Page:Samuel Johnson (1911).djvu/289

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a proposition of equal length ; thought is developed with the compressed regularity and official splendour of a pro- cession. Classical prose attains its perfection in him, as classical poetry in Pope. Art cannot be more finished or nature more forced. None has confined ideas in straiter compartments ; none has given stronger relief to disser- tation and proof; none has imposed more despotically on story and dialogue the forms of argumentation and violent declamation. We understand now that an ora- torical age would recognize him as a master, and attribute to him in eloquence the mastery which it attributed to Pope in verse. History of English Literature.


It will be wise to face at once the charge so often brought against these writings, that they are dull. M. Taine, who somehow got hold of the mistaken idea that Johnson's periodical essays are the favourite reading of the English people has lent his support to this charge. . . . This is the greatness of Johnson, that he is greater than his work. He thought of himself as a man rather than as an author ; and of literature as a means not as an end in itself. Six Essays on Johnson.


As a writer of English prose, Johnson has always en- joyed a great albeit somewhat awful reputation. In childish memories he is constrained to be associated with dust and dictionaries and those provoking obstacles to a boy's reading "long words." The characteristics of Johnson's prose style are colossal good sense, though with a strong sceptical bias, good humour, vigorous language, and movement from point to point which can only be compared to the measured tread of a well-drilled com- pany of soldiers. Obiter Dicta.

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