Monday, September 29, 2008

The Eminently Quotable Samuel Johnson

A couple weeks ago, Semicolon celebrated the birthday of Samuel Johnson with quotes that I enjoyed so thoroughly that I want to reprint some of them here! And I'm adding a few others from this quotations page which she linked to.

Samuel Johnson, in case you don't know (I was hazy, myself), lived in the 1700's and "made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, novelist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer." (That's from the Wikipedia article.) He was an Anglican, and an early sign of his superior intelligence was how easily he memorized sections of the Book of Common Prayer when he was four years old. He was quick-witted, timeless and endlessly quotable.

Good advice for bloggers:

“I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.”

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure."

“Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”

"Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed."

And for blog readers:

“I would rather be attacked than unnoticed. For the worst thing you can do to an author is to be silent as to his works.”

(I don't know if I share the first part of that sentiment, but I do like comments! :)

A nod to unschoolers:

“A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.”

Advice for wives:

"A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek."

And his suggestions for chefs in general:

“A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.”

(Dad, that one was for you!)

(We share a passionate dislike of this annoying vegetable.)

How to stop whining and speak boldly:

“I hate a fellow whom pride or cowardice or laziness drives into a corner, and who does nothing when he is there but sit and growl. Let him come out as I do, and bark.”

A lesson in humility:

A lady once asked him how he came to define 'pastern' as 'the knee of a horse': instead of making an elaborate defence, as she expected, he at once answered, “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance.”

Food for thought for Blondechick and her ilk:

"Such is the common process of marriage. A youth and maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of one another. Having little to divert attention, or diversify thought, they find themselves uneasy when they are apart, and therefore conclude that they shall be happy together. They marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness had before concealed; they wear out life in altercations, and charge nature with cruelty." (emphasis mine)

For those traveling at a hen's pace:

"Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought. Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks."

"The world is not yet exhausted: let me see something to-morrow which I never saw before."

And on quotations:

"Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language."

A good guy, Samuel Johnson. I'm not sure if I would have liked him in real life, but he's lots of fun, nailed safely to a page....


Linds said...

I love the quotes - and here I am commenting! See - I listen!

Heather said...

At Blondechick's age, I would have read that quote and determined that it did not apply to me, for I was the exception to every rule as a teenager. Or so I thought!
If you dislike cucumbers, do you also dislike pickles?

Kate said...

“A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.”

I gave a framed copy of that quote to my supervisor at college (I was an English major). He assures me it still hangs in his office today and makes him smile, though doesn't always offer him the encouragement he needs when he's trying to get his students to read!

I love Samuel Johnson - fascinating man. And his book 'Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia' is a great read (and wonderful introduction to Englightenment thinking).

Anonymous said...

I totally laughed out loud about his comments that a man likes a wife who has dinner on the table more than one who studies Greek....good thing my hubby doesnt see it that way, or he'd have to go hungry on some nights
:-) My Greek studies are better than Hebrew was though...

Jen in Seattle

Islandsparrow said...

Laughing and sharing these with my DH.

Enjoyed reading about BC's first dance. I've chaperoned before too - and I'm like you - it's fun but my ears ring.

At A Hen's Pace said...


No, I LLOOOOVVE pickles. Go figure.


I wondered how readable his stuff is today... Good to know about Rasselas....


Note he judiciously says "in general"! ;) ;)

Linds and Kathie--

Glad you enjoy quotes too--and for obediently ;) commenting!