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Page:Samuel Johnson (1911).djvu/23

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not only understood Johnsonian criticism, but he foresaw most modern criticism, when he said that the Doctor's comments always at least meant something. He belonged to an age and school that loved to be elaborately lucid; but one must mean something to be able to explain it six times over. Many a modern critic, called delicate, elusive, reticent, subtle, individual, has gained this praise by saying something once which anyone could see to be rubbish if he had said it twice.

It is with some such considerations that the modern reader should sit down to enjoy the very enjoyable Rasselas or the still more enjoyable Lives of the Poets. He must get rid of the lazy modern legend that whenever Johnson decides he dogmatizes, and that whenever he dogmatizes he bullies. He must be quit of the commonplace tradition that when Johnson uses a long word he is using a sort of scholastic incantation more or less analogous to a curse. He must put himself into an attitude adequately appreciative of the genuine athletics of the intellect in which these giants indulged. Never mind whether the antithesis seems forced; enquire how many modern leader-writers would have been able to force it. Never mind whether the logic seems to lead a man to the right con-