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• It was too much :' it must be remembered, that Johnson always appeared not to be fufficiently sensible of the merit of Otway.”
“ Snatches of reading (faid he) will not make a Bentley 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 the instruction; which is so much the more likely to come, from the inclination with which he takes up the
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, fo 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 fat together some time, you'll find my brother grow very entertaining.'-'Sir, (said Johnson,) I can wait.”
“ When the rumour was strong that we should have a war, because the French would assist the Americans; he rebuked a friend with some asperity for supposing it, saying, 'No, Sir, national faith is not yet funk so low.”
“ In the latter part of his life, in order to satisfy himself whether his 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 finding that there appeared no abatement of his power of acquisition, he then desisted, as thinking the experiment had been duely tried. Mr. Burke justly observed, that this was not the most vigorous trial, Low Dutch being a language so near to our own; had it been one of the languages entirely different, he might have been very soon fatisfied.”
“ Mr. Langton and he having gone to fee a Freemason's funeral procession, when they were at Rochester, and some solemn musick being played on French-horns, he said, This is the first time that I have ever been affected by musical sounds :' adding, that the impresion made upon him was of a melancholy kind.' Mr. Langton saying, that this effect was a fine one. Johnson. "Yes, if it softens the mind so as to prepare it for the reception of falutary feelings, it may be good. But inasmuch as it is melancholy per fe, it
« Goldsmith had long a visionary project, that some time or other when 1780. his circumstances should be easier, he would go to Aleppo, in order to acquire Ærat. 71. a knowledge as far as might be, of any arts peculiar to the East, and introduce them into Britain. When this was talked of in Dr. Johnson's company, he said, “Of all men Goldsmith is the most unfit to go out upon inquiry, for he is utterly ignorant of such arts as we already possess, and consequently could not know what would be accessions to our present stock of mechanical knowledge. Sir, he would bring home a grinding-barrow, which you see in every street in London, and think that he had furnished a wonderful improvement.”
“ Greek, Sir, (said he,) is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he can.”
" When Lord Charles Hay, after his return from America, was preparing his defence to be offered to the Court-Martial which he had demanded, having heard Mr. Langton as high in expressions of admiration of Johnson, as he usually was, he requested that Dr. Johnson might be introduced to him; and Mr. Langton having mentioned it to Johnson, he very kindly and readily agreed ; and being presented to his Lordship, while under arrest, by Mr. Langton, he saw him several times; upon one of which occasions Lord Charles read to him what he had prepared, which Johnson signified his approbation of, saying, “ It is a very good soldierly defence.' Johnson said, that he had advised his Lordship, that as it was in vain to contend with those who were in possession of power, if they would offer him the rank of LieutenantGeneral, and a government, it would be better judged to desilt from urging his complaints. It is well known that his Lordship died before the trial came on.”
“ Johnson one day gave high praise to Dr. Bentley's verses' in Dodsey's Collection, which he recited with his usual energy. Dr. Adam Smith, who
9 Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Cowley, says, that these are “ the only English verses which Bentley is known to have written." I shall here insert them, and hope my readers will apply them.
« Who strives to mount Parnassus' hill,
“ And thence poetick laurels bring,
“ Must fly with swan's or eagle's wing.
“ Her mysteries and arcana know; “ Muft high as lofty Newton foar,
“ Must stoop as delving Woodward low,
was present, observed in his decisive professorial manner, · Very well-Very well. Johnson however added, “Yes, they are very well, Sir, but you may '
, observe in what manner they are well. They are the forcible verses of a man of a strong mind, but not accustomed to write verse; for there is some uncouthness in the expression.”
“ Drinking tea one day at Garrick's with Mr. Langton, he was questioned if he was not somewhat of a heretick as to Shakspeare, said Garrick, "I doubt he is a little of an infidel. '-— Sir (said Johnson,) I will stand by the lines I have written on Shakspeare, in my Prologue at the opening of your Theatre.' Mr. Langton suggested, that in the line
And panting Time toil'd after him in vain ;'
Johnson said nothing. Garrick then ventured to observe, I do not think that the happiest line in the praise of Shakspeare.' Johnson exclaimed (smiling) · Prosaical rogues; next time I write, I'll make both time and space pant'.
“ It is well known that there was formerly a rude custom for those who were failing upon the Thames, to accost each other as they passed in the most abusive language they could invent, generally, however with as much satirical humour as they were capable of producing. Addison gives a specimen of this ribaldry, in Number 383 of The Spectator,' when Sir Roger de Coverley and he are going to Spring-garden. Johnson was once eminently successful in this species of contest; a fellow having attacked him with some coarse raillery, Johnson answered thus, “Sir, your wife (under pretence of keeping a bawdy-house) is a receiver of stolen-goods. One evening when he and Mr. Burke, and Mr. Langton were in company together, and the admirable scolding of Timon of Athens was mentioned, this instance of Johnson's was quoted, and thought to have at least equal excellence.
“ As Johnson always allowed the extraordinary talents of Mr. Burke, fo Mr. Burke was fully sensible of the wonderful powers of Johnson. Mr. Langton recollects having passed an evening with both of them, when Mr. Burke repeatedly entered upon topicks which it was evident he would have illustrated with extensive knowledge and richness of expression; but Johnson always feised upon the conversation, in which, however, he acquitted himself in a most masterly manner. As Mr. Burke and Mr. Langton were walking home, Mr. Burke observed that Johnson had been very great that night ; Mr. Langton joined in this, but added, he could have wished to hear more from another person ; (plainly intimating that he meant Mr. Burke). 'O, no (said Mr. Burke) it is enough for me to have rung the bell to him.”
· I am sorry to see in the “ Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh," Vol. II. “ An Essay on the Character of Hamlet," written, I should suppose, by a very young man, though called “ Reverend;” who speaks with presumptuous petulance of the first literary character of his age. Amidst a cloudy confusion of words, (which hath of late too often passed in Scotland for Metaphyficks,) he thus ventures to criticise one of the noblest lines in our language :-“ Dr. Johnson has remarked, that time toil'd after him in vain. But I should apprehend, that this is entirely to mistake the character. Time toils after every great man, as well as after Shakspeare. The workings of an ordinary mind keep pace, indeed, with tiine; they move no faster; they have their beginning, their middle, and their end; but superioyr natures can reduce these into a point. They do no not, indeed, suppress them ; but they suspend, or they lock them up in the breaft.” The learned Society, under whose fanction such gabble is ushered into the world, would do well to offer a premium to any one who will discover its meaning.
Talking of Dr. Blagden's copiousness and precision of communication, Dr. Johnsoa faid, “Blagden, Sir, is a delightful fellow.”
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 adınirer of his respectable talents,
" THE TRANSLATOR."
Though upon a particular comparison of Demonax and Johnson, there does not seem to be a great deal of similarity between them; this Dedication is a just compliment from the general character given by Lucian of the ancient Sage, «αριςον ων οιδα εγω φιλοσοφων γειομενον, the beft philofopher wholm. I have ever seen or known.”
In 1781 Johnson at last completed his “ Lives of the Poets,” of which he gives this account: “ Sometime 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?.”
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 no more than a few pages as he had originally intended 4, he produced an ample, rich,
and ? Prayers and Meditations, p. 190.
4 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 authour ; an undertaking, as it was then presented to my mind, not very tedious or difficult.
3 Ibid. 174.