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GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE

NOTES ON BOSWELL'S JOHNSON, VOL. I.

P. 61. Boswell.-" He was asked by Mr. Jordan to translate Pope's Messiah into Latin verse as a Christmas exercise. He performed it with uncommon rapidity, and in so masterly a manner, that he obtained great applause for it. It is said that Mr Pope expressed himself concerning it in terms of strong approbation.-I am not ignorant that critical objections have been made to this and other specimens of Johnson's Latin poetry. I acknowledge myself not competent to decide on a question of such extreme nicety."-As Mr. Boswell has declared his incompetence, we shall transcribe the opinion of Doctor Joseph Warton on the subject, which will come with greater weight than our own.

"Dr. Johnson, in his youth, gave a translation of this piece, which has been praised and magnified beyond its merits. It may justly be said (with all due respect to the great talents of this writer), that in this translation of the Messiah are many hard and unclassical expressions, a great want of harmony, and many unequal and un-Virgilian lines. I was once present at a dispute on this subject, betwixt a person* of great political talents, and a scholar who had spent his life among the Greek and Roman classics. Both were intimate friends of Johnson. The former, after many objections had been made to this translation by the latter, quoted a

line which he thought equal to any he ever had read.

juncique tremit variabilis umbra. The green reed trembles.

The scholar (pedant if you will) said, 'there is no such word as variabilis in any classical writer.' 'Surely,' said the other, 'in Virgil; variabile semper foemina.' 'You forget,' said the opponent, it is varium et mutabile.'

They only who are such idolaters of the Rambler, as to think he could do every thing equally well, can alone be mortified at hearing that the following lines in his Messiah are reprehensible :-

Coelum mihi carminis alta materies-
dignos accende furores

Mittit aromaticas vallis saronica nubes-
Ille cutim spissam visus hebetare vetabit
furat horridæ membris

juncique tremit variabilis umbra-
Buxique sequaces

Artificis frondent dextræ

fessa colubri

Membra viatoris recreabunt frigore linguæ."

P. 94. "Huet, bishop of Avranches, wrote Memoirs of his own Time, in Latin, from which Boswell has extracted this scrap of pleasantry."Croker.--Huet's Memoirs is one of the most agreeable and elegant works that we possess in modern Latinity. It is written with ease and correctness, and contains much curious anecdote, and many delightful reminiscences of the scholars contemporary with him. The title page runs thus, "Pet. Dan. Huetii Episcopi Abrincensis Commentarius de rebus ad eum pertinentibus. Amst. 1718.'

The use of the word ' ad eum,' for ad se,' has been generally considered as a solœcism but that is not the case; for, though the Memoirs were written by Huet, they were not published till after his death by his executors.

P. 94. "For a full account of Politian and his poems see Roscoe's Life of Lorenzo of Medici." We must beg leave to differ from the writer of this

Perhaps W. Windham and Thomas Warton are the persons alluded to.-ED.

note as to the word "full." Mr. Roscoe was a person of very elegant and various acquirements, and wrote in a pleasing and popular manner; but he had not the scholarship, or that acquaintance with the laws of Latin poetry, the niceties of its structure, its quantity and its metre, that could enable him to decide with correctness on the respective merits of those numerous persons who, like Politian, wrote in the language of ancient Italy. It may be in the recollection of some of our readers, what portentous errors were shown in the lines of many poets, which Mr. Roscoe had selected in his Life of Leo X. for admiration. Nor could Mr. Roscoe judge of Politian's critical works. Such subjects as these require a very profound and accurate scholarship, and a vast extent of information, which Mr. Roscoe's education did not supply. It may be questioned whether any foreigner could write with success on the almost inexhaustible subject of the literature of modern Italy. We have the power of quoting the opinion, delivered in a letter, of one of the greatest and most finished scholars in England, on Mr. Roscoe's claims on this subject-but we have said enough. Dr. Johnson, had he seriously entered on the undertaking he professed, would have found it swell to an unexpected magnitude before him,

Sed neque Gallorum pollentes carmine musæ,
Non Lusitani, non Hispanive, vel Angli
Vatibus Italiæ certant'

We cannot, therefore, agree with Dr. Anderson, that it would have been a valuable accession to Italian literature,' but no doubt it would have been an elegant and judicious production. In a little work, which probably was the prototype of Pope's Poemata Italorum, and was published at Cambridge, there is a curious and well-written Latin preface, containing an elegant critique on the Latin poets of Italy, which has been attributed to Atterbury; but we believe the editor's name is not known. See Nichols's ed. of Atterbury, vol. IV. p. 6.

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P. 95. The Grub-street Journal, a weekly publication of small importance." So it originally was; but time often confers worth on trifles; and we hope soon, in an article on Pope, to show the present value of that neglected work.

P. 107. Dr. Johnson, in his scheme for the classes of a grammar school, writes" When the introduction of the formation of nouns and verbs is perfectly mastered, let them learn Corderius by Mr. Clarke, beginning at the same time to translate out of the Introduction, that by this means they may learn the syntax. Then let them proceed to Erasmus, with an English translation by the same author. Class II. learn Eutropius and Cornelius Nepos, or Justin with his translation."-Mr. Croker justly reprehends Boswell for saying that-" this authentically ascertains that Johnson well knew the most proper course to be pursued in the instruction of youth. It may be even doubted, whether it is good as far as it goes, and whether the beginning with authors of inferior Latinity, and allowing the assistance of translations, be indeed the most proper course of classical instruction," &c. With regard to translations, the danger lies in inducing habits of indolence and superficial carelessness. If this is guarded against, we conceive them, if well executed, of eminent service in pointing out, in an easy and beautiful manner, the analogies and difference of languages. A dictionary is a kind of rude translation—a dictionary of phrases and idioms a more perfect one; however, we should suppose the authority of our public schools to be unfavourable to them. With regard to Corderius, and perhaps Erasmus,

followed by Eutropius, we think Johnson right. When Mr. Croker speaks of inferior Latinity, to what does he mean it is inferior? To Cicero and Livy, to Sallust and Tacitus? Assuredly inferior in the boldness and beauty of style; in select choice of expression, in idiomatic grace and purity; and in the use of those particles and smaller parts of speech which are in fact the ligaments and tendons of language. But, in the first place, the tener Puer' could not understand such authors; and, secondly, Corderius and such books are correct in the use of moods and tenses, and in the selection of phrases, which is all that is necessary. We think the choice of Eutropius not improper. The work that passes under the name of C. Nepos is written with great elegance, though not particularly easy; Justin, Ovid, and Cæsar very properly follow. The fact is, that the instructors of youth are obliged to have recourse to modern works, because none of the kind wanted have been drifted on the shore from the wreck of antiquity. All modern Latinity undoubtedly is inferior; we know of none, even the most celebrated, in which errors have not been detected; even Ruhnken's pure and beautiful style has been scorched and shrivelled by Wolff's critical burning-glass. We remember the errors that Dr. Parr pointed out to us in the Latinity of Wyttenbach :-but this does not bear on the question, as regards teaching the rudiments of language. The selections at present used in Harrow School are the best we have ever seen; and it would be very difficult to improve on them. To these should be added the unremitting study of Viger de Idiotismis and Budeus de Lingua Græca.

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P. 139. "Douglas owed his literary reputation to his detection of Lauder." Croker. It is as extraordinary that Lander should have attempted such a barefaced system of interpolation and forgery, as that it should not have been at once discovered and made known; it shows how little there was of curious literature in those days, and, in consequence, how rare and unknown were the books to which he referred. Had such a design been attempted in the present day, it would have been detected at once. For the books to which Lauder refers, have been so sought for, as to be no longer unattainable by scholars.

P. 141. The two Richardsons, father and son, were so attached to each other, that scarcely a day passed but filial love employed itself in drawing the parent's portrait. A great number of sketches of Pope in particular, in pencil and pen, were made by them. Some are in the collection of Mr. Hawkins, of Bignor Park. Their works are written in a most quaint, old-fashioned style; but most of them are worth the perusal for the matter they contain. The elder possessed a fine collection of the drawings of the old masters.

P. 164. "Dr. Johnson made four lines on the death of poor Hogarth, which were equally true and pleasing. I know not why Garrick's were preferred to them."-Piozzi.

The hand of him here torpid lies

That drew th' essential form of grace;
Here clos'd in death the attentive eyes,
That saw the manners in the face.

The most elegant writers in Latin among English scholars, we should conceive to be Bishop Lowth, Sir George Baker, and Sir William Jones. Professor Porson wrote elegantly in a critical style. Gilbert Wakefield neither with elegance nor correctness. Parr's Preface to Bellendenus shows great scholarship and memory; but it is overloaded with quotation, and pedantic. We have heard that Pitt said he had never the curiosity to look into it.

This note of Mrs. Piozzi's should be erased, and the statement of the fact respecting Garrick's lines being sent to Johnson for his opinion, and Johnson's alteration of them, should be inserted from the Garrick Correspondence.

P. 169. We do not think with Mr. Boswell that there is, in the debates written by Johnson, a wonderful store of political information;' nor do we agree with Mr. Hawkins, that the speeches exhibit the manner of each particular speaker;' but we think them to be very clever rifaciamentos of the original speeches, written with spirit, strength, and eloquence, and presenting some of the best specimens of Johnson's style.

P. 175. "An Account of the Life of Peter Burman."-It should be mentioned in a note, that this was Peter Burman the elder, as there were two critics of the same name, uncle and nephew, both scholars, and both editors. His life is written by Johnson from very scanty materials. This is the same critic, whom Armstrong mentions in his Art of Preserving Health-fattening at gross Burman's stall.' He was a good grammarian, and a very laborious scholar, but not a man of genius. The Latin poets, however, are much indebted to him, for a judicious version of the text, and for copious illustration in his notes.

P. 181. We see no reason for attributing this ode Ad Ornatissimam Puellam' to Johnson. It is formed chiefly of an adaptation of well-known phrases from Horace to the subject, rather than from a spontaneous flow of classical language; and there is a false quantity in the last syllable of temere in the third stanza; so that we hope, contra sententiam Maloni, that this may not be safely attributed to Johnson. This mistake in the quantity of' temere,' has been made by Gray and almost every modern Latin poet. We made some observations in our last, on Johnson's confined scholarship, and we hinted at the causes of it. Our Greek readers will remember that Lucian says-' It is the opinion of most men, that complete erudition in any art or science requires much labour, long leisure, no small expense, and a splendid fortune.' It is true this is recorded in a dream; but dreams are often true.

P. 191. We think that Mr. Croker has passed the bounds even of severe justice when he speaks of Savage's works as unheard of as they are unread:' of course Savage must be content to rank among the minor poets of the age of Pope; but, though there is little fire of genius, there is more correctness of taste than is to be found in many of his contemporaries; and his works form a link in the poetical chain.

P. 221. The Vanity of Human Wishes. We are sorry to find that in our last Number we attributed the reference to Mr. Sharp's observation on the introductory lines of this poem, to Mr. Croker, instead of to Lord Byron; which, with another slight mistake, arose from being obliged to write at a distance from our books. We were surprised in referring to our edition of Johnson by Murphy, to find that he had not given the various readings to this satire: having the first edition now before us, we shall gratify our readers by pointing them out, marking the two editions with the figures 1. 2. (The first edition was printed in 1749. Dodsley, 4to, pp. 28.)

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This alteration is not an improvement, as the word chase occurs in the next line but one:

Shuns fancied ills, or chases airy good.'

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The word bonny was of course used as an epithet to the Scottish lords who were executed at the Rebellion.

1. Tho' Confiscation's vultures clang around.

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Each nymph your rival, and each youth your slave?

An envious breast with certain mischief glows,

And slaves, the maxim tells, are always foes.
Against your fame with fondness hate combines.

-The above couplet is omitted in the subsequent editions.

1. By Int'rest, Prudence, and by Flatt'ry, Pride.

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No cries attempt the mercies of the skies?
No cries invoke the mercies of the skies?
Yet, when the sense of sacred presence prest.
When strong devotion fills thy glowing breast.

Yet, when the sense of sacred presence fires.
And strong devotion to the skies aspires.

1. Thinks death kind Nature's signal of retreat.
2. Counts death kind Nature's signal of retreat.

P. 231. "Mr. David Hume related to me from Mr. Garrick that

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