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Miss Adams: "Do you think, Sir, you could make your
Ramblers better?" Johnson: "Certainly I could."
Boswell: "I'll lay a bet, Sir, you cannot."
Johnson: "But I will, Sir, if I choose. I shall make the
best of them you shall pick out, better." Boswell: "But
you may add to them. I will not allow of that." Johnson:
"Nay, Sir, there are three ways of making them better; --putting
out, --adding, --or correcting."
536. Editing; Writing
"I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to
one of his pupils:'Read over your compositions, and where ever
you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine,
strike it out.'"
Boswell: Life of Johnson
763. Editing; Quality; Writing
"In an occasional performance no height of excellence can be
expected from any mind, however fertile in itself, and however
stored with acquisitions. He whose work is general and arbitrary
has the choice of his matter, and takes that which his
inclination and his studies have best qualified him to display
and decorate. He is at liberty to delay his publication till he
has satisfied his friends and himself; till he has reformed his
first thoughts by subsequent examination; and polished away
those faults which the precipitance of ardent composition is
likely to leave behind it. Virgil is related to have poured out
a great number of lines in the morning, and to have passed the
day in reducing them to fewer."
Johnson: Dryden (Lives of the Poets)
"One of the most pernicious effects of haste is obscurity. He
that teems with a quick succession of ideas, and perceives how
one sentiment produces another, easily believes that he can
clearly express what he so strongly comprehends; he seldom
suspects his thoughts of embarrassment while he preserves in his
own memory the series of connection, or his diction of ambiguity
while only one sense is present to his mind. Yet if he has been
employed on an abstruse or complicated argument, he will find,
when he has a while withdrawn his mind, and returns as a new
reader to his work, that he has only a conjectural glimpse of his
own meaning, and that to explain it to those whom he desires to
instruct, he must open his sentiments, disentangle his method,
and alter his arrangement."
Johnson: Rambler #169 (October 29, 1751)