Aetat. 71.]

Gray's ODES.


'Goldsmith one day brought to the CLUB a printed Ode, which he, with others, had been hearing read by its authour in a publick room at the rate of five shillings each for admission'. One of the company having read it aloud, Dr. Johnson said, Bolder words and more timorous meaning, I think never were brought together."'

'Talking of Gray's Odes, he said, "They are forced plants raised in a hot-bed; and they are poor plants; they are but cucumbers after all." A gentleman present, who had been running down Ode-writing in general, as a bad species of poetry, unluckily said, "Had they been literally cucumbers, they had been better things than Odes."-" Yes, Sir, (said Johnson,) for a hog."

'His distinction of the different degrees of attainment of learning was thus marked upon two occasions. Of Queen Elizabeth he said, "She had learning enough to have given dignity to a bishop ;" and of Mr. Thomas Davies he said, "Sir, Davies has learning enough to give credit to a clergyman3.”'

'He used to quote, with great warmth, the saying of Aristotle recorded by Diogenes Laertius'; that there was the same difference between one learned and unlearned, as between the living and the dead.'

of the members of the court-martial that sat on Admiral Keppel in Jan. 1779. One of them 'declared frankly that he should not attend to forms of law, but to justice.' So friendly were the judges to the prisoner that 'it required the almost unanimous voice of the witnesses in favour of his conduct, and the vile arts practised against him, to convince all mankind how falsely and basely he had been accused.' Walpole, referring to the members, speaks of 'the feelings of seamen unused to reason.' Some of the leading politicians established themselves at Portsmouth during the trial. Journal of the Reign of George III, ii. 329.

See ante, ii. 240.

2 'In all Gray's Odes, there is a kind of cumbrous splendour which

we wish away. . . . The mind of the writer seems to work with unnatural violence. "Double, double, toil and trouble." He has a kind of strutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. His art and his struggle are too visible, and there is too little appearance of ease and nature.' Johnson's Works, viii. 484-87. See ante, i. 402, and ii. 327, 335.

3 One evening, in the Haymarket Theatre, 'when Foote lighted the King to his chair, his majesty asked who [sic] the piece was written by? "By one of your Majesty's chaplains," said Foote, unable even then to suppress his wit; "and dull enough to have been written by a bishop." Forster's Essays, ii. 435. See ante, i. 390, note 3.

4 Bk. v. ch. 1.


Lines on the Duke of Leeds.

[A.D. 1780.

'It is very 'remarkable, that he retained in his memory very slight and trivial, as well as important things'. As an instance of this, it seems that an inferiour domestick of the Duke of Leeds had attempted to celebrate his Grace's marriage in such homely rhimes as he could make; and this curious composition having been sung to Dr. Johnson he got it by heart, and used to repeat it in a very pleasant manner. Two of the stanzas were these:

"When the Duke of Leeds shall married be

To a fine young lady of high quality,
How happy will that gentlewoman be
In his Grace of Leeds's good company.

She shall have all that's fine and fair,
And the best of silk and sattin shall wear;
And ride in a coach to take the air,

And have a house in St. James's-square"."


To hear a man, of the weight and dignity of Johnson, repeating such humble attempts at poetry, had a very amusing effect. He, however, seriously observed of the last stanza repeated by him, that it nearly comprized all the advantages that wealth can give.'

'An eminent foreigner, when he was shewn the British Museum, was very troublesome with many absurd inquiries. "Now there, Sir, (said he,) is the difference between an English

See ante, ii. 133, note 1; and Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 27, and Oct. 28.

2 The correspondent of The Gentleman's Magazine [1792, p. 214] who subscribes himself SCIOLUS furnishes the following supplement :

'A lady of my acquaintance remembers to have heard her uncle sing those homely stanzas more than

forty-five years ago. He repeated

the second thus :

She shall breed young lords and ladies fair,

And ride abroad in a coach and

three pair,

And the best, &c.

And have a house, &c.

And remembered a third which seems to have been the introductory one, and is believed to have been the only remaining one :

When the Duke of Leeds shall

have made his choice

Of a charming young lady that's beautiful and wise,

She'll be the happiest young gentlewoman under the skies,

As long as the sun and moon shall rise,

And how happy shall, &c.'

It is with pleasure I add that this stanza could never be more truly applied than at this present time. BOSWELL. This note was added to the second edition.


Aetat. 71.]

A conversation with Dr. Parr.

15 man and a Frenchman. A Frenchman must be always talking, whether he knows any thing of the matter or not; an Englishman is content to say nothing, when he has nothing to say.""

His unjust contempt for foreigners was, indeed, extreme. One evening, at old Slaughter's coffee-house, when a number of them were talking loud about little matters, he said, "Does not this confirm old Meynell's2 observation-For any thing I see, foreigners are fools".""

'He said, that once, when he had a violent tooth-ach, a Frenchman accosted him thus :-Ah, Monsieur vous etudies trop!

Having spent an evening at Mr. Langton's with the Reverend Dr. Parr, he was much pleased with the conversation of that learned gentleman; and after he was gone, said to Mr. Langton, "Sir, I am obliged to you for having asked me this evening. Parr is a fair man. I do not know when I have had an occasion of such free controversy. It is remarkable how much of a man's life may pass without meeting with any instance of this kind of open discussion 5.",

1 See ante, i. 115, note 1.

2 See ante, i. 82.

3 Baretti, in a MS. note on Piozzi Letters, i. 121, says :-'Johnson was a real true-born Englishman. He hated the Scotch, the French, the Dutch, the Hanoverians, and had the greatest contempt for all other European nations; such were his early prejudices which he never attempted to conquer. Reynolds wrote of Johnson :-'The prejudices he had to countries did not extend to individuals. In respect to Frenchmen he rather laughed at himself, but it was insurmountable. He considered every foreigner as a fool till they had convinced him of the contrary.' Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 460. Garrick wrote of the French in 1769:-'Their politesse has reduced their character to such a sameness, and their humours and passions are so curbed by habit, that, when you have seen half-a-dozen French men and women,

you have seen the whole.' Garrick Corres. i. 358.

4 'There is not a man or woman here,' wrote Horace Walpole from Paris (Letters iv. 434), 'that is not a perfect old nurse, and who does not talk gruel and anatomy with equal fluency and ignorance.'

5 "I remember that interview well," said Dr. Parr with great vehemence when once reminded of it; "I gave him no quarter. The subject of our dispute was the liberty of the press. Dr. Johnson was very great. Whilst he was arguing, I observed that he stamped. Upon this I stamped. Dr. Johnson said, "Why did you stamp, Dr. Parr?" I replied, "Because you stamped; and I was resolved not to give you the advantage even of a stamp in the argument."' This, Parr said, was by no means his first introduction to Johnson. Field's Parr, i. 161. Parr wrote to Romilly in 1811 :- Pray let me ask 'We


The machinery of ancient writers.

[A.D. 1780.

'We may fairly institute a criticism between Shakspeare and Corneille, as they both had, though in a different degree, the lights of a latter age. It is not so just between the Greek dramatick writers and Shakspeare. It may be replied to what is said by one of the remarkers on Shakspeare, that though Darius's shade had prescience, it does not necessarily follow that he had all past particulars revealed to him.'

'Spanish plays, being wildly and improbably farcical, would please children here, as children are entertained with stories full of prodigies; their experience not being sufficient to cause them to be so readily startled at deviations from the natural course of life 3. The machinery of the Pagans is uninteresting to us*: when a Goddess appears in Homer or Virgil, we grow weary ; still more so in the Grecian tragedies, as in that kind of composition a nearer approach to Nature is intended. Yet there are

whether you have ever read some
admirable remarks of Mr. Hutcheson
upon the word merit.
I remember a
controversy I had with Dr. Johnson
upon this very term: we began with
theology fiercely, I gently carried the
conversation onward to philosophy,
and after a dispute of more than
three hours he lost sight of my heresy,
and came over to my opinion upon
the metaphysical import of the term.'
Life of Romilly, ii. 365. When Parr
was a candidate for the mastership
of Colchester Grammar School,
Johnson wrote for him a letter of
recommendation. Johnstone's Parr,

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of what was past, that the Athenian ear might be soothed and flattered with the detail of their victory at Salamis, is allowed, for the same reason, such prescience as to foretell their future triumph at Platæa.' p. 161.

3 'Caution is required in everything which is laid before youth, to secure them from unjust prejudices, perverse opinions, and incongruous combinations of images. In the romances formerly written, every transaction and sentiment was so remote from all that passes among men, that the reader was in very little danger of making any applications to himself.' The Rambler, No. 4.


Johnson says of Pope's Ode for St. Cecilia's Day:-'The next stanzas place and detain us in the dark and dismal regions of mythology, where neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow can be found.' Works, viii. 328. Of Gray's Progress of Poetry, he says:-'The second stanza, exhibiting Mars' car and Jove's eagle, is unworthy of further notice. Criticism disdains to chase a school-boy to his common-places.' Ib. p. 484. good

The abuse of the talent of ridicule.


Aetat. 71.] good reasons for reading romances; as-the fertility of invention, the beauty of style and expression, the curiosity of seeing with what kind of performances the age and country in which they were written was delighted: for it is to be apprehended, that at the time when very wild improbable tales were well received, the people were in a barbarous state, and so on the footing of children, as has been explained.'

'It is evident enough that no one who writes now can use the Pagan deities and mythology; the only machinery, therefore, seems that of ministering spirits, the ghosts of the departed, witches', and fairies, though these latter, as the vulgar superstition concerning them (which, while in its force, infected at least the imagination of those that had more advantage in education, though their reason set them free from it,) is every day wearing out, seem likely to be of little further assistance in the machinery of poetry. As I recollect, Hammond introduces a hag or witch into one of his love elegies, where the effect is unmeaning and disgusting".

'The man who uses his talent of ridicule in creating or grossly exaggerating the instances he gives, who imputes absurdities that did not happen, or when a man was a little ridiculous describes him as having been very much so, abuses his talents greatly. The great use of delineating absurdities is, that we may know how far human folly can go; the account, therefore, ought of absolute necessity to be faithful. A certain character (naming the person) as to the general cast of it, is well described by Garrick, but a great deal of the phraseology he uses in it, is quite his own, particularly in the proverbial comparisons, "obstinate as a pig," &c., but I don't know whether it might not be true of Lord 3, that from a too great eagerness of praise and popularity, and a politeness carried to a ridiculous excess, he was likely, after asserting a thing in general, to give it up again in

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