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good man.' We shall now see Johnson's mode of defending a man; taking him into his own hands, and discriminating. JOHNSON: 'No, sir. There is, to be sure, in Sheridan, something to reprehend and everything to laugh at; but, sir, he is not a bad man. No, sir; were mankind to be divided into good and bad, he would stand considerably within the ranks of good. And, sir, it must be allowed that Sheridan excels in plain declamation, though he can exhibit no character.'

I should, perhaps, have suppressed this disquisition concerning a person of whose merit and worth I think with respect, had he not attacked Johnson so outrageously in his Life of Swift, and, at the same time, treated us his admirers as a set of pigmies. He who has provoked the lash of wit cannot complain that he smarts from it.

Mrs. Montague, a lady distinguished for having written an Essay on Shakespeare, being mentioned ;— REYNOLDS: 'I think that essay does her honour.' JOHNSON: 'Yes, sir; it does her honour, but it would do nobody else honour. I have, indeed, not read it all. But when I take up the end of a web, and find it pack-thread, I do not expect, by looking farther, to find embroidery. Sir, I will venture to say there is not one sentence of true criticism in her book.' GARRICK: 'But, sir, surely it shows how much Voltaire has mistaken Shakespeare, which nobody else has done.' JOHNSON: 'Sir, nobody else has thought it worth while. And what merit is there in that? You may as well praise a schoolmaster for whipping a boy who has construed ill. No, sir, there is no real criticism in it: none showing the beauty of thought, as formed on the workings of the human heart.'

The admirers of this Essay1 may be offended at the slighting manner in which Johnson spoke of it; but let it be remembered that he gave his honest opinion unbiassed by any prejudice or any proud jealousy of a woman intruding herself into the chair of criticism; for Sir Joshua Reynolds has told me that when the Essay first came out, and it was not known who had written it, Johnson wondered how Sir Joshua could like it. At this time Sir Joshua himself had received no information concerning the author, except being assured by one of our most eminent literati, that it was clear its author did not know the Greek tragedies in the original. One day at Sir Joshua's table, when it was related that Mrs. Montague, in an excess of compliment to the author of a modern tragedy, had exclaimed, 'I tremble for Shakespeare'; Johnson said, 'When Shakespeare has got for his rival, and

Mrs. Montague for his defender, he is in a poor state indeed.'

Johnson proceeded: "The Scotsman has taken the right method in his Elements of Criticism.' I do not mean that he has taught us anything; but he has told us old things in a new way.' MURPHY: 'He seems to have read a great deal of French criticism, and wants to make it his own; as if he had been for

1 Of whom I acknowledge myself to be one, considering it as a piece of the secondary or comparative species of criticism, and not of that profound species which alone Dr. Johnson would allow to be 'real criticism.' It is, besides, clearly and elegantly expressed, and has done effectually what it professed to do, namely, vindicated Shakespeare from the misrepresentations of Voltaire; and considering how many young people were misled by his witty, though false observations, Mrs. Montague's Essay was of service to Shakespeare with a certain class of readers, and is, therefore, entitled to praise. Johnson, I am assured, allowed the merit which I have stated, saying (with reference to Voltaire), it is conclusive ad hominem.'

2 Lord Kames.

years anatomising the heart of man, and peeping into every cranny of it.' GOLDSMITH: 'It is easier to write that book than to read it.' JOHNSON: We have an example of true criticism in Burke's Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful; and, if I recollect, there is also Du Bos; and Bouhours, who shows all beauty to depend on truth. There is no great merit in telling how many plays have ghosts in them, and how this ghost is better than that. You must show how terror is impressed on the human heart. In the description of night in Macbeth, the beetle and the bat detract from the general idea of darkness - inspissated gloom.'

Politics being mentioned, he said: "This petitioning is a new mode of distressing government, and a mighty easy one. I will undertake to get petitions either against quarter guineas or half guineas, with the help of a little hot wine. There must be no yielding to encourage this. The object is not important enough. We are not to blow up half a dozen palaces, because one cottage is burning.'

The conversation then took another turn. JOHNSON: 'It is amazing what ignorance of certain points one sometimes finds in men of eminence. A wit about town, who wrote Latin bawdy verses, asked me how it happened that England and Scotland, which were once two kingdoms, were now one; and Sir Fletcher Norton did not seem to know that there were such publications as the Reviews.

But mere

'The ballad of Hardyknute has no great merit, if it be really ancient. People talk of nature. obvious nature may be exhibited with very of mind.'



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