Reading Boswell’s Johnson

Anxious Bench | 10/22/2018 | Staff
monna (Posted by) Level 3
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For pleasure reading, I have lately been dipping into James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. With the Penguin edition at 1245 pages, it can be an intimidating book to begin. But it is well worth the effort. The language is resplendent; the portrait of Johnson, unrivaled; and the insights into eighteenth-century intellectual life, vivid and compelling. Here are some tidbits, often of Boswell quoting Johnson:

On the difficulty of finding a life’s vocation:

Life - Deliberation - Deliberation - Prudence - Subtlety

“Life is not long, and too much of it should not be spent in idle deliberation how it shall be spent: deliberation, which those who begin it by prudence, and continue it with subtlety, must, after long expense of thought, conclude by chance. To prefer one future mode of life to another, upon just reasons, requires faculties which it has not pleased our Creator to give us.”

On the challenges of overcoming anti-intellectualism:

Mankind - Aversion - Labour - Knowledge - People

“Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labour; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”

Here is one of several of Johnson’s prayers that appear in the book:

Almighty - God - Giver - Wisdom - Help

“Almighty God, the Giver of wisdom, without whose help resolutions are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual, enable me, if it be Thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the doubtful and instruct the ignorant, to prevent wrong, and terminate contention; and grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall attain to Thy glory and my own salvation; for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”

On the importance of sticking with...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Anxious Bench
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