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Theocritus and Virgil.
[A.D. 1780. separately interwoven in many parts of this work. Very few articles of this collection were committed to writing by himself, he not having that habit; which he regrets, and which those who know the numerous opportunities he had of gathering the rich fruits of Johnsonian wit and wisdom, must ever regret. I however found, in conversations with him, that a good store of Johnsoniana was treasured in his mind; and I compared it to Herculaneum, or some old Roman field, which when dug, fully rewards the labour employed. The authenticity of every article is unquestionable. For the expression, I, who wrote them down in his presence, am partly answerable.
Theocritus is not deserving of very high respect as a writer; as to the pastoral part, Virgil is very evidently superiour. He wrote when there had been a larger influx of knowledge into the world than when Theocritus lived. Theocritus does not abound in description, though living in a beautiful country: the manners painted are coarse and gross. Virgil has much more description, more sentiment, more of Nature, and more of art. Some of the most excellent parts of Theocritus are, where Castor and Pollux, going with the other Argonauts, land on the Bebrycian coast, and there fall into a dispute with Amycus, the King of that country; which is as well conducted as Euripides could have done it; and the battle is well related. Afterwards they carry off a woman, whose two brothers come to recover her, and expostulate with Castor and Pollux on their injustice; but they pay no regard to the brothers, and a battle ensues, where Castor and his brother are triumphant. Theocritus seems not to have seen that the brothers have the advantage in their argument over his Argonaut heroes. The Sicilian Gossips is a piece of merit.'
In 1792, Miss Burney, after recording that Boswell told some of his Johnsonian stories, continues:- Mr. Langton told some stories in imitation of Dr. Johnson; but they became him less than Mr. Boswell, and only reminded me of what Dr. Johnson himself once said to me "Every man has some time in his life an ambition to be a wag." Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, v. 307.
Aetat. 71.] Methods of employing the poor.
'Callimachus is a writer of little excellence. thing to be learned from him is his account of Rites and Mythology; which, though desirable to be known for the sake of understanding other parts of ancient authours, is the least pleasing or valuable part of their writings.'
'Mattaire's account of the Stephani' is a heavy book. He seems to have been a puzzle-headed man, with a large share of scholarship, but with little geometry or logick in his head, without method, and possessed of little genius. He wrote Latin verses from time to time, and published a set in his old age, which he called "Senilia;" in which he shews so little learning or taste in writing, as to make Carteret a dactyl'. In matters of genealogy it is necessary to give the bare names as they are; but in poetry, and in prose of any elegance in the writing, they require to have inflection given to them. His book of the Dialects' is a sad heap of confusion; the only way to write on them is to tabulate them with Notes, added at the bottom of the page, and references.'
'It may be questioned, whether there is not some mistake as to the methods of employing the poor, seemingly on a supposition that there is a certain portion of work left undone for want of persons to do it; but if that is otherwise, and all the materials we have are actually worked up, or all the manufactures we can use or dispose of are already executed, then what is given to the poor, who are to be set at work, must be taken from some who now have it; as time must be taken for learning, according to Sir William Petty's observation, a certain part of those very materials that, as it
1 Stephanorum Historia, vitas ipsorum ac libros complectens. London, 1709.
* Senilia was published in 1742. The line to which Johnson refers
'Mel, nervos, fulgur, Carteret, unus, habes' (p. 101).
In another line, the poet celebrates Colley Cibber's Muse-the Musa Cibberi:
Multa Cibberum levat aura' (p. 59).
See Macaulay's Essays, ed. 1843, i. 367.
3 Graecae Linguae Dialecti in Scholae Westmonast. usum, 1738.
Authours cited in the DICTIONARY. [A.D. 1780.
is, are properly worked up, must be spoiled by the unskilfulness of novices. We may apply to well-meaning, but misjudging persons in particulars of this nature, what Giannone' said to a monk, who wanted what he called to convert him: "Tu sei santo, ma tu non sei filosofo."-It is an unhappy circumstance that one might give away five hundred pounds in a year to those that importune in the streets, and not do any good'.'
'There is nothing more likely to betray a man into absurdity than condescension; when he seems to suppose his understanding too powerful for his company'.'
'Having asked Mr. Langton if his father and mother had sat for their pictures, which he thought it right for each generation of a family to do, and being told they had opposed it, he said, "Sir, among the anfractuosities of the human mind, I know not if it may not be one, that there is a superstitious reluctance to sit for a picture.'
'John Gilbert Cooper related, that soon after the publication of his Dictionary, Garrick being asked by Johnson what people said of it, told him, that among other
1 Giannone, an Italian historian, born 1676, died 1748. When he published his History of the Kingdom of Naples, a friend congratulating him on its success, said :- Mon ami, vous vous êtes mis une couronne sur la tête, mais une couronne d'épines.' His attacks on the Church led to persecution. In the end he made a retractation, but nevertheless he died in prison. Nouv. Biog. Gén. xx. 422. 2 See ante, ii. 137, note 2.
'There is no kind of impertinence more justly censurable than his who is always labouring to level thoughts to intellects higher than his own; who apologises for every word which his own narrowness of converse inclines him to think unusual; keeps the exuberance of his faculties under visible restraint; is solicitous to anticipate inquiries by needless explanations; and endeavours to shade his own abilities lest weak eyes should be dazzled with their lustre.' The Rambler, No. 173.
Johnson, in his Dictionary, defines Anfractuousness as Fulness of windings and turnings. Anfractuosity is not given. Lord Macaulay, in the last sentence in his Biography of Johnson, alludes to this passage.
See ante, iii. 169, note 1.
Aetat. 71.] Johnson criticises his own writings.
animadversions, it was objected that he cited authorities which were beneath the dignity of such a work, and mentioned Richardson. Nay, (said Johnson,) I have done worse than that: I have cited thee, David'."'
'Talking of expence, he observed, with what munificence a great merchant will spend his money, both from his having it at command, and from his enlarged views by calculation of a good effect upon the whole. "Whereas, (said he,) you will hardly ever find a country gentleman who is not a good deal disconcerted at an unexpected occasion for his being obliged to lay out ten pounds'."
'When in good humour he would talk of his own writings with a wonderful frankness and candour, and would even criticise them with the closest severity. One day, having read over one of his Ramblers, Mr. Langton asked him, how he liked that paper; he shook his head, and answered, "too wordy." At another time, when one was reading his tragedy of Irene to a company at a house in the country, he left the room; and somebody having asked him
''My purpose was to admit no testimony of living authors, that I might not be misled by partiality, and that none of my contemporaries might have reason to complain; nor have I departed from this resolution, but when some performance of uncommon excellence excited my veneration, when my memory supplied me from late books with an example that was wanting, or when my heart, in the tenderness of friendship, solicited admission for a favourite name.' Johnson's Works, v. 39. He cites himself under important, Mrs. Lennox under talent, Garrick under giggler; from Richardson's Clarissa, he makes frequent quotations. In the fourth edition, published in 1773 (ante, ii. 233), he often quotes Reynolds; for instance, under vulgarism, which word is not in the previous editions. Beattie he quotes under weak, and Gray under bosom. He introduces also many quotations from Law, and Young. In the earlier editions, in his quotations from Clarissa, he very rarely gives the author's name; in the fourth edition I have found it rarely omitted.
* In one of his Hypochondriacks (London Mag. 1782, p. 233) Boswell writes: I have heard it remarked by one, of whom more remarks deserve to be remembered than of any person I ever knew, that a man is often as narrow as he is prodigal for want of counting.'
[A.D. 1780. the reason of this, he replied, Sir, I thought it had been better'.'
'Talking of a point of delicate scrupulosity' of moral conduct, he said to Mr. Langton, "Men of harder minds. than ours will do many things from which you and I would shrink; yet, Sir, they will perhaps do more good in life than we. But let us try to help one another. If there be a wrong twist it may be set right. It is not probable that two people can be wrong the same way."
'Of the Preface to Capel's Shakspeare, he said, "If the man would have come to me, I would have endeavoured to endow his purposes with words; for as it is, he doth gabble monstrously."'
'He related, that he had once in a dream a contest of wit with some other person, and that he was very much mortified by imagining that his opponent had the better of him. "Now, (said he,) one may mark here the effect of sleep
Sept. 1778. We began talking of Irene, and Mrs. Thrale made Dr. Johnson read some passages which I had been remarking as uncommonly applicable to the present time. He read several speeches, and told us he had not ever read so much of it before since it was first printed.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 96. 'I was told,' wrote Sir Walter Scott, 'that a gentleman called Pot, or some such name, was introduced to him as a particular admirer of his. The Doctor growled and took no further notice. "He admires in especial your Irene as the finest tragedy of modern times;" to which the Doctor replied, "If Pot says so, Pot lies!" and relapsed into his reverie.' Croker Corres. ii. 32.
Scrupulosity was a word that Boswell had caught up from Johnson. Sir W. Jones (Life, i. 177) wrote in 1776:- You will be able to examine with the minutest scrupulosity, as Johnson would call it.' Johnson describes Addison's prose as 'pure without scrupulosity.' Works, vii. 472. Swift,' he says, 'washed himself with oriental scrupulosity.' Ib. viii. 222. Boswell (Hebrides, Aug. 15) writes of 'scrupulosity of conscience.'
'When thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
With words that made them known.'
The Tempest, act i. sc. 2.