemble Demonax, who was high-born and rich, very mild in his manners, gentle in argument and even in his reprimands, and lived to a great age in uninterrupted health; but in many other particulars Lucian's character seems very curiously applicable to Johnson; and indeed his tract resembles (in l.
this dedication is a just compliment from the general character given by Lucian of the ancient sage, αριςον ων οιδα εγω φιλοσοφων γενομενον, the best philosopher whom I have ever seen or
tle) Boswell's own work, being a collection of observations on several topics, moral, critical, and religious, made by a philosopher of strong sense, ready wit, and fearless veracity; and the character which Lucian ascribes to the conversation of Demonax appears to me very like (making due allowance for the difference of ancient and modern habits and topics) the style of that of Dr. Johnson.-C.
The "Lives of the Poets" completed-Observations upon, and various Readings in, the Life of Cowley-Waller-Milton-Dryden-Pope-Broome--Addison-Parneil-Blackmore
In 1781, Johnson at last completed his "Lives of the Poets," of which he gives this account : "Some time in March I finished the 'Lives of the Poets,' which I wrote in my usual way, dilatorily and hastily, unwilling to work, and working with vigour and haste." In a memorandum previous to this, he says of them: "Written, I hope, in such a manner as may tend to the promotion of piety.". (Pr. and Med. pp. 174. 190.)
This is the work which, of all Dr. Johnson's writings, will perhaps be read most generally, and with most pleasure. Philology and biography were his favourite pursuits, and those who lived most in intimacy with him, heard him upon all occasions, when there was a proper opportunity, take delight in expatiating upon the various merits of the English poets: upon the niceties of their characters, and the events of their progress through the world which they contributed to illuminate. His mind was so full of that kind of information, and it was so well arranged in his memory, that in performing what he had undertaken in this way, he had little more to do than to put his thoughts upon paper; exhibiting first each poet's life, and then subjoining a critical examination of his genius and works. But when he began to write, the subject swelled in such a manner, that instead of prefaces to each poet, of
1 This facility of writing, and this dilatoriness ever to write, Dr. Johnson always retained, from the days that he lay a-bed and dictated his first publication to Mr. Hector, to the moment he made me copy out those variations in Pope's Homer which are printed in the Lives of the Poets. 'And now,' said he, when I had finished it for him, 'I fear not Mr. Nichols [the printer] of a pin.'-Piozzi. The first livraison was published in 1779. This edi tion of the Poets was in sixty volumes, small octavo.-C.
no more than a few pages, as he had originally intended,' he produced an ample, rich, and most entertaining view of them in every respect. In this he resembled Quintilian, who tells us, that in the composition of his "Institutions of Oratory," "Latiùs se tamen aperiente materiâ, plus quàm imponebatur oneris sponte suscepi." The booksellers, justly sensible of the great additional value of the copyright, presented him with another hundred pounds, over and above two hundred, for which his agreement was to furnish such prefaces as he thought fit.'
This was, however, but a small recompense for such a collection of biography, and such principles and illustrations of criticism, as, if digested and arranged in one system, by some modern Aristotle or Longinus, might form a code upon that subject, such as no other nation can show. As he was so good as to make me a present of the greatest part of the original, and indeed only manuscript of this admirable work, I have an opportunity of observing with wonder the correctness with which he rapidly struck off such glowing composition. He may be assimilated to the lady in Waller, who could impress with "love at first sight:"
"Some other nymphs with colours faint,
That he, however, had a good deal of trouble,' and some anxiety
1 His design is thus announced in his advertisement: "The booksellers having determined to publish a body of English poetry, I was persuaded to promise them a preface to the works of each author; an undertaking, as it was then presented to my mind, not very tedious or difficult. My purpose was only to have allotted to every poet an advertisement, like that which we find in the French Miscellanies,' containing a few dates, and a general character; but I have been led beyond my intention, I hope by the honest desire of giving useful pleasure."
2 The bargain was for two hundred guineas, and the booksellers spontaneously added a third hundred; on this occasion Dr. Johnson observed to me, "Sir, I always said the booksellers were a generous set of men. Nor, in the present instance, have I reason to complain. The fact is, not that they have paid me too little, but that I have written too much." The "Lives" were soon published in a separate edition; when, for a very few corrections, the doctor was presented with another hundred guineas.-NICHOLS.
3 The reader has, however, seen some instances, and many others might be produced, in which Dr. Johnson, when he published a new edition, utterly disregarded the corrections of errors of which he was apprised. The truth is, he began the work as a thing that might be done in a few weeks, and was surprised and fatigued at the length to which he found it