Saturday, 27 February 2016

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (18)

Johnson’s opinion of English pubs … a sign outside the Queen’s Head in Queen Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

Many of us may have given up drinking during Lent on many occasions. But, despite his regular observance of Lent, Johnson was known for his fondness of inns and taverns, and I recalled yesterday how ‘Ye Olde Talbot’ in Uttoxeter is one of many English pubs that claim he was a frequent visitor.

Perhaps you have given up drinking alcohol during Lent. But Johnson’s remarks about public houses are popular on notice boards and chalkboards in pubs in his home town, Lichfield, including the Hedgehog Vintage Inn and the the Queen’s Head in Queen Street.

This quotation outside the Queen’s Head dates back to a visit to a pub by Johnson and his biographer, James Boswell. In his biography, Boswell records a visit to Blenheim Palace with Johnson, after which they adjourned to “an excellent inn” at Chapel House, either the George or the White Horse.

Chapel House, in Over Norton, is 12 miles beyond Shipston, on the Oxford Road, close to its junction with the road from Worcester.

In this “excellent inn,” the conversation between Johnson and Boswell turned to a comparison of taverns in England and France. Johnson declared:

There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness has been produced as by a good tavern or inn.

Continued tomorrow.

Yesterday’s reflection.

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