« VorigeDoorgaan »
proved upon this, by making his lady, at the fame time, free from their defects.
He dwelt upon Buchanan's elegant verfcs to Mary Queen of Scots, Nympha Caledoniæ, &c. and spoke with enthusiasm of the beauty of Latin verse. “All the modern languages (faid he) cannot furnith fo melodious a line as
“ Formosam resurure doces Amarillida filvas.".
« Buchanan (he observed) has fewer centos than any modern Latin poet. He not only has great knowledge of the Latin language, but was a great poetical genius. Both the Scaligers praise him.”
Mrs. Thrale once disputed with Johnson on the merit of Prior. He attacked him powerfully ; said he wrote of love like a man who had never felt it : his love verses were college verses; and he repeated the song
« Alexis Thunn'd his Fellow Swains,” &c. in so ludicrous a manner, as to make all the company wonder how any one could have been pleased with such fantastical stuff. Mrs. Thrale fiood to her guns with great courage, in defence of amorous ditties, which Johnson despised, till he at last filenced her by saying, “ My dear Lady, talk no more of this. Nonsense can be defended but by nonsense.”.
A proposition which had been agitated, that monuments to eminent persons should, for the time to come, be erected in St. Paul's church as well as in Westminster Abbey, was mentioned; and it was asked, who should be honoured by having his monument first erected there. Somebody fuggested Pope. Johnson. “Why, Sir, as Pope was a Roman Catholick, I would not have his to be first. I think Milton's rather should have the precedence. I think more highly of him now than I did at twenty. There is more thinking in him and in Butler, than in any of our poets."
It was a lively saying of Dr. Johnson to Miss Hannah More, who had expressed a wonder that the poet who had written · Paradise Loft' should write such poor Sonnets : “ Milton, Madam, was a genius that could cut a Colossus from a rock ; but could not carve heads upon cherry-stones.”
He censured Ruffhead's life of Popc; and said, “ he knew nothing of Pope, and nothing of poetry.” He praised Dr. Joseph Warton's Efrayon Pope; but said, he supposed we should have no more of it, as the author had not been able to persuade the world to think of Pope as he did.-Boswell.“Why, Sir, should that prevent him from continuing his work ? He is an ingenious Countel, who has made
the most of his cause; he is not obliged to gain it.”—Johnson. “ But, Sir, there is a difference when the cause is of a man's own making.”
Mr. Boswell told Johnson, that Pope and Dryden had been thus distinguished by a foreign writer : “ Pope drives a handsome chariot, with a couple of neat trim nags; Dryden a coach, and fix stately horses." --J. “Why, Sir, the truth is, they both drive coaches and
but Dryden's horses are either galloping or stumbling : Pope's go at a steady cven trot."
Johnson said, Pope's characters of men were admirabiy drawn, those of women not so well. He repeated, in his forcible melodious manner, the concluding lines of the Dunciad. While he was talking loudly in praise of those lines, one of the company ventured to say, « Too fine for such a poem: a poem on what?"-JOHNSON (with a disdainful look). “Why, on dunces. It was worth while being a dunce then. Ah, Sir, hadst thou lived in those days! It is not worth while being a dunce now, when there are no wits." Bickerstaff obferved, as a peculiar circumstance, that Pope's fame was higher when he was alive than it was then. Johnson said, his Pastorals were poor things, though the versification was fine He told us, with high satisfaction, the anecdote of Pope's inquiring who was the author of bis * London, and saying he will be foon deterré. He observed, that in Dryden's Poctry there were passages drawn from a profundity which Pope could never reach. He repeated some fire lines on love by the former (which I have now forgotten), and gave great applause to the character of Zimri. Goldsmith faid, that Pope's character of Addison Thewed a deep knowledge of the human heart.
“In the year 1763 (says Mr. Boswell, addressing himself to Dr. Johnson), being at London, I was carried by Dr. Jolin Blair, Prebendary of Westminster, to dine at old Lord Bathurst's ; where we found the late Mr. Mallet, Sir James Porter, who had been Ambassador at Conftantinople, the late Dr. Macaulay, and two or three more. The conversation turning on Mr. Pope, Lord Bathurst told us, that “The Essay on Man' was originally composed by Lord Bolingbroke in prose, and that Mr. Pope did no more than put it into verse : that he had read Lord Bolingbroke's manuscript in his own hand-writing ; and remembered well, that he was at a loss whether most to admire the elegance of Lord Bolingbroke's prose, or the beauty of Mr. Pope's verse. When Lord Bathurst told this, Mr. Mallet bade me
attend, and remember this remarkable piece of information; as, by the course of nature, I might survive his Lordship, and be a witness of his having said fo. The conversation was indeed too remarkable to be forgotten. A few days after, meeting with you, who were then also at London, you will remember that I mentioned to you what had passed on this subject, as I was much struck with this anecdote. But what ascertains my recollection of it beyond doubt is, that being accustomed to keep a Journal of what passed when I was at London, which I wrote out every evening, I find the particulars of the above information, just as I have now given them, distinctly marked ; and am thence enabled to fix this conversation to have passed on Friday, the 22d of April, 1763.
Johnson said, “Depend upon it, Sir, this is too strongly stated. Pope may have had from Bolingbroke the philofophic stamina of his Efsay ; and admitting this to be true, Lord Bathurst did not intentionally falsify. But the thing is not true in the latitude that Blair seems to imagine ; we are sure that the poetical imagery, which makes a great part of the poem, was Pope's own. It is amazing, Sir, what deviations there are from precise truth, in the account which is given of almost every thing. I
E E 2