Thursday, September 20, 2007

[dr. johnson] sean jeating remembers

There's a blogger around who runs Omnium, a chap occasionally named Sean Jeating and the secret is that English is not his first language. Nevertheless, he did what almost all of us did not - celebrate Johnson's birthdate - September 18th, 1709 and looked at the man in some detail:
Tonight I shall have a nice drop of wine on the 299th anniversary of Samuel Johnson's birth. And I do feel glad having a "treasure" to share with connoisseurs of the English language.
Sean then quotes from The Listener, September 24, 1959, Vol. LXII. No. 1591, when such matters were handled better:
[W]e undervalue the many kinds of writing whose main qualities are not peculiar to literature, writing whose matter is so close to common experience that we do not think of it as imaginative, and whose manner is so much that of ordinary human discourse that it hardly occurs to us to discuss its literary form.

The distinction between the world of art and of life becomes irrelevant in extreme cases of this kind of writing, because both their subject-matter and their mode of communication are common to both.
Completely agree. For all Johnson's "bow-wow" style, as Henry Herbert, 10th Earl of Pembroke termed it in Boswell's Johnson, his letters, his aphorisms, his simple common sense wisdom has yours truly an earnest devotee.

In short, Johnson was a cool dude. Sean's Listener article observes:
When Boswell remarked ‘But I wonder, Sir, you have not more pleasure in writing than in not writing’, Johnson refused to be drawn: ‘Sir, you may wonder’.
I see, in Johnson, a man who thoroughly enjoyed his life as a whole, of which writing was but one part. He is so much more than his writing and is rightly accorded his place in English letters, whatever his shortcomings, as perceived by his detractors.



For those who live in, or can get to, the Midlands, there is a play on this Friday/Saturday (21/22Sept)at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum. It's about his black manservant, Frank Barber, to whom Johnson left his entire fortune after his death. Tel 01543 264972/412112. It stars Fidel Lloyd, who I believe was in the TV series Doctors.

Dr. James P. Holdren said...

Thanks for that. For those in the UK - there it is.

rilly super said...

a most english of englishman, but what he wrote after meeting Flora Macdonald, who helped Charles Stuart escape of course, is inscribed on her grave on Skye. A worthy date to mark indeed James

Gracchi said...

Great post- I've linked to it- but thanks for reminding me about this

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Well done to Sean for celebrating the birthday.