Appendix H.



(Notes on Boswell's note on pages 485, 486.)

'The last lines of the inscription on this urn are borrowed, with a slight change, from the last paragraph of the last Rambler. Johnson's Works, iii. 465, and ante, i. 262. Johnson visited Colonel Myddelton on August 29, 1774, in his Tour to Wales. See post, v. 516.


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Johnson, writing to Dr. Taylor on Sept. 3, 1783, said :— to Opey (sic) as long as he desired, and I think the head is finished, but it [is] not much admired.' Notes and Queries, 6th S., v. 481. Hawkins (Life of Johnson, p. 569) says that in 1784 'Johnson resumed sitting to Opie, but,' he adds, 'I believe the picture was never finished.'

Of this picture, which was the one painted for Beauclerk (ante, iv. 208), it is stated in Johnson's Works, ed. 1787, xi. 204, that 'there is in it that appearance of a labouring working mind, of an indolent reposing body, which he had to a very great degree.'

It seems almost certain that the portrait of Johnson in the Common Room of University College, Oxford, is this very mezzotinto. It was given to the College by Sir William Scott, and it is a mezzotinto from Opie's portrait. It has been reproduced for this work, and will be found facing page 278 of volume iii. Scott's inscription on the back of the frame is given on page 278, note 2, of the same volume.


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Boswell most likely never knew that in the year 1790 Mr. Seward, in the name of Cadell the publisher, had asked Parr to write a Life of Johnson. Johnstone's Life of Parr, iv. 678. Parr, in his amusing vanity, was as proud of this Life as if he had written it. "It would have been," he said, "the third most learned work that has ever yet appeared. The most learned work ever published I consider Bentley On the Epistles of Phalaris; the next Salmasius On the Hellenistic Language." Alluding to Boswell's Life he continued, "Mine should have been, not the droppings of his lips, but the history of his mind."' Field's Life of Parr, i. 164.

In the epitaph that he first sent in were found the words 'Probabili Poetae.'

'In arms,' wrote Parr, 'were all the Johnsonians: Malone, Steevens, Sir W. Scott, Windham, and even Fox, all in arms. The epithet was cold. They do not understand it, and I am a Scholar, not a BellesLettres man.'

Parr had wished to pass over all notice of Johnson's poetical character. To this, Malone said, none of his friends of the Literary Club would agree. He pointed out also that Parr had not noticed that part of Johnson's genius, which placed him on higher ground than perhaps any other quality that can be named-the universality of his knowledge, the promptness of his mind in reproducing it on all occasions in conversation, and the vivid eloquence with which he clothed his thoughts, however suddenly called upon.' Parr, regardless of Johnson's rule that 'in lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath' (ante, ii. 466), replied, that if he mentioned his conversation he should have to mention also his roughness in contradiction, &c. As for the epithet probabili, he 'never reflected upon it without almost a triumphant feeling in its felicity.' Nevertheless he would change it into 'poetae sententiarum et verborum ponderibus admirabili.' Yet these words, ' energetic

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'energetic and sonorous' though they were, 'fill one with a secret and invincible loathing, because they tend to introduce into the epitaph a character of magnificence.' With every fresh objection he rose in importance. He wrote for the approbation of real scholars of generations yet unborn. That the epitaph was written by such or such a man will, from the publicity of the situation, and the popularity of the subject, be long remembered.' Johnstone's Life of Parr, iv. 694-712. No objection seems to have been raised to the five pompous lines of perplexing dates and numerals in which no room is found even for Johnson's birth and birth-place.

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After I had written the epitaph,' wrote Parr to a friend, 'Sir Joshua Reynolds told me there was a scroll. I was in a rage. A scroll! Why, Ned, this is vile modern contrivance. I wanted one train of ideas. What could I do with the scroll? Johnson held it, and Johnson must speak in it. I thought of this, his favourite maxim, in the Life of Milton [Johnson's Works, vii. 77],

“Οττι τοι ἐν μεγάροισι κακόν τ ̓ ἀγαθόν τε τέτυκται.”

In Homer [Odyssey, iv. 392] you know-and shewing the excellence of Moral Philosophy. There Johnson and Socrates agree. Mr. Seward, hearing of my difficulty, and no scholar, suggested the closing line in the Rambler [ante, i. 262, note 1]; had I looked there I should have anticipated the suggestion. It is the closing line in Dionysius's Periegesis,

“ Αὐτῶν ἐκ μακάρων αντάξιος εἴη ἀμοιβή.”

I adopted it, and gave Seward the praise. "Oh," quoth Sir William Scott, "μakápov is Heathenish, and the Dean and Chapter will hesitate." "The more fools they," said I. But to prevent disputes I have altered it.

“Ἐν μακάρεσσι πόνων ἀντάξιος εἴη ἀμοιβή.”

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Johnstone's Life of Parr, iv. 713.

Though the inscription on the scroll is not strictly speaking part of the epitaph, yet this mixture of Greek and Latin is open to the censure Johnson passed on Pope's Epitaph on Craggs.

'It may be proper to remark,' he said, 'the absurdity of joining in the same inscription Latin and English, or verse and prose. If either language be preferable to the other, let that only be used; for no reason can be given why part of the information should be given in one tongue and part in another on a tomb more than in any other place, or on any other occasion.' Johnson's Works, viii. 353.

Bacon the sculptor was anxious, wrote Malone, 'that posterity should know that he was entitled to annex R.A. to his name.' Parr

IV. 33

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Parr was ready to give his name, lest if it were omitted 'Bacon should slily put the figure of a hog on Johnson's monument'; just as 'Saurus and Batrachus, when Octavia would not give them leave to set their names on the Temples they had built in Rome, scattered one of them σαῦραι [lizards], and the other βάτραχοι [frogs] on the bases and capitals of the columns.' But as for the R.A., the sculptor 'very reluctantly had to agree to its omission.' Johnstone's Parr, iv. 705 and 710.


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