« VorigeDoorgaan »
once told Mrs. Thrale, “You have so little anxiety about truth, that you never tax your memory with the exact thing.' Now what is the use of the memory to truth, if one is careless of exactness ? Lord Hailes's: “Annals of Scotland' are very cxact; but they contain mere dry particulars. They are to be considered as a dictionary. You know such things are there ; and may be looked at when you please. Robertson paints; but the misfortune is, you are fure he does not know the people whom he paints ; so you cannot suppose a likeness. Characters fhould never be given by an hirtorian, unless he knew the people whom he describes, or copics from those who knew them."
Mr. Bofwell also relates (though not on the authority of his journal), that in the same contersation he took notice of a report which had been sometimes propagated, that he did not understand Greek. Lord Bathurst faid, that he knew that to be false : for that part of the Iliad was translated by Mr. Pope in his house in the country; and that in the mornings when they assembled at breakfast, Mr. Pope used frequently to repeat, with great rapture, the Greek lines which he had been translating, and then to give them his version of them, and to compare them together.”
Mr. Beauclerk one day repeated to Dr. Johnson Pope's lines,
• Let modest Foster, if he will, excel
Then asked the Doctor, Why did Pope say this?"-Johnson. “Sir, he hoped it would vex somebody.”
Talking of the minuteness with which people will often record the sayings of eminent persons, a story was told, that when Pope was on a visit to Spence at Oxford, as they looked from the window they saw a Gentleman Commoner, who was just come in from riding, ainusing himself with whipping at a post. Pope took occasion to say, “ That young gentleman seems to have little to do.” Mr. Beauclerk observed, “ Then, to be sure, Spence turned round and wrote that down ; and went on to say to Dr. Johnson, · Pope, Sir, would have said the same of you, if he had seen you: distilling."-Johnson. “ Sir, if Pope had told me of my distilling, I would have told him of his grotto." Mr. Ramsay said, “I am old enough to have been a contemporary of Pope.
. His poetry was highly admired in his life-time, more a great deal than after his death." 7.“ Sir ; it has not been lefs admired after his death ; it has only not been as much talked EE 3
of; but that is owing to its being now more diftant, and people having other writings to talk of. Virgil is less talked of than Pope, and Homer is less talked of than Virgil ; but they are not less admired. We must read what the world reads at the moment. It has been maintained that this superfætation, this teeming of the press in modern times is prejudicial to good literature, because it obliges us to read so much of what is of inferior value, in order to be in the fashion ; fo that better works are neglected for want of time, because a man will have more gratification of his vanity in conversation from having read modern books, than from having read the best works of antiquity. But it must be considered, that we have now more knowledge generally diffused; all our ladies read now, which is a great extension. Modern writers are the moons of literature; they Thine with reflected light, with light borrowed from the ancients. Grecce appears to me to be the fountain of knowledge ; Rome of elegance." - RAMSAY.
" I suppose Homer's • Iliad' to be a collection of picces which had been written before his time, I should like to sec a translation of it in poetical profe, like the book of Ruth or Job."-ROBERTSON. “Would you, Dr. Johnson, who arc master of the English language, but try your hand upon a part
of it."--j. “Sir, you could not rcad it without the pleasure of verse.”
On another occasion, Johnson said, “ Sir, a thousand years may clapse before there shall appear another man with a power of versification equal to that of Pope.” That power must undoubtedly be allowed its due share in enhancing the value of his captivating composition.
He said, that the dispute as to the comparative excellence of Homer or Virgil was inaccurate. “ We must consider (said he) whether Homer was not the greatest poct, though Virgil may have produced the finest poem. Virgil was indebted to Homer for the whole invention of the structure of an epic poem, and for many of his beauties.”
Mr. Boswell one day found fault with Foote for indulging his talent of ridicule at the expence of his visitors, which he colloquially termed making fools of his company.Johx60N. Why, Sir, when you go to see Foote, you do not go to see a faint ; you go to see a man who will be entertained at your house, and then bring you on a public stage ; who will entertain you at his house for the very purpose of bringing you on a public stage. Sir, he does not make fools of his company; they whom he exposes are fools alrea:ly : he only brings them into action.”
Boswelt. "Foote has a great deal of humour ?"-4. “ Yes, Sir."-B. “He has a fin, gular talent of exhibiting character.”—). “Sir, it is not a talent; it is a vice; it is what others abstain from. It is not comedy, which exhibits the character of a species, as that of a miser gathered from many misers : it is farce, which exhibits individuals.”—B. “ Did not he think of exhibiting you, Sir ?"-). “
“ Sir, fear restrained him ; he knew I would have broken his bones. I would have saved him the trouble of cutting off a leg ; I would not have left him a leg to cut off?”-B. “Pray, Sir, is not Foote an infidel ?”-7. “I do not know, Sir, that the fellow. is an infidel ; but if he be an infidel, he is an infidel as a dog is an infidel ; that is to say, he has never thought upon the subject."~B. “ I suppose, Sir,, he has thought superficially, and seized the first notions which occurred to his mind.”—7. " Why then, Sir, still he is like a dog, that snatches, the piece next him. Did you never observe that dog's have not the power of comparing? A dog will take a small bit of meat as readily as a large, when both are before him."
Johnson said, “ Foote was not a good mimic.". One of the company added, “A merry Andrew, a buffoon."). " But he has wit too, and is not deficient in ideas, or in fertility and variety of imagery, and not empty of reading ; hę