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Page:A critical examination of Dr G Birkbeck Hills "Johnsonian" Editions.djvu/87

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A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

case generally. Not content with this, he follows the heretical bishop to Bow Church, describes the scene there, the "citation," the "objectors," etc. All very interesting, no doubt, and one of those "fascinating anecdotes" that so delight Mr Leslie Stephen, but still out of place here.

In the editor's ardour to point out blunders —and he does so with great severity—he often stumbles into mistakes himself. Thus, when Mr Cradock describes his meeting Johnson at an undated dinner at the Literary Club, and says that he thought it suggested the "Retaliation" to Goldsmith, Dr B. Hill exclaims: "Such a blunder as this shows that not much trust can be placed in his account," his point being, that Cradock's first time of meeting Johnson was in 1776, while Goldsmith had died in 1774. On turning to this gentleman's account, we find that all he says is that it was the first time he "dined in company" with Johnson, not the first time he had met him; and this first meeting might have been before Goldsmith's death. It is the same with his remarks on the Cheshire Cheese, where some old gentlemen habitués were mentioned by Mr Jay as having remembered Johnson. Mr Jay, who wrote in the 'fifties, spoke of this, describing Johnson, when in Gough Square and Bolt Court, as frequenting the Cheese, and when at the Temple, the Mitre, because he did not like to cross the street. Dr B. Hill is scornful on this "loose talk." How could they remember Johnson in Gough Square, when he left it nearly a hundred years before? The editor has misapprehended the context. Some antediluvians remembered Johnson himself, but the rest of the story was merely the tradition picked up in the Tavern. The "old gentlemen" did not say that they remembered the Doctor at Gough Square.

Prepared as we are for Dr B. Hill's strange capriccios, we scarcely expected that he would gravely set himself to making a regular exegesis of a dinner menu. He actually proceeds to edit for us a bill of fare! Johnson had set down in Latin the items of his last dinner at Streatham, in translating which Dr B. Hill falls into what seem surprising mistakes. There was, it seems, for dinner a roast leg of lamb and spinach, "crus coctum cum herbis," etc. We have also a turkey, and a "farcimen farinaceum cum uvis passis," which the editor interprets as "the stuffing" of the lamb, I suppose, made of flour and raisins. A strange dish certainly, which must have made the Doctor uncomfortable. No wonder that our commentator says almost pathetically, "I have looked in vain in an old cookery book for a receipt for 'farcimen farinaceum cum uvis,'" though had he looked at all he might have consulted other cookery books. He adds: "Perhaps Mrs Thrale had ordered her favourite sauce" Whether she did so or not the whole that remains is dark. A fresh wonder: "It seems odd that the lamb and turkey were not followed by a pudding or sweets"! Odd or not, the editor is rather abroad here. The "farcimen farinaceum" was surely not stuffing for the lamb or turkey (I feel the absurdity of discussing such trivialities), but, it is distinctly stated, was another dish altogether—possibly that very pudding, the absence of which the editor so much laments. A glance at the Latin will show this. We construe it: "A flour dumpling with raisins." He assuredly mistranslates. Then Miss Austen is introduced with a dissertation on Courses," with quotations from her novels, and so on in the usual way.

I shall live mihi carior, wrote Johnson. "Perhaps," the editor says, "he had on his mind Juvenal's line, 'Carior est illis homo quam sibi.'" Certainly not; for here the meaning is the direct opposite: the man is dearer to others