Born September 18th

Samuel Johnson, b. 1709, said to be the second most quoted author in the English language, after Shakespeare.

Samuel Johnson’s Life and Faith by James Kiefer

BBC News article, The A to Z of Samuel Johnson

Who Is This Johnson Guy? by Jack Lynch

Some interesting facts about Samuel Johnson:
He was the son of a bookseller. (What fun!)
Johnson’s Dictionary of the the English Language, published in 1755 (making this year the 250th anniversary of the publication of Johnson’s Dictionary), was not the first English dictionary, but it was the authoritative English dictionary for over a hundred years until the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Johnson never graduated from Oxford University, although he did attend there, and he became “Dr. Johnson” because he was given an honorary degree.
Samuel Johnson was half-blind, deaf in one ear, and suffered from scrofula, nervous tics, and depression. Some thought him so odd in his mannerisms that they considered him an idiot until he spoke and revealed himself to be an intelligent man.
Johnson married a widow, Elizabeth Porter, who was twenty years older than he, and by all accounts they were very happily married until her death seventeen years later.

Johnson on wine:
“One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.”
“There are some sluggish men who are improved by drinking; as there are fruits that are not good until they are rotten.”
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.”
“Wine makes a man more pleased with himself; I do not say it makes him more pleasing to others.”
“Sir, I have no objection to a man’s drinking wine, if he can do it in moderation. I found myself apt to go to excess in it, and therefore, after having been for some time without it on account of illness, I thought it better not to return to it. Every man is to judge for himself, according to the effects which he experiences. One of the fathers tells us, he found fasting made him so peevish that he did not practice it.”

(Perhaps those winebibbers over at the Boar’s Head Tavern who are having a rather disdainful discussion of Southern Baptist teetotalers should heed Johnson’s advice to live and let live. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive because I’m one of those foolish (formerly SBC) teetotalers myself. :))

Johnson on blogging:
“No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”
“Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
“A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who, instead of aiming a single stone at an object, takes up a handful and throws at it in hopes he may hit.”
“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”
“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write. A man will turn over half a library to make a book.”
“I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.”

Good advice, but who can heed it? If a writer could bear to strike out his favorite passages, no one would need an editor.

Johnson on moral relativism:
“But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses, let us count our spoons.”
Yes, definitely, count the spoons. We watched a video in our Worldview class on Friday in which a young lady said, “I always follow my heart; it never leads me astray.” Scary . . . time to count the spoons.

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