Tag Archives: Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson’s Half-Blind Guide to Life

What makes Johnson’s righteousness bearable is the fact that nothing he read himself — and he devoured more or less every word ever written — was able to guide him through the problems of his own life. Half-blind and wracked with self-disgust, Johnson was consumed by horrors: of annihilation, of madness, of destitution — what Beckett described as ‘the whole mental monster-ridden swamp’.

Frances Wilson describes the good and bad about a new book on Dr. Johnson’s thoughts, saying literary self-help guides are generally rotten, but Samuel Johnson is particularly good subject for the genre. (via Prufrock News)

Johnson gave us many points of advice, like these I pull from my broken down book of quotations.

“A man, sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.”

“Be virtuous ends pursued by virtuous means,
Nor think th’ intention sanctifies the deed.”

“Men do not suspect faults which they do not commit.”

“Of all the griefs that harass the distressed,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest;
Fate never wounds more deep the generous heart,
Than when a blockhead’s insult points the dart.”

“A man guilty of poverty easily believes himself suspected.”

The Greatest Biography

Joseph Epstein states, “The world’s greatest biography was composed by a depressive, a heavy drinker, an inconstant husband and a neglectful father who suffered at least 17 bouts of gonorrhea.” That biography is filled with quotations like this: “Depend upon it, that if a man talks of his misfortunes, there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him.”

And this: “The Irish are a very fair people—they never speak well of one another.” (via Prufrock)