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[1776 fat, Sir-A little of the stuffing-Some gravy-Let me have the pleasure of giving you some butter-Allow me to recommend a squeeze of this orange;-or the lemon, perhaps, may have more zest.'- Sir, Sir, I am obliged to you, Sir,' cried Johnson, bowing, and turning his head to him with a look for some time of 'surly virtue 1,' but, in a short while, of complacency.
Foote being mentioned, Johnson said, ' He is not a good mimick.' One of the company added, A merry Andrew, a buffoon.' JOHNSON. 'But he has wit too, and is not deficient in ideas, or in fertility and variety of imagery, and not empty of reading; he has knowledge enough to fill up his part. One species of wit he has in an eminent degree, that of escape. You drive him into a corner with both hands; but he's gone, Sir, when you think you have got him-like an animal that jumps over your head. Then he has a great range for wit; he never lets truth stand between him and a jest, and he is sometimes mighty coarse. Garrick is under many restraints from which Foote is free.' WILKES. 'Garrick's wit is more like Lord Chesterfield's.' JOHNSON. 'The first time I was in company with Foote was at Fitzherbert's. Having no good opinion of the fellow, I was resolved not to be pleased; and it is very difficult to please a man against his will. I went on eating my dinner pretty sullenly, affecting not to mind him. But the dog was so very comical, that I was obliged to lay down my knife and fork, throw myself back upon my chair, and fairly laugh it out. No, Sir, he was irresistible 2. He upon one occasion experienced, in an extraordinary degree, the efficacy of his powers of entertaining. Amongst the many and various modes which he tried of getting money, he became a partner with a smallbeer brewer, and he was to have a share of the profits for procuring customers amongst his numerous acquaintance. Fitzherbert was one who took his small-beer; but it was so bad that the servants resolved not to drink it. They were at some loss how to notify their resolution, being afraid of offending their master, who they knew liked Foote much as a companion. At last they fixed upon a little black boy, 1 Johnson's London, a Poem, v. 145.
2 Foote told me that Johnson said of him, 'For loud obstreperous broad-faced mirth, I know not his equal.'
who was rather a favourite, to be their deputy, and deliver their remonstrance; and having invested him with the whole authority of the kitchen, he was to inform Mr. Fitzherbert, in all their names, upon a certain day, that they would drink Foote's small-beer no longer. On that day Foote happened to dine at Fitzherbert's, and this boy served at table; he was so delighted with Foote's stories, and merriment, and grimace, that when he went down stairs, he told them, "This is the finest man I have ever seen. I will not deliver your message. I will drink his small-beer.” '
Somebody observed that Garrick could not have done this. WILKES. "Garrick would have made the small-beer still smaller. He is now leaving the stage; but he will play Scrub all his life.' I knew that Johnson would let nobody attack Garrick but himself, as Garrick once said to me, and I had heard him praise his liberality; so to bring out his commendation of his celebrated pupil, I said, loudly, 'I have heard Garrick is liberal.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, I know that Garrick has given away more money than any man in England that I am acquainted with, and that not from ostentatious views. Garrick was very poor when he began life; so when he came to have money, he probably was very unskilful in giving away, and saved when he should not. Garrick began to be liberal as soon as he could; and I am of opinion, the reputation of avarice which he has had, has been very lucky for him, and prevented his having many enemies. You despise a man for avarice, but do not hate him. Garrick might have been much better attacked for living with more splendour than is suitable to a player: if they had had the wit to have assaulted him in that quarter, they might have galled him more. But they have kept clamouring about his avarice, which has rescued him from much obloquy and envy.'
Talking of the great difficulty of obtaining authentick information for biography, Johnson told us, When I was a young fellow I wanted to write the Life of Dryden, and in order to get materials, I applied to the only two persons then alive who had seen him; these were old Swinney, and old Cibber. Swinney's information was no more than this, "That at Will's coffee-house Dryden had a particular chair for himself, which was set by the fire in winter, and was then
COLLEY CIBBER'S APOLOGY
[1776 called his winter-chair; and that it was carried out for him to the balcony in summer, and was then called his summerchair." Cibber could tell no more but "That he remembered him a decent old man, arbiter of critical disputes at Will's." You are to consider that Cibber was then at a great distance from Dryden, had perhaps one leg only in the room, and durst not draw in the other.' BOSWELL. Yet Cibber was a man of observation?' JOHNSON. 'I think not.' BOSWELL. 'You will allow his Apology to be well done.' JOHNSON. 'Very well done, to be sure, Sir. That book is a striking proof of the justice of Pope's remark:
"Each might his several province well command,
Would all but stoop to what they understand."' BOSWELL. And his plays are good.' JOHNSON. 'Yes; but that was his trade; l'esprit du corps: he had been all his life among players and play-writers. I wondered that he had so little to say in conversation, for he had kept the best company, and learnt all that can be got by the ear. He abused
Pindar to me, and then shewed me an Ode of his own, with an absurd couplet, making a linnet soar on an eagle's wing 1. I told him that when the ancients made a simile, they always made it like something real.'
Mr. Wilkes remarked, that ' among all the bold flights of Shakspeare's imagination, the boldest was making Birnamwood march to Dunsinane; creating a wood where there never was a shrub; a wood in Scotland! ha! ha! ha!' And he also observed, that 'the clannish slavery of the Highlands of Scotland was the single exception to Milton's remark of "The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty," being worshipped in all hilly countries.' When I was at Inverary (said he,) on a visit to my old friend, Archibald, Duke of Argyle, his dependents congratulated me on being such a favourite of his Grace. I said, "It is then, gentlemen, truely lucky for me; for if I had displeased the Duke, and he had wished it, there is not a Campbell among you but would have been ready to bring John Wilkes's head to him in a charger. It would have been only
"Off with his head! So much for Aylesbury."
I was then member for Aylesbury.'
Dr. Johnson and Mr. Wilkes talked of the contested pasSee ante, i. 269.
1776] A CONTESTED PASSAGE IN HORACE
sage in Horace's Art of Poetry,' Difficile est propriè communia dicere.' Mr. Wilkes according to my note, gave the interpretation thus; 'It is difficult to speak with propriety of common things; as, if a poet had to speak of Queen Caroline drinking tea, he must endeavour to avoid the vulgarity of cups and saucers.' But upon reading my note, he tells me that he meant to say, that the word communia, being a Roman law term, signifies here things communis juris, that is to say, what have never yet been treated by any body; and this appears clearly from what followed,
Rectiùs Iliacum carmen deducis in actus,
Quàm si proferres ignota indictaque primus."
You will easier make a tragedy out of the Iliad than on any subject not handled before 1.' JOHNSON. 'He means that
'My very pleasant friend himself, as well as others who remember old stories, will no doubt be surprized, when I observe that John Wilkes here shews himself to be of the WARBURTONIAN SCHOOL. It is nevertheless true, as appears from Dr. Hurd the Bishop of Worcester's very elegant commentary and notes on the 'Epistola ad Pisones.'
It is necessary to a fair consideration of the question, that the whole passage in which the words occur should be kept in view:
'Si quid inexpertum scena committis, et audes
Non circa vilem patulumque moraberis orbem,
Unde pedem proferre pudor vetet aut operis lex.'
The 'Commentary' thus illustrates it: 'But the formation of quite new characters is a work of great difficulty and hazard. For here there is no generally received and fixed archetype to work after, but every one judges of common right, according to the extent and comprehension 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 PROPRIE COMMUNI ADICERE.' Lambin's Comment is, 'Communia hoc loco appellat Horatius argumenta fabularum à nullo adhuc tractata: et ita, quæ cuivis exposita sunt et in medio quodammodo posita, quasi vacua et à nemine occupata.' And that this is the true meaning of communia is evidently fixed by the words ignota indictaque, which are explanatory of it; so that the sense given it in the commentary is un
A CONTESTED PASSAGE IN HORACE [1776 it is difficult to appropriate to particular persons qualities which are common to all mankind, as Homer has done.'
questionably the right one. Yet, notwithstanding the clearness of the case, a late critick has this strange passage: 'Difficile quidem esse propriè communia dicere, hoc est, materiam vulgarem, notam et è medio petitam, ita immutare atque exornare, ut nova et scriptori propria videatur, ultro concedimus; et maximi procul dubio ponderis ista est observatio. Sed omnibus utrinque collatis, et tum difficilis, tum venusti, tam judicii quam ingenii ratione habitâ, major videtur esse gloria fabulam formare penitus novam, quàm 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 case clear,) I consider the passage, 'Difficile 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 est 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 été le maitre de les former tels qu'on a voulu, les fautes que l'on fait en cela sont moins pardonnables. C'est pourquoi Horace conseille de prendre toujours des sujets connus tels que sont par exemple ceux que l'on peut tirer des poèmes d'Homere.'
And Dacier observes upon it, 'Apres avoir marqué les deux qualités qu'il faut donner aux personnages qu'on invente, il conseille aux Poetes tragiques, de n'user pas trop facilement de cette liberté quils ont d'en inventer, car il est très difficile de reussir dans ces nouveaux caracteres. Il est mal aisé, dit Horace, de traiter proprement, c'st 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 droit de les inventer, et qu'ils sont, comme on dit, au premier occupant.' See his observations at large on this expression and the following.
After all, I cannot help entertaining some doubt whether the words, Difficile est propriè communia dicere, may not have been thrown in by