1775 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

Samuel Johnson, 1775; Boswell, Life of Johnson (1791); ed. G. B. Hill (1891) 374-75.



Next day I dined with Johnson at Mr. Thrale's. He attacked Gray, calling him "a dull fellow." BOSWELL. "I understand he was reserved, and might appear dull in company; but surely he was not dull in poetry." JOHNSON. "Sir, he was dull in company, dull in his closet, dull every where. He was dull in a new way, and that made many people think him GREAT. He was a mechanical poet." He then repeated some ludicrous lines, which have escaped my memory, and said, "Is not that GREAT, like his Odes?" Mrs. Thrale maintained that his Odes were melodious; upon which he exclaimed,

Weave the warp, and weave the woof; —

I added, in a solemn tone,

The winding-sheet of Edward's race.

"There is a good line." "Ay, (said he,) and the next line is a good one," (pronouncing it contemptuously;)

Give ample verge and room enough.—

"Nor, Sir, there are but two good stanzas in Gray's poetry, which are in his Elegy in a Country Church-yard. He then repeated the stanza,

For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey, &c.

mistaking one word; for instead of "precincts" he said "confines." He added, "The other stanza I forget."