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I shall now fulfil my promise of exhibiting specimens of various forts of 1784. imitation of Johnson's style.
In the “ Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 1787,” there is an “Effay on the Style of Dr. Samuel Johnson,” by the Rev. Robert Burrowes, whose respect for the great object of his criticisms is thus evinced in the concluding paragraph: “I have singled him out from the whole body of English 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 comprize all the observations I could make upon his faults, while volumes would not be sufficient for a treatise on his perfections.”
Mr. Burrowes has analysed 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 his 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 considerably 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 connection 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 has made himself master of the nature and affections of the logarithmick 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.”
s We must smile at a little inaccuracy of metaphor in the Preface to the Transactions, which is written by Mr. Burrowes. The critick of the style of Johnson having, with a juft zeal for literature, observed, that the whole nation are called on to exert themselves, afterwards says: • They are called on by every tje which can have a laudable influence on the heart of man."
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 news-papers :
Cervisial coctor's viduate dame,
Precumbing 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 “ Profe on several Occasions," has “ A Letter from LEXIPHANES; containing Proposals for a Glofary or Vocabulary of the Vulgar Tongre: intended as a Supplement to a larger Dictionary.” It is evidently meant as a sportive fally of ridicule on Johnson, whose style is thus imitated, without being grossly overcharged. “ 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 acknowledgements 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 a short specimen of the work, thrown together in a vague and désultory manner, not even adhering to alphabetical concatenation ?.
• Johnson's wishing to unite himself with this rich widow was much talked of, but I believe without foundation. The report, however, gave occasion for 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-ftreet. 7 “ Higgl dy-piggledy-Conglomeration and confusion.
Hodge-podge-A culinary mixture of heterogeneous ingredients; applied metaphorically to all discordant combinations,
The serious imitators of Johnson's style, whether intentionally or by the 1784. imperceptible effect of its strength and animation, are, as I have had already fetar. 75 occasion to observe, so many, that I might introduce quotations from a great proportion of the writers in our language, since he appeared. I shall point out only the following.
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 rein-deer to be fubfervient to his will; and even the people of Kamschatka have trained their dogs to labour. This command over the inferiour creatu: as is one of the nobleft prerogatives of man, and among the greatest efforts of his wisdon, and power. 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 8.
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 inflaine the mind, and to silence the voice of pityo.”
“ Tit for Tat--Adequate retaliation.
Rigmarole-Discourse, incoherent and rhapsodical.
4 C 2
Miss BURNEY. My family mistaking ambition for honour, and rank for dignity, have long planned a splendid connection for me, to which, though my invariable repugnance has stopped any advances, their wishes and their views immoveably 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 '.”
Reverend Mr. NARES?.
“ 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 aslifted 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.”
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
« Cecilia,” Book VII. Chap. I. • 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, fo far as relates to Pronunciation, Accent, and Quantity,” London, 1784. I beg leave to offer my particular acknowledgements 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 perfpicuity of expression. That collection was presented to Dr. Johnson I believe by its authours ; and I heard him
; fpeak very well of it.
relation to the human mind as to the animal and vegetable world. The 1784.
The Reverend Mr. Knox, master of Tunbridge school, appears to have
In his “ Essays, Moral and Literary,” No. 3, we find the following passage :-" The polish of external grace may indeed be deferred till the approach of manhood. When solidity is obtained by pursuing the modes prescribed by our forefathers, then may the file be used. The firm substance : will bear attrition, and the lustre then acquired will be durable.”
There is, however, one in No. 11, which is blown up into such tumidity as to be truly ludicrous. The writer means to tell us, that Members of Parliament, who have run in debt by extravagance, will sell their votes to avoid an arrest”, which he thus expresses :-" They who build houses and collect costly pictures and furniture, with the money of an honest artisan or mechanick, will be very glad of emancipation from the hands of a bailiff, by a fale of their senatorial suffrage.”
But I think the most perfect imitation of Johnson is a professed one, entitled “ A Criticism on Gray's Elegy in a Country Church-yard,” said to be written by Mr. Young, Professor of Greek at Glasgow, and of which let him have the credit, unless a better title can be shewn. It has not only the peculiarities of Johnson's style, but that very species of literary discussion and illustration for which he was eminent. Having already quoted so much from others, I shall refer the curious to this performance, with an assurance of much entertainment.
Yet whatever merit there may be in any imitations of Johnson's style, every good judge must see that they are obviously different from the original; for all of them are either deficient in its force, or overloaded with its peculiarities; and the powerful sentiment to which it is suited is not to be found.
• It were to be wished, that he had imitated that great man in every respect, and had not followed the example of Dr. Adam Smith, in ungraciously attacking his venerable Alma Mater, Oxford.
s Mr. Knox, in his “ Moral and Literary Abstraction,” may be excused for not knowing the political regulations of his country. No fenator can be in the hands of a bailiff.