George Dyer has introduced me to the table of an agreeable old gentleman, Dr. Anderson, who gives hot legs of mutton and grape pies at his sylvan lodge at Isleworth, where, in the middle of a street, he has shot up a wall most preposterously before his small dwelling, which, with the circumstance of his taking several panes of glass out of bedroom windows (for air), causeth his neighbors to speculate strangely on the state of the good man’s pericranicks. Plainly, he lives under the reputation of being deranged. George does not mind this circumstance; he rather likes him the better for it. The Doctor, in his pursuits, joins agricultural to poetical science, and has set George’s brains mad about the old Scotch writers, Barbour, Douglas’s AEneid, Blind Harry, etc. We returned home in a return postchaise (having dined with the Doctor); and George kept wondering and wondering, for eight or nine turnpike miles, what was the name, and striving to recollect the name, of a poet anterior to Barbour. I begged to know what was remaining of his works. “There is nothing extant of his works, sir; but by all accounts he seems to have been a fine genius!” This fine genius, without anything to show for it or any title beyond George’s courtesy, without even a name, and Barbour and Douglas and Blind Harry now are the predominant sounds in George’s pia mater, and their buzzings exclude politics, criticism, and algebra,—the late lords of that illustrious lumber-room. Mark, he has never read any of these bucks, but is impatient till he reads them all, at the Doctor’s suggestion. Poor Dyer! his friends should be careful what sparks they let fall into such inflammable matter.
Could I have my will of the heathen, I would lock him up from all access of new ideas; I would exclude all critics that would not swear me first (upon their Virgil) that they would feed him with nothing but the old, safe, familiar notions and sounds (the rightful aborigines of his brain),—Gray, Akenside, and Mason. In these sounds, reiterated as often as possible, there could be nothing painful, nothing distracting.
God bless me, here are the birds, smoking hot!
All that is gross and unspiritual in me rises at the sight!
Avaunt friendship and all memory of absent friends!
August 26, 1800.
George Dyer is the only literary character I am happily acquainted with. The oftener I see him, the more deeply I admire him. He is goodness itself. If I could but calculate the precise date of his death, I would write a novel on purpose to make George the hero. I could hit him off to a hair.