Imatges de pÓgina
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CHAPTER 111

1778.

Horace's Villa. Country Life. Great Cities.
French Literature.- Old Age.- "Unius Lacertæ."
Potter's Eschylus.
Pope's Homer. - Sir W. Tem-

ple's Style. Elphinston's Martial. Hawkins's Tragedy. - Insubordination.

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Fame. Use of

Riches.-Economy.— Soldiers and Sailors.-Charles Fox.-De Foe.- Cock-Lane Ghost. Asking Questions.-Hulks.- Foreign Travel.-Short Hand. Dodd's Poems. Pennant. Johnson and Percy. -Stratagem. Correspondence.

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ON Thursday, April 9., I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with the Bishop of St. Asaph (Dr. Shipley), Mr. Allan Ramsay (1), Mr. Gibbon, Mr. Cambridge, and Mr. Langton. Mr. Ramsay had lately returned from Italy, and entertained us with his observations upon Horace's villa, which he had examined with great care. I relished this much, as it brought fresh into my mind what I had viewed with great pleasure thirteen years before. The bishop, Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Cambridge, joined with Mr. Ramsay, in recollecting the various lines in Horace relating to the subject.

(1) An eminent painter, son of the Scottish poet: he died in 1784, at Dover, on his return from his fourth visit to Italv. C.

Horace's journey to Brundusium being mentioned, Johnson observed, that the brook which he describes is to be seen now, exactly as at that time; nd that he had often wondered how it happened, hat small brooks, such as this, kept the same situation for ages, notwithstanding earthquakes, by which even mountains have been changed, and agriculture, which produces such a variation upon the surface of the earth. CAMBRIDGE. "A Spanish writer has this thought in a poetical conceit. After observing, that most of the solid structures of Rome are totally perished, while the Tiber remains the same, he adds,

'Lo que èra firme huió, solamente

Lo Fugitivo permanece y dura.'"

JOHNSON. "Sir, that is taken from Janus Vitalis:

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The bishop said, it appeared from Horace's writings that he was a cheerful, contented man. JOHNSON. "We have no reason to believe that, my Lord. Are we to think Pope was happy, because he says so in his writings? We see in his writings what he wished the state of his mind to appear. Dr. Young, who pined for preferment, talks with contempt of it in his writings, and affects to despise every thing that he did not despise." BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH." He was like other chaplains, looking for vacancies: but that is not peculiar to the clergy. I remember, when I was with the army, after the battle of Lafeldt, the officers seriously

grumbled that no general was killed." CAMERidge. "We may believe Horace more, when he says,

'Romæ Tibur amem ventosus, Tibure Romam,'

than when he boasts of his consistency:—

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'Me constare mihi scis, et discedere tristem, Quandocunque trahunt invisa negotia Romam.' BOSWELL." How hard is it that man can never be at rest!" RAMSAY." It is not in his nature to be at rest. When he is at rest, he is in the worst state that he can be in: for he has nothing to agitate him. He is then like the man in the Irish song (1):'There lived a young man in Ballinacrazy,

Who wanted a wife for to make him unaisy.""

Goldsmith being mentioned, Johnson observed, that it was long before his merit came to be acknowledged that he once complained to him in ludicrous terms of distress, " Whenever I write any thing, the public make a point to know nothing about it:" but that his "Traveller (2)" brought him into high reputation. LANGTON. "There is not one bad line in that poem; not one of Dryden's careless verses." SIR JOSHUA. "I was glad to hear Charles Fox say, it was one of the finest poems in the English language." LANGTON. "Why were you glad? You surely had no doubt of this

(1) Called "Alley Croker." This lady, a celebrated beauty in her day, was the youngest daughter of Colonel Croker, of Ballinagard, in the county of Limerick. The lover whose rejection has immortalised her name is not known; but she married Charles Langley, Esq., of Lisnarnock. She died without issue, about the middle of the last century. — C.

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before." JOHNSON. "No; the merit of The Traveller' is so well established, that Mr. Fox's praise cannot augment it, nor his censure diminish it." SIR JOSHUA. "But his friends may suspect they had too great a partiality for him." JOHNSON "Nay, Sir, the partiality of his friends was always against him. It was with difficulty we could give him a hearing. Goldsmith had no settled notions upon any subject; so he talked always at random. It seemed to be his intention to blurt out whatever was in his mind, and see what would become of it. He was angry, too, when catched in an absurdity; but it did not prevent him from falling into another the next minute. I remember Chamier, after talking with him some time, said, 'Well, I do believe he wrote this poem himself; and, let me tell you, that is believing a great deal.' Chamier once asked him, what he meant by slow, the last word in the first line of The Traveller,'

'Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow.'

Goldsmith,

Did he mean tardiness of locomotion? who would say something without consideration, answered, 'Yes.' I was sitting by, and said, 'No, Sir, you do not mean tardiness of locomotion; you mean that sluggishness of mind which comes upon a man in solitude.' Chamier believed then that I had written the line, as much as if he had seen me write it. (1) Goldsmith, however, was a man, who, whatever he wrote, did it better than any other

(1) See ante, Vol. II. which Johnson wrote.

༢.

309., as to the lines of this poem

man could do. He deserved a place in Westminster Abbey; and every year he lived would have deserved it better. He had, indeed, been at no pains to fill his mind with knowledge. He transplanted it from one place to another, and it did not settle in his mind; so he could not tell what was in his own books."

We talked of living in the country. JOHNSON. "No wise man will go to live in the country, unless he has something to do which can be better done in the country. For instance; if he is to shut himself up for a year to study a science, it is better to look out to the fields than to an opposite wall. (1) Then if a man walks out in the country, there is nobody to keep him from walking in again; but if a man walks out in London, he is not sure when he shall walk in again. A great city is, to be sure, the school for studying life; and 'The proper study of mankind is man,' as Pope observes." Boswell. "I fancy London is the best place for society; though I have heard that the very first society

(1) Mr. Cumberland was of a contrary opinion. "In the ensuing year 1 again paid a visit to my father at Clonfert; and there, in a little closet, at the back of the palace, as it was called, unfurnished, and out of use, with no other prospect from its single window but that of a turf-stack, with which it was almost in contact, I seated myself by choice, and began to plan and compose The West Indian. In all my hours of study, it has been through life my object so to locate myself as to have little or nothing to distract my attention, and, therefore, brilliant rooms or pleasant prospects I have ever avoided. A dead wall, or, as in the present case, an Irish turf-stack, are not attractions that can call off the fancy from its pursuits; and whilst in those pursuits it can find interest and occupation, it wants no outward aids to cheer it.". -Mem. vol. i. p. 271. 277.-C.

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