24 February 2023

A journey through Lent 2023
with Samuel Johnson (3)

Trinity College, Cambridge … Samuel Johnson stayed there in February 1765 (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-born lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

During the many pleasant times I have spent in Cambridge in recent years, I have stayed at Sidney Sussex College during summer schools and conferences organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

I am reminded this morning [24 February 2023] how in February 1765, Samuel Johnson visited Cambridge and stayed at Trinity College, where he had lengthy discussions about John Milton, who had been an undergraduate at Christ’s College in the previous century, and Isaac Newton, who was a Fellow of Trinity College although he had never been ordained.

Shortly after that visit to Cambridge, in a Lenten meditation looking forward to Good Friday and Easter Day, Johnson wrote:

I purpose again to partake of the Blessed Sacrament; yet when I consider how vainly I have hitherto resolved at this annual commemoration of my Saviour’s death, to regulate my life by his laws, I am almost afraid to renew my resolutions.

Since the last Easter I have reformed no evil habit; my time has been unprofitably spent and seems as a dream that has left nothing behind. My memory grows confused, and I know not how the days pass over me. Good Lord, deliver me!

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection

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