Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/53

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41
THE IMPORTATION OF GERMAN

sprang up. But even in German Courts the travellers needed no German; and the home-staying British author remained in absolute and contented ignorance. Macaulay remarks that the members of Johnson's Club were ignorant of the very existence of Wieland or Lessing. Johnson knew no German, although he twice took up 'Low Dutch' in order to satisfy himself that his power of learning had not decayed. From a talk at the club (3rd April, 1778) recorded by Boswell, we find that Johnson had discovered that 'stroem' is allied to 'stream,' and that Burke had recognised 'rosebuds' as the equivalent of 'roesknopies.' Neither of them makes a reference to 'High Dutch,' and the philological knowledge implied is of the shallowest. Boswell, who had studied at Utrecht and gone to Berlin, apparently did not take, or he would surely have recorded, any part in the talk. We may infer that he was equally ignorant, though it is strange to think of Boswell in a country where he could not report a common conversation. Gibbon is, of course, the typical instance of this ignorance. He was not a man to shrink from study; he had travelled in German Switzerland, he began a history of Switzerland, and in later years he wrote upon the