chapter  11
5 Pages

ALEXANDER CHALMERS in British Essayists, 1802

On the general merit of this work, it is now unnecessary to expatiate: the prejudices which were alarmed by a new style and manner have long subsided; critics and grammarians have pointed out what they thought defective, or dangerous for imitation; and although a new set of objectors have appeared since the author’s death the world has not been much swayed in its opinions by that hostility which is restrained until it can be vented with impunity. The few laboured, and perhaps pedantic sentences which occur, have been selected and repeated with incessant malignity, but without the power of depreciation; and they who have thus found Johnson to be obscure and unintelligible, might with similar partiality celebrate Shakspeare only for his puns and his quibbles. Luckily, however, for the taste and improvement of the age, these objections are not very prevalent, and the general opinion, founded on actual observation, is, that although Dr. Johnson is not to be imitated with perfect success, yet the attempt to imitate him, where it has neither been servile nor artificial, has elevated the style of every species of literary composition. In every thing, we perceive more vigour, more spirit, more elegance. He not only began a revolution in our language, but lived till it was almost completed.