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he evaded the question thus: “Sir, I do not say that it may not be made a very good translation." Here nothing whatever in favour of the performance was affirmed, and yet the writer was not shocked. A printed · Ode to the Warlike Genius. of Britain' came next in review: the bard was a lank bony figure, with short black hair; he was writhing with agitation while Johnson read, and shewing his teeth in a grin of earnestness, exclaimed in broken sentences, and in a keen sharp tone, “ Is that poetry, Sir?---Is it Pindar?"* -JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, there is here a great deal of what is called poetry.” Then turning to me, the poet cried, “ My muse has not been long upon the town, and (pointing to the Ode) it trembles under the hand of the great critic.” Johnson, in a tone of displeasure, asked him, “Why do you praise Anson?” I did not trouble him by asking his reason for this question. He proceeded, “Here is an error, Sir; you have made Genius feminine."-" Palpable, Sir (cried the enthusiast); I know it. But in a lower tone) it was to pay a compliment to the Duchess of Devonshire, with which her Grace was pleased. She is walking across Coxheath, in the military uniform, and I suppose her to be the Genius of Britain.”—JOHNSON. " Sir, you are giving a reason for it; but that will not make it right. You
may have a reason why two and two should make five; but they will still make but four.”
Mr. Boswell having once regretted to Johnson that he had learnt little Greek, as is too generally the case in Scotland; that he had for a long time hardly applied at all to the study of that noble language, he was desirous of being told by him what method to follow;
he recommended as easy helps, Sylvanus's First Book of the Iliad ;' Dawson's - Lexicon to the Greek New Testament;' and Hesiod,' with Pasoris Lexicon at the end of it.
One night at the Club a translation of an Epitaph was produced which Lord Elibank had written in English for his Lady, and requested of Johnson to turn into Latin for him. Having read Domina de North et Gray, he said to Mr. Dyer, “ You see, Sir, what barbarisms we are compelled to make use of when modern titles are to be specifically mentioned in Latin inscriptions.” When he had read it once aloud, and there had been a general approbation expressed by the company, he addressed himself to Mr. Dyer in particular, and said, “ Sir, I beg to have your judgment; for I know your nicety.” Dyer then very properly desired to read it over again; which having done, he pointed out an incongruity in one of the sentences. Johnson immediately
assented to the observation, and said, “Sir, this is owing to an alteration of a part of the sentence, from the form in which I had first written it; and I believe, Sir, you may have remarked, that it is a very frequent cause of error in composition, when one has made a partial change, without a due regard to the general structure of the sentence.”
Johnson was well acquainted with Mr. Dossie, author of a treatise on Agriculture; and said of him, “ Of the objects which the Society of Arts have chiefly in view, the chymical effects of bodies operating upon other bodies, he knows more than almost any man.” Johnson, in order to give Mr. Dossie his vote to be a member of this Society, paid up an arrear which had run on for
On this occasion he mentioned a circumstance, as characteristic of the Scotch. “ One of that nation (said he) who had been a candidate, against whom I had voted, came up to ine with a civil salutation. Now, Sir, this is their way. An Englishman would have stomached it, and been sulky, and never have taken further notice of you; but a Scotchman, Sir, though you vote nineteen times against him, will accost you with equal complaisance after each time; and the twentieth time, Sir, he will get your vote.”
His distinction of the different degrees of at
tainment 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 clergyman.”
He used to quote with great warmth the saying of Aristotle recorded by Diogenes Laertius; 66 that there was the same difference between one learned and unlearned, as between the living and the dead."
Spanish plays (he observed), 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.-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 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 ministring 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.”
Of ridicule he observed, “ The man who in conversation uses his talent of ridicule in creat ing 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