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while we talked.-When we went into Wales together, and spent some time at Sir Robert Cotton's at Lleweny1, one day at dinner I meant to please Mr. Johnson particularly with a dish of very young peas. Are not they charming? said I to him, while he was eating them.- Perhaps (said he) they would be so-to a pig? I only instance these replies, to excuse my mentioning those he made to others.

When a well-known author3 published his poems in the year 1777: Such a one's verses are come out, said I: 'Yes (replied Johnson), and this frost has struck them in again. Here are some lines I have written to ridicule them: but remember that I love the fellow dearly, now-for all I laugh at him*.

Wheresoe'er I turn my view,

All is strange, yet nothing new:
Endless labour all along,
Endless labour to be wrong;
Phrase that Time has flung away;
Uncouth words in disarray,
Trick'd in antique ruff and bonnet,
Ode, and elegy, and sonnet.'

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late. "He puts," said he, "a very common thing in a strange dress, till he does not know it himself, and thinks other people do not know it."' Life, iii. 158.

Hume in his History of England (ed. 1773, v. 492, vi. 195) says:'Several writers of late have amused themselves in copying the style of Spenser; and no imitation has been so indifferent as not to bear a great resemblance to the original: His manner is so peculiar that it is almost impossible not to transfer some of it into the copy... Raleigh is the best model of that ancient style which some writers would affect to revive at present.' See also Beattie's Essays on Peetry and Music, ed. 1779, p. 226.

• For Warton's estrangement, which 'Johnson lamented with tears in his eyes,' see Life, i. 270, n. I.


When he parodied the verses of another eminent writer', it was done with more provocation, I believe, and with some merry malice. A serious translation of the same lines, which I think are from Euripides, may be found in Burney's History of Music 2. -Here are the burlesque ones :

Err shall they not, who resolute explore
Times gloomy backward with judicious eyes;
And scanning right the practices of yore,
Shall deem our hoar progenitors unwise.

They to the dome where smoke with curling play
Announc'd the dinner to the regions round,
Summon'd the singer blythe, and harper gay,
And aided wine with dulcet-streaming sound.

The better use of notes, or sweet or shrill,
By quiv'ring string, or modulated wind;
Trumpet or lyre—to their harsh bosoms chill,
Admission ne'er had sought, or could not find.

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Where Hate sits musing to betray
And Murder meditates his prey.
To dens of guilt and shades of care
Ye sons of Melody repair,
Nor deign the festive dome to cloy
With superfluities of joy.

Ah, little needs the Minstrel's pow'r
To speed the light convivial hour,
The board with varied plenty

May spare the luxuries of sound.'
A General History of Music, by
Charles Burney.

'Mr. Norgate, the publisher, has a specimen of Porson's minute writing, comprising in a circle of an inch and a half in diameter the Greek verses on music from the Medea, with Johnson's translation of them, in all more than 220 words, with a considerable space left blank in the centre. It is written on vellum, a portion of a leaf which fell from the Photius which he copied.' J. S. Watson's Porson, p. 422.


Oh! send them to the sullen mansions dun,
Her baleful eyes where Sorrow rolls around;
Where gloom-enamour'd Mischief loves to dwell,
And Murder, all blood-bolter'd, schemes the wound.
When cates luxuriant pile the spacious dish,
And purple nectar glads the festive hour;
The guest, without a want, without a wish,

Can yield no room to Music's soothing pow'r.

Some of the old legendary stories put in verse by modern writers provoked him to caricature' them thus one day at Streatham; but they are already well-known, I am sure.

The tender infant, meek and mild,

Fell down upon the stone;

The nurse took up the squealing child,

But still the child squeal'd on2.

A famous ballad also, beginning Rio verde, Rio verde, when I commended the translation of it, he said he could do it better himself as thus:

Glassy water, glassy water,

Down whose current clear and strong,

Chiefs confus'd in mutual slaughter,

Moor and Christian roll along3.

1 Caricature is not in Johnson's glossy, and unfeeling language of Dictionary.

2 Wordsworth says of the imitators of the Reliques, and of Johnson's attack on the old ballads :-' The critic triumphed, the legendary imitators were deservedly disregarded, and as undeservedly, their ill-imitated models sank in this country into temporary neglect... Dr. Percy was so abashed by the ridicule flung upon his labours . . . that, though while he was writing under a mask he had not wanted resolution to follow his genius into the regions of true simplicity and genuine pathos-... yet when he appeared in his own person and character as a poetical writer, he adopted, as in the tale of the Hermit of Warkworth, a diction scarcely in any one of its features distinguishable from the vague, the

his day.' Wordsworth's Works, ed. 1857, vi. 372.

Percy himself described his Reliques as 'such a strange collection of trash.' Nichols's Literary History, vii. 577.

Johnson had helped Percy in the publication of the Reliques. Life, iii. 276, n. 2; Letters, i. 89. 3 Rio verde, rio verde,

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But Sir, said I, this is not ridiculous at all. 'Why no (replied he), why should I always write ridiculously?—perhaps because I made these verses to imitate such a one, naming him :

Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,

Wearing out life's evening gray;
Strike thy bosom, sage! and tell
What is bliss, and which the way?
Thus I spoke, and speaking sigh'd,
Scarce repress'd the starting tear,
When the hoary Sage reply'd,

Come, my lad, and drink some beer'.'

I could give another comical instance of caricatura imitation. Recollecting some day, when praising these verses of Lopez de Vega,

Se a quien los leones vence
Vence una muger hermosa
O el de flaco averguençe

O ella di ser mas furiosa,

more than he thought they deserved, Mr. Johnson instantly observed that they were founded on a trivial conceit; and that conceit ill-explained, and ill-expressed beside. The lady, we all know, does not conquer in the same manner as the lion does : 'Tis a mere play of words (added he), and you might as well say, that

If the man who turnips cries,
Cry not when his father dies,
'Tis a proof that he had rather
Have a turnip than his father.'

And this humour is of the same sort with which he answered the friend who commended the following line 2:

Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free.

'To be sure (said Dr. Johnson),

Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.'

• Boswell records the making of these verses. The third line runs:'Smite thy bosom,' &c. 'Boswell. "But why smite his bosom, Sir?" JOHNSON. "Why to shew he was in earnest" (smiling).' Hoary, on Boswell's suggestion, he changed into


smiling, 'both to avoid a sameness with the epithet in the first line and to describe the hermit in his pleasantry.' Life, iii. 159. See ib. ii. 136, n. 4, for another parody.

2 In Brooke's Earl of Essex. Life, iv. 312, n. 5.


This readiness of finding a parallel, or making one, was shewn by him perpetually in the course of conversation.-When the French verses of a certain pantomime were quoted thus,

Je suis Cassandre descendue des cieux,

Pour vous fair [sic] entendre, mesdames et messieurs,
Que je suis Cassandre descendue des cieux;

he cried out gaily and suddenly, almost in a moment,

'I am Cassandra come down from the sky,

To tell each by-stander what none can deny,

That I am Cassandra come down from the sky.'

The pretty Italian verses too, at the end of Baretti's book, called 'Easy Phraseology,' he did all improviso, in the same manner : Viva! viva la padrona!

Tutta bella, e tutta buona,
La padrona è un angiolella
Tutta buona e tutta bella;
Tutta bella e tutta buona;
Viva! viva la padrona!

Long may live my lovely Hetty1!
Always young and always pretty,
Always pretty, always young,
Live my lovely Hetty long!
Always young and always pretty;
Long may live my lovely Hetty!

The famous distich too, of an Italian improvisatore, who, when the duke of Modena ran away from the comet in the year 1742 or 17432,

Se al venir vestro [vostro] i principi sen' vanno
Deh venga ogni dì—durate un' anno;

'which (said he) would do just as well in our language thus :

If at your coming princes disappear,
Comets! come every day-and stay a year.'

' Mrs. Thrale, whose name was Hester.

2 A comet was seen in February and March, 1742. Gentleman's Magazine, 1742, pp. 106, 210. In May of that year the Duke of Modena withdrew from his dominions before the attack of the Sardinians. Ib. p. 334.

Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale in 1783: Mr. Mudge tells me that the gout will secure me from everything paralytick: if this be true, I am ready to say to the arthritick pains, Deh! venite ogni dì, durate un anno. Letters, ii. 338.


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