14 February 2016

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (5)

Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald’s statue of James Boswell (1740-1795), the biographer of Samuel Johnson, in the Market Square in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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.

This morning [14 February 2016] is the First Sunday in Lent but many people are also marking today as Saint Valentine’s Day and thinking about love.

Johnson wrote in the Rambler on 4 January 1752: “It is always necessary to be loved, but not always necessary to be reverenced.”

In his biography of Johnson, Boswell recalled the following conversation:

I regretted that I had lost much of my disposition to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life.

Johnson: “Sir, as a man advances in life, he gets what is better than admiration – judgement, to estimate things at their true value.”

I still insisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgment, as love is more pleasing than friendship. The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne.

Johnson: “No, Sir, admiration and love are like being intoxicated with champagne; judgement and friendship like being enlivened.”

Continued tomorrow.

Yesterday’s reflection.

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