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Charles Lamb

Reading Books

... Write and all your friends will hate you all will suspect you. Are you happy in drawing a character? Show it not for yours. Not one of your acquaintance but will surmise that you meant him or her no matter how discordant from their own. Let it be diametrically different, their fancy will extract from it some lines of a likeness. I lost a friend a most valuable one by showing him a whimsical draught of a miser. He himself is remarkable for generosity, even to carelessness in money matters; but there was an expression in it, out of Juvenal, about an attic a place where pigeons are fed; and my friend kept pigeons. All the waters in the Danube cannot wash it out of his pate to this day, but that in my miser I was making reflections upon him.

Samuel Johnson, whom, to distinguish from the doctor, we may call the Whig, was a very remarkable writer. He may be compared to his contemporary, Dr. Fox, whom he resembled in many points. He is another instance of King William's discrimination, which was so superior to that of any of his ministers. Johnson was one of the most formidable of the advocates for the Exclusion Bill; and he suffered by whipping and imprisonment under James accordingly. Like Asgill, he argues with great apparent candour and clearness till he gets his opponent within reach; and then comes a blow as from a sledge-hammer. I do not know where I could put my hand on a book containing so much sense and constitutional doctrine as this thin folio of Johnson's Works; and what party in this country would read so severe a lecture in it as our modern Whigs? A close reasoner and a good writer in general may be known by his pertinent use of connections. Read any page of Johnson, you cannot alter one conjunction without spoiling the sense; it is a linked chain throughout. In your modern books, for the most part, the sentences in a page have the same connection with each other that marbles have in a bag: they touch without adhering.

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