Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Johnson > Johnson and Boswell > Ill success of his Parodists
  The weight of his words carried by the strength of his thought Effect of Johnson’s death; Mrs. Piozzi’s Anecdotes and Sir John Hawkins’s Life  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

VIII. Johnson and Boswell.

§ 31. Ill success of his Parodists.


His parodists have been peculiarly unsuccessful. We lose their meaning in a jumble of pedantries; and we do not lose Johnson’s. They inflate their phraseology; but Johnson is not tumid. And they forget that his balance is a balance of thought. His own explanation still holds good: “the imitators of my style have not hit it. Miss Aikin has done it the best; for she has imitated the sentiment as well as the diction.” This was said in 1777. But better than Miss Aikin’s essay “On Romances” 36  in the style of The Rambler, and the best of all the parodies, is A Criticism on the Elegy written in a Country Church-yard (1783), composed by John Young, the versatile professor of Greek at Glasgow, and designed as a continuation of The Life of Gray. The long list of his serious imitators begins with Hawkesworth and extends to Jeffrey, 37  who started by training himself in the school of the periodical essayists. Others, who did not take him as a model, profited by the example of a style in which nothing is negligent and nothing superfluous. He was the dominating influence in English prose throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. The lesson of discipline required to be taught, and it was learned from him by many whose best work shows no traces of his manner.   49

Note 36Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose, by J. Aikin and A. L. Aikin (Mrs. Barbauld), 1773. [ back ]
Note 37. See Cockburn, Life of Jeffrey, vol. I, pp. 31 etc. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The weight of his words carried by the strength of his thought Effect of Johnson’s death; Mrs. Piozzi’s Anecdotes and Sir John Hawkins’s Life  
 
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