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Every body will agree that it should be the interest of those who teach to have scholars; and this is the case in our Universities. That they are rich is certainly not true; for they have nothing good enough to keep a man of eminent learning with them for his life. In the foreign Universities a professorship is a high thing. It is as much almost as a man can make by his learning; and therefore we find the most learned men abroad are in the Universities: it is not so
Our Universities are impoverished of learning, by the penury of their provisions. I wish there were many places of a thousand a year at Oxford, to keep first-rate men of learning from quitting the University.”—Undoubtedly (remarks Mr. Boswell) if this were the case, Literature would have a still greater dignity and splendour at Oxford, and there would be grander living sources of instruction.
A gentleman one day mentioned Mr. Maclaurin's uneasiness on account of a degree of ridicule carelessly thrown on his deceased father, in Goldsmith's ' History of Animated Nature," in which that celebrated mathematician is represented as being subject to fits of yawning so violent as to render him. incapable of proceeding in his lecture; a story altogether unfounded, but for the publication of which the law would give no reparation. This led the company to agitate
the question, whether legal redress could be obtained, even when a man's deceased relation was calumniated in a publication. Mr. Murray maintained there should be reparation, unless the author could justify. himself by proving the fact.-JOHNSON. Sir, it is of so much more consequence that truth should be told, than that individuals should not be made uneasy, that it is much better that the law does not restrain write ing freely concerning the characters of the dead. Damages will be given to a man who is calumniated in his life-time, because he may be hurt in his worldly interest, or at least hurt in his mind. If a man could say nothing against a character but what he can prove, history could not be written; for a great deal is known of men of which proof cannot be brought. A minister may be notoriously known to take bribes, and yet you may not be able to prove it." Mr, Murray sug. gested, that the author should be obliged to show some sort of evidence, though he would not require a strict legal proof; but Johnson firmly and resolutely opposed any restraint whatever, as adverse to a free investigation of the characters of mankind.
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 no great success. 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."
Talking of translation, one said, he could not define it, nor could he think of a similitude to illustrate it; but that it appeared to him that translation of poetry could be only imitation. Johnson observed, “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 said, “Sir, if it had not been for the art of printing, we should now have had no learning at all; for books would have perished faster than they could have been transcribed.” This observation sceins not just, considering for
how many ages books were preserved by writing alone.
The same gentleman maintained, that a general diffusion of knowledge among a people was a disadvantage; for it made the vulgar rise above their humble sphere.--" Sir (said Johnson), while knowledge is a distinction, those who are possessed of it will naturally rise above those who are not. Merely to read and write was a distinction at first; but we see when reading and writing have become general, the common people keep their stations. And so, were higher attainments to become general, the effect would be the same.”
He said, that for general improvement, a manshould read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to;, though, to be sure, if a man has a science to learn, he must regularly and resolutely advance. He added, “ what we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read." He said, he read Fielding's' Amelia' through without stopping.--" If a man (said he) begins to read in the middle of a book, and feels an inclination to go on, let him not quit it to go to the beginning. He may perhaps not feel again the inclination.” It having been mentioned, that a certain fe
male political writer, whose doctrines he disliked, had of late become very fond of dress, sat hours together at her toilet, and even put on rouge, Johnson said, “She is better employed at her toilet than using her pen. It is better she should be reddening her own cheeks, than blackening other people's characters.”
Mr. Boswell tells us, that a clergyman had come to submit some poetical pieces to Johnson's revision. “ It is wonderful (says Mr. B.) what a number and variety of writers, some of them even unknown to him, prevailed on his good nature to look over their works, and suggest corrections and improvements. My arrival interrupted for a little while the important business of this true representative of Bayes; upon its being resumed, I found that the subject under immediate consideration was a translation, yet in manuscript, of the · Carmen Seculare' of Horace, which had this year been set to music, and performed as a public entertainment in London, for the joint benefit of Monsieur Philidor and Signor Baretti. When Johnson had done reading, the author asked him bluntly, “ If upon the whole it was a good translation?” Johnson, whose regard for truth was uncommonly strict, seemed to be puzzled for a moment what answer to make, as he certainly could not honestly commnend the performance: with exquisite address