Samuel Johnson Coffee House

Extollager

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Herewith the doors are opened for a place to discuss the writings of "Dictionary Johnson," the Great Cham, Dr. Johnson, Samuel (1709-1784), and writings about him, including James Boswell's immortal biography, or John Wain's more recent and good life of the author.

One cannot make strong claims for Johnson's importance to science fiction and fantasy, although Rasselas is sort-of an imaginary-land tale. However, my hunch is that Chrons-ranks include people who would appreciate Johnson's wit, disdain for cant, relish for the life of the mind, and fondness for cats, notably Hodge.


I will begin posting remarks here, and I hope I shall be joined. If anyone wants a recommendation: I liked John Wain's biography of Johnson and the Penguin Classics abridgement of Boswell's Life of Johnson. I mean to begin the unabridged Boswell Life soon. I feel that this will encourage me. (In my academic world, there is no lack of cant and vanity on display!)

Johnson by David Levine:

Finally, here is one of my favorite authors, Arthur Machen, impersonating Johnson:
 

Extollager

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I've started reading an unabridged edition of Boswell's Life. It's a two-volumes-in-one hardcover edition from Oxford with the city of publication given as New York, a 1933 publication edited by Chauncey Brewster Tinker of Yale. That sounds like the name of someone who'd have taught at Yale the better part of a century ago, but not today!

I started on page 24: "SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Lichfield...." These opening pages are good reading, not a parade of data about distant ancestors; we get a little bit about SJ's parents, e.g. that a woman literally died of heartbreak for love of SJ's father when he was a young man, and then Boswell is off and running and SJ is 19 and entering Oxford in no time. I skipped a few pages of youthful versifying.
 
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I might contribute by saying that Irene was on my college reading list and I loved it. I don't know why such poor critiques, it is rather entertaining. So what if it has a little tat to it, does everything always have to be boringly tasteful?
 

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I might contribute by saying that Irene was on my college reading list and I loved it.
Interesting! May I ask for details -- was it assigned in a particular course, or in a reading list for a particular period? That's really early Johnson, I think.
 
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Well, I studied linguistics, so my occasional elective literature classes were quite disorganized and taken lightly. We read Irene as a part of "Historical survey of English literature- tragedy". We didn't tackle Johnson much, we dealt with formal characteristics of tragedies and how they relate to pathos.
 

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Interesting. I've never read it & tend to forget Johnson wrote it!
 

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Interesting. I've never read it & tend to forget Johnson wrote it!
I have a Johnson reader published by Oxford University Press, so maybe I can make some contributions this year. I may have more than that i.e a standalone work as well but I will have to check this up.

OH..and of course The Life of John Savage in that anthology we are currently discussing over at Book Hauls.
 

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Also the following podcast from the excellent BBC4 In Our Time series (hosted by Melvyn Bragg) on Johnson is worth listening to.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p003k9k5
*Go to the Culture podcast archive to download.

I often download them and listen while I am doing other things..like exploring the City's (Melbourne) myriad bookstores.
 

Extollager

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By the way -- as I've set out on my reading of my unabridged edition (I read the Penguin Classics abridgement that was available in eth 1980s back in that decade), I decided to start with the biography itself -- "SAMUEL JOHNSON was born..." etc. -- and might come back to Boswell's introductory remarks later. I'm also feeling free to skip occasionally, e.g. if there's a long bit of juvenilia or something.
 

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I'm sure you have seen this before Extollager but it may be of interest to people..this little piece on Johnson by H.P. Lovecraft.

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/rdsj.aspx
I'm not sure that I had read that. I'm a bit fussy when it comes to pastiches, but perusing this one just now I didn't spot any places wherein HPL betrayed an unsure grasp of the idiom. I think I did within a few pages of a novel by Charles Palliser called The Unburied -- and didn't continue the book.
 

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By the way -- as I've set out on my reading of my unabridged edition (I read the Penguin Classics abridgement that was available in eth 1980s back in that decade), I decided to start with the biography itself -- "SAMUEL JOHNSON was born..." etc. -- and might come back to Boswell's introductory remarks later. I'm also feeling free to skip occasionally, e.g. if there's a long bit of juvenilia or something.
I saw your post under Book Hauls. I hope to dip into this somewhat daunting tome over the weekend. It seems to have a lot of really useful ancillary details and references. The type of book I would periodically engage in I think rather than read from cover to cover. I never really understood what a significant figure Johnson was in English literature until recently. I had always heard of Boswell's famous biography, quoted and referenced here ad infinitum but was never moved to purchase a copy until now.

I'm not sure that I had read that. I'm a bit fussy when it comes to pastiches, but perusing this one just now I didn't spot any places wherein HPL betrayed an unsure grasp of the idiom. I think I did within a few pages of a novel by Charles Palliser called The Unburied -- and didn't continue the book.
I'm glad you found it of some interest then. Palliser also wrote the Quincunx which is supposed to be a Dickensian novel and is his best known work. It seems to have received pretty favourable reviews at the time. I wonder if it has similar issues?
 
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I'm glad you found it of some interest then. Palliser also wrote the Quincunx which is supposed to be a Dickensian novel and is his best known work. It seems to have received pretty favourable reviews at the time. I wonder if it has similar issues?
I read The Quincunx soon after it came out. This would be around 25 years ago. It's very long, but I finished it, and was interested when The Unburied appeared -- so I must have liked the earlier book, which I don't remember much now. But The Unburied didn't hold me, and that was at a time when I was probably more likely to complete a book that I'd started than I am now.

Lovecraft seems to have been immersed in 18th-century British literature. One has the sense that he writes from deep familiarity with and affection for the milieu in the piece to which you sent the link.

Years ago I wrote a story set in a Russian and Siberian milieu circa 1905. By then I had read lots of Russian literature, seen various Russian movies, etc. but didn't know the language. I wanted to give the leading lady an interesting name other than an obvious choice such as Olga or Irina, so I chose Sadovaya. Happily, I showed the story to an acquaintance who actually knew the Russian language. He tactfully observed that this name meant something like "of the garden." In fact I had settled on a name for a street or city district. The lady was renamed!

Well done, HPL.
 

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Indeed...and again I'm glad you liked the HPL link.

Hopefully one of our resident HPL scholars can come onboard and tell us more about the links with 18th-century British literature. Certainly he was very immersed as you say in 18th Century British fiction, especially the Gothic and certainly figures like Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope and Johnathon Swift had a significant impact on his writing. His famous essay Supernatural Horror in Literature is testament as to how well read he was in general. Below is a link:

http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/superhor.htm
 

Extollager

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Hopefully one of our resident HPL scholars can come onboard and tell us more about the links with 18th-century British literature. Certainly he was very immersed as you say in 18th Century British fiction, especially the Gothic and certainly figures like Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope and Johnathon Swift had a significant impact on his writing.
It pleases me that Lovecraft didn't limit his reading to horror fiction. If there were such a thing, and if it could indeed be sustained, I'd be interested in seeing an essay called "The Well-Read Lovecraft."

Regrettably, he doesn't seem, as far as I know, ever to have read Johnson's associate Edmund Burke's classic treatise on the Beautiful and the Sublime. If HPL did, what did he make of the differentiation? How important for HPL's imaginative life was the beautiful in Burke's sense, even if HPL didn't know what Burke had written about it? May the analysis of the beautiful that Burke makes be related to HPL's fondness for colonial architecture? Even if HPL didn't read the Burke treatise, his notions of the beautiful and of the sublime might prove to have much affinity with Burke's.
 

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It pleases me that Lovecraft didn't limit his reading to horror fiction. If there were such a thing, and if it could indeed be sustained, I'd be interested in seeing an essay called "The Well-Read Lovecraft."

Regrettably, he doesn't seem, as far as I know, ever to have read Johnson's associate Edmund Burke's classic treatise on the Beautiful and the Sublime. If HPL did, what did he make of the differentiation? How important for HPL's imaginative life was the beautiful in Burke's sense, even if HPL didn't know what Burke had written about it? May the analysis of the beautiful that Burke makes be related to HPL's fondness for colonial architecture? Even if HPL didn't read the Burke treatise, his notions of the beautiful and of the sublime might prove to have much affinity with Burke's.
Interesting question! If J.D. saw this quote he would probably answer this as well as anyone. You've got me thinking....
 
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