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writers, because his universally-acknowledged beauties would be most apt to induce imitation : and I have treated rather on his faults, than his perfections, because an essay might comprise all the observations I could make upon his faults, while volumes would not be sufficient for a treatise on his perfections."
Mr. Burrowes has analyzed the composition of Johnson, and pointed out its peculiarities with much acuteness; and I would recommend a careful perusal of his Essay to those who being captivated by the union of perspicuity and splendour which the writings of Johnson contain, without having a sufficient portion of his vigour of mind, may be in danger of becoming bad copyists of his manner. I, however, cannot but observe, and I observe it to his credit, that this learned gentleman has himself caught no mean degree of the expansion and harmony which, independent of all other circumstances, characterise the sentences of Johnson. Thus, in the preface to the volume in which the Essay appears, we find,
« If it be said that in societies of this sort too much attention is frequently bestowed on subjects barren and speculative, it may be answered, that no one science is so little connected with the rest as not to afford many principles whose use may extend siderably beyond the science to which they primarily belong, and that no proposition is so purely theoretical as to be totally incapable of being applied to practical purposes. There is no apparent connexion between duration and the cycloidal arch, the properties of which duly attended to have furnished us with our best-regulated methods of measuring time: and he who had made himself master of the nature and affections of the logarithmic curve is not aware that he has advanced considerably towards ascertaining the proportionable density of the air at its various distances from the surface of the earth.”
The ludicrous imitators of Johnson's style are innumerable. Their general method is to accumulate hard words, without considering, that, although 'he was fond of introducing them occasionally, there is not a single sentence in all his writings where they are crowded together, as in the first verse of the following imaginary Ode by him to Mrs. Thrale ', which appeared in the newspapers :
6 Cervisial coctor's viduate dame,
Procumbing at thy shrine,
Perennially be thine ?” This and a thousand other such attempts are totally unlike the original, which the writers imagined they were turning into ridicule. There is not similarity enough for burlesque, or even for caricature.
Mr. Colman, in his “ Prose on several occasions,” has “A Letter from Lexiphanes, containing Proposals for a Glossary or Vocabulary of the Vulgar Tongue; intended as a Supplement to a larger Dictionary.” It is evidently meant as a sportive sally of ridicule on Johnson, whose style is thus imitated, without being grossly overcharged:
Johnson's wishing to unite himself with this rich widow was much talked of, but I believe without foundation. The report, however, gave occasion to a poem, not without characteristical merit, entitled “Ode to Mrs. Thrale, by Samuel Johnson, LL. D. on their supposed approaching Nuptials :" printed for Mr. Faulder in Bond-street. I shall quote as a specimen the first three
“ If e'er my fingers touch'd the lyre,
In satire fierce, in pleasure gay,
Shall Sam refuse the sportive lay?
Behold him as your very Scrub;
Or govern well—the brewing-tub.
My bosom glows with amorous fire.
'Tis I myself am Thrale's entire.”-BosWELL. [Mrs. Carter, in one of her letters to Mrs. Montagu, says, “I once saw him
Dr. Johnson) very indigné when somebody jested about Mrs. Thrale's marrying himself. The choice would, no doubt, have been singular, but much less exceptionable than that which she has made.”—Mrs. Carter's Letters, vol. ii. p. 221.-Ed.]
“It is easy to foresee that the idle and illiterate will complain that I have increased their labours by endeavouring to diminish them; and that I have explained what is more easy by what is more difficult—ignotum per ignotius. I expect, on the other hand, the liberal acknowledgments of the learned. He who is buried in scholastick retirement, secluded from the assemblies of the gay, and remote from the circles of the polite, will at once comprehend the definitions, and be grateful for such a seasonable and necessary elucidation of his mother-tongue.”
Annexed to this letter is the following short specimen of the work, thrown together in a vague and desultory manner, not even adhering to alphabetical concatenation.
“HIGGLEDY PIGGLEDY,–Conglomeration and confusion. “HODGE-PODGE,—A culinary mixture of heterogeneous ingre
dients: applied metaphorically to all discordant combina
tions. “TIT FOR Tat,-Adequate retaliation. “ Shilly SHALLY,-Hesitation and irresolution. “FEE! FA! FUM!-Gigantick intonations.
RIGMAROLE,-Discourse, incoherent and rhapsodical. “CRINCUM-CRANCUM,—Lines of irregularity and involution. “DING DONG, --Tintinabulary chimes, used metaphorically to
signify despatch and vehemence !.”
The serious imitators of Johnson's style, whether intentionally or by the imperceptible effect of its strength and animation, are, as I have had already occasion to observe, so many, that I might introduce quotations from a numerous body of writers in our language, since he appeared in the literary world. I shall point out the following:
* [On the original publication of Mr. Boswell's own work the press teemed with parodies, or imitations of his style of reporting Dr. Johnson's conversation ; but they are now all deservedly forgotten, except one by Mr. Alexander Chalmers, which is executed with so much liveliness and pleasantry, and is, in fact, so just a criticism on the lighter portions of this work, that the reader will be, the editor believes, much pleased to find it preserved in the appendix.--Ed.]
WILLIAM ROBERTSON, D. D. “ In other parts of the globe, man, in his rudest state, appears as lord of the creation, giving law to various tribes of animals which he has tamed and reduced to subjection. The Tartar follows his prey on the horse which he has reared, or tends his numerous herds which furnish him both with food and clothing; the Arab has rendered the camel docile, and avails himself of its persevering strength; the Laplander has formed the reindeer to be subservient to his will; and even the people of Kamschatka have trained their dogs to labour. This command over the inferiour creatures is one of the noblest prerogatives of man, and among the greatest efforts of his wisdom and Without this, his dominion is incomplete. He is a monarch who has no subjects; a master without servants ; and must perform every operation by the strength of his own arm 1.”
EDWARD GIBBON, ESQ. “Of all our passions and appetites, the love of power is of the most imperious and unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the submission of the multitude. In the tumult of civil discord the laws of society lose their force, and their place is seldom supplied by those of humanity. The ardour of contention, the pride of victory, the despair of success, the memory of past injuries, and the fear of future dangers, all contribute to inflame the mind, and to silence the voice of pity 2.”
MISS BURNEY. “My family, mistaking ambition for honour, and rank for dignity, have long planned a splendid connexion for me, to which, though my invariable repugnance has stopped any advances, their wishes and their views immovably adhere. I am but too certain they will now listen to no other. I dread, therefore, to make a trial where I despair of success; I know not how to risk a prayer with those who may silence me by a command 3.”
REVEREND MR. NARES 4. “In an enlightened and improving age, much perhaps is not to be apprehended from the inroads of mere caprice: at such a period it will generally be perceived that needless irregularity is the worst of all deformities, and that nothing is so truly elegant in language as the simplicity of unviolated analogy. Rules will, therefore, be observed, so far as they are known and acknowledged: but, at the same time, the desire of improvement having been once excited will not remain inactive; and its efforts, unless assisted by knowledge as much as they are prompted by zeal, will not unfrequently be found pernicious; so that the very persons whose intention it is to perfect the instrument of reason will deprave and disorder it unknowingly. At such a time, then, it becomes peculiarly necessary that the analogy of language should be fully examined and understood; that its rules should be carefully laid down; and that it should be clearly known how much it contains which being already right should be defended from change and violation ; how much it has that demands amendment; and how much that, for fear of greater inconveniences, must, perhaps, be left, unaltered, though irregular.”
1“ History of America," vol. i. quarto, p. 332.-BOSWELL. 26 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” vol. i. chap. iv.—BosWELL. 3“ Cecilia.” book vii. chap. i.-BOSWELL.
4 The passage which I quote is taken from that gentleman's “Elements of Orthoepy; containing a distinct View of the whole Analogy of the English Language, so far as relates to Pronunciation, Accent, and Quantity:" London, 1784. I beg leave to offer my particular acknowledgments to the authour of a work of uncommon merit and great utility. I know no book which contains, in the same compass, more learning, polite literature, sound sense, accuracy of arrangement, and perspicuity of expression.—BOSWELL.
A distinguished authour in “ The Mirror,” a periodical paper published at Edinburgh, has imitated Johnson very closely. Thus, in No. 16:
“ The effects of the return of spring have been frequently remarked, as well in relation to the human mind as to the animal and vegetable world. The reviving power of this season has been traced from the fields to the herds that inhabit them, and from the lower classes of beings up to man.
Gladness and joy are described as prevailing through universal nature, animating the low of the cattle, the carol of the birds, and the pipe of the shepherd.”
The Reverend Dr. Knox, master of Tunbridge school, appears to have the imitari aveo of Johnson's style perpetually in his mind; and to his assiduous, though not servile, study of it, we may partly ascribe the extensive popularity of his writings?.
1 That collection was presented to Dr. Johnson, I believe, by its authours ; and I heard him speak very well of it. --BOSWELL.
2 It were to be wished that he had imitated that great man in every respect,