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write his life; yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling that his original low condition should be recollected. When Lord Lyttleton's “ Dialogues of the Dead” came out, one of which is between Apicius, an ancient epicure, and Dartineuf, a modern epicure, Dodsley said to me, “I knew Dartineuf well, for I was once his footman.'
of Dodsley's “ Public Virtue," a poem, he said, “ It was fine blank (meaning to express his usual contempt for blank verse); however, this miserable poem did not sell, and my poor friend Doddy said, Public Virtue was not a subject to interest the age."
Mr. Langton, when a very young man, read Dodsley's “Cleone, a tragedy," to Johnson, not aware of his extreme impatience to be read to. As it went on, he turned his face to the back of his chair, and put himself into various attitudes, which marked his uneasiness. At the end of an act, however, he said, “Come, let's have some more, let's go into the slaughter-house again, Lanky; but I am afraid there is more blood than brains.” Yet he afterwards said, “ When I heard you read it, I thought higher of its power of language. When I read it myself, I was more sensible of its pathetic effect, and then paid it a compliment which many will think very extravagant. “ Sir (said he), if Otway had written this play, no other of his pieces would have been remembered." Dodsley himself, upon this being repeated to him, said, " it was too much;" it must be remembered, that Johnson always ap peared not to be sufficiently sensible of the merit of Otway
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Talking of Rochester's Poems, he said he had given them to Mr. Steevens to castrate for the edition of the Poets to which he was to write Prefaces. Dr. Taylor (the only time, says Mr. B., I ever heard him say any thing witty) observed, that “ If Rochester had been castrated himself, his exceptionable poems would not have been written.” One asked if Burnet had not given a good Life of Rochester. “We have said Johnson) a good Death; there is not much Life.”
He said, “ Burnet's History of his own Times’ is very entertaining. The style indeed is mere chit-chat. I do not believe that Burnet intentionally lied; but he was so much prejudiced, that he took no pains to find out the truth. He was like a man who resolves to regulate his time by a certain watch; but will not enquire whether the watch is right or not.”
Such was Johnson's sensibility, and so much was he affected by pathetic poetry, that the reading of Dr. Beattie's “ Hermit” brought tears
into his eyes.
Baxter's “ Reasons of the Christian Religion,” he thought,.contained the best collection of the evidences of the divinity of the Christian system.
Being asked what works of Richard Baxter's a person should read, he said, “ Any of them; they are all good.”
Johnson praised John Bunyan highly. “ His Pilgrim's Progress' has great merit, both for invention, imagination, and the conduct of the story; and it has had the best evidence of its merit, the general and continued approbation of mankind. Few books, I believe, have had a more extensive sale. It is remarkable, that it begins very much like the poem of Dante; yet there was no translation of Dante when Bunyan wrote. There is reason to think that he had read Spenser."
Mr. Boswell mentioning that we were to have the Remains of Mr. Gray, in prose and verse, published by Mr. Mason, I think (said Johnson) we have had enough of Gray.”
Mr. Murphy said, that the Memoirs of Gray's Life set him much higher in his estimation than his Poems did; for you there saw a man constantly at work in literature.-Johnson acquiesced in this, but depreciated the book, perhaps unreasonably; for he said, “ I forced myself to read it, only because it was a common topic of conversation. I found it mighty dull; and as to the style, it is fit for the second table.”
He now gave it as his opinion, that “ Akenside was a superior poet both to Gray and Mason.”
Yet he said, “ I see they have published a splendid edition of Akenside's works. One bad ode may be suffered; but a number of them together makes one sick."-Boswell.“ Akenside's distinguished poem is his . Pleasures of Imagination:' but for my part, I never could admire it so much as most people do." --John
“ Sir, I could not read it through."-B. “ I have read it through; but I did not find any great power in it."
Mr. B. told him, that he heard Dr. Percy was writing the history of the wolf in Great Britain. Johnson. “ The wolf, sir! why the wolf? Why does he not write of the bear, which we had formerly? Nay, it is said we had the beaver; or why does he not write of the grey rat, the Hanover
" I am
rat, as it is called, because it is said to have come into this country about the time that the family of Hanover came? I should like to see The History of the Grey Rat,' by Thomas Percy, D. D. Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty,' laughing immoderately).- Boswell. afraid a court chaplain could not decently write of the grey rat.”—J." Sir, he need not give it the name of the Hanover Rat."--Thus could he indulge a luxuriant sportive imagination when talking of a friend whom he loved and esteemed.
Having talked of Grainger's “ Sugar Cane," Mr. Boswell mentioned Mr. Langton's having told him, that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus:
“ Now, Muse, let's sing of rats." And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slily overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally mice, and had been altered to rats, as more dignified.
This passage does not appear in the printed work; Dr. Grainger, or some of his friends, it should seem, having become sensible that introducing even Rats in a grave poem might be liable to banter. He, however, could not bring himself to relinquish the idea; for they are thus, in a still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his poem as it now stands.
“ Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race,
Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agree
a man who would do any good that was in his
His translation of Tibullus, he thought, was very well done; but “ The Sugar Cane" did not please him; for he exclaimed,“ What could he make of a sugar-cane? One might as well write the · Parsley Bed, Poem;' or, · The Cabbage Garden, a Poem.' Boswell. “ You must then pickle your cabbage with the sal atticum.”—Johnson. “ You know there is already · The Hop Garden, a Poem :' and I think one could say a great deal about cabbage. The poem might begin with the advantages of civilized society over a rude state, exemplified by the Scotch, who had no cabbages till Oliver Cromwell's soldiers introduced them; and one might thus show how arts are propogated by conquest, as they were by the Roman arms. He seemed to be much diverted with the fertility of his own fancy.
He spoke slightingly of Dyer's “ Fleece.” “ The subject, sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets? Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that excellent poem, The Fleece.'
Speaking of Cheyne, whom Mr. Boswell reckoned whimsical, “ So he was (said Johnson) in some things; but there is no end of objec tions. There are few books to which some objections or other may not be made."-He added, I would not have you read any thing else of Cheyne, but his book on Health, and his English Malady.'
He said, that the book entitled “ The Lives of the Poets,” by Mr. Cibber, was entirely compiled