06 March 2016

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (26)

Lichfield’s Market Square and Johnson’s statue viewed from Johnson’s house in Lichfield last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

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

This morning [6 March 2016] is the Fourth Sunday in Lent, and is also Mothering Sunday.

Samuel Johnson’s mother, Sarah (1669-1759), was the daughter of Cornelius Ford and came from a middle class milling family. She was born in King’s Norton in 1669, and married Michael Johnson (1656-1731) in 1706. Their son Samuel was named after her brother, Samuel Ford.

When Sarah died in 1759 she was buried with her husband in Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield. The inscription on their gravestone, composed by their son Samuel, describes her as “a descendant of the ancient Ford family. Industrious in her home, though known to few outside it; the enemy of none, she was distinguished by a keen intellect and a shrewd judgement. Always sparing others, but never herself, with her thoughts ever fixed on Eternity, she was graced by every description of virtue.”

Samuel Johnson’s ‘Last Letter to his Aged Mother,’ written on 20 January 1769, reads:

Dear Honoured Mother:

Neither your condition nor your character make it fit for me to say much. You have been the best mother, and I believe the best woman, in the world. I thank you for your indulgence to me, and beg forgiveness of all that I have done ill, and all that I have omitted to do well. God grant you his Holy Spirit, and receive you to everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen. Lord Jesus receive your spirit. Amen.

I am, dear, dear Mother,
Your dutiful Son,
Sam. Johnson.

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.

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