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that writer had taken of his mind, and from the pleasure which he must have felt, in for ever silencing al. attempts to lessen his poetical fame, by demonstrating his excellence, and pronouncing the following triumphant eulogium :
“ After all this, it is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked, Whether Pope was a poet ? otherwise than by asking in return, if Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found ? To circum. scribe poetry by a definition, will only show the nar
rowness of the definer; though a definition which shall J exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look
round upon the present time, and back upon the past; let us inquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed."
I remember once to have heard Johnson say, " Sir, a thousand years may elapse before there shall
appear another man with a power of versification equal to that of Pope.” That power must undoubtedly be allowed its due share in enhancing the value of his captivating composition.
Johnson, who had done liberal justice to Warburton in his edition of Shakspeare, which was published during the life of that powerful writer, with still greater liberality took an opportunity, in the life of Pope, of paying the tribute due to him when he was no longer in “ high place,” but numbered with the dead. ( )
(1) Of Johnson's conduct towards Warburton, a very honourable notice is taken by the editor of Tracts by Warburton, and
It seems strange, that two such men as Johnson and Warburton, who lived in the same age and
a Warburtonian, not admitted into the Collection of their respective Works. After an able and “ fond, though not undistinguishing,” consideration of Warburton's character, he says,
“ In two immortal works, Johnson has stood forth in the foremost rank of his admirers. By the testimony of such a man, impertinence must be abashed, and malignity itself must be softened. Of literary merit, Johnson, as we all know, was a sagacious but a most severe judge. Such was his discernment, that he pierced into the most secret springs of human actions; and such was his integrity, that he always weighed the moral characters of his fellow-creatures in the balance of the sanctuary. He was too courageous to propitiate a rival, and too proud to truckle to a superior, Warburton he knew, as I know him, and as every man of sense and virtue would wish to be known, - I mean, both from his own writings, and from the writings of those who dissented from his principles or who envied his re. putation. But, as to favours, he had never received or asked any from the bishop of Gloucester; and, if my memory fails me not, he had seen him only once, when they met almost without design, conversed without much effort, and parted without any lasting impression of hatred or affection. Yet, with all the ardour of sympathetic genius, Johnson had done that spontaneously and ably, which, by some writers, had been before attempted injudiciously, and which, by others, from whom more successful attempts might have been expected, has not hitherto been done at all. He spoke well of Warburton, without insulting those whom Warburton despised. He suppressed not the imperfections of this extraordinary man, while he endeavoured to do justice to his numerous and transcendental excellencies. He defended him when living, amidst the clamours of his enemies; and praised him when dead, amidst the silence of his friends."
Having availed myself of the eulogy of this editor [Dr. Parr) on my departed friend, for which I warmly thank him, let me not suffer the lustre of his reputation, honestly acquired by profound learning and vigorous eloquence, to be tarnished by a charge of illiberality. He has been accused of invidiously dragging again into light certain writings of a person (Bishop Hurd] respectable by his talents, his learning, his station, and his age, which were published a great many years ago, and have since, it is said, been silently given up by their author. But when it is considered that these writings were not sins of youth, but deliberate works of one well advanced in life, overflowing at once with flattery to a great man of great interest in the church, and with unjust and acrimonious abuse of two men of eminent merit; and that, though it would have been unreasonable to expect an humiliating recantation, no apology whatever has been made in the cool of the evening, for the oppressive fervour of the heat of the day; no slight relenting indication has appeared in any note, or any corner of later publications; is it not fair to understand him as superciliously persevering? When he allows the shafts to re main in the wounds, and will not stratch forth a lenient hand,
country, should not only not have been in any
degree of intimacy, but been almost personally unacquainted. But such instances, though we must wonder at them, are not rare. If I am rightly informed, after a careful inquiry, they never met but once, which was at the house of Mrs. French, in London, well known for her elegant assemblies, and bringing eminent characters together. The interview proved to be mutually agreeable.
I am well informed, that Warburton said of Johnson, “ I admire him, but I cannot bear his style :" and that Johnson being told of this, said, “ That is exactly my case as to him.” The manner in which he expressed his admiration of the fertility of Warburton's genius and of the variety of his materials, was,
“ The table is always full, Sir. He brings things from the north, and the south, and from every quarter. In his · Divine Legation, you are always entertained. He carries you round and round, without carrying you forward to the point, but then you
is it wrong, is it not generous to become an indignant avenger? - B.- Warburton himself did not feel, as Mr. Boswell was disposed to think he did, kindly or gratefully towards Johnson: for in one of his letters to a friend, he says,
“The remarks he (Dr. Johnson) makes in every page on my commen. taries, are full of insolent and malignant reflections, which, had they not in them as much folly as malignity, I should have had reason to be offended with, As it is, I think myself obliged to him in thus setting before the public so many of my notes, with his remarks upon them: for though I have no great opinion of the trifling part of the public, which pretends to judge of this part of literature, in which boys and girls decide, yet I think nobody can be mistaken in this comparison : though I think their thoughts have never yet extended thus far as to reflect, that to discover the corruption in an author's text, and by a happy sagacity to restore it to sense, is no easy task: but when the discovery is made, then to cavil at the conjecture, to propose an equivalent, and defend nonsense, by producing out of the thick darkness it occasions a weak and faint glimmering of sense (which has been the business of this editor throughout) is the easiest, as well as the dullest, of all literary efforts." - Warburton's Letters, published by Bp. Hurd, 8vo. 367. C. VOL. VIII.
have no wish to be carried forward." He said to the Reverend Mr. Strahan, “ Warburton is perhaps the last man who has written with a mind full of reading and reflection,”
It is remarkable, that in the Life of Broome, Johnson takes notice of Dr. Warburton's using a mode of expression which he himself used, and that not seldom, to the great offence of those who did not know him. Having occasion to mention a note, stating the different parts which were executed by the associated translators of “ The Odyssey," he says,
“ Dr. Warburton told me, in his warm language, that he thought the relation given in the note a lie.” The language is warm indeed; and, I must own, cannot be justified in consistency with a decent regard to the established forms of speech. Johnson had accustomed himself to use the word lie, to express a mistake or an error in relation ; in short, when the thing was not so as told, though the relater did not mean to deceive. When he thought there was intentional falsehood in the relater, his expression was, “ He lies, and he knows he lies.”
Speaking of Pope's not having been known to excel in conversation, Johnson observes, that “ traditional memory retains no sallies of raillery, or sentences of observation; nothing either pointed or solid, wise or merry; and that one apophthegm only is recorded.” In this respect, Pope differed widely from Johnson, whose conversation was, perhaps, more admirable than even his writings, how. ever excellent. Mr. Wilkes has, however, favoured me with one repartee of Pope, of which Johnson
was not informed. (1) Johnson, after justly censuring him for having “ nursed in his mind a foolish disesteem of kings," tells us, “ yet a little regard shown him by the Prince of Wales melted his obduracy; and he had not much to say when he was asked by his royal highness, how he could love a prince while he disliked kings ?” The answer which Pope made was, “ The young lion is harmless, and even playful; but when his claws are full grown, he becomes cruel, dreadful, and mischievous.”
But although we have no collection of Pope's sayings, it is not therefore to be concluded, that he was not agreeable in social intercourse ; for Johnson has been heard to say, that “ the happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remembered, but a general effect of pleasing impression.” The late Lord Somerville (2), who saw much both of great and brilliant life, told me, that he had dined in company with Pope, and that after dinner the little man, as he called him, drank his bottle of
(1) He however ought to have been; for it is to be found ir. Ruffhead's “ Life of Pope," p. 535., and is a playful answer th the prince's good-humoured question. — C.
(2) James, Lord Somerville, who died in 1765. Let me here express my grateful remembrance of Lord Somerville's kindness to me, at a very early period. He was the first person of high rank that took particular notice of me in the way most flattering to a young man, fondly ambitious of being distinguished for his literary talents; and by the honour of his encouragement made me think well of myself, and aspire to deserve it better. He had a happy art of communicating his varied knowledge of the world, in short remarks and anecdotes, with a quiet
pleasant gravity, that was exceedingly engaging. Never shall I forget the hours which I enjoyed with him at his apartments in the royal palace of Holyrood House, and at his seat near Edinburgh, which he himself had formed with an elegant taste.