Reading Experience Database

Basic Search

Advanced Search

Record 21580

Reading Experience:

'He spoke slightingly of Dyer's "Fleece".— "The subject, Sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets ? Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that [italics] excellent [end italics] poem, "The Fleece." Having talked of Grainger's "Sugar-Cane", I mentioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus: "Now, Muse, let's sing of [italics] rats [end italics]". And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slily overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally [italics] mice [end italics], and had been altered to [italics] rats [end italics], as more dignified. This passage does not appear in the printed work. Dr. Grainger, or some of his friends, it should seem, having become sensible that introducing even [italics] Rats [end italics] in a grave poem might be liable to banter. He, however, could not bring himself to relinquish the idea; for they are thus, in a still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his poem as it now stands: "Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race, A countless clan, despoil the lowland cane." Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agreeable man; a man who would do any good that was in his power. His translation of "Tibullus", he thought, was very well done; but "The Sugar Cane, a Poem," did not please him; for, he exclaimed, "What could he make of a sugar cane? One might as well write the 'Parsley Bed, a Poem ;' or ' The Cabbage Garden, a Poem'".'
Century: 1700-1799
Date: Until: 21 Mar 1776
Country: England
Time: n/a
Place: n/a
Type of Experience (Reader):
silent aloud unknown
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown
Type of Experience (Listener):
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown

Reader/Listener/Reading Group:

Reader:Samuel Johnson
Age Adult (18-100+)
Gender Male
Date of Birth 18 Sep 1709
Socio-economic group: Professional / academic / merchant / farmer
Occupation: writer
Religion: Anglican
Country of origin: England
Country of experience: England
Listeners present if any:
(e.g. family, servants, friends, workmates)
Additional comments: n/a


Text Being Read:

Author: John Dyer
Title: Fleece, The
Genre: Poetry
Form of Text: Print: Book
Publication details: n/a
Provenance: unknown


Source Information:

Record ID: 21580  
Source - Print  
  Author: James Boswell
  Editor: R.W. Chapman
  Title: Life of Johnson
  Place of Publication: Oxford
  Date of Publication: 1980
  Vol: n/a
  Page: 698-9
  Additional comments: n/a

Citation: James Boswell, R.W. Chapman (ed.), Life of Johnson (Oxford, 1980), p. 698-9,, accessed: 23 February 2024

Additional comments:

Original date of publication 1791.



Reading Experience Database version 2.0.  Page updated: 27th Apr 2016  3:15pm (GMT)