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with awe from the arduous undertaking. In writing to a friend, he thus expresses himself :— “I must leave this mighty task to some hardier and some abler hand. The variety and the splendour of Johnson's attainments, the peculiarity of his character, his private virtues, and his literary publications, fill me with confusion and dismay, when I reflect on the confined and difficult species of composition, in which alone they can be expressed on his monument.
On another occasion, speaking on the same subject “I once intended to write Johnson's Life ; and I had read through three shelves of books to prepare myself for it. It would have contained a view of the literature of Europe: and,” — making an apology for the proud consciousness which he felt of his own ability — “if I had written it,” continued he, “it would have been the third most learned work that has ever yet appeared.” To explain himself, he afterwards added, " The most learned work ever written, I consider Bentley On the Epistles of Phalaris ;' the next, Salmasius On the Hellenistic Language.”” third occasion, describing the nature of his intended work, and alluding to Boswell, he said, “Mine should have been, not the drippings of his lips, but the history of his mind.”
520. Imitations of Juvenal. (') Dr. Parr spoke with unbounded favour of Johnson's imitations of Juvenal. The lines in the third satire, —
- Tanti tibi non sit opaci,
Ut som:o careas, he was fond of quoting, with Johnson's amplification of the sentiment:
“ But thou, should tempting villany present
All Marlborough hoarded, or all Villiers spent,
Unsullied fame, and conscience ever gay." (1) This and the two next articles are from “ Recollections of Dr. Parr, by a Pupil” (the late Charles Marsh). — New Monthly Mag, vol. xvii.
521. Preface to Shakspeare. The Preface to Shakspeare Dr. Parr considered Johnson's most eloquent prose composition ; and he delighted in quoting that fine passage, where Johnson, at the close of his attack upon the doctrine of the Unities, says, “But when I think of the great authorities that are ranged on the other side, I am almost tempted to retire from the contest; as Æneas withdrew from the siege of Troy, when he saw Neptune shaking the walls, and Juno heading the besiegers."
522. Music. Talking once with Dr. Parr on the subject of dedications, in a friend's library, he desired me to take down the first volume of Burney's History of Music, and to read to him the dedication of that work to the queen. “ There," said he, “there is the true refinement of compliment, without adulation. In the short
In the short compass of a few lines are comprised no small degree of the force, and nearly all the graces and the harmonies, of the English language. But Burney did not write it: Johnson wrote it ; and on this, as on other occasions, showed himself an accomplished courtier. Jemmy Boswell ought to have known that Johnson wrote it. I had it from good authority; besides, it is Johnson's internally. How truly Johnsonian is the following passage:
"The science of musical sounds has been depreciated as appealing only to the ear, and affording nothing more than a fugitive and temporary delight ; but it may justly be considered as the art which unites corporal with intellectual pleasure, by a species of enjoyment which gratifies sense, without weakening reason; and which, therefore, the great may cultivate without debasement, and the good may enjoy without depravation.”
523. Adventurer, No. 87. (') The following observations were dictated to me by Dr. Parr, as he was one evening calmly smoking his pipe in my study. I was telling him, that two of our common
(1) [From “ Parriana,” by E. H. Barker, Esq., vol. i. p. 172.]
friends had decided from internal evidence, that No. 87. in that work was not written by Warton, as the signature Z. indicated, but by Johnson. “Reach your · Adventurer' from the shelves,” said the Doctor, “and read the paper to
When I had done so he said, “ Now sit down, and write on the blank leaf of the volume what I shall dictate to you; and remember never to part with that book, nor suffer the leaf, which
have written, to be torn out, but preserve it as a memorial of your cordial and sincere friend, when I shall be numbered with the dead.” What the Doctor dictated is as follows: — “May 19. 1808. Number 87. of the · Adventurer' was written by Johnson, not by Dr. Warton. It has internal evidence sufficient to show who was, and who was not, the writer. Instead of T. the signature of Johnson, Z., the signature of Warton, was by an error of the press inserted in the earlier editions, and has since continued. Boswell, when collecting Johnson's papers in the · Adventurer,' looked only to the signature T.; and not finding it to No. 87., he did not assign that paper to Johnson. Warton was more likely to keep a good account than Johnson. Dr. Wooll, in his Life of Warton, does not include No. 87. among the papers written by Warton. Dr. Parr, who
Dr. Parr, who gave me this information in May 1808, was quite satisfied with the internal evidence as supplied by the style and the matter. Boswell's silence proves nothing except his want of vigilance, or his want of acuteness; but Wooll's silence is decisive, more especially as Boswell has left the paper open to a claim from Dr. Warton, who happily had too much honour to appropriate the composition of another man.”
524. First Interview with Johnson. (') We talked of Johnson. Dr. Parr said, he had once begun to write a life of him; and if he had continued it, it would have been the best thing he had ever written. " I should have related not only every thing important about Johnson, but many things about the men who flourished at the same time;" adding, with an expression
(1) [This and the next article are from a paper entitled “ Two Days with Dr. Parr," in Blackwood's Mag. vol, xvii.
of sly humour, “ taking care, at the same time, to display my own learning.” He said, Dr. Johnson was an admirable scholar, and that he would have had a high reputation for more learning, if his reputation for intellect and eloquence had not overshadowed it; the classical scholar was forgotten in the great original contributor to the literature of his country.
One of the company reminded him of his first interview with Dr. Johnson, as related by Mr. Langton in Boswell's account of his life. After the interview was over, Dr. Johnson said, “Parr is a fair man ; I do not know when I have had an occasion of such free controversy; it is remarkable how much of a man's life may pass without meeting with any instance of this kind of open discussion.” To this remark Dr. Parr replied with great vehemence, “I remember the interview well : I gave him no quarter. The subject of our dispute was the liberty of the press. Dr. Johnson was very great : whilst he was arguing, I observed that he stamped. Upon this I stamped. Dr. Johnson said, •Why did you stamp, Dr. Parr ?' I replied, “Sir, because you stamped ; and I was resolved not to give you the advantage even of a stamp in the argument. It is impossible to do justice to his description of this scene; the vehemence, the characteristic pomposity, with which it was accompanied, may easily be imagined by those who knew him, but cannot be adequately represented to those who did not.
525. Johnson's “Prayers and Meditations." ( Permit me (says Dr. Parr),
(says Dr. Parr), as a friend to the cause of virtue and religion, to recommend most earnestly to readers of every class the serious perusal of Dr. Johnson's
Prayers and Meditations,” lately published. They mark, by the most unequivocal and vivid proofs, the sincerity of his faith, the fervour of his devotion, and the warmth of his benevolence : they are equally intelligible, and equally instructive, to the learned and the unlearned; they will animate the piety of the Christian, and put to
(1) (From the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lv. p. 675.]
shame the coldness and obduracy of the proud philosopher ; they show at once the weakness and the strength of Johnson's mind; but that weakness melts every attentive reader into compassion, and that strength impresses him with veneration. He that possesses both integrity of principle, and tenderness of feeling — he that admires virtue, and reveres religion - he that glows with the love of mankind, and reposes his trust in God — will himself become a wiser and a better man from contemplating those thoughts which passed in the mind of one of the wisest and the best of men, when he communed with his own heart, and poured forth his supplications before the throne of Heaven for mercy and for grace.