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Somebody said to Johnson, across the table, that he had not been in those characters. "Yes," said he, "I have. I should have been sorry to be left out." He then repeated what had been applied to him, "You must borrow me GARAGANTUA's mouth."
Miss Reynolds not perceiving at once the meaning of this, he was obliged to explain it to her, which had something of an awkward and ludicrous effect. "Why, Madam, it has a reference to me, as using big words, which require the mouth of a giant to pronounce them. Garagantua is the name of a giant in Rabelais." BOSWELL: "But, Sir, there is another amongst them for you :
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
JOHNSON: "There is nothing marked in that. No, Sir, Garagantua is the best." Notwithstanding this ease and good humour, when I, a little while afterwards, repeated his sarcasm on Kenrick, which was received with applause, he asked, "Who said that ?" and on my suddenly answering Garagantua, he looked serious, which was a sufficient indication that he did not wish it to be kept up.
When we went to the drawing-room, there was a rich assemblage. Besides the company who had been at dinner, there were Mr. Garrick, Mr. Harris of Salisbury, Dr. Percy, Dr. Burney,' the Honourable Mrs. Cholmondeley, Miss Hannah More, &c. &c.
After wandering about in a kind of pleasing distraction for some time, I got into a corner with Johnson, Garrick, and Harris. GARRICK (to Harris): "Pray, Sir, have you read Potter's Eschylus ?" HARRIS: "Yes: and think it pretty." GARRICK (to Johnson): "And what think you, Sir, of it?" JOHNSON: "I thought what I read of it verbiage; but upon Mr. Harris's recommendation I will read a play. (To Mr. Harris.) Don't prescribe two." Mr. Harris suggested one, I do not remember which. JOHNSON: "We must try its effect as an English poem; that is
1 This was Dr. Charles Burney, the musical composer, who was father of the great critic and scholar, and author of a "General History of Music." He was born at Shrewsbury in 1726, and died in 1811.-ED.
the way to judge of the merit of a translation. Translations are, in general, for people who cannot read the original." I mentioned the vulgar saying, that Pope's Homer was not a good representation of the original. JOHNSON: "Sir, it is the greatest work of the kind that has ever been produced." BOSWELL: "The truth is, it is impossible perfectly to translate poetry. In a different language it may be the same tune, but it has not the same tone. Homer plays it on a bassoon; Pope on a flageolet." HARRIS: "I think heroic poetry is best in blank verse; yet it appears that rhyme is essential to English poetry, from our deficiency in metrical quantities. In my opinion, the chief excellence of our language is numerous prose." JOHNSON: "Sir William Temple1 was the first writer who gave cadence to English prose.2 Before this time they were careless of arrangement, and did not mind whether a sentence ended with an important word, or an insignificant word, or with what part of speech it was concluded." Mr. Langton, who now had joined us, commended Clarendon. JOHNSON: "He is objected to for his parentheses, his involved clauses, and his want of harmony. But · he is supported by his matter. It is, indeed, owing to a plethory of matter that his style is so faulty: every substance (smiling to Mr. Harris), has so many accidents. To be distinct, we must talk analytically. If we analyse language, we must speak of it grammatically; if we analyse argument, we must speak of it logically." GARRICK: "Of all the translations that ever were attempted, I think Elphinston's Martial the most extraordinary. He consulted me upon it, who am a little of an epigrammatist myself, you know. I told him freely, 'You don't seem to have that turn.' I asked him if he was serious; and finding
1 This eminent statesman and scholar was born in 1628. In 1674 he was appointed Ambassador to the States-general, and in 1679 became Secretary of State. When he resigned that position he was often visited in his retirement by Charles II., James II., and William III. He has published "Observations on the United Provinces," and other miscellaneous writings. He died in 1700.-ED.
2 The author, in vol. i., p. 151, says, that Johnson once told him, "that he had formed his style upon that of Sir William Temple, and upon Chambers's Proposal for his Dictionary. He certainly was mistaken; or, if he imagined at first that he was imitating Temple, he was very unsuccessful, for nothing can be more unlike than the simplicity of Temple and the richness of Johnson."
This observation, on the first view, seems perfectly just; but on a closer examination it will, I think, appear to have been founded on a misapprehension. Mr. Boswell understood Johnson too literally. He did not, I conceive, mean that he endeavoured to imitate Temple's style in all its parts; but that he formed his style on him and Chambers (perhaps the paper published in 1737, relative to his second edition, entitled "Considerations," &c.) taking from each what was most worthy of imitation. The passage before ns, I think, shows, that he learned from Temple to modulate his periods, and, in that respect only, made him his pattern. In this view of the subject, there is no difficulty. He might learn from Chambers, compactness, strength, and precision (in opposition to the laxity of style which had long prevailed); from Sir Thomas Browne (who was also certainly one of his archetypes), pondera verborum, vigour and energy of expression; and from Temple, harmonious arrangement, the due collocation of words, and the other arts and graces of composition here enumerated: and yet, after all, his style might bear no striking resemblance to that of any of these writers, though it had profited by each.-MALOne.
he was, I advised him against publishing. Why, his translation is more difficult to understand than the original. I thought him a man of some talents; but he seems crazy in this." JOHNSON: "Sir, you have done what I had not courage to do. But he did not ask my advice, and I did not force upon him to make him angry with me." GARRICK : "But as a friend, Sir-." JOHNSON: 66 Why, such a friend as I am with him-no.” GARRICK: "But if you see a friend going to tumble over a precipice?" JOHNSON: "That is an extravagant case, Sir. You are sure a friend will thank you for hindering him from tumbling over a precipice; but, in the other case, I should hurt his vanity, and do him no good. He would not take my advice. His brother-in-law, Strahan, sent him a subscription of 50%., and said he would send him 50%. more, if he would not publish." GARRICK: 66 What! eh! is Strahan a good judge of an epigram? Is not he rather an obtuse man, eh?" JOHNSON: "Why, Sir, he may not be a judge of an epigram; but you see he is a judge of what is not an epigram." BOSWELL: "It is easy for you, Mr. Garrick, to talk to an author as you talked to Elphinston; you, who have been so long the manager of a theatre, rejecting the plays of poor authors. You are an old judge, who have often pronounced sentence of death. You are a practised surgeon, who have often amputated limbs: and though this may have been for the good of your patients, they cannot like you. Those who have undergone a dreadful operation are not very fond of seeing the operator again." GARRICK: "Yes, I know enough of that. There was a reverend gentleman (Mr. Hawkins), who wrote a tragedy, the SIEGE of something,' which I refused." HARRIS: "So the siege was raised." JOHNSON: "Ay, he came to me and complained; and told me that Garrick said his play was wrong in the concoction. Now, what is the concoction of a play ?" (Here Garrick started, and twisted himself, and seemed sorely vexed; for Johnson told me he believed the story was true.) GARRICK: “I—I—I-said, first concoction."2 JOHNSON (smiling): "Well, he left out first. And Rich, he said, refused him in false English: he could show it under his hand." GARRICK: "He wrote to me in violent wrath, for having refused his play: 'Sir, this is growing a very serious and terrible affair. I am resolved to publish my play. I will appeal to the world; and how will your judgment appear!' I answered, 'Sir, notwitstanding all the seriousness, and all the terrors, I have no objection to your publishing your play; and as you live at a great distance (Devonshire, I believe), if you will send it to me, I will convey it to the press.' I never heard more of it, -ha! ha ha!"
1 It was called "The Siege of Aleppo." Mr. Hawkins, the author of it, was formerly Professor of Poetry at Oxford. It is printed in his "Miscellanies," 3 vols. octavo.-BOSWELL. 2 Garrick had high authority for this expression. Dryden uses it in one of his critical essays.-MALONE.
On Friday, April 10, I found Johnson at home in the morning. We resumed the conversation of yesterday. He put me in mind of some of it which escaped my memory, and enabled me to record it more perfectly than I otherwise could have done. He was much pleased with my paying so great attention to his recommendation in 1763, the period when our acquaintance began, that I should keep a journal; and I could perceive he was secretly pleased to find so much of the fruit of his mind preserved; and as he had been used to imagine and say that he always laboured when he said a good thing, it delighted him, on a review, to find that his conversation teemed with point and imagery.
I said to him, "You were yesterday, Sir, in remarkably good humour; but there was nothing to offend you, nothing to produce irritation or violence. There was no bold offender. There was not one capital conviction. It was a maiden assize. You had on your white gloves."
He found fault with our friend Langton for having been too siient. "Sir," said I, "you will recollect that he very properly took up Sir Joshua for being glad that Charles Fox had praised Goldsmith's 'Traveller,' and you joined him." JOHNSON: "Yes, Sir, I knocked Fox on the head, without ceremony. Reynolds is too much under Fox and Burke at present. He is under the Fox star, and the Irish constellation. He is always under some planet." BOSWELL: "There is no Fox Star." JOHNSON: "But there is a Dog star." BosWELL: "They say, indeed, a fox and a dog are the same animal."
I reminded him of a gentleman, who, Mrs. Cholmondeley said, was first talkative from affectation, and then silent from the same cause; that he first thought, " I shall be celebrated as the liveliest man in every company ;" and then, all at once, "Oh ! it is much more respectable to be grave, and look wise." "He has reversed the Pythagorean discipline, by being first talkative, and then silent. He reverses the course of nature too; he was first the gay butterfly, and then the creeping worm.' Johnson laughed loud and long at this expansion and illustration of what he himself had told me.
We dined together with Mr. Scott (now Sir William Scott, his Majesty's Advocate-General),' at his chambers in the Temple; nobody else there. The company being small, Johnson was not in such spirits as he had been the preceding day, and for a considerable time little was said. At last he burst forth: "Subordination is sadly broken down in this age. No man, now, has the same authority which his father had,— except a gaoler. No master has it over his servants; it is diminished in our colleges; nay, in our grammar schools." Boswell: "What is the cause of this, Sir?" JOHNSON: "Why the coming in of the Scotch." (laughing sarcastically). BOSWELL: "That is to say, things have been
1 Now (1804) Judge of the Court of Admiralty, and Master of the Faculties.-MALONE. >
turned topsy-turvy. But your serious cause." JOHNSON: "Why, Sir, there are many causes, the chief of which is, I think, the great increase of money. No man now depends upon the Lord of a Manor, when he can send to another country, and fetch provisions. The shoe-black at the entry of my court does not depend on me. I can deprive him but of a penny a day, which he hopes somebody else will bring him ; and that penny I must carry to another shoe-black; so the trade suffers nothing. I have explained, in my 'Journey to the Hebrides,' how gold and silver destroy feudal subordination. But, besides, there is a general relaxation of reverence. No son now depends upon his father, as in former times. Paternity used to be considered as of itself a great thing, which had a right to many claims. That is, in general, reduced to very small bounds. My hope, is, that as anarchy produces tyranny, this extreme relaxation will produce freni strictio."
Talking of fame, for which there is so great a desire, I observed how little there is of it in reality, compared with the other objects of human attention. "Let every man recollect, and he will be sensible how small a part of his time is employed in talking or thinking of Shakspeare, Voltaire, or any of the most celebrated men that have ever lived, or are now supposed to occupy the attention and admiration of the world. Let this be extracted and compressed; into what a narrow space will it go !" I then slily introduced Mr. Garrick's fame, and his assuming the airs of a great man. JOHNSON: "Sir, it is wonderful how little Garrick assumes. No, Sir, Garrick fortunam reverenter habet. Consider, Sir,— celebrated men, such as you have mentioned, have had their applause at a distance; but Garrick had it dashed in his face, sounded in his ears, and went home every night with the plaudits of a thousand in his cranium. Then, Sir, Garrick did not find, but made his way to the tables, the levees, and almost the bed-chambers of the great. Then, Sir, Garrick had under him a numerous body of people; who, from fear of his power and hopes of his favour, and admiration of his talents, were constantly submissive to him. And here is a man who has advanced the dignity of his profession. Garrick has made a player a higher character." SCOTT: "And he is a very sprightly writer too." "JOHNSON: "Yes, Sir; and all this supported by great wealth of his own acquisition. If all this had happened to me, I should have had a couple of fellows with long poles walking before me, to knock down everybody that stood in the way. Consider, if all this had happened to Cibber or Quin, they'd have jumped over the moon. Yet Garrick speaks to us" (smiling). BOSWELL: "And Garrick is a very good man, a charitable man.” JOHNSON: "Sir, a liberal man. He has given away more money than any man in England. There may be a little vanity mixed; but he has shown that money is not his first object." BoswELL: "Yet Foote used to say of him, that he walked out with an intention to do a generous action; but turning the corner of a street, he met with the ghost of a halfpenny, which frightened