Saturday, September 19, 2009
A FAN OF SAMUEL JOHNSON
An Aussie friend of mine subscribes to a weekly newsletter written by highly rated finance columnist Alan Kohler and he sent me this piece from the end of this week's newsletter as he thought I would enjoy it. I did so here it is for your pleasure too.
.................Finally, yesterday was the 300th anniversary of Dr Samuel Johnson’s birth – September 18th, 1709.
He is a hero and role model for me: a journalist who overcome tremendous disabilities – depression, Tourette’s syndrome, gout and scrofula (a form of tuberculosis) – to become a great writer and speaker and the sole author of the greatest English dictionary ever written.
Not that I have suffered any of those problems, or written a dictionary for that matter.Sam Johnson was deeply religious and although he had a sharp, very witty, tongue he was always generous and courteous. Before he got a nice pension from the King after he finished his dictionary in 1755, he was always virtually penniless, living from the scraps he earned as a freelance journalist – mainly for a magazine called The Gentleman’s Pleasure. His assignments were quite incredible in their range and variety, and he produced an enormous amount of copy – all written longhand, of course, with a quill pen.
I often think about what Dr Johnson must have gone through, living in dark apartments off The Strand with a wife 20 years older than him who became a drunkard and opium addict, as he struggled with debilitating Tourette’s and depression. But he was always full of ideas and penetrating conversation and never let life get him down.
He wrote many letters, as well as thousands of words a day for magazines and books, as well as a lot of poetry, not to mention the nine years writing the Dictionary.
He had constant visitors during the day, and spent most evenings in the pub – drinking gallons of tea (not alcohol) – arguing with anyone who wandered by.
A wonderful man, and a benchmark for all writers.
Have fun, and perhaps have a read of something by old Sam - his novella Rasselas, perhaps, or Boswell's great biography of him.
Thanks Alan, Bookman Beattie hopes you don't mind him sharing your enthusiasm for "old Sam" with his blog visitors.
Pic above of "old Sam" is by Joshua Reynolds.