Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 560 pages of information about Famous Reviews.

Goldsmith said to him, very wittily, and very justly, “If you were to write a fable about little fishes, doctor, you would make the little fishes talk like whales.”  No man surely ever had so little talent for personation as Johnson.  Whether he wrote in the character of a disappointed legacy-hunter or an empty town fop, of a crazy virtuoso or a flippant coquette, he wrote in the same pompous and unbending style.  His speech, like Sir Piercy Shafton’s Euphuistic eloquence, bewrayed him under every disguise.  Euphelia and Rhodoclea talk as finely as Imlac the poet, or Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia.  The gay Cornelia describes her reception at the country-house of her relations, in such terms as these:  “I was surprised, after the civilities of my first reception, to find, instead of the leisure and tranquillity which a rural life always promises, and, if well conducted, might always afford, a confused wildness of care, and a tumultuous hurry of diligence, by which every face was clouded, and every motion agitated.”  The gentle Tranquilla informs us, that she “had not passed the earlier part of life without the flattery of courtship, and the joys of triumph; but had danced the round of gaiety amidst the murmurs of envy and the gratulations of applause, had been attended from pleasure to pleasure by the great, the sprightly, and the vain, and had seen her regard solicited by the obsequiousness of gallantry, the gaiety of wit, and the timidity of love.”  Surely Sir John Falstaff himself did not wear his petticoats with a worse grace.  The reader may well cry out, with honest Sir Hugh Evans, “I like not when a ’oman has a great peard:  I spy a great peard under her muffler."[5]

[5] It is proper to observe that this passage bears a very close
    resemblance to a passage in the Rambler (No. 20).  The resemblance
    may possibly be the effect of unconscious plagiarism.

We had something more to say.  But our article is already too long; and we must close it.  We would fain part in good humour from the hero, from the biographer, and even from the editor, who, ill as he has performed his task, has at least this claim to our gratitude, that he has induced us to read Boswell’s book again.  As we close it, the club-room is before us, and the table on which stands the omelet for Nugent, and the lemons for Johnson.  There are assembled those heads which live for ever on the canvas of Reynolds.  There are the spectacles of Burke and the tall thin form of Langton, the courtly sneer of Beauclerk and the beaming smile of Garrick, Gibbon tapping his snuff-box and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in his ear.  In the foreground is that strange figure which is as familiar to us as the figures of those among whom we have been brought up, the gigantic body, the huge massy face, seamed with the scars of disease, the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the grey wig with the scorched foretop, the dirty hands, the nails bitten and paired to the quick.  We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; we see the heavy form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the “Why, sir!” and the “What then, sir?” and the “No, Sir!” and the “You don’t see your way through the question, sir!”

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
Famous Reviews from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook