1750. Some of these more solemn papers, I doubt not, particEtat, ularly attracted the notice of Dr. Young, the authour 41. of" The Night Thoughts," of whom my estimation is such, as to reckon his applause an honour even to Johnson. I have seen volumes of Dr. Young's copy of the Rambler, in which he has marked the passages which he thought particularly excellent, by folding down a corner of the page; and such as he rated in a super-eminent degree, are marked by double folds. I am sorry that some of the volumes are lost. Johnson was pleased when told of the minute attention with which Young had signified his approbation of his Es


I will venture to say, that in no writings whatever can be found more bark and steel for the mind, if I may use the expression; more that can brace and invigorate every manly and noble sentiment. No. 32 on patience, even under extreme misery, is wonderfully lofty, and as much above the rant of stoicism, as the Sun of Revelation is brighter than the twilight of Pagan philosophy. I never read the following sentence without feeling my frame thrill: "I think there is some reason for questioning whether the body and mind are not so proportioned, that the one can bear all which can be inflicted on the other; whether virtue cannot stand its ground as long as life, and whether a soul well principled will not be sooner separated than subdued."

Though instruction be the predominant purpose of the Rambler, yet it is enlivened with a considerable portion of amusement. Nothing can be more erronenous than the notion which some persons have entertained, that Johnson was then a retired authour, ignorant of the world; and, of consequence, that he wrote only from his imagination, when he described characters and manners. He said to me, that before he wrote that work, he had been "running about the world," as he expressed it, more than almost any body; and I have heard him relate, with much satisfaction, that several of the characters in the Rambler were drawn so naturally, that when it first circulated in numbers, a

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club in one of the towns in Essex imagined themselves 1750. to be severally exhibited in it, and were much incensed Etat. against a person who, they suspected, had thus made 41. them objects of publick notice; nor were they quieted till authentick assurance was given them, that the Rambler was written by a person who had never heard of any one of them. Some of the characters are believed to have been actually drawn from the life, particularly that of Prospero from Garrick, who never entirely forgave its pointed satire. For instances of fertility of fancy, and accurate description of real life, I appeal to No. 19, a man who wanders from one profession to another, with most plausible reasons for every change: No. 34, female fastidiousness and timorous refinement: No. 82, a Virtuoso who has collected curiosities: No. SS, petty modes of entertaining a company, and conciliating kindness: No. 182, fortune-hunting: No. 194-195, a tutor's account of the follies of his pupil No. 197-198, legacy-hunting: He has given a specimen of his nice observation of the mere external appearances of life, in the following passage in No. 179, against affectation, that frequent and most disgusting quality: "He that stands to contemplate the crouds that fill the streets of a populous city, will see many passengers, whose air and motions it will be difficult to behold without contempt and laughter; but if he examine what are the appearances that thus powerfully excite his risibility, he will find among them neither poverty nor disease, nor any involuntary or painful defect. The disposition to derision and insult, is awakened by the softness of foppery, the swell of insolence, the liveliness of levity, or the solemnity of grandeur; by the sprightly trip, the stately stalk, the formal strut, and the lofty mien; by gestures intended

[That of GELIDUS in No. 24, from Professor Colson, (see p. 84 of this vol.) and that of EUPHUES in the same paper, which, with many others, was doubtless drawn from the life. EUPHUES, I once thought, might have been intended to represent either Lord Chesterfield or Soame Jenyns; but Mr. Bindley, with more probability, thinks, that George Bubb Dodington, who was remarkable for the homeliness of his person, and the finery of his dress, was the person meant under that character. M.]

1750. to catch the eye, and by looks elaborately formed as evidences of importance."



Every page of the Rambler shews a mind teeming with classical allusion and poetical imagery: illustrations from other writers are, upon all occasions, so ready, and mingle so easily in his periods, that the whole appears of one uniform vivid texture.

The style of this work has been censured by some shallow criticks as involved and turgid, and abounding with antiquated and hard words. So ill-founded is the first part of this objection, that I will challenge all who may honour this book with a perusal, to point out any English writer whose language conveys his meaning with equal force and perspicuity. It must, indeed, be allowed, that the structure of his sentences is expanded, and often has somewhat of the inversion of Latin; and that he delighted to express familiar thoughts in philosophical language; being in this the reverse of Socrates, who, it is said, reduced philosophy to the simplicity of common life. But let us attend to what he himself says in his concluding paper: "When common words were less pleasing to the ear, or less distinct in their signification, I have familiarised the terms of philosophy, by applying them to popular ideas." And, as to the second part of this objection, upon a late careful revision of the work, I can with confidence say, that it is amazing how few of those words, for which it has been unjustly characterised, are actually to be found in it; I am sure, not the proportion of one to each paper. This idle charge has been echoed from one babbler to another, who have confounded Johnson's Essays with Johnson's Dictionary; and because he thought it right in a Lexicon of our language to collect many words which had fallen into disuse, but were supported by great authorities, it has been imagined that all of these have been interwoven into his own compositions. That some of them have been adopted by him unnecessarily, may, perhaps, be allowed; but, in general they are evidently an advantage,

2 Yet his style did not escape the harmless shafts of pleasant humour; for the ingenious Bonnell Thornton published a mock Rambler in the Drury-lane Journal.

for without them his stately ideas would be confined 1750. and cramped. "He that thinks with more extent Etat. than another, will want words of larger meaning." He 41. once told me, that he had formed his style upon that of Sir William Temple, and upon Chambers's Proposal for his Dictionary. He certainly was mistaken; or if he imagined at first that he was imitating Temple, he was very unsuccessful; for nothing can be more unlike than the simplicity of Temple, and the richness of Johnson. Their styles differ as plain cloth and brocade. Temple, indeed, seems equally erroneous in supposing that he himself had formed his style upon Sandys's View of the State of Religion in the Western parts of the World.

The style of Johnson was, undoubtedly, much formed upon that of the great writers in, the last century, Hooker, Bacon, Sanderson, Hakewell, and others ; those "GIANTS," as they were well characterised by a GREAT PERSONAGE, whose authority, were I to name him, would stamp a reverence on the opinion.

We may, with the utmost propriety, apply to his learned style that passage of Horace, a part of which he has taken as the motto to his Dictionary ;

"Cum tabulis animum censoris sumet honesti ;
"Audebit quæcumque parùm splendoris habebunt
"Et sine pondere erunt, et honore indigna ferentur,
"Verba movere loco, quamvis invita recedant,
"Et versentur adhuc intra penetralia Vestæ.
"Obscurata diu populo bonus eruet, atque

3 Idler, No. 70.

[The Paper here alluded to, was, I believe, Chambers's Proposal for a second and improved edition of his Dictionary, which, I think, appeared in 1738. This Proposal was probably in circulation in 1737, when Johnson first came to London. M.]

[The author appears to me to have misunderstood Johnson in this instance. He did not, I conceive, mean to say, that, when he first began to write, he made Sir William Temple his model, with a view to form a style that should resemble his in all its parts; but that he formed his style on that of Temple and others; by taking from each those characteristic excellencies which were most worthy of imitation.-See this matter further explained in vol. ii. under April 9, 1778; where, in a conversation at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, Jolinson himself mentions the particular improvements which Temple made in the English style. These, doubtless, were the objects of his imitation, so far as that writer was his model. M.)




"Proferet in lucem speciosa vocabula rerum,
"Quae priscis memorata Catonibus atque Cethegis,
"Nunc situs informis premit et deserta vetustas :
"Adsciscet nova, quæ genitor produxerit usus :
"Vehemens, et liquidus, puroque simillimus amni,
"Fundet opes Latiumque beabit divite linguâ.”

To so great a master of thinking, to one of such vast and various knowledge as Johnson, might have been allowed a liberal indulgence of that licence which Horace claims in another place :

-Si forté necesse est

"Indiciis monstrare recentibus abdita rerum,
"Fingere cinctutis non exaudita Cethegis


Continget, dabiturque licentia sumpta pudenter : "Et nova fictaque nuper habebunt verba fidem, si "Græco fonte cadant, parcè detorta. Quid autem "Cæcilio Plautoque dabit Romanus, ademptum


Virgilio Varioque? Ego cur, acquirere pauca "Si possum, invideor; cum lingua Catonis et Enni "Sermonem patrium ditaverit, et nova rerum "Nomina protulerit? Licuit, semperque licebit "Signatum præsente nota producere nomen."7

Yet Johnson assured me, that he had not taken upon him to add more than four or five words to the English language, of his own formation; and he was very much offended at the general licence by no means "modestly taken" in his time, not only to coin new words, but to use many words in senses quite different from their established meaning, and those frequently very fantastical.

Sir Thomas Brown, whose Life Johnson wrote, was remarkably fond of Anglo-Latin diction; and to his example we are to ascribe Johnson's sometimes indulging himself in this kind of phraseology. Johnson's

Horat. Epist. Lib. i. Epist. ii.

? Horat. De Arte Poetica.

* The observation of his having imitated Sir Thomas Brown has been made by many people; and lately it has been insisted on, and illustrated by a variety of

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