Imágenes de página

1773. it flatter ever so extravagantly, is formular. It has Ætat. 64. always been formular to flatter Kings and Queens ;

so much so, that even in our church-service we have * our most religious King,' used indiscriminately, whoever is King. Nay, they even flatter themselves;-we have been graciously pleased to grant.'

-No modern flattery, however, is so gross as that of the Augustan age, where the Emperour was deified. Præsens Divus habebitur Augustus.' And as to meanness, (rising into warmth,) how is it mean in a player,-a showman,-a fellow who exhibits himself for a shilling, to flatter his Queen? The attempt, indeed, was dangerous; for if it had missed, what became of Garrick, and what became of the Queen? As Sir William Temple says of a great General, it is necessary not only that his designs be formed in a masterly manner, but that they should be attended with success. Sir, it is right, at a time when the Royal Family is not generally liked, to let it be seen that the people like at least one of them.” ŞIR Joshua REYNOLDS. “I do not perceive why the profession of a player should be despised; for the great and ultimate end of all the employments of mankind is to produce amusement. duces more amusement than any body.” BOSWELL. You say, Dr. Johnson, that Garrick exhibits himself for a shilling. In this respect he is only on a footing with a lawyer who exhibits himself for his fee, and even will maintain any nonsense or absurdity, if the case requires it. Garrick refuses a play or a part which he does not like; a lawyer never refuses.” JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, what does this prove? only that a lawyer is worse. Boswell is now like Jack in The Tale of a Tub, who, when he is puzzled by

Garrick pro

an argument, hangs himself. He thinks I shall cut 1773. him down, but I'll let him hang." (laughing vocifer

Etat, 64. ously.) SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. " Mr. Boswell thinks that the profession of a lawyer being unquestionably honourable, if he can show the profession of a player to be more honourable, he proves his argument."

On Friday, April 30, I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk’s, where were Lord Charlemont, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and some more members of the LITERARY Club, whom he had obligingly invited to meet me, as I was this evening to be ballotted for as candidate for admission into that distinguished society. Johnson had done me the honour to propose me, and Beauclerk was very zealous for me.

Goldsmith being mentioned; Johnson. “ It is amazing how little Goldsmith knows. He seldom comes where he is not more ignorant than any one else.” SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. “ Yet there is no man whose company is more liked.” Johnson. “To be sure, Sir. When people find a man of the most distinguished abilities as a writer, their inferiour while he is with them, it must be highly gratifying to them. What Goldsmith comically says of himself is very true,-he always gets the better when he argues alone; meaning, that he is master of a subject in his study, and can write well upon it; but when he comes into company, grows confused, and unable to talk. Take him as a poet, his “Traveller' is a very fine performance ; ay, and so is his < Deserted Village,' were it not sometimes too much the echo of his - Traveller.' Whether, indeed, we take him as a poet,—as a comick writer,--or as an historian, he stands in the first class.” BOSWELL. - An histo

1773. rian! My dear Sir, you surely will not rank his comÆtat. 64. pilation of the Roman History with the works of other historians of this age ?" JOHNSON. “

Johnson. “ Why, who are before him?" BOSWELL. “ Hume, Robertson,-Lord Lyttelton.” JohnsoN. (His antipathy to the Scotch beginning to rise;) “I have not read Hume; but, doubtless, Goldsmith's History is better than the verbiage of Robertson, or the foppery of Dalrymple.” Boswell. “ Will you not admit the superiority of Robertson, in whose History we find such penetration—such painting?” Johnson.“ Sir, you must consider how that penetration and that painting are employed. It is not history, it is ima. gination. He who describes what he never saw, draws from fancy. Robertson paints minds as Sir Joshua paints faces in a history-piece : he imagines an heroick countenance.

You must look upon Robertson's work as romance, and try it by that standard. History it is not. Besides, Sir, it is the great excellence of a writer to put into his book as much as his book will hold. Goldsmith has done this in his History. Now Robertson might have put twice as much into his book. Robertson is like a man who has packed gold in wool: the wool takes up more room than the gold. No, Sir; I always thought Robertson would be crushed by his own weight,-would be buried under his own ornaments. Goldsunith tells you shortly all you want to know: Robertson detains you a great deal too long. No man will read Robertson's cumbrous detail a second time; but Goldsmith's plain narrative will please again and again. I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: “ Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet

with a passage which you think is particularly fine, 1773. strike it out.' Goldsmith's abridgement is better

Ætat, 6+. than that of Lucius Florus or Eutropius ; and I will venture to say, that if you compare him with Vertot, in the same places of the Roman History, you will find that he excels Vertot. Sir, he has the art of compiling, and of saying every thing he has to say in a pleasing manner. He is now writing a Natural History and will make it as entertaining as a Persian Tale."

I cannot dismiss the present topick without observing, that it is probable that Dr. Johnson, who owned that he often “ talked for victory,” rather urged plausible objections to Dr. Robertson's excel. lent historical works, in the ardour of contest, than expressed his real and decided opinion ; for it is not easy to suppose, that he should so widely differ from the rest of the literary world.

JOHNSON. “I remember once being witli Goldsmith in Westminster-abbey. While we surveyed the Poets' Corner, I said to him,

· Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis." +

When we got to Temple-bar he stopped me, pointed to the heads upon it, and slily whispered me,

· Forsilan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis.'' Johnson praised John Bunyan highly. “ His Pilgrim's Progress' has great merit, both for invention, imagination, and the conduct of the story; and it has had the best evidence of its merit, the

4 Ovid. de Art. Amand. i. iii. v. 13.

s In allusion to Dr, Johnson's supposed political principles, and perhaps his owa.

Ætat. 64...

1773. general and continued approbation of mankind. Few

books, I believe, have had a more extensive sale. It is remarkable, that it begins very much like the poem of Dante ; yet there was no translation of Dante when Bunyan wrote. There is reason to think that he had read Spenser.”

A proposition which had been agitated, that monuments to eminent persons should, for the time to come, be erected in St. Paul's church as well as in Westminster-abbey, was mentioned; and it was asked, who should be honoured by having his monument first erected there. Somebody suggested Pope. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, as Pope was a Roman Catholick, I would not have his to be first. I think Milton's rather should have the precedence. I think more highly of him now than I did at twenty.. There is more thinking in him and in Butler, than in any of our poets.”

Some of the company expressed a wonder why the authour of so excellent a book as “ The Whole Duty of Man" should conceal himself. Johnson. “ There may be different reasons assigned for this, any one of which would be very sufficient. He may have been a clergyman, and may have thought that his religious counsels would have less weight when known to come from a man whose profession was

[ocr errors]

6 Here is another instance of his high admiration of Milton as a Puet, notwithstanding his just abhorrence of that sour Republican's political principles. His candour and discrimation are equally conspicuous. Let us hear no more of his “ injustice to Milton.”

+ [In a manuscript in the Bodleian Library several circumstances are stateil, which strongly incline me to believe that Dr. Accepted Frewen, Archbishop of York, was the author of this work. M.]

« AnteriorContinuar »