September 20, 2007

Dr Johnson

James reminds me that it was Dr Johnson's birthday on the 18th, unfortunately I missed this anniversary. Its worth remembering Johnson though for his dictionary obviously, for his essays on notable poets and for his novel Rasselas- as well as for the efforts of James Boswell to describe Johnson's life. However Johnson is one of those interesting personalities that one feels we have lost something by losing- what I mean is that Johnson was famed for his conversation as much as for his output by his contemporaries. Its like say the great actors of the past- we don't have Garrick- we don't even have John Gielgud's Hamlet (supposed to be the greatest of that generation's Hamlets) we have descriptions but we have lost so much through losing the real thing. We will never place Dr Johnson where he deserves in our literary history, partly because we will never be able to evaluate him for his chief strength, conversation. Its yet another reminder that what is significant about the past is as much what we have lost as what we have gained.


Ashok said...

I know nothing about Samuel Johnson: a post on his legacy that pointed to further reading would be really useful.

A professor of mine taught a course on Dr. Johnson that I never took. Here's the course description if you're curious.