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report informs me, that he has been severe enough in his animadversions upon Dr. Watts; who was, nevertheless, if I am in any degree a judge of verse, a man of truly poetical ability; careless, indeed, for the most part, and inattentive too to those niceties which constitute elegance of expression, but frequently sublime in his conceptions, and masterly in his execution. Pope, I have heard, had placed him once in the "Dunciad;" but, on being advised to read before he judged him, was convinced that he deserved other treatment, and thrust somebody's blockhead into the gap, whose name, consisting of a monosyllable, happened to fit it. Whatever faults, however, I may be chargeable with as a poet, I cannot accuse myself of negligence; I never suffer a line to pass till I have made it as good as I can; and though my doctrines may offend this king of critics, he will not, I flatter myself, be disgusted by slovenly inaccuracy, either in the numbers, rhymes, or language. Let the rest take its chance. It is possible he may be pleased; and if he should, I shall have engaged on my side one of the best trumpeters in the kingdom. Let him only speak as favourably of me as he has spoken of Sir Richard Blackmore, (who, though he shines in his poem called " Creation," has written more absurdities in verse than any writer of our country,) and my success will be secured. (Letter to Newton, Sept. 18. 1781.)

I am glad to be undeceived respecting the opinion I had been erroneously led into on the subject of Johnson's criticism on Watts. Nothing can be more judicious, or more characteristic of a distinguishing taste, than his observations upon that writer; though I think him a little mistaken in his notion, that divine subjects have never been poetically treated with success. A little more Christian' knowledge and experience would perhaps enable him to discover excellent poetry, upon spiritual themes, in the aforesaid little Doctor. I perfectly acquiesce in the propriety of sending Johnson a copy of my productions; and I think it would be well to send it in our joint names, accompanied with a handsome card, and such an one as may predispose him to a favourable perusal of the book, by coaxing him into a good temper; for he is a great bear,


with all his learning and penetration. (Letter to Newton, Oct. 4. 1781.)

687. Cowper's Epitaph on Dr. Johnson.
Here Johnson lies -a sage, by all allow'd,

Whom to have bred may well make England proud;
Whose prose was eloquence by wisdom taught,
The graceful vehicle of virtue's thought;

Whose verse may claim, grave, masculine, and strong,
Superior praise to the mere poet's song;

Who many a noble gift from Heaven possess'd,
And faith at last alone worth all the rest.

Oh! man immortal by a double prize,

On earth by fame, by favour in the skies!

688. Johnson at Iona.

"At last," says Johnson, "we reached the island; the venerable seat of ancient sanctity; where secret piety reposed, and where fallen greatness was reposited. We walked uncovered into the chapel, and saw in the reverend ruin the effects of precipitate reformation. The floor is covered with ancient grave stones, of which the inscriptions are not now legible; and without, some of the chief families still continue the right of sepulture. The altar is not yet quite demolished; beside it, on the right side, is a bas-relief of the Virgin with her child, and an angel hovering over her. On the other side still stands a hand-bell, which, though it has no clapper, neither Presbyterian bigotry nor barbarian wantonness has yet taken away. Near the chapel is a fountain, to which the water, remarkably pure, is conveyed from a distant hill, through pipes laid by the Romish clergy, which still perform the office of conveyance, though they have never been repaired since popery was suppressed. Boswell, who is very pious, went into the chapel at night to perform his devotions, but came back in haste for fear of spectres." (')

689. Dr. King on Johnson's English. (2)

It is a great defect in the education of our youth in both the Universities that they do not sufficiently apply themselves to the study of their mother tongue. By this means (1) [Letter to Mrs. Thrale, October 23, 1773.]

(2) [From Dr. William King's " Anecdotes of his Own Times," 8vo. 1819.]

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it happens, that some very learned men and polite scholars are not able to express themselves with propriety in common conversation, and that when they are discoursing on a subject which they understand perfectly well. I have been acquainted with three persons only who spoke English with that eloquence and propriety, that if all they said had been immediately committed to writing, any judge of the English language would have pronounced it an excellent and very beautiful style-Atterbury, the exiled bishop of Rochester; Dr. Gower, provost of Worcester College; and Samuel Johnson.

690. Gray on "London."

"London" is one of those few imitations that have all the ease and all the spirit of the original. The same man's verses at the opening of Garrick's Theatre are far from bad. (Letter to Walpole.)

691. Richardson and Fielding.

Gray was much pleased with an answer which Dr. Johnson once gave to a person on the different and comparative merits of Fielding and Richardson. "Why, Sir, Fielding could tell you what o'clock it was; but, as for Richardson, he could make a clock or a watch." thias's Gray.)

692. Johnson on Newton.


One of the most sagacious men in this age, who continues, I hope, to improve and adorn it, Samuel Johnson, remarked in my hearing, that if Newton had flourished in ancient Greece, he would have been worshipped as a divinity. How zealously then would he be adored, if his incomparable writings could be read and comprehended by the Pundits of Cashmere or Benares! (Sir William Jones, 1785.)

693. Dugald Stewart on the "Lives of the Poets.” (') It is a melancholy fact with respect to artists of all classes;-painters, poets, orators, and eloquent writers; (1) [From the Philosophical Essays.]

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