Saturday, August 4, 2012

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - The Life of Samuel Johnson***

This is an astonishingly good, fun read despite the fact that it weighs in at about 5 pounds.  We love that a 1200 page book can be so immensely readable.

Immense, yes.  Readable, eh.  That's up for debate.  I appreciate Boswell's effort to make this biography not a mere recitation of facts about a person but rather an opportunity to really get to know the person Samuel Johnson.  He even makes the point that a biography should have a moral, a biography should be penned because there is something to be learned from this person's life.  However, this book is absurdly long.  It can be rather dry and certainly gets tedious after the first hundred pages.  In order to help us get to know Johnson, Boswell seems to feel the need to include every letter Johnson ever wrote and record every miniscule action he ever performed.  Heaven forbid we should not know that Johnson sneezed.  That being said, this work does contain many tidbits of wisdom, some of which I have included below.

Possibly another reason I was rather down on this book was because Johnson and I would not have gotten along.  Boswell was his biggest fan and definitely tried to paint him in the best light possible and yet I could not bring myself to like the man.  I found him to be an argumentative know-it-all and I have enough of those to deal with in real life without also having to read about them.  As Boswell says, "there is no disputing with him.  He will not hear you, and having a louder voice than you, must roar you down."

  • "In a man whom religious education has secured from licentious indulgences, the passion of love, when once it has seized him, is exceedingly strong; being unimpaired by dissipation, and totally concentrated on one object."
  • "Though no comets or prodigies foretold the ruin of Greece, signs which heaven must by another miracle enable us to understand, yet might it be foreshewn, by tokens no less certain, by the vices which always bring it on."
  • "he would not be accessory to the propagation of falsehood"
  • "Distant praise, from whatever quarter, is not so delightful as that of a wife whom a man loves and esteems.  Her approbation may be said to 'come home to his bosom'; and being so near, its effect is most sensible and permanent."
  • "I who have no sisters nor brothers, look with some degree of innocent envy on those who may be said to be born to friends; and cannot see, without wonder, how rarely that native union is afterwards regarded.  It sometimes, indeed, happens, that some supervenient cause of discord may overpower this original amity; but it seems to me more frequently thrown away with levity, or lost by negligence, than destroyed by injury or violence."
  • "Madness frequently discovers itself merely by unnecessary deviation from the usual modes of the world.  My poor friend Smart shewed the disturbance of his mind, by falling upon his knees, and saying his prayers in the street, or in any other unusual place.  Now although, rationally speaking, it is greater madness not to pray at all, than to pray as Smart did, I am afraid there are so many who do not pray, that their understanding is not called in question."
  • "A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see."
  •  "we live in a critical, though not a learned age" 
  • "without truth there must be a dissolution of society"

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