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And though to throw light on the troublesome toil,
You still would be vexed,
In a fit of despair
Then this moment forbear,
Leave writing with ease,
And each talent to please,
" VOITURE'S FAMOUS RONDEAU,
M'a conjuré de lui faire un rondeau;
6 En voila cinq pourtant en un monceau
Faisons en huit — en invoquant brodéau ;
Ma foi c'est fait.
66 Si je pouvois encore de mon cerveau
Tirer cinq vers, l'ouvrage seroit beau ;
Ma foi c'est fait,”
is borrowed from a sonnet of Lope de Vega, admirably imitated in our collection of poems called “ Dodsley's Miscellanies":
“Yo pensé que no hallara consonante Y estoy a la mitad de otro quarteto ;
Mas si me veo en el primo terceto,
“ Per el primo terceto voy entrando
“ Ya estoy en el segundo, y aun sospecho
“ IMITATION BY MR. RODERICK. “ Capricious Wray a sonnet needs must have, –
I ne'er was so put to't before, — a sonnet!
Why fourteen verses must be spent upon it, 'T is good, howe'er, to have conquered the first stave.
“ Yet I shall ne'er find rhymes enough by half,
Said I; and found myself in midst of the second :
If twice four verses were but fairly reckoned,
“ Thus far with good success, I think, I've scribbled,
And of the twice seven lines have clean got o'er ten; Courage ! another 'll finish the first triplet.
Thanks to the Muse, my work begins to shorten, There's thirteen lines got o'er driblet by driblet :
'T is done; count how you will, I'll warrant there's fourteen.” *
“I begin now to let loose my mind after Queeney and Burney.” — Johnson, June 19, 1779.
They were learning Latin of him ; but Dr. Burney would not let his girl (Madam D’Arblay) go on: he thought grammar too masculine a study for misses.
“ I shall be in danger of crying out, with Mr. Head, catamaran whatever that may mean.” — Johnson.
A comical hack joke. Ask me, and I will tell you one or two more tales about catamaran. Come; here it is : You do not
* These trifles are principally curious as showing what clever people have thought clever. To borrow Johnson's words, many men, many women, or many children might have written either of the three.
hate nonsense with affected fastidiousness, or fastidious affectation, like those who have little sense. Turn the page, then, over.
This Mr. Head, whose real name was Plunkett, a low Irish parasite, dependant on Mr. Thrale primarily; and I suppose, secondarily on Mr. Murphy, was employed by them in various schemes of pleasure, as you men call profligacy; and on this occasion was deputed to amuse them by personating some lord, whom his patrons had promised to introduce to the beautiful Miss Gunnings when they first came over with intent to make their fortunes. He was received accordingly, and the girls played off their best airs, and cast kind looks on his introducers from time to time ; till the fellow wearied, as Johnson says, and disgusted with his ill-acted character, burst out on a sudden as they sat at tea, and cried, “ Catamaran ! young gentlemen with two shoes and never a heel; when will you have done with silly jokes now? Lèdies ;” turning to the future peeresses, “never mind these merry boys; but if you really can afford to pay for some incomparable silk stockings, or true India handkerchiefs, here they are now,” rummaging his smuggler's pocket; but the girls jumped up and turned them all three into the street, where Thrale and Murphy cursed their senseless assistant, and called him Head, like lucus a non lucendo, because they swore he had none. The Duchess (of Hamilton), however, never did forgive this impudent frolic; Lady Coventry, more prudently, pretended to forget it.
Catamaran ! was probably a mere Irish exclamation which burst from the fellow when impatient to be selling his smuggled goods. There is exactly such a character in Richardson's “ Clarissa," — Captain Tomlinson, employed by Lovelace.
“ You and Mrs. — must keep Mrs. — about you ; and try to make a wit of her. She will be a little unskilful in her first essays; but you will see how precept and example will bring her forwards. Surely it is very fine to have your powers. The wits court you, and the Methodists love you, and the whole world runs about you ; and you write me word how well you can do without me; and so, go thy ways poor Jack.” – Johnson, April 15, 1780.
The names are filled with those of Mrs. Montague and Mrs. Byron. It would seem that Johnson was of opinion with Sidney Smith, who contends in his lectures that wit may be acquired like other talents or accomplishments.
“ But — and you have had, with all your adulations, nothing finer said of you than was said last Saturday night of Burke and me. We were at the Bishop of — ’s, a bishop little better than your bishop ; and towards twelve we fell into talk, to which the ladies listened, just as they do to you; and said, as I heard, there is no rising unless somebody will cry fire.” – Johnson, May 23, 1780.
The lady was Mrs. Montague; Johnson's bishop was the Bishop of St. Asaph (Shipley); Mrs. P.'s, the Bishop of Peterborough (Hinchliffe).
Mrs. Piozzi replies : “I have no care about enjoying undivided empire, nor any thoughts of disputing it with Mrs. Montagu. She considers her title as indisputable, most probably, though I am sure I never heard her urge it. Queen Elizabeth, you remember, would not suffer hers to be inquired into, and I have read somewhere that the Great Mogul is never crowned.”
In a postscript she says: “Apropos to gallantry, here is a gentleman hooted out of Bath for showing a lady's love-letters to him; and such is the resentment of all the females, that even the housemaid refused to make his bed. I think them perfectly right, as he has broken all the common ties of society ; and if he were to sleep on straw for half a year instead of our old favorites the Capucin friars, it would do him no harm, and set the men a good example.”
In the margin is written“ Mr. Wade.”
“ Gluttony is, I think, less common among women than among men. Women commonly eat more sparingly, and are less curious in the choice of meat; but if once you find a woman gluttonous, expect from her very little virtue. Her mind is enslaved to the lowest and grossest temptation.
“Of men, the examples are sufficiently common. I had a friend, of great eminence in the learned and the witty world,
who had hung up some pots on his wall to furnish nests for sparrows. The poor sparrows, not knowing his character, were seduced by the convenience, and I never heard any man speak of any future enjoyment with such contortions of delight as he exhibited, when he talked of eating the young ones.” — Johnson.
The name of Isaac Hawkins Browne is written in the margin, and it is added that the young sparrows were eaten in a pie.
Stonehenge. — I saw Stonehenge once before this letter was written, in company of my father, who said it was Druidical : I saw it again seven years or more, ten years perhaps, in company of my second husband, and I saw it with Miss Thrales in June, 1784. I fancy it was Saxon for my own part; a monument to the valor of Hengist. It is Stone Henge.
“ Mrs. Davenant says, that you regain your health. That you regain your health is more than a common recovery ; because I infer, that you regain your peace of mind. Settle your thoughts and control your imagination, and think no more of Hesperian felicity. Gather yourself and your children into a little system, in which each may promote the ease, the safety, and pleasure of the rest.” — Johnson.
Mrs. D'Avenant neither knew nor cared, as she wanted her brother Harry Cotton to marry Lady Keith, and I offered my estate with her. Miss Thrale said she wished to have nothing to do either with my family or my fortune. They were all cruel and all insulting.
“ DEAR SIR, — Communicate your letters regularly. Your father's inexorability not only grieves but amazes me. He is your father. He was always accounted a wise man; nor do I remember anything to the disadvantage of his good-nature ; but in his refusal to assist you there is neither good-nature, fatherhood, nor wisdom.” — Johnson.
I think you will be surprised to hear that this so serious letter should have been written to the crazy fellow, of whom a ludicrous story is told in the “ Anecdotes :” Joe Simson, as Doctor Johnson called him, when he related the ridiculous incidents of