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Fahmu.alwy, the purging of the passions, as the purpose of tragedy. But how are the passions to be purged by terror and pity?" (said I, with an
ther assured, that he actually obtained an additional sum. He soon after (in the year 1758) unfortunately embarked for Dublin, on an engagement for one of the theatres there : but the ship was cast away, and every person on board perished. There were about sixty passengers, among whom was the Earl of Drogheda, with many other persons of consequence and property.
“ As to the alledged design of making the compilement pass for the work of old Mr. Cibber, the charges seem to have been founded on a somewhat uncharitable construction. We are assured that the thought was not harboured by some of the proprietors, who are still living; and we hope that it did not occur to the first designer of the work, who was also the printer of it, and who bore a respectable character.
“ We have been induced to enter thus circumstantially into the foregoing detail of facts relating to the lives of the Poets, compiled by Messrs. Cibber and Shiels, from a sincere regard to that sacred principle of Truth, to which Dr. Johnson so rigidly adhered, according to the best of his knowledge; and which, we believe, no consideration would have prevailed on him to violate. In regard to the matter, which we now dismiss, he had, no doubt, been misled by partial and wrong information. Shiels was the doctor's amanuensis ; he had quarrelled with Cibber ; it is natural to suppose that he told his story in his own way; and it is certain that he was not a very sturdy moralist.””
This explanation appears very satisfactory. It is, however, tó be observed, that the story told by Johnson does not rest solely upon this record of his conversation ; for he himself has pube lished it in his Life of Hammond, where he says, “ The manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession.” Very probably he had trusted to Shiels's word, and never looked at it so as to compare it with. The Lives of the Poets,' as published under Mr. Cibber's
assumed air of ignorance to excite him to talk, for which it was often necessary to employ some address).-JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, you are to consider what is the meaning of purging in the original sense. It is to expel impurities from the human body. The mind is subject to the same imperfection. The passions are the great mover's of human actions; but they are mixed with such impurities, that it is necessary they should be purged or refined by means of terror and pity. For instance, ambition is a noble passion; but by seeing upon the stage that a man, who is so ex . cessively ambitious as to raise himself by injustice, is punished, we are terrified at the fatal consequences of such a passion. In the same manner a certain degree of resentment is necessary; but if we see that a man carries it too far, we pity the object of it, and are taught to mode rate that passion.”
Mr. Boswell observed, that the great defect of the tragedy of Othello' was, that it had not a moral; for that no man could resist the circumstances of suspicion which were artfully suggested to Othello's mind. Johnson. " In the first place, Sir, we learn from Othello this very useful moral, not to make an unequal match; in the second place, we learn not to yield too readily to suspicion. The handkerchief is merely a trick, though a very pretty trick: but there are no
other circumstances of reasonable suspicion, except what is related by Iago of Cassio's warm expressions concerning Desdemona in his sleep; and that depended entirely upon the assertion of
No, Sir, I think Othello has more moral than alınost any play.”
Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned Mr. Cumberland's Odes, which were then just published. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, they would have been thought as good as Odes commonly are, if Cum. berland had not put his name to them; but a pame immediately draws censure, unless it be a name that bears down every thing before it. Nay Cumberland has made his Odes subsidiary to the fame of another man; they might have run well enough by themselves, but he has not only loaded them with a name, but has made them carry double."
Johnson said, “ The little volumes entitled Respublicæ,' which are very well done, were a bookseller's work."
Of Chatterton, he said, “This is the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge. It is wonderful how the whelp has written such things."
Speaking of the ancient poets, he observed, 56 Theocritus is not deserving of very high respect as a writer; as to the pastoral part, Virgil is very evidently superior. He wrote when
there had been a larger influx of knowledge into the world than when Theocritus lived. Theo. critus does not abound in description, though living in a beautiful country; the manners painted are coarse and gross. Virgil has much more description, more sentiment, more of nature, and more of art. Some of the most excele lent parts of Theocritus are where Castor and Pollux, going with the other Argonauts, land on the Bebrycian coast, and there fall into a dispute with Amycus, the king of that country; which is as well conducted as Euripides could have done it; and the battle is well related. Afterwards they carry off a woman, whose two brothers come to recover her, and expostulate with Castor and Pollux on their injustice; but they pay no regard to the brothers, and a battle ensues, where Castor and his brother are triumphant. Theocritus seems not to have seen that the brothers have the advantage in their argument over his Argonaut heroes.--" The Sicilian Gossips' is a piece of merit. Callimachus is a writer of little excellence. The chief thing to be learned from him is his account of Rites and Mythology, which though desirable to be known for the sake of understanding other parts of ancient authors, is the least pleasing or valuable part of their writings."
" Mattaire's account of the Stephani is a heavy book. He seems to have been a puzzle-headed
man, with a large share of scholarship, but with little geometry or logic in his head, without me. thod, and possessed of little genius. He wrote Latin verses from time to time, and published a set in his old age which he called · Senilia ;' in which he shews so little learning or taste in writing, as to make Carteret a dactyl. In matters of genealogy it is necessary to give the bare names as they are; but in poetry, and in prose of any elegance in the writing, they require to have inflection given to them. His book of the Dialects is a sad heap of confusion; the only way to write on them is to tabulate them with Notes, added at the bottom of the page, and references."
Huggins, the translator of Ariosto, and Mr. Thomas Warton, in the early part of his literary life, had a dispute concerning that poet, of whom Mr. Warton, in his ' Observations on Spenser's Fairy Queen,' gave some account, which Huggins attempted to answer with violence, and said, “ I will militate no longer against his nescience.” Huggins was master of the subject, but wanted expression. Mr. Warton's knowledge of it was then imperfect, but his manner lively and elegant. Johnson said, “ It appears to me, that Huggins has ball without powder, and Warton powder without ball."
Johnson used at one time to go occasionally: to