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The conversation turning on critical subjects, Johnson said, “ Bayes, in - The Rehearsal,' is a mighty silly character. If it was intended to be like a particular man, it could only be diverting while that man was remembered; but I question whether it was meant for Dryden, as has been reported;
know some said to be ridiculed were written since the * Rehearsal;' at least a passage mentioned in the Preface is of a later date." Mr. B. maintained that it had merit as a general satire on the selfimportance of dramatick authors. But even in this light he held it very cheap.
He seemed to take a pleasure in speaking in his own style; for sometimes when he had carelessly missed it, he would repeat the thought translated into it. Talking of the Comedy of the Re. hearsal,' he said, “ It has not wit enough to keep it sweet.” This was easy; he therefore caught himself, and pronounced a more rounded sentence; " It has not vitality enough to preserve it from putrefaction.”
Hawkesworth's compilation of the voyages to the South Sea being mentioned, Johnson said, “ Sir, if you talk of it as a subject of commerce, it will be gainful; if as a book that is to increase human knowledge, I believe there will not be much of that. Hawkesworth can tell only what the voyagers have told hiin; and they have found
very little, only one new animal, I think.”_Bose
“ But many insects, Sir.”—Johnson. “Why, Sir, as to insects, Ray reckons of British insects twenty thousand species. They might have staid at home and discovered enough in
The casual mention of biography led to the mention of Dr. John Campbell, who had written a considerable part of the · Biographia Britannica.' Johnson, though he valued him highly, was of opinion that there was not so much in bis great work, "A Political Survey of Great Britain,' as the world had been taught to expect'; and had formerly said to Mr. Boswell that he believed Campbell's disappointment, on account of the bad success of that work, had killed him. He now again observed of it, “ That work was his death.” Mr. Warton, who was present, not adverting to his meaning, answered, “I believe so; from the great attention he bestowed on it." JOHNSON. “Nay, Sir, he died of want of attention, if he died at all by that book."
Again recurring to biography, Johnson said, " It is rarely well executed. They only who live with a man can write his life with any genuine exactness and discrimination; and few people who have lived with a man know what to remark about him. The chaplain of a late Bishop, whom I was to assist in writing some me
moirs of his Lordship, could tell me scarcely any thing."
A gentleman said, Mr. Robert Dodsley's life should be written, as he had been so much connected with the wits of his time, and by his literary merits had raised himself from the station of a footman. Mr. Warton observed, that he had published a little volume under the title of "The Muse in Livery.' JOHNSON. “I doubt whether Dodsley's brother would thank a man who should write his life; yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling that his original low condition should be recollected. When Lord Lyttleton's · Dialogues of the Dead' came out, one of which is between Apicius, an ancient epicure, and Dartineuf, a modern epicure, Dodsley said to me, "I knew Dartineuf well, for I was once his footman.'"
Of Dodsley's Public Virtue,' a Poem, he said, “ It was fine blank (meaning to express his usual contempt for blank verse); however, this miserable poem did not sell, and my poor friend Doddy said, Public Virtue was not a subject to interest the age."
Mr. Langton, when a very young man, read Dodsley's Cleone, a Tragedy,' to Johnson, not aware of his extreme impatience to be read to. As it went on, he turned his face to the back of his chair, and put himself into various attitudes
which marked his uneasiness. At the end of au act, however, he said, “Come, let's have some more, let's go into the slaughter-house again, Lanky; but I am afraid there is more blood than brains." Yet he afterwards said,
66 When I heard you read it, I thought higher of its power of language. When I read it myself, I was more sensible of its pathetic effect, and then paid it a .compliment which many will think very extravagant.
• Sir (said he), if Otway had written this play, no other of his pieces would have been remembered.' Dodsley himself, upon this being repeated to him, said, “It was too much;' it must be remembered, that Johnson always appeared not to be sufficiently sensible of the merit of Otway."
Talking of Rochester's Poems, he said he had given them to Mr. Steevens to castrate for the edition of the Poets to which he was to write Prefaces. Dr. Taylor (the only time says Mr. B. I ever heard him say any thing witty) observed, that “ If Rochester had been castrated himself, his exceptionable poems, would not have been written.” One asked if Burnet had not given a good Life of Rochester. “ We have (said Johnson) a good Death; there is not much Life.”
He said, “ Burnet's - History of his own Times' is very entertaining. The style indeed is mere chit-chat. I do not believe that Burnet in
tentionally lied; but he was so much prejudiced, that he took no pains to find out the truth. He was like a man who resolves to regulate his time by a certain watch; but will not enquire whether the watch is right or wot;”
Such was Johnson's sensibility, and so much was he affected by pathetick poetry, that the reading of Dr. Beattie's "Hermit' brought tears
into his eyes.
Baxter's “ Reasons of the Christian Religion,' he thought, contained the best collection of the evidences of the divinity of the Christian system.
Being asked what works of Richard Baxter's a person should read, he said, “ Any of them ; they are all good."
Johnson praised John Bunyan highly. “ His • Pilgrim's Progress' has great merit, both for invention, imagination, and the conduct of the story; and it has had the best evidence of its merit, the general and continued approbation of mankind. Few books, I believe, have had a more extensive sale. It is remarkable, that it begins very much like the poem of Dante; yet there was no translation of Dante when Bunyan wrote. There is reason to think that he had read Spenser.'
Mr. Boswell mentioning that we were to have the Remains of Mr. Gray, in prose and verse,