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Italian magician. King James says, in his Dæmonology, Magicians command the devils ; witches are their servants.' The Italian magicians are elegant beings."-RAMSAY. “ Opera witches, not Drury-lane witches."
* Colman (said Johnson) in a note on his translation of Terence, talking of Shakspeare's learning, asks, “What says Farmer to this? What says Johnson?"" Upon this he observed,
Sir, let Fariner answer for himself: I never engaged in this controversy. I always said Shakspeare had Latin enough to grammaticise his English.”
The character of Mallet having been introduced, and spoken of slightingly by Goldsmith, Johnson said “Why, Sir, Mallet had talents-enough to keep his literary reputation alive as long as he himself lived; and that, let me tell you, is a
good deal."--GOLDSMITH." But I cannot agree : that it was so. His literary reputation was dead long before his natural death. I consider an
author's literary reputation to be alive only : while his name will ensure a good price for his copy from the booksellers. I will get you (to Johnson) a hundred guineas for any thing whatever that you shall write, if you put your name to it." .: Mr. Boswell mentioned Mallet's tragedy of
* Elvira," which had been acted the preceding winter at Drury-lane, and that the Honourable Andrew Erskine, Mr. Dempster, and himself, had joined in writing a pamphlet, entitled “Critical Strictures' against it. That the mildness of Dempster's disposition had, however, relented; and he had candidly said, “ We have hardly a right to abuse this tragedy; for bad as it is, how vain should either of us be to write one not near so good !"-JOHNSON. “ Why no, Sir; this is not just reasoning. You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table.
It is not your trade to make tables."
Of Mr. Mallet he 'usually spoke with no great respect; he said, that he was ready for any dirty job; that he had wrote against Byng at the instigation of the ministry, and was equally ready to write for him, provided he found his account in it. 56 Mallet's Life of Bacon (said he) has no inconsiderable merit as an acute and elegant dissertation relative to its subject; but' Mallet's mind was not comprehensive enough to embrace the vast extent of Lord Verulam's genius and research. Dr. Warburton therefore observed with witty justness, “ that Mallet in his Life of Bacon had forgotten that he was a pliilosopher ;
and that if he should write the Life of the Duke of Marlborough, which he had undertaken to do, he would probably forget that he was a General.”
Lord Hailes had sent Johnson a present of a curious little printed Poem, on repairing the University of Aberdeen, by David Malloch, which he thought would please Johnson, as affording clear evidence that Mallet had appeared even as a literary character by the name of Malloch; his changing which to one of softer sound had given Johnson occasion to introduce him into his Dictionary, under the article Alias. This piece was, it is supposed, one of Mallet's first essays. · It is preserved in his works with several variations. Johnson having read aloud, from the beginning of it, where there were some commonplace assertions as to the superiority of ancient times;" How. false (said he) is all this, to say that in ancient times learning was not a disgrace to a peer as it is now. In ancient times a peer was as ignorant as any one else. He would have been angry to have it thought he could write his
Men in ancient times dared to stand forth with a degree of ignorance, with which nobody would dare now to stand forth. I am always angry when I hear ancient times praised at the
expence of modern times. There is now a great deal more learning in the world than there was formerly; for it is universally diffused.
You have, perhaps, no man who knows as much Greek and Latin as Bentley; no'man who knows as much mathematicks as Newton; but you have many more men who know Greek and Latin, and who know mathematicks. Mallet, I believe, never wrote a single line of his projected life of the Duke of Marlborough. He groped for materials: and thought of it, till he had exhausted his mind. Thus it sometimes happens that men entangle themselves in their own schemes.”
He allowed high praise to Thomson as a poet; but when one of the company said he was also a very good man, our moralist contested this with great warmth, accusing him of gross sensuality and licentiousness of manners. 66 I was (says -Mr. B.) very much afraid that in writing Thomson's Life, Dr. Johnson would have treated his private character with a stern severity, but I was agreeably disappointed; and I may claim a little "merit in it, from my having been at .pains to send him authentick accounts of the affectionate and generous conduct of that poet to his sisters; one of whom, the wife of Mr. Thomson, schoolmaster at Lanark, I knew, and was presented by her with three of his letters, one of which Dr. Johnson has inserted in his Life."
6. Thomson, I think (said the Doctor), had as much of the poet about him as most writers. Every thing appeared to him through the me
dium of his favourite pursuit. He could not have viewed two candles burning but with a poetical eye.”_"Thomson (he added at another time) had a true poetical genius, the power of viewing every thing in a poetical light. His fault is such a cloud of words sometimes, that the sense can hardly peep through. Shiels, who compiled ' Cibber's Lives of the Poets *,' was one day sitting with me. I took down Thomson, and read aloud a large portion of him, and then asked, is not this fine? Shiels having expressed the highest admiration, Well, Sir (said I), I have omitted every other line."
Talking of the Irish clergy, he said, Swift was. a man of great parts, and the instrument of much good to his country.
One observation which Johnson, makes in Swift's Life should be often inculcated: " It
may be justly supposed, that there was in his conversation what appears so frequently in his letters, an affectation of familiarity with the great, an ambition of momentary equality, sought and enjoyed by the neglect of those ceremonies, which custom has established as the barriers, between one order of society and another. This transgression of regularity was by himself and his admirers termed greatness of soul; but a great
* See Page 153.