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ventured to call him— He is a scholar undoubtedly, Piozzi
Anec. sir,' replied Dr. Johnson; but remember that he would run from the world, and that it is not the world's business to run after him. I hate a fellow whom pride, or cowardice, or laziness, drives into a corner, and does nothing when he is there but sit and growl : let him come out as I do, and bark.'
“ Dr. Johnson's knowledge of literary history was p. 171. extensive and surprising; he knew every adventure of every book you could name almost, and was exceedingly pleased with the opportunity which writing the poets' lives gave him to display it. He loved to be set at work, and was sorry when he came to the end of the business he was about.
“. Alas, madam ! continued he, how few books p. 217. are there of which one ever can possibly arrive at the last page! Was there ever yet any thing written by mere man that was wished longer by its readers, excepting Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and the Pilgrim's Progress?' After Homer's Iliad, Dr. Johnsuggestions, observes on this passage, that “ Johnson's censure was undeserved. Jeremiah Markland was certainly no growler. He sought for, because he loved, rctirement; and rejected all the honours and rewards which were liberally offered to his acceptance. During a long life, he devoted himself unceasingly to those pursuits for which he was best fitted, collating the classics, and illustrating the Scriptures. • Sequantur alii famam, aucupentur Divitias, hic illa oculis irre. tortis contemplatus, post terga constanter rejecit . . . . In solitudinem se recepit, studiis excolendis et pauperibus sublevandis unicè intentus.' Such is the cha. racter given of Markland by his pupil and friend Edward Clarke.” Mrs. Piozzi's flippant expression ("a great philologist as some one ventured to call him”) will excite a smile, when we recollect what Markland has done as a philologist, and the estimation in which he has been held both by the most learned of his contemporaries (including Johnson himself), and the most distinguished scholars of our own time. Dr. Burney, in a tone of the highest panegyric, numbered him with Bentley, Dawes, Toup, and Porson ; and a still later writer has thus candidly enumerated his merits: “Markland was endowed with a respectable portion of judgment and sagacity. He was very laborious, loved retirement, and spent a long life in the study of the Greek and Latin languages. For modesty, candour, literary honesty, and courteousness to other scholars, he is justly considered as the mode which ought to be proposed for the imitation of every critic.” - Quart. Rev. vol. vii. p. 442: so far Mr. Markland. It is but just to all parties, that the Editor should add, that (whatever Johnson may have said in the current of conversation, and probably in allusion to some minute and unrecorded circumstance) he had a fixed respect for the talents and character of Markland. For it will be seen hercafter that on the 20th Oct. 1782, he wrote to Mr. Nichols, urging him to obtain some record of the life of Markland, who, with Jortin and Thirlby, he calls three contemporaries of great eminence. -Ed.]
son confessed that the work of Cervantes was the greatest in the world, speaking of it, I mean, as a book of entertainment.
“ He had sometimes fits of reading very violent; and when he was in earnest about getting through some particular pages, for I have heard him say he never read but one book, which he did not consider as obligatory, through in his whole life (and Lady Mary Wortley's Letters was the book), he would be quite lost to company, and withdraw all his attention to what he was reading, without the smallest knowledge or care about the noise made around him. His deafness made such conduct less odd and less difficult to him than it would have been to another man; but his advising others to take the same method, and pull a little book out when they were not entertained with what was going forward in society, seemed more likely to advance the growth of science than of polished manners, for which he always pretended extreme veneration.
“ Dr. Johnson was a great reader of French literature, and delighted exceedingly in Boileau's works. Moliere, I think, he had hardly sufficient taste of ; and he used to condemn me for preferring La Bruyere Piozzi
(On this passage Mr. Malone, in his MS. notes, says, “ Here we have another gross exaggeration. She does not state when he made this declaration. It might have been in 1765, and in the subsequent nineteen years he might have read 500 books through perhaps, though it certainly was not his usual custom to do so. Can the reader discover on what grounds the statement is called a gross exaggeration, when Mr. Malone admits that it accords with Johnson's usual custom? But we have many passages in Boswell which corroborate Mrs. Piozzi's statement, (see for instance vol. ii. p. 214, and post, 15th June, 1784.) The observation too as to the lady's having made no allowance for the date at which Johnson spoke, came rather inconsistently from Mr. Malone, who has laboriously made a deliberate blunder of the same kind that he imputes to Mrs. Piozzi: when Johnson observed, ante, vol. iv. p. 81, that " Thomas a Kempis was said to have been printed, in one language or another, as many times as there have been months since it first came out,” Mr. Malone, with great gravity, informs us, “ this is improbable, because, according to this account, there would have been 3600 editions, that being the number of months betwocen 1492 and 1792," (ante, loc. cit.) Because Boswell's book was published in 1792, Mr. Malone makes his calculation on that year, without reference either to the year in which Johnson quoted the observation, or, what is more important, to the period at which the observation, which Johnson only quoted, was originally made.-Ed.] ' [This is not consistent with his opinion before recorded (ante, vol. ii. p. 294), of this lady's work for the instruction of youth. Ev.]
Anec. to the Duc de Rochefoucault, 'who,' he said, 'was the only gentleman writer who wrote like a professed author.'
“ The recollection of such reading as had delighted p. 12. him in his infancy, made him always persist in fancying that it was the only reading which could please an infant; and he used to condemn me for putting Newbery's books into their hands as too trifling to engage their attention.
* Babies do not want,' said he, 'to hear about babies; they like to be told of giants and castles, and of somewhat which can stretch and stimulate their little minds.' When in answer I would urge the numerous editions and quick sale of Tommy Prudent or Goody Two Shoes, Remember always,” said he, 'that the parents buy the books, and that the children never read them.' Mrs. Barbauld however had his best praise ', and deserved it; no man was more struck than Dr. Johnson with voluntary descent from possible splendour to painful duty.
“The remembrance of what had passed in his own p. 18. childhood made Dr. Johnson very solicitous to preserve the felicity of children; and when he had persuaded Dr. Sumnero to remit the tasks usually given to fill up boys' time during the holidays, he rejoiced exceedingly in the success of his negotiation, and told me that he had never ceased representing to all the eminent schoolmasters in England, the absurd tyranny of poisoning the hour of permitted pleasure, by keeping future misery before the children's eyes, and tempting them by bribery or falsehood to evade it. * Bob Sumner,' said he, however, I have at
? (Master of Harrow.-Ep.)
Piozzi length prevailed upon: I know not indeed whether
his tenderness was persuaded, or his reason convinced, but the effect will always be the same. Poor Dr. Sumner died, however, before the next vacation.'
“Dr. Johnson was of opinion, too, that young people should have positive, not general rules given for their direction. ‘My mother,' said he, ‘was always telling me that I did not behave myself properly; that I should endeavour to learn behaviour, and such cant: but when I replied, that she ought to tell me what to do, and what to avoid, her admonitions were commonly, for that time at least, at an end.'
“ This, I fear, was however at best a momentary refuge, found out by perverseness'. No man knew better than Johnson in how many nameless and numberless actions behaviour consists : actions which can scarcely be reduced to rule, and which come under no description. Of these he retained so many very strange ones, that I suppose no one who saw his odd manner of gesticulating much blamed or wondered at the good lady's solicitude concerning her son's behaviour.
“Though he was attentive to the peace of children in general, no man had a stronger contempt than he for such parents as openly profess that they cannot govern their children. “How,' says he, is an army governed ? Such people, for the most part, multiply prohibitions till obedience becomes impossible, and authority appears absurd ; and never suspect that they tease their family, their friends, and themselves, only because conversation runs low, and something must be said.'
“Dr. Johnson's knowledge and esteem of what we call low or coarse life was indeed prodigious; and he
did not like that the upper ranks should be dignified Piozzi
Anec. with the name of the world. Sir Joshua Reynolds said one day, that nobody wore laced coats now; and that once every body wore them. “See now,' says Johnson, how absurd that is; as if the bulk of mankind consisted of fine gentlemen that came to him to sit for their pictures. If every man who wears a laced coat (that he can pay for) was extirpated, who would miss them?' With all this haughty contempt of gentility, no praise was more welcome to Dr. Johnson than that which said he had the notions or manners of a gentleman : which character I have heard him define with accuracy and describe with elegance.
“I was saying to a friend one day, that I did not p. 79. like goose; one smells it so while it is roasting, said I. “But you, madam,' replies the Doctor, have been at all times a fortunate woman, having always had your hunger so forestalled by indulgence, that you never experienced the delight of smelling your dinner beforehand.' Which pleasure, answered I, pertly, is to be enjoyed in perfection by such as have the happiness to pass through Porridge-Island' of a morning. “Come, come,' says he gravely, let's have no sneering at what is serious to so many: hundreds of your fellow-creatures, dear lady, turn another way, that they may not be tempted by the luxuries of Porridge-Island to wish for gratifications they are not able to obtain : you are certainly not better than all of them; give God thanks that you are happier.'
· Porridge-Island is a mean street in London, filled with cook-shops for the convenience of the poorer inhabitants ; the real name of it I know not, but suspect that which it is generally known by, to have been originally a term of decision.
Piozzi. (" It is not a street, but a paved alley near the church of St. Martin's in the fields."- Malone MS. These are the kind of errors on which Mr. Malone founds his violent censures of Mrs. Piozzi's inaccuracy, which he often calls falsehood; but the lady may surely be forgiven if she, in her inexperience, calls that a “mean street" which the more accurate Malone, probably by personal inspection, found to be a paved alley.-Ed.]