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“ The booksellers,” said he, "gave Theophilus Cibber, who was then in prison, ten guineas, to allow Mr. Cibber to be put upon the title-page, as the authour; by this, a double imposition was intended; in the first place, that it was the work of a Cibber at all; and, in the second place, that it was the work of old Cibber.”
Mr. Murphy said, that “The Memoirs of Gray's Life set him much higher in his estimation than his poems did : for you there saw a man constantly at work in literature.” Johnson acquiesced in this; but depreciated the book, I thought, very unreasonably. For he said, “ I forced myself to read it, only because it was a common topic of conversation. I found it mighty dull; and, as to the style, it is fit for the second table.” Why he thought so I was at a loss to conceive. He now gave it as his opinion, that “ Akenside was a superiour poet both to Gray and Mason.”
Talking of the Reviews, Johnson said, “I think them very impartial : I do not know an instance of partiality.” He mentioned what had passed upon the subject of the Monthly and Critical Reviews, in the conversation with which his majesty had honoured him. He expatiated a little more on them this evening “ The Monthly Reviewers,” said he, “are not Deists; but they are Christians with as little Christianity as may be; and are for pulling down all establishments. The Critical Reviewers are for supporting the constitution both in church and state.
colour for Mr. Boswell's suspicion ; for it appears that Johnson was at one time employed to contribute to that work the lives of, at least, Shakspeare and Dryden (see ante, v. i. p. 514, and post, 15th May, 1776), and though he certainly did not write those lives, yet several passages throughout the work are much in his style. That, however, might arise from the imitation of Shiels; but what is most important is, that the plan in which these lives are written is substantially the same as that which Johnson adopted in his own beautiful work..Ed.]
The Critical Reviewers, I believe, often review without reading the books through; but lay hold of a topick, and write chiefly from their own minds. The Monthly Reviewers are duller men, and are glad to read the books through.”
He talked of Lord Lyttelton's extreme anxiety as an authour; observing, that “ he was thirty years in preparing his history, and that he employed a man to point it for him; as if (laughing) another man could point his sense better than himself.” Mr. Murphy said, he understood his history was kept back several years for fear of Smollett. JOHNSON. “ This seems strange to Murphy and me, who never felt that anxiety, but sent what he wrote to the press, and let it take its chance." MRS. THRALE. “The time has been, sir, when you felt it.” Johnson. “ Why really, madam, I do not recollect a time when that was the case.”
Talking of “ The Spectator," he said, “It is wonderful that there is such a proportion of bad papers, in the half of the work which was not written by Addison; for there was all the world to write that half, yet not a half of that half is good. One of the finest pieces in the English language is the paper on Novelty o, yet we do not hear it talked of. It was written by Grove, a dissenting teacher.” He would not, I perceived, call him a clergyman, though he was candid enough to allow very great merit to his composition. Mr. Murphy said, he remembered when there were several people alive in London, who enjoyed a considerable reputation merely from having
[It may be doubted whether Johnson's dislike of Lord Lyttelton did not here lead him into an error. Persons not so habituated with the details of printing as he was may have been less expert at the use of these conventional signs. LO Byron wrote to Mr. Murray : “Do you know any one who can stop ?-I mean point, commas, and so forth, for I am, I fear, a sad land at your punctuation.” -Moore's Life of Byron, vol. i. p 417.-ED.]
? (Spectator, No. 629.- Ep.]
written a paper in “The Spectator.” He mentioned
Johnson mentioned Dr. Barry's System of Physick. “ He was a man,” said he, “who had acquired a high reputation in Dublin, came over to England, and brought his reputation with him, but had not great
His notion was, that pulsation occasions death by attrition; and that, therefore, the way to preserve life is to retard pulsation. But we know that pulsation is strongest in infants, and that we increase in growth while it operates in its regular course; so it cannot be the cause of destruction.” Soon after this, he said something very flattering to Mrs. Thrale, which I do not recollect; but it concluded with wishing her long life. “ Sir,” said I, “if Dr. Barry's system be true, you have now shortened Mrs. Thrale's life, perhaps some minutes, by accelerating her pulsation.”
[“ DR. JOHNSON TO MISS REYNOLDS.
"11th April, 1776. “ DEAREST MADAM,—To have acted, with regard to you, in a manner either unfriendly or disrespectful, would give me great pain ; and, I hope, will be always very contrary to my intention. That I staid away was merely accidental. I have seldom dined from home; and I did not think my opinion necessary to your information in any proprieties of behaviour.
“ The poor parents of the child are much grieved, and much
1 [In the 555th Number of the Spectator.--Ed.]
2 Sir Edward Barry, Baronet. (He published a curious work on the Wines of the Ancients.--Ed.]
dejected. The journey to Italy is put off, but they go to Bath Reyn. on Monday. A visit from you will be well taken, and I think MŠ. your intimacy is such that you may very properly pay it in a morning. I am sure that it will be thought seasonable and kind, and I wish you not to omit it. I am, dear madam, your most humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON.”]
On Thursday, April 11, I dined with him at General Paoli's, in whose house I now resided, and where I had ever afterwards the honour of being entertained with the kindest attention as his constant guest, while I was in London, till I had a house of my own there. I mentioned my having that morning introduced to Mr. Garrick, Count Neni, a Flemish nobleman of great rank and fortune, to whom Garrick talked of Abel Drugger as a small part; and related, with pleasant vanity, that a Frenchman, who had seen him in one of his low characters, exclaimed, “ Comment! je ne le crois pas. Ce n'est pas
Ce n'est pas Monsieur Garrick, ce grand homme !" Garrick added, with an appearance of grave recollection, “If I were to begin life again, I think I should not play those low characters.” Upon which I observed, “Sir, you would be in the wrong, for your great excellence is your variety of playing, your representing so well, characters so very different.” JOHNSON. “Garrick, sir, was not in earnest in what he said : for, to be sure, his peculiar excellence is his variety; and, perhaps, there is not any one character which has not been as well acted by somebody else, as he could do it.” BOSWELL. “Why then, sir, did he talk so ?” JOHNSON. “Why, sir, to make you answer as you did.” BOSWELL. “I don't know, sir; he seemed to dip deep into his mind for the reflection.” JOHNSON. “ He had not far to dip, sir; he had said the same thing, probably, twenty times before.”
Of a nobleman raised at a very early period to high office, he said, “ His parts, sir, are pretty well for a
lord; but would not be distinguished in a man who had nothing else but his parts ."
A journey to Italy was still in his thoughts. He said, “A man who has not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.
The grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean. On those shores were the four great empires of the world ; the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman. All our religion, almost all our law, almost all our arts, almost all that sets us above savages, has come to us from the shores of the Mediterranean.” The general observed, that “ THE MEDITERRANEAN would be a noble subject for a poem.
We talked of translation. I said, I could not define it, nor could I think of a similitude to illustrate it; but that it appeared to me the translation of poetry could be only imitation. JOHNSON. “ You may translate books of science exactly. You may also translate history, in so far as it is not embellished with oratory, which is poetical. Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated ; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language, if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language.”
A gentleman maintained that the art of printing had hurt real learning, by disseminating idle writings. JOHNSON. “Sir, if it had not been for the art of printing, we should now have no learning at all; for books would have perished faster than they could have been transcribed.” This observation seems not just,
1 [Obvious as this allusion must have been at the time, neither the editor, nor any of the numerous persons who have favoured him with assistance and in formation, can satisfactorily designate the nobleman here meant. Ev.]