02 March 2023

A journey through Lent 2023
with Samuel Johnson (9)

A silhouette of Hester Thrale outside Thrale’s House on Tamworth Street in 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-born lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

Last month [January 2023], I celebrated my 71st birthday, rejoicing in the many blessings I have received in the past 71 years.

I think Johnson was less happy as he advanced in age at each birthday. Referring to his biographer, James Boswell, he wrote in a letter to Hester Thrale (1741-1821), diarist, author and patron of the arts, on 21 September 1773:

Boswell, with some of his troublesome kindness, has informed this family, and reminded me that the eighteenth of September is my birthday. The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon threescore and four years, in which little has been done, and little has been enjoyed, a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent, or importunate distress. But perhaps I am better than I should have been, if I had been less afflicted. With this I will try to be content.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection

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