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possess. Burke," he said, “ is constantly the same; never what we call, hum-drum, never unwilling to begin to talk, nor in a hurry to leave it off.'
· This year it was proposed by Mr. Strahan to the Secretaries of the Treasury, to introduce Dr. Johnson into parliament, as a man that would be a very powerful champion for Administration. Ministers, though they had experienced the force of his assistance, probably not thinking his habits and manners consistent with parliamentary decorum, did not accede to the proposition. Burke being asked his opinion concerning the propriety of Johnson's becoming a member of parliament, replied, “ If he had come early into the house, he certainly would have been the greatest speaker that ever was there; but then, that having been so long used to the compression of conversation, he might not have equally excelled in the expansion of argument, which the complication of matter often requires in public debates. It is probable, that if Dr. Johnson had pro
cured a seat in the senate, such an opponent might have contracted the expatiation of Burke, and induced him to converge the bright rays of his eloquence into a narrower focus, to give them all possible force. The powers of the competitor would not have permitted Atalanta to deviate far from the direct road in pursuit of golden apples.*
When Mr. Boswell mentions this opinion, of Burke concerning the lateness of Strahan's wish to have Johnson introduced into parliament, he also narrates several observations made by him in the club and elsewhere, as anecdotes worthy of being recorded, and as displaying him in discourse and in private society. He tells us that Dr. Johnson and
* As Dr. Johnson, though not superior to Mr. Burke in powers, possessed much inore of the mode of reasoning and expression which command attention, and produce imitation, it is probable, that he would have improved the usefulness as well as force of parliamentary eloquence, by inducing or impelling Members to direct their oratory to the question before them, instead of wandering through irrelevant subjects, and so taking up the time of the house to little pur. pose.
he once had a dispute concerning the comparative merits of Homer and Virgil's poems. Burke admitted the superiority of Homer's genius, but not of his work. Both brought forward the full force of their powers of philosophical criticism, and probably from emulation might exceed what either would have done without the stimulus of such opposition. That Burke really was convinced of the superiority of Virgil's poetry to that of Homer, I have not heard. The sublimity, force, rapidity, exhibition of character, and variety of Homer, were not less akin to his own genius, than the beauty, majesty, and pathetic of the Mantuan Bard.
There was obviously a nearer approximation in Johnson's mind to some of the qualities of Homer than to those of Virgil. He was much more eminent for teaching right and wrong, than exhibiting elegance and tenderness. He forcibly inculcates
Quid sit pulcbrum, quid turpe,
Molle atque facetumi'
are by no means the characteristics of his works. Mr. Boswell very justly regrets that a criticism has not been preserved, which must have marked the positive and distinctive merits of the Grecian and Roman more ably than any criticism concerning their comparative powers and works that we have on record. A man of equal comprehensiveness and force of understanding with either, though less habituated to critical disquisitions, has, since that time, had an argument with Burke on the same subject.
Burke, thoroughly acquainted with the Greek and Roman classics, preferred Virgil and Lucretius to any of the Latin poets, and could repeat the greater part of both. It was not merely as a man of taste, nor even as a man of feeling, that he was rapturously fond of Virgil; not the beauty and tenderness only of that enchanting poet, but his philosophy rendered him a peculiar favourite of Burke. The pathos of the fourth, the sublime ethics of the sixth Æneid, and the phile sophical passages of the Georgics, he could repeat from beginning to end. Ale though he by no means approved of Lucretius's theology, he was charmed with many parts of his poem, particularly with his just and forcible description of the effects of superstition. Brilliant as was his imagination, he delighted more in those parts of poetical works which afforded knowledge physical or moral, especially the latter, and general principles, than with those parts that abound in imagery. He read Horace's satires, and his critical and ethical epistles, with more pleasure than his most poetical odes.
Although he shewed himself thoroughly acquainted with the eloquence and history of the Romans, and, as a man of taste and genius, must have been pleased with such monuments of excellence, neither the Latin historians, nor even the Latin orators, were his peculiar favourites. Admiring the force and philosophy of Tacitus, he disliked his style, and indeed all styles in which there was an appearance of study or affectation. In