Imatges de pÓgina

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 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 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. (1)


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 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 me." 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 you 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 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 hap

(1) [From "Parriana," by E. H. Barker, Esq., vol. i. p. 472.]

pily had too much honour to appropriate the composition of another man.'

[ocr errors]

524. First Interview with Johnson. (1)

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 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." (2) 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

(1) [This and the next article are from a paper entitled "Two Days with Dr. Parr," in Blackwood's Mag. vol. xvii. p. 599.] (2) [See antè, Vol. VII. p. 363.]

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.” (1)

Permit me (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 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.

(1) [From the " Gentleman's Magazine,” vol. lv. p. 675.]



526. Acquaintance with Johnson. (2)

My connection with Dr. Johnson, though quite close and quite familiar, during a great number of years, was nevertheless, like every other intimacy, subject at intervals to the vicissitudes of coincidence and discrepance in opinion; not that I ever dreamt of any equality between our powers of pronouncing judgment in ambiguous and questionable cases, but in mere consequence of that untoward cast of mind which often makes this and that and t'other object appear to Mr. Joseph of such a form, of such a size, of such and such a quality, when Mr. Samuel conceives them all to be greatly dif ferent, if not the absolute reverse. Not unfrequently, therefore, were our debates on divers topics, now of more, now of less, importance. To them, and to a multitude of disquisitions I heard from him on innumerable matters, I am indebted for the best part of that little knowledge I have; and if there is any kind of rectitude and fidelity in my ideas, I will ever remember, with gratitude as well as pride, that I owe more of it to him and to his books, than to any other man I ever knew, or any other books I ever studied. However, in spite of my obsequiousness to his great superiority, and my ready submission to most of his dictates, never

(1) [See antè, Vol. II. p. 55.]

(2) [From Baretti's "Strictures on Signora Piozzi's publication of Dr. Johnson's Letters."]

« AnteriorContinua »