« VorigeDoorgaan »
437. The Ramei. “ Anecdote of his tutor, who told them that the Ramei, the followers of Ramus, were so called from Ramus, a bow."
438. Johnson's Idleness. Description of himself as very idle and neglectful of his studies.
439. Latin. “ His opinion, that I could not name above five of my college acquaintance who read Latin with ease sufficient to make it pleasurable. The difficulties of the language overpower the desire of reading the author.
“ That he read Latin with as much ease when he went to college as at present."
440. Ovid's Fasti. — Wotton. - Wood. “Recommended the reading the Fasti of Ovid, — also Wotton, and Wood on Homer."
441. Death of Hercules. “Commended Ovid's description of the death of Hercules — doubted whether Virgil would not have loaded the description with too many fine words.”
442. Styles. “Opinion that there were three ways in which writing might be unnatural ; — by being bombastic and above nature — affected and beside it, fringing events with ornaments which nature did not afford — or weak and below nature. That neither of the first would please long. That the third might indeed please a good while, or at least please many ; because imbecility, and consequently a love of imbecility, might be found in many."
443. A Good Work. “ Baretti had told him of some Italian author, who said that a good work must be that with which the vulgar were pleased, and of which the learned could tell why it pleased
- that it must be able to employ the learned, and detain the idle. Chevy Chase pleased the vulgar, but did not satisfy the learned ; it did not fill a mind capable of thinking strongly. The merit of Shakespeare was such as the ignorant could take in, and the learned add nothing to.”
444. “ Stat magni nominis,” fc. “ Stat magni nominis umbra he would construe as umbra quæ est magni nominis, i.e. celebrata.”
445. Rowe's Lucan. “Opinion of Rowe's translation of Lucan, that it would have been improved, if Rowe had had a couple of years to render it less paraphrastical.”
446. Virgil. “Vast change of the Latin language from the time of Virgil to Lucretius ; – greater than known in any other, even the French. The story of Dido is in Ovid's Fasti, also of Mezentius. Virgil's invention therefore is less than supposed. • Take from his what is in Homer, what do you leave him?" »
447. Latin. “ The pretensions of the English to the reputation of writing Latin is founded not so much on the specimens in that way which they have produced, as on the quantity of talent diffused through the country.
448. Erasmus. “Erasmus appears to be totally ignorant of science and natural knowledge. But one Italian writer is mentioned in Erasmus ; whence Johnson conjectured that he did not understand Italian.”
449. Turnpike Roads. “Opinion about the effect of turnpike roads. Every place communicating with each other. Before, there were cheap places and dear places. Now, all refuges are destroyed for elegant or genteel poverty. Want of such a last hope to support men in their struggle through life, however seldom it might be resorted to. Disunion of families by furnishing a market to each man's abilities, and destroying the dependence of one man on another.”
[The following interesting Account of Mr. Windham's
Conversations with Dr. Johnson, a few Days before his Death, is extracted from the same Journal.]
450. Johnson's last Illness and Death. Tuesday, December 7. 1784. — Ten minutes past 2, P. M.— After waiting some short time in the adjoining room, I was admitted to Dr. Johnson in his bedchamber, where, after placing me next him in the chair (he sitting in his usual place, on the east side of the room, and I on his right hand), he put into my hands two small volumes (an edition of the New Testament, as he afterwards told me), saying, “Extremum hoc munus morientis habeto."
He then proceeded to observe that I was entering upon a life which would lead me deeply into all the business of the world : that he did not condemn civil employment, but that it was a state of great danger; and that he had therefore one piece of advice earnestly to impress upon me, that I would set apart every seventh day for the care of my soul. That one day, the seventh, should be employed in repenting what was amiss in the six preceding, and fortifying my virtue for the six to come. That such a portion of time was surely little enough for the meditation of eternity
He then told me that he had a request to make to me; namely, that I would allow his servant Frank to look up to me as his friend, adviser, and protector, in all difficulties which his own weakness and imprudence, or the force or fraud of others, might bring him into. He said that he had left him what he considered an ample provision, viz. seventy pounds per annum ; but that even that sum might not place him above the want of a protector, and to me, therefore, he recommended him as to one who had will, and power, and activity to protect him. Having obtained my assent to this, he proposed that Frank should be called in ; and desiring me to take him by the hand in token of the promise, repeated before him the recommendation he had just made of him, and the promise I had given to attend to it.
I then took occasion to say how much I felt — what I had long foreseen that I should feel regret at having spent so little of my life in his company. I stated this as an instance where resolutions are deferred till the occasions are past. For some time past I had determined that such an occasion of self-reproach should not subsist, and had built upon the hope of passing in his society the chief part of my time, at the moment when it was to be apprehended we were about to lose him for ever.
I had no difficulty in speaking to him thus of my apprehensions. I could not help, on the other hand, entertaining hopes, but with these I did not like to trouble him, lest he should conceive that I thought it necessary to flatter him : he answered hastily, that he was sure I would not ; and proceeded to make a compliment to the manliness of my mind, which, whether deserved or not, ought to be remembered, that it may be deserved.
I then stated, that among other neglects was the omission of introducing of all topics the most important, the consequence of which particularly filled my mind at that moment, and in which I had often been desirous to know his opinions; the subjects I meant were, I said, natural and revealed religion. The wish thus generally stated, was in part gratified on the instant. For revealed religion, he said, there was such historical evidence, as, upon any subject not religious, would have left no doubt. Had the facts recorded in the New Testament been mere civil occurrences, no one would have called in question the testimony by which they are established ; but the importance annexed to them, amounting to nothing less than the salvation of mankind, raised a cloud in our minds, and created doubts unknown upon any other subject. Of proofs to be derived from history, one of the most cogent, he seemed to think, was the opinion so well authenticated, and so long entertained, of a deliverer that was to appear about that time. Among the typical representations, the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, in which no bone was to be broken, had early struck his mind. For the immediate life and miracles of Christ, such attestation as that of the apostles, who all, except St. John, confirmed their testimony with their blood - such belief as these witnesses procured from a people best furnished with the means of judging, and least disposed to judge favourably
such an extension afterwards of that belief over all the nations of the earth, though originating from a nation of all others most despised, would leave no doubt that the things witnessed were true, and were of a nature more than human. With respect to evidence, Dr. Johnson observed, that we had not such evidence that Cæsar died in the Capitol, as that Christ died in the manner related.
December 11. - Went with Sir Joshua, whom I took up by the way, to see Dr. Johnson. Strahan and Langton there. No hopes; though a great discharge had taken place from the legs.
December 12. — At about half-past seven P. M. went to Dr. Johnson's, where I stayed, chiefly in the outer room, till past eleven. Strahan there during the whole time; during part Mr. Hoole; and latterly Mr. Cruikshanks and the apothecary. I only went in twice, for a few minutes each time : the first time I hinted only what they had before been urging ; namely, that he would be prevailed upon to take some sustenance, and desisted upon his exclaiming, “'Tis all very childish ; let us hear no more of it.” The second time I came in, in consequenee of a consultation with Mr. Cruikshanks and the apothecary, and addressed him formally, after premising that I considered what I was going to say as matter of duty ; I said that I hoped he would not suspect me of the weakness of importuning him to take nourishment for the purpose of prolonging his life for a few hours or days. I then stated what the reason was. It was to secure that which I was persuaded he was most anxious about ; namely, that he might preserve his faculties entire to the last moment. Before I had quite stated my meaning, he interrupted me by saying, that he had refused no sustenance but inebriating sustenance; and proceeded to give instances where, in