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the characters are all strongly marked, and finely discriminated; though pathos and horror breathe
all their powers.
Last night I saw the Mentevoli of the Julia performed by a spirited tragedian of the name of Rosewel. Julia was also sweetly and gracefully represented by Mrs Nunns. Through the whole interesting performance, I thought of a line in the Revenge, and applied it to the author of Julia, as indubitably one of those distinguish
“ Souls made of fire, and children of the sun.”
The finest stage situation in this tragedy is taken from the penknife-scene in that glorious work, the Clarissa.
Giovanni, and his daughter, and my dear invalid, join me in every good wish to yourself and Mrs Whalley.
Assure Mrs Piozzi, when you meet her next, of my frequent recollection of all she has looked, said, and written to me.
You have doubless luxuriated in the late vernal mildness of our noong; but we must expect hybernal relapses; that, ere he takes his final flight,
“ Winter will oft at eve resume the breeze,
But small is their power to depress, where the Lares are found on the hearth, the Muses breathe inspiration, and the affections diffuse comfort.
Mrs Piozzi, on her Publication of Johnson's
Lichfield, March 7, 1788. This kind present, your last entertaining and valuable publication of the Goliah’s Epistles, at once obliges and does me honour. They shew him in a more benign, though less resplendent point of view, than, perhaps, any other of his writings, or than he could appear from any veritable records of his conversation, since you have, doubtless, expunged the malignant passages, from your benevolent attention to the feelings of many.
Letter-writing, however, appears not to have been his talent, though, in the course of these epistles, we find frequently scattered rays of Johnsonian fire. He, whose eloquence has, in his essays, unrivalled majesty and force, seems an unwieldy trifler. When he will gambol, he gam
bols best with Dr Taylor's great bull, a sort of cousin-german of his in strength and surliness.
His playfulness wants the elegance, his wit the brilliance, and his style the polished ease of Gray's Letters; which, as letters, are very superior indeed to Johnson's, though he pronounces them a dull work; but that was from envy.
Your epistles in this collection outshine your preceptor's, and are the gems of the volume. A transcendence so decided, must surely oblige the English to imitate the justice of the Theban literati, and, in this mutual display of epistolary powers, decree that palm to you which crowned the lyre of Corinna in her contest with Pindar.
« Tis hard to cull
Yet I think my first favourite is your letter to a bridegroom. It is of twin-excellence to that celebrated one of St Evremond's to a young and lovely married woman, who wished to preserve her amorous empire.
Johnson, as a writer, is most himself in his let, ters from Scotland. We are delighted to observe him familiarly sketching out those scenes, of which his Tour presents so sublime a picture. Mr Boswell will be gratified to find here, in Dr Johnson's approbation of his anecdotes, a full acquittal of his imputed treachery to the confidence and fame of his friend. Those who brought that accusation against Mr Boswell, evinced that they little understood Johnson's character. He said nothing to any one in confidence. Far from wishing to hide, he gloried in his malignity, and in the trust that it would be recorded. He had none of those “compunctious visitings of nature,” which make softer dispositions scrupulous of wounding the feelings of others. I have heard him say, that distinguished people know that their colloquial opinions will be recorded, and their letters published.
Your translation of his Latin verses to Dr Laurence forms an elegant poem, and the joint translations from Boethius have accuracy and spirit.
Miss Weston told me you asked her if certain verses, signed Anna Matilda, were mine. Not they indeed ;-nor know I any thing of their origin, except from internal evidence; but it is so strong, as to be entirely conclusive with me, that the Della Cruscas, and the congenial rants which pretend to reply to them, are from the same pen, whoever Mr Merry may persuade to mother them. No two writers could have such entirely similar extravagancies in their compositions. The only verses I remember to have printed without my name were an epigram on the abusive critics of Mr Hayley's writings, and a little poem to Mason, in the Gentleman's Magazine for October 1784; reproaching him for his silence over Johnson's malignant injustice to the greatest lyric poet the world ever produced, not excepting Pindar himself;—that poet his departed friend.
I should suppose Pindar could not, and our scholars confess to me he did not, excel Gray in the sublimity of his imagery, or in the grandeur and variety of his numbers; and our translations of Pindar show me that the Greek poet's subjects were less elevated, less interesting.
Nothing is less to be trusted than the fidelity of Doctor Johnson's pen, when he aims to be characteristic. How different from what she really was must posterity conceive of his daughterin-law, Lucy Porter, from the following sentence in these letters: “ Miss Lucy has raised my esteem by many excellencies, very noble and resplendent, though a little discoloured by hoary virginity.”
Ill did those elevated appellations suit her downright honesty, seldom if ever expanding into generosity ;-her illiterate shrewdness, and cherished vulgarism. Hoary virginity may justly be said to discolour personal graces; but those she never possessed beyond the result of a round