« ElőzőTovább »
not to mind him. But the dog was so very comical, that I was obliged to lay down my knife and fork, throw myself back upon my chair, and fairly laugh it out. No, Sir, he was irresistible'. He upon one occasion experienced, in an extraordinary degree, the efficacy of his powers of entertaining. Amongst the many and various modes which he tried of getting money, he became a partner with a small-beer brewer, and he was to have a share of the profits for procuring customers amongst his numerous acquaintance. Fitzherbert was one who took his small-beer; but it was so bad that the servants resolved not to drink it. They were at some loss how to notify their resolution, being afraid of offending their master, who they knew liked Foote much as a companion. At last they fixed upon a little black boy, who was rather a favourite, to be their deputy, and deliver their remonstrance; and having invested him with the whole authority of the kitchen, he was to inform Mr. Fitzherbert, in all their names, upon a certain day, that they would drink Foote's small-beer no longer. On that day Foote happened to dine at Fitzherbert's, and this boy served at table; he was so delighted with Foote's stories, and merriment, and grimace, that when he went down stairs, he told them, "This is the finest man I have ever seen. I will not deliver your message. I will drink his small-beer."'
Somebody observed that Garrick could not have done this. WILKES. 'Garrick would have made the small-beer still smaller. He is now leaving the stage; but he will play Scrub all his life.' I knew that Johnson would let nobody attack Garrick but himself3, as Garrick once said to me, and I had heard him praise his liberality; so to bring out his
1 Foote told me that Johnson said of him, ‘For loud obstreperous broadfaced mirth, I know not his equal.' BOSWELL.
" In Farquhar's Beaux-Stratagem, Scrub thus describes his duties: —‘Of a Monday I drive the coach, of a Tuesday I drive the plough, on Wednesday I follow the hounds, a Thursday I dun the tenants, on Friday I go to market, on Saturday I draw warrants, and a Sunday I draw beer.' Act iii. sc. 3.
'See ante, i. 454, note 2.
Anecdotes of Dryden.
commendation of his celebrated pupil, I said, loudly, 'I have heard Garrick is liberal'.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, I know that Garrick has given away more money than any man in England that I am acquainted with, and that not from ostentatious views. Garrick was very poor when he began life; so when he came to have money, he probably was very unskil ful in giving away, and saved when he should not. But Garrick began to be liberal as soon as he could; and I am of opinion, the reputation of avarice which he has had, has been very lucky for him, and prevented his having many enemies. You despise a man for avarice, but do not hate him. Garrick might have been much better attacked for living with more splendour than is suitable to a player': if they had had the wit to have assaulted him in that quarter, they might have galled him more. But they have kept clamouring about his avarice, which has rescued him from much obloquy and envy.'
Talking of the great difficulty of obtaining authentick information for biography, Johnson told us, 'When I was a young fellow I wanted to write the Life of Dryden, and in order to get materials, I applied to the only two persons then alive who had seen him*; these were old Swinney, and old Cibber. Swinney's information was no more than this, “That at Will's coffee-house Dryden had a particular chair for himself, which was set by the fire in winter, and was then called his winter-chair; and that it was carried out for him
1 See post, April 10, 1778, and April 24, 1779.
2 See ante, i. 250, note 2.
3 See ante, March 20, 1776, and Boswell's Hebrides, Sept. 22.
• Dryden had been dead but thirty-six years when Johnson came to London.
''Owen Mac Swinny, a buffoon; formerly director of the playhouse.' Horace Walpole, Letters, i. 118. Walpole records one of his puns. 'Old Horace' had left the House of Commons to fight a duel, and at once ‘returned, and was so little moved as to speak immediately upon the Cambrick Bill, which made Swinny say, "That it was a sign he was not ruffled." Ib. p. 233. See also ib. vi. 373 for one of his stories.
Colley Cibber's APOLOGY.
to the balcony in summer, and was then called his summerchair." Cibber could tell no more but "That he remembered him a decent old man, arbiter of critical disputes at Wills'." You are to consider that Cibber was then at a great distance from Dryden, had perhaps one leg only in the room, and durst not draw in the other.' BosWELL. Yet Cibber was a man of observation?' JOHNSON. 'I think not'.' BOSWELL. 'You will allow his Apology to be well done.' JOHNSON. Very well done, to be sure, Sir'.
1 A more amusing version of the story is in Johnsoniana (ed. 1836, p. 413) on the authority of Mr. Fowke. "So Sir," said Johnson to Cibber, "I find you know [? knew] Mr. Dryden ?" "Know him? O Lord! I was as well acquainted with him as if he had been my own brother." "Then you can tell me some anecdotes of him?" "O yes, a thousand! Why we used to meet him continually at a club at Button's. I remember as well as if it were but yesterday, that when he came into the room in winter time, he used to go and sit close by the fire in one corner; and that in summer time he would always go and sit in the window." Thus, Sir," said Johnson, “what with the corner of the fire in winter, and the window in summer, you see that I got much information from Cibber of the manners and habits of Dryden."' Johnson gives, in his Life of Dryden (Works, vii. 300), the information that he got from Swinney and Cibber. Dr. Warton, who had written on Pope, found in one of the poet's female cousins a still more ignorant survivor. He had been taught to believe that she could furnish him with valuable information. Incited by all that eagerness which characterised him, he sat close to her, and enquired her consanguinity to Pope. "Pray, Sir," said she, "did not you write a book about my cousin Pope?" "Yes, madam." "They tell me 'twas vastly clever. He wrote a great many plays, did not he?" "I have heard of only one attempt, Madam." Oh no, I beg your pardon; that was Mr. Shakespeare; I always confound them.' Wooll's W'arton, p. 394.
'Johnson told Malone that 'Cibber was much more ignorant even of matters relating to his own profession than he could well have conceived any man to be who had lived nearly sixty years with players, authors, and the most celebrated characters of the age.' Prior's Malone, p. 95. See ante, ii. 106.
There are few,' wrote Goldsmith, 'who do not prefer a page of Montaigne or Colley Cibber, who candidly tell us what they thought of the world, and the world thought of them, to the more stately memoirs and transactions of Europe.' Cunningham's Goldsmith's Works, iv. 43.
Cibber as a play-writer.
That book is a striking proof of the justice of Pope's remark:
"Each might his several province well command, Would all but stoop to what they understand'."' BOSWELL. And his plays are good.' JOHNSON. 'Yes; but that was his trade; l'esprit du corps; he had been all his life among players and play-writers'. I wondered that he had so little to say in conversation, for he had kept the best company, and learnt all that can be got by the ear. He abused Pindar to me, and then shewed me an Ode of his own, with an absurd couplet, making a linnet soar on an eagle's wing". I told him that when the ancients made a simile, they always made it like something real.'
Mr. Wilkes remarked, that among all the bold flights of Shakspeare's imagination, the boldest was making Birnamwood march to Dunsinane; creating a wood where there never was a shrub; a wood in Scotland! ha! ha! ha!' And he also observed, that the clannish slavery of the Highlands of Scotland was the single exception to Milton's remark of "The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty," being worshipped in all hilly countries.'-' When I was at Inverary (said he,) on a visit to my old friend, Archibald, Duke of Argyle, his dependents congratulated me on being such a favourite of his Grace. I said, "It is then, gentlemen, truely lucky for me;
Essay on Criticism, i. 66.
''Cibber wrote as bad Odes [as Garrick ], but then Cibber wrote The Careless Husband, and his own Life, which both deserve immortality.' Walpole's Letters, v. 197. Pope (Imitations of Horace, II. i. 90), says :
All this may be; the people's voice is odd,
* See page 465 of vol. i. Boswell. • Milton's L'Allegro, 1. 36.
A contested passage in Horace.
for if I had displeased the Duke, and he had wished it, there is not a Campbell among you but would have been ready to bring John Wilkes's head to him in a charger. It would have been only
'Off with his head! So much for Aylesbury'.""
I was then member for Aylesbury.'
Dr. Johnson and Mr. Wilkes talked of the contested passage in Horace's Art of Poetry', 'Difficile est propriè communia dicere.' Mr. Wilkes according to my note, gave the interpretation thus; 'It is difficult to speak with propriety of common things; as, if a poet had to speak of Queen Caroline drinking tea, he must endeavour to avoid the vulgarity of cups and saucers.' But upon reading my note, he tells me that he meant to say, that 'the word communia, being a Roman law term, signifies here things communis juris, that is to say, what have never yet been treated by any body; and this appears clearly from what followed,
Rectiùs Iliacum carmen deducis in actus
You will easier make a tragedy out of the Iliad than on any subject not handled before". He means that it
''CATESBY. My Liege, the Duke of Buckingham is taken. RICHARD. Off with his head. So much for Buckingham.' Colley Cibber's Richard III, iv. 1.
2 Ars Poetica, 1. 128.
My very pleasant friend himself, as well as others who remember old stories, will no doubt be surprised, when I observe that John Wilkes here shews himself to be of the WARBURTONIAN SCHOOL. It is nevertheless true, as appears from Dr. Hurd the Bishop of Worcester's very elegant commentary and notes on the 'Epistola ad Pisones.'
It is necessary to a fair consideration of the question, that the whole passage in which the words occur should be kept in view:
'Si quid inexpertum scenæ committis, et audes