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the experience of reading in Britain, from 1450 to 1945...

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John Young


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John Young : Criticism on Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard

'A distinguished authour in "The Mirror", a periodical paper, published at Edinburgh, has imitated Johnson very closely. Thus, in No. 16,-- "The effects of the return of spring have been frequently remarked as well in relation to the human mind as to the animal and vegetable world. The reviving power of this season has been traced from the fields to the herds that inhabit them, and from the lower classes of beings up to man. Gladness and joy are described as prevailing through universal Nature, animating the low of the cattle, the carol of the birds, and the pipe of the shepherd." The Reverend Dr. KNOX, master of Tunbridge school, appears to have the [italics]imitari aveo [end italics] of Johnson's style perpetually in his mind; and to his assiduous, though not servile, study of it, we may partly ascribe the extensive popularity of his writings. In his "Essays, Moral and Literary", No. 3, we find the following passage:-- "The polish of external grace may indeed be deferred till the approach of manhood. When solidity is obtained by pursuing the modes prescribed by our fore-fathers, then may the file be used. The firm substance will bear attrition, and the lustre then acquired will be durable." There is, however, one in No. 11, which is blown up into such tumidity, as to be truly ludicrous. The writer means to tell us, that Members of Parliament, who have run in debt by extravagance, will sell their votes to avoid an arrest, which he thus expresses:-- "They who build houses and collect costly pictures and furniture with the money of an honest artisan or mechanick, will be very glad of emancipation from the hands of a bailiff, by a sale of their senatorial suffrage". But I think the most perfect imitation of Johnson is a professed one, entitled "A Criticism on Gray's Elegy in a Country Church-Yard", said to be written by Mr. Young, Professor of Greek, at Glasgow, and of which let him have the credit, unless a better title can be shewn. It has not only the peculiarities of Johnson's style, but that very species of literary discussion and illustration for which he was eminent. Having already quoted so much from others, I shall refer the curious to this performance, with an assurance of much entertainment'.

Century: 1700-1799     Reader/Listener/Group: James Boswell      Print: Unknown


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