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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS, ETC.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Portrait by Barry, about
MONTH BEFORE HIS DEATH
Facing p. 90
THE LIFE OF
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
EING disappointed in my hopes of meeting Johnson
this year, so that I could hear none of his admirable sayings, I shall compensate for this want' by inserting a collection of them, for which I am indebted to my worthy friend Mr. Langton, whose kind communications have been
· Nothing can compensate for this want this year of all years. Johnson's health was better than it had been for long, and his mind happier perhaps than it had ever been. The knowledge that in his Lives of the Poets, he had done, and was doing good work, no doubt was very cheering to him. At no time had he gone more into society, and at no time does he seem to have enjoyed it with greater relish. “How do you think I live?' he wrote on April 25. 'On Thursday, I dined with Hamilton, and went thence to Mrs. Ord. On Friday, with much company at Reynolds's. On Saturday, at Dr. Bell's. On Sunday, at Dr. Burney's; at night, came Mrs. Ord, Mr. Greville, &c. On Monday with Reynolds, at night with Lady Lucan; to-day with Mr. Langton; to-morrow with the Bishop of St. Asaph; on Thursday with Mr. Bowles; Friday ; Saturday, at the Academy; Sunday with Mr. Ramsay.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 107. On May 1, he wrote :* At Mrs. Ord's, I met one Mrs. B [Buller), a travelled lady, of great spirit, and some consciousness of her own abilities. We had a contest of gallantry an hour long, so much to the diversion of the company that at Ramsay's last night, in a crowded room, they would have pitted us again. There were Smelt, (one of the King's favourites) and the Bishop of St. Asaph, who comes to every place; and Lord Monboddo, and Sir Joshua, and ladies out of tale.' 16. p. III. The account that Langton gives of the famous evening at Mrs. Vesey's, 'when the company began to collect round Johnson till they became not less than four, if not five deep' (ante, May 2, 1780), is lively enough; but the particulars of the conversation' which he neglects, Boswell would have given us in full. IV. I
Theocritus and Virgil.
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.
Methods of employing the poor.
Callimachus is a writer of little excellence. The chief 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
Stephanorum Historia, vitas ipsorum ac libros complectens. London, 1709.
· Senilia was published in 1742. The line to which Johnson refers is,
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. 50). See Macaulay's Essays, ed. 1843, i. 367. : Graecae Linguae Dialecti in Scholae Westmonast. usum, 1738.