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Johnson & Johnson

viernes, 5 de septiembre de 2014

Johnson & Johnson

Entre las Vidas de los Poetas Ingleses de Samuel Johnson (1778-81) se encuentra la biografía de Sir Richard Blackmore (1658?-1729). Y allí hay un curioso pasaje en el que aparece la propia figura crítica de Johnson como el crítico ideal, o modélico, miembro destacado de una imaginaria academia. Lo curioso es cómo Johnson comenta esta descripción prospectiva o profética de sí mismo, avant la lettre de la vie, con cierto escepticismo irónico pero sin pestañear ni comentar el parecido—aunque es de suponer con un guiño imperceptible al lector, disimulado entre los tics de su particular estilo. La principal obra de Blackmore fue, para Samuel Johnson, Creation: A Philosophical Poem (1712) —y  después de ese logro sólo pudo decaer. La descripción del crítico ideal Johnson pertenece a una obra ensayística, género que supone la decadencia de Blackmore. Este pasaje de Johnson on Blackmore on Johnson es curioso, así que lo transcribo:

johnsonThis poem [Creation], if he had written nothing else, would have transmitted him [Blackmore] to posterity among the first favourites of the English muse; but to make verses was his transcendent pleasure, and as he was not deterred by censure, he was not satiated by praise.

He deviated, however, into other tracks of literature, and condescended to entertain his readers with plain prose. When The Spectator [by Steele and Addison] stopped, he considered the polite world as destitute of entertainment; and in concert with Mr. Hughes, who wrote every third paper, published three times a week The Lay Monastery, founded on the supposition that some literary men, whose characters are described, had retired to a house in the country to enjoy philosophical leisure, and resolved to instruct the public by communicating their disquisitions and amusements. Whether any real persons were concealed under fictitious names is not known. The hero of the club is one Mr. Johnson—such a constellation of excellence, that his character shall not be suppressed, though there is no great genius in the design, nor skill in the delineation.

"The first I shall name is Mr. Johnson, a gentleman that owes to nature his excellent  faculties and an elevated genius, and to industry and application many acquired accomplishments. HIs taste is distinguishing, just, and delicate; his judgment clear, and his reason strong, accompanied with an imagination full of spirit, of great compass, and stored with refined ideas. He is a critic of the first rank; and what is his peculiar ornament, he is delivered from the ostentation, malevolence, and supercilious temper, that so often blemish men of that character. His remarks result from the nature and reason of things, and are formed by a judgment free and unbiassed by the authority of those who have lazily followed each other in the same beaten track of thinking, and are arrived only at the reputation of acute grammarians and commentators—men who have been copying one another many hundred years without any improvement; or, if they have ventured farther, have only applied in a mechanical manner the rules of ancient critics to modern writings, and with great labour discovered nothing but their own want of judgment and capacity. As Mr. Johnson penetrates to the bottom of his subject, by which means his observations are solid an natural as well as delicate, so his design is always to bring to light something useful and ornamental; whence his character is the reverse to theirs, who have eminent abilities in insignificant knowledge, and a great felicity in finding out trifles. He is not less industrious to search out the merit of an author than sagacious in discerning his errors and defects, and takes more pleasure in commending the beauties than exposing the blemishes of a laudable writing; like Horace, in a long work he can bear some deformities, and justly lay them on the imperfection of human nature, which is incapable of faultless productions. When an excellent drama appears in public, and by its intrinsic worth attracts a general applause, he is not stung with envy and spleen, nor does he express a savage nature in fastening upon the celebrated author, dwelling upon his imaginary defects, and passing over his conspicuous excellences. He treats all writers upon the same impartial foot; and is not, like the little critics, taken up entirely in finding out only the beauties of the ancient and nothing but the errors of the modern writers. Never did anyone express more kindness and good nature to young and unfinished authors: he promotes their interests, protects their reputation, extenuates their faults, and sets off their virtues, and by his candour guards them from the severity of his jugment. He is not like those dry critics who are morose because they cannot write themselves, but is himself master of a good vein in poetry; and though he does not often employ it, yet he has sometimes entertained his friends with his unpublished performances."

The rest of the "Lay Monks" seem to be but feeble mortals in comparison with the gigantic Johnson, who yet, with all his abilities and the help of the fraternity, could drive the publication but to forty papers, which were afterwards collected into a volume, and called in the title A Sequel to the Spectator.

Cognitive Johnson

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