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INTRODUCTION

required social collision and provocation to sting him into some of those superb exaggerations, things that were the best he ever said, but things that he never would have written. It was that eighteenth-century idea of a responsible and final justice in the arts. Our own time has run away from it, as it has run away from all the really virile and constructive parts of Rationalism, retaining only a few fragments of its verbalism and its historical ignorance.

For all these reasons it is difficult to keep Johnson's actual literary works in a proper prominence among all the facts and fables about him; just as it might be difficult successfully to exhibit six fine etchings or steel engravings among all the gorgeous landscapes or gaudy portraits of the Royal Academy. But if people infer that the etchings and engravings are not good of their kind, then they are very much mistaken. All these Johnsonian etchings fulfil the best artistic test of etching; they are very thoroughly in black and white. All these steel engravings are really steel engravings; they are graven by a brain of steel. What Macaulay said about Johnson in this respect is both neat and true: unlike most of the things he said about Johnson, which were neat and false. Macaulay