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published by Mr. Mason, “ I think (said Johnson) we have had enough of Gray.”
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, perhaps unreasonably; for he said, “ I forced myself to read it, only because it was a common topick of conversation. I found it mighty dull; and as to the style, it is fit for the second table.”
He now gave it as his opinion, that “ Akenside was a superior poet both to Gray and Mason.” Yet he said, “I see they have published a splendid edition of Akenside's works. One bad ode may be suffered; but a number of them together makes one sick."-BosweLL. “ Akenside's distinguished poem is his · Pleasures of Imagination:' but for my part, I never could admire it so much as most people do.”—JOHNson. “ Sir, I could not read it through.”-B. “ I have read it through; but I did not find any great power in it."
Mr. B. told him, that he heard Dr. Percy was writing the history of the wolf in Great Britain. Johnson. “ The wolf, Sir! why the wolf? Why
does he not write of the bear, which we had formerly? Nay, it is said we had the beaver; or why
does he not write of the grey rat, the Hanover rat, as it is called, because it is said to have come into this country about the time that the family of Hanover came? I should like to see
"The History of the Grey Rat,' by Thomas Percy, D. D. Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty," (laughing immoderately). — Boswell. “ I am afraid a court chaplain could not decently write of the grey rat.”—J. “ Sir, he need not give it the name of the Hanover rat.”—Thus could he indulge a luxuriant sportive imagination, when talking of a friend whom he loved and esteemed.
Having talked of Grainger's • Sugar Cane," Mr. Boswell mentioned Mr. Langton's having told him, that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus:
“ Now, Muse, let's sing of rats." And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slily overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally mice, and had been altered. to rats as more dignified.
This passage does not appear in the printed work. Dr. Grainger or some of his friends, it should seem, having become sensible that intro
ducing even Rats in a grave poem might be liable to banter. He, however, could not bring himself to relinquish the idea ; for they are thus, in a still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his Poem as it now stands.
“ Nor with less waste the whisker'd yermin race,
“ A coentless clan, despoil the lowland canc.” Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agreeable man; a man who would do any good that was in his power. His translation of Tibullus, he thought, was very well done; bot " The Sugar Cane' did not please him; for he exclaimed, “What could he make of a sugar-cane? One might as well write the · Parsley Bed, a Poem;' or, The Cabbage Garden, a Poem.'”— Boswell. “ You must then pickle your cabbage with the sal atticum."-JOHNSON. 6. You know there is already · The Hop Garden, a Poem ;' and I think one could say a great deal about cabbage. The poem might begin with the advantages of civilized society over a rude state, exemplified by the Scotch, who had no cabbages till Oliver Cromwell's soldiers introduced them; and one might thus shew how arts are propagated by conquest, as they were by the Roman arms.". He seemed to be much diverted with the fertility of his own fancy.
He spoke slightingly of Dyer's Fleece."
“ The subject, Sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets?. Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that excellent poem “The Fleece.'”
Speaking of Cheyne, whom Mr. Boswell reckoned whimsical, “ So he was (said Johnson) in some things; but there is no end of objections. There are few books to which some objection or other may not be made.”—He added, “ I would not have you read any thing else of Cheyne, but his book on Health, and his . English Malady.'”
He said, that the book entitled “ The Lives of the Poets,' by Mr. Cibber, was entirely compiled by Mr. Shiels, a Scotchman, one of his ama
of 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 author; by this, a double im. position 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 Cib,
* In the Monthly Review for May 1792, there is a correction of the above passage.
“ This account (says the Critic) is very inaccurate. The following statenient of facts we know to be true, in every material circumstance : --Shiels was the principal collector and digester of the materials for the work; but as he was
" I once introduced (says Mr. B.) Aristotle's doctrine in his Art of Poetry,' of nabapois TWY
very raw in authorship, and an indifferent writer in prose, and his language full of Scoticisms, Cibber, who was a clever, lively fellow, and then soliciting employment among the booksellers, was engaged to correct the style and diction of the whole work, then intended to make only four volumes, with power to alter, expunge, or add, as he liked. He was also to supply notes occasionally, especially concerning those dramatic poets with whom he had been chiefly conversant. He also engaged to write several of the Lives; which (as we are told) he accordingly performed. He was farther useful in striking out the Jacobitical and Tory sentiments which Shiels had industriously interspersed wherever he could bring them in; and, as the success of the work appeared, after all, very doubtful, he was content with twenty-one pounds. for his labour, besides a few sets of the books to disperse among his friends. Shiels had nearly seventy pounds, beside the advantage of many of the best lives in the work being communicated by friends to the undertaking; and for which Mr. Shiels had the. same consideration as for the rest, being paid by the sheet for the whole. He was, however, so angry with his Whiggish supervisor (Tue. like his father, being a violent stickler for the political principles which prevailed in the reign of George the Second), for so unmercifully mutilating his copy, and scouting his politics, that he wrote Cibber a challenge; but was prevented from sending it by the publisher, who fairly laughed him out of his fury. The proprietors, too, were discontented in the end, on account of Mr. Cibber's unexpected industry; for his corrections and alterations in the proof-sheets were so numerous and considerable, that the printer made for them a grievous addition to his bill ; and, in fine, all parties were dissatisfied. On the whole, the work was productive of no profit to the undertakers, who had agreed, in case of success, to make Cibber a present of some addition to the twenty guineas which he had received, and for which his receipt is now in the bookseller's hands. We are far