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to particular persons qualities which are common to all mankind, as Homer has done.”
to work after, but every one judges of common right, according to the extent and comprehenfion of his own idea; therefore he advises to labour and refit old characters and subjects, particularly those made known and authorised by the practice of Homer and the Epick writers.
The “ Note” is,
“ Difficile est PROPRIÈ COMMUNIA DICERE." Lambin's Comment is “ Communia hoc loco appellat Horatius argumenta fabularum à nullo adhuc tractata : et ita, quæ cuivis exposita funt et ir medio quodammodo pofita, quasi vacua et à nemine occupata.” And that this is the true meaning of communia is evidently fixed by the words ignota indiētaque, which are explanatory of it; so that the sense given it in the commentary, is unquestionably the right one. Yet, notwithstanding the clearness of the case, a late critick hath this strange passage: “ Difficile quidem elle propriè communia dicere, hoc est, materiam vulgaren, notam et è medio petitam, ita immutare atque exornare, ut nova et scriptori propria videatur, ultro concedimus; et maximi procul dubio ponderis ifta eft observatio. Sed omnibus utrinque collatis, et tum difficilis, tum venusti, tam judicii quam ingenii ratione habitâ, major videtur elle gloria fabulam formare penitùs novam, quam veterem, utcunque mutatam, de novo. exhibere. (Poet. Præl. v. ii. p. 164.) Where having first put a wrong construction on the word communia, he employs it to introduce an impertinent criticism. For where does the poet prefer the glory of refitting old subjects to that of inventing new ones? The contrary is implied in what he urges about the superiour difficulty of the latter, from which he dissuades his countrymen, only in respect of their abilities and inexperience in these matters; and in order to cultivate in them, which is the main view of the Epistle, a spirit of correctness, by sending them to the old subjects, treated by the Greek writers.”
For my own part (with all deference for Dr. Hurd, who thinks the cafe clear,) I consider the passage, “ Difícile est propriè communia dicere," to be a crux for the criticks on Horace.
The explication which My Lord of Worcester treats with so much contempt, is nevertheless countenanced by authority which I find quoted by the learned Baxter, in his edition of Horace, “ Difficile est propriè communia dicere, h. e, res vulgares disertis verbis enarrare, vel humile thema cum dignitate tractare. Difficile eft communes res propriis explicare verbis. Vet. Schol.”
I was much disappointed to find that the great critick, Dr. Bentley, has no note upon this very difficult passage, as from his vigorous and illuminated mind I should have expected to receive more satisfaction than I have yet had.
Sanadon thus treats of it, " Propriè communia dicere ; c'est à dire qu'il n'est pas aisé de former à ces personnages d'imagination des caractères particuliers et cependant vraisemblables. Comme l'on a eté le maitre de les former tels qu’on a voulu, les fautes que l'on fait en cela font moins pardonnables. C'est pourquoi Horace conseille de prendre toujours des sujets connus tels que font par exemple ceux que l'on peut tirer des poèmes d'Homere."
And Dacier observes upon it, “ Apres avoir marquè les deux qualités qu'il faut donner aux personnages qu’on invente, il conseille aux Poêles tragiques, de n'user pas trop facilement de cette liberté quils ont d'en inventer, car il est très difficile de reusir dans ces nouveaux caracteres. Il eft mal aijë, dit Horace, de traiter proprement, c'est à dire convenablement, des sujets communs ; c'est à dire, des sujets inventés, et qui n'ont aucun fondement ni dans l'Histoire ni dans la Fable;. et il les appelle communs, parce qu'ils sont en disposition à tout le monde, et que tout le monde a le
Wilkes. “We have no City-Poet now; that is an office which has gone
which one cannot help feeling. Now Elkanah Settle sounds so queer, who
Mr. Arthur Lee mentioned some Scotch who had taken posestion of a
droit de les inventer, 'et qu'ils font, comme on dit, au premier occupant.” See his observations at large on this expreffion and the following.
After all, I cannot help entertaining fome doubt whether the words, “ Difficile eft propriè communia dicere," may not have been thrown in by Horace to form a separate article in a s choice of difficulties” which a poet has to encounter, who choofes a new subject; in which case it must be uncertain which of the various explanations is the true one, and every reader has a right to decide as it may strike his own fancy. And even should the words be understood as they generally are, to be connected both with what goes before, and what comes after, the exact fense cannot be abfolutely ascertained ; for instance, whether propriè is meant to fignify in an appropriated manner, as Dr. Johnson here understands it, or, as it is often used by Cicero, with propriety, or eleganıly. In short, it is a rare instance of a defect in perfpicuity in an admirable writer, who with almost every fpecics of excellence, is pecularly remarkable for that quality. The length of this note perhaps requires an apology. Many of my readers, I doubt not, will admit that a critical discussion of a passage in a favourite claffick is very engaging.
person before judgement is obtained can take place only, if his creditor should 1776.
They were quite frank and easy. Johnson told the story of his asking Mrs.
After dinner we had an accession of Mrs. Knowles, the Quaker lady, well known for her various talents, and of Mr. Alderman Lee. Amidst some patriotick groans, somebody (I think the Alderman) said, “Poor Old England is lost.” Johnson. “Sir, it is not so much to be lamented that Old England is loft, as that the Scotch have found it o.” Wilkes. “ Had Lord Bute governed Scotland only, I should not have taken the trouble to write his eulogy, and dedicate · MORTIMER' to him."
Mr. Wilkes held a candle to shew a fine print of a beautiful female figure which hung in the room, and pointed out the elegant contour of the bosom with the finger of an arch connoisseur. He afterwards waggishly insisted with me, that all the time Johnson shewed visible signs of a fervent admiration of the corresponding charms of the fair Quaker.
This record, though by no mean's so perfect as I could wish, will serve to give a notion of a very curious interview, which was not only pleasing at the time, but had the agreeable and benignant effect of reconciling any
• It would not become me to expatiate on this strong and pointed remark, in which a very
1976. animosity, and sweetening any acidity, which in the various bustle of political
different, had so many things in common-classical learning, modern litera-
Mr. Burke gave me much credit for this successful negociation ; and
I attended Dr. Johnson home, and had the satisfaction to hear him tell Mrs. Williams how much he had been pleased with Mr. Wilkes's company, and what an agreeable day he had passed.
I talked a good deal to him of the celebrated Margaret Caroline Rudd, whom I had visited, induced by the fame of her talents, address, and irresistible power of fascination. To a lady who disapproved of my visiting her, he said on a former occasion, “ Nay, Madam, Boswell is in the right; I should have visited her myself, were it not that they have now a trick of putting every thing into the newspapers.” This evening he exclaimed, “I envy him his acquaintance with Mrs. Rudd.”
I mentioned a scheme which I had of making a tour to the Ine of Man, and giving a full account of it; and that Mr. Burke had playfully suggested as a motto,
“ The proper study of mankind is Man."
Johnson. “Sir, you will get more by the book than the jaunt will cost you ;
will have your diversion for nothing, and add to your reputation.”
How very false is the notion which has gone round the world of the rough,
On each glance of thought
I admit that the beadle within him was often so eager to apply the lash, that
That he was occasionally remarkable for violence of temper may be
may have the subject more fully and clearly before them,
« OLIVARII GOLDSMITH,
“ Poetæ, Physici, Historici,
« Non tetigit,
« Sive lacrymą,
« Ingenio fublimis, vividus, versatilis,
" Sodalium amor,