Page:Johnsonian Miscellanies I.djvu/204

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��Anecdotes.

��a monkey was David now (says he), to tell of his own disgrace ! ' And in the course of that hour's chat he told me, how he used to teize Garrick by commendations of the tomb scene in Congreve's Mourning Bride, protesting that Shakespeare had in the same line of excellence nothing as good : ' All which is strictly true (said he) ; but that is no reason for supposing Congreve is to stand in competition with Shakespeare I : these fellows know not how to blame, nor how to commend.' I forced him one day, in a similar humour, to prefer Young's description of Night to the so much admired ones of Dryden and Shakespeare, as more forcible, and more general. Every reader is not either a lover or a tyrant, but every reader is interested when he hears that

Creation sleeps ; 'tis as the general pulse Of life stood still, and nature made a pause ; An awful pause prophetic of its end 2 .

��1 Life, ii. 85, 96. * The noble pas sage which Johnson, both in writing and in conversation, extolled above any other in the English drama has suffered greatly in the public estima tion from the extravagance of his praise.' Macaulay's Essays, ed. 1843, iii. 294.

2 ' her end.' Night Thoughts, i. 23. 1 All things are hush'd, as Nature's

self lay dead, The Mountains seem to nod their

drowsy head ; The little Birds in dreams their

Songs repeat, And sleeping Flowers beneath the

night- dew sweat ; Ev'n Lust and Envy sleep, yet Love

denies Rest to my Soul and slumber to my

Eyes.'

Dryden, The Indian Emperoiir, Act iii. sc. 2.

' Now o'er the one half-world Nature seems dead, and wicked

dreams abuse The curtain'd sleep ; now witchcraft

celebrates

��Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd

murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf. Whose howl 's his watch, thus with

his stealthy pace, With Tarquin's ravishing strides,

towards his design Moves like a ghost.'

Macbeth, ii. i. 49.

Johnson in a note on this last passage says: 'Night is described by two great poets, but one describes a night of quiet, the other of perturba tion. In the night of Dryden all the disturbers of the world are laid asleep ; in that of Shakespeare no thing but sorcery, lust and murder is awake. He that reads Dryden finds himself lull'd with serenity, and dis posed to solitude and contemplation. He that peruses Shakespeare looks round alarmed, and starts to find himself alone. One is the night of a lover, the other of a murderer.'

In his Life of Dryden he says of that poet's description of night that ' Rymer has made it famous by pre ferring it to those of all other poets.'

'This

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