« VorigeDoorgaan »
written with much more facility than the same quantity of a dictionary.
"The real cause of my surprise was what appeared to me much more paradoxical, that he could write a sheet of diotionary with as much pleasure as a sheet of poetry. He acknowledged, indeed, that the latter was much easier than the former. For in the one case, books and a desk were requisite ; in the other, you might compose when lying in bed, or walking in the fields, &c. He did not, however, descend to explain, nor to this moment can I comprehend, how the labours of a mere philologist, in the most refined sense of that term, could give equal pleasure with the exercise of a mind replete with elevated conceptions and pathetic ideas, while taste, fancy, and intellect were deeply enamoured of nature, and in full exertion. You may likewise, perhaps, remember, that when I complained of the ground which scepticism in religion and morals was continually gaining, it did not appear to be on my own account, as my private opinions upon these important subjects had long been inflexibly determined. What I then deplored, and still deplore, was the unhappy influence which that gloomy hesitation had, not only upon particular characters, but even upon life in general; as being equally the bane of action in our present state, and of such consolations as we might derive from the hopes of a future.
"I have the pleasure of remaining, with sincere esteem and respect, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant,
I am very happy to find that Dr. Blacklock's apparent uneasiness on the subject of scepticism was not on his own account (as I supposed), but from a benevolent concern for the happiness of mankind. With respect, however, to the question concerning poetry, and composing a dictionary, I am confident that my state of Dr. Johnson's position is accurate. One may misconceive the motive by which a person is induced to discuss a particular topic (as in the case of Dr. Blacklock's speaking of scepticism); but an assertion, like that made by Dr. John
son, cannot be easily mistaken. And, indeed, it seems not very probable, that he who so pathetically laments the drudgery to which the unhappy lexicographer is doomed, and is known to have written his splendid imitation of Juvenal with astonishing rapidity, should have had "as much pleasure in writing a sheet of a dictionary as a sheet of poetry." Nor can I concur with the ingenious writer of the foregoing letter, in thinking it an axiom as evident as any in Euclid, that "poetry is of easier execution than lexicography." I have no doubt that Bailey, and the "mighty blunderbuss of law," Jacob, wrote ten pages of their respective dictionaries with more ease than they could have written five pages of poetry.
If this book should again be reprinted, I shall, with the utmost readiness, correct any errors I may have committed, in stating conversations, provided it can be clearly shown to me that I have been inaccurate. But I am slow to believe (as I have elsewhere observed) that any man's memory, at the distance of several years, can preserve facts or sayings with such fidelity as may be done by writing them down when they are recent: and I beg it may be remembered, that it is not upon memory, but upon what was written at the time, that the authenticity of my Journal rests.
MR. BOSWELL says, "The following verses, written by Sir Alexander (now Lord) Macdonald, and addressed and presented to Dr. Johnson, at Armidale, in the Isle of Sky, should have appeared in its proper place [antè, p. 159.] if the author of this Journal had been possessed of them; but this edition was almost printed off when he was accidentally furnished with a copy by a friend." Mr. Croker adds, "These verses have not been removed to the text, because Mr. Boswell did not think proper to do so in his subsequent editions, and because I really do not profess to understand more than the first
stanza. It seems hard to guess what Sir Alexander could have meant by presenting Dr. Johnson with such lines; which are really little better than the nonsense verses of a schoolboy."
Audin? resurgens spirat anhelitu
Poeta manes, ingruitque
Vi solitâ redivivus horror.
Ahæna quassans tela gravi manu
Quiescat urnâ, stet fidelis
INSCRIPTION ON THE MONUMENT OF SIR JAMES MACDONALD, BART., IN THE CHURCH OF SLATE;
AND TWO LETTERS FROM THAT YOUNG GENTLEMAN TO HIS MOTHER.
(Referred to in p. 164.)
To the memory
Of SIR JAMES MACDONALD, Bart.
Had attained to so eminent a degree of knowledge
And in every other branch of useful and polite learning,
As few have acquired in a long life
Yet to this erudition he joined,
What can rarely be found with it,
Great propriety of behaviour,
His eloquence was sweet, correct, and flowing;
His memory vast and exact;
His judgment strong and acute;
All which endowments, united
With the most amiable temper
The 25th of his life,
After a long and extremely painful illness,
Which he supported with admirable patience and fortitude, He died at Rome,
Where, notwithstanding the difference of religion, Such extraordinary honours were paid to his memory, As had never graced that of any other British subject, Since the death of Sir Philip Sydney.
The fame he left behind him is the best consolation
The LADY MARGARET MACDONALD,
Erected this monument,
A. D. 1768.