Sunday Morning Dr. Johnson Contest

 

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84) was an English journalist, author and lexicographer.I’ve long been determined that no matter the state of the world, Sundays on Ricochet should be a day of rest. So despite what’s happening out there, how anxiously compelled I feel to check the news, or how despairing it makes me, it’s time to relax with a Dr. Johnson contest.

The floor is now open for your submissions: What are the most immortal lines by or about Dr. Johnson?

I’ll go first:

We took tea, by Boswell’s desire; and I eat one bun, I think, that I might not be seen to fast ostentatiously. When I find that so much of my life has stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try, because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal. I try, in humble hope of the help of God.

Your turn.

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There are 68 comments.

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  1. Yudansha Member

    Blackadder says, Dr. Johnson is author of “…the most pointless book since How to Learn French, was translated into French.”

    • #1
    • December 6, 2015, at 6:35 AM PDT
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  2. She Thatcher
    She

    I’ll go with William Blakes “An Island in the Moon, the opening stanza of object 10.”

    Lo the bat with Leathern wing

    Winking & blinking

    Winking & blinking

    Winking & blinking

    Like Doctor Johnson

    It gets rather scatological from there, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    (One of the most astonishing lines in all of English literature appears in the opening to Chapter 3 of this work. I can’t quote it here.)

    • #2
    • December 6, 2015, at 6:38 AM PDT
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  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Yudansha:Blackadder says, Dr. Johnson is author of “…the most pointless book since , was translated into French.”

    Reminds me of this: “When asked by Dr Adams how long it would take to finish his dictionary Johnson replied: “Sir, I have no doubt that I can do it in 3 years.” Dr. Adams replied that the French academy, which consists of forty members, took 40 years to compile their dictionary, yet Johnson replies that “Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred as 3 to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman.”

    • #3
    • December 6, 2015, at 6:40 AM PDT
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  4. Retail Lawyer Member

    “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. I think Dr. Johnson said that, anyway. It has been serving me well for many years, even though I’ve never lived in London.

    • #4
    • December 6, 2015, at 6:46 AM PDT
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  5. Severely Ltd. Inactive

    “Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”

    • #5
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:02 AM PDT
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  6. Titus Techera Contributor

    Before hundreds more chime in with their suggestions, let me offer one of my favorites:

    No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library.

    • #6
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  7. Trink Coolidge

    Titus Techera:Before hundreds more chime in with their suggestions, let me offer one of my favorites:

    No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library.

    Ouch.

    • #7
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:22 AM PDT
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  8. Titus Techera Contributor

    Nowadays, it would be a de-motivation poster: Speechifying: It beats facing up to the yawning abyss.

    • #8
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:32 AM PDT
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  9. Burwick Chiffswiddle Member

    Published in The Idler (September 1, 1759):

    Philosophy has accumulated precept upon precept to warn us against the anticipation of future calamities. All useless misery is certainly folly, and he that feels evils before they come may be deservedly censured; yet surely to dread the future is more reasonable than to lament the past. The business of life is to go forwards: he who sees evil in prospect meets it in his way; but he who catches it by retrospection turns back to find it. That which is feared may sometimes be avoided, but that which is regretted today may be regretted tomorrow.

    And, from Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (?):

    Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.

    • #9
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:36 AM PDT
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  10. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    Wait a minute. This is NOT a Johnson measuring contest? Length, girth and those such things?

    • #10
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:37 AM PDT
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  11. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: “When I find that so much of my life has stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet [try to resolve again -> read:] continue to inveigh on Ricochet?”

    Wow, how did he understand me so well?

    (“Inveigh on Ricochet”!!!! It works, people, it works!!!)

    • #11
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:37 AM PDT
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  12. Autistic License Member

    What ever we hope to do with ease we may first learn to do with diligence.

    ___________
    Dictated but not read.
    Yrs. Truly etc.

    • #12
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:46 AM PDT
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  13. Eric Hines Inactive

    But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition. Of these memorials a few have been preserved; but the greater part was consigned by him to the flames, a few days before his death.

    Plainly he was a lazy man. And then he tried to destroy the record of his sloth.

    Eric Hines

    • #13
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  14. Eric Hines Inactive

    And, there’s this: Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.

    Which strikes a chord, because I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

    Eric Hines

    • #14
    • December 6, 2015, at 7:55 AM PDT
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  15. James Gawron Thatcher

    My Dear Dr. Berlinski,

    “It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentionally lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.”

    “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.”

    “Bachelors have consciences, married men have wives.”

    Chappy Chanukah,

    Jim

    • #15
    • December 6, 2015, at 8:20 AM PDT
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  16. Percival Thatcher

    Read your own compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

    • #16
    • December 6, 2015, at 8:27 AM PDT
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  17. Percival Thatcher

    Why, Sir, most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things.

    • #17
    • December 6, 2015, at 8:37 AM PDT
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  18. Man With the Axe Inactive

    She: (One of the most astonishing lines in all of English literature appears in the opening to Chapter 3 of this work. I can’t quote it here.)

    I see why you wouldn’t quote it here. My father, who wouldn’t have known Dr. Johnson from Magic Johnson, nevertheless quoted (some of) that line to me fairly often.

    • #18
    • December 6, 2015, at 8:44 AM PDT
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  19. David Guaspari Member

    “How small, of all that human hearts endure,

    That part which kings or laws can cure.”

    • #19
    • December 6, 2015, at 9:06 AM PDT
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  20. Man With the Axe Inactive

    After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.’

    Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

    • #20
    • December 6, 2015, at 9:09 AM PDT
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  21. Titus Techera Contributor

    David Guaspari:“How small, of all that human hearts endure,

    That part which kings or laws can cure.”

    No, as to inflicting, on the other hand…

    • #21
    • December 6, 2015, at 9:11 AM PDT
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  22. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Titus Techera: No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library

    Oh, is that true.

    • #22
    • December 6, 2015, at 9:23 AM PDT
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  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Percival:Read your own compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

    “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”

    (We should get rid of Claire Berlinski’s 11 tips and replace them with Dr. Johnson’s, shouldn’t we.)

    • #23
    • December 6, 2015, at 9:32 AM PDT
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  24. Ansonia Member

    “No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library. ”

    I don’t know what this means. Would someone please explain it to me?

    • #24
    • December 6, 2015, at 9:33 AM PDT
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  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Ansonia:“No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library. ”

    I don’t know what this means. Would someone please explain it to me?

    I take it to mean — all those books, upon which every author has worked so arduously, for so long, dreaming of literary immortality … all of them, stacked up row after row, and most of them … never to be read.

    • #25
    • December 6, 2015, at 9:48 AM PDT
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  26. Titus Techera Contributor

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Ansonia:“No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library. ”

    I don’t know what this means. Would someone please explain it to me?

    I take it to mean — all those books, upon which every author has worked so arduously, for so long, dreaming of literary immortality … all of them, stacked up row after row, and most of them … never to be read.

    The old Tory is suggesting that the truth about desire is not that its fulfilled, but that it’s desire.

    • #26
    • December 6, 2015, at 10:07 AM PDT
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  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Ansonia:“No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library. ”

    I don’t know what this means. Would someone please explain it to me?

    Here’s the full quote:

    “No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library; for who can see the wall crowded on every side by mighty volumes, the works of laborious meditations and accurate inquiry, now scarcely known but by the catalogue … “

    • #27
    • December 6, 2015, at 10:19 AM PDT
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  28. She Thatcher
    She

    Man With the Axe:

    She: (One of the most astonishing lines in all of English literature appears in the opening to Chapter 3 of this work. I can’t quote it here.)

    I see why you wouldn’t quote it here. My father, who wouldn’t have known Dr. Johnson from Magic Johnson, nevertheless quoted (some of) that line to me fairly often.

    William Blake was a very interesting man–it’s hard to square the author of Songs of Innocence and Jerusalem with the man who wrote An Island in the Moon.

    He and Samuel Johnson provide some interesting contrasts in eighteenth-century attitudes towards science, religion and literature. They are two of my favorites.

    And “that phrase” was quoted a lot around my house growing up, too.

    • #28
    • December 6, 2015, at 10:42 AM PDT
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  29. Eric Hines Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Ansonia:“No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library. ”

    I don’t know what this means. Would someone please explain it to me?

    I take it to mean — all those books, upon which every author has worked so arduously, for so long, dreaming of literary immortality … all of them, stacked up row after row, and most of them … never to be read.

    There’s also all those fact and philosophy texts–a significant fraction of our knowledge and thinking. That part would seem to indicate that Johnson was at least partially wrong.

    Or they might indicate our own _hubris_ in thinking so.

    Eric Hines

    • #29
    • December 6, 2015, at 10:45 AM PDT
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  30. Laura Koch Inactive

    “He might, perhaps, have studied more assiduously; but it may be doubted whether such a mind as his was not more enriched by roaming at large in the fields of literature than if it had been confined to any single spot… The flesh of animals who feed excursively, is allowed to have a higher flavour than that of those who are cooped up. May there not be the same difference between men who read as their taste prompts and men who are confined in cells and colleges to stated tasks?”

    Boswell’s Life of Johnson

    • #30
    • December 6, 2015, at 11:12 AM PDT
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