Friday, February 22, 2013

Glorious Haunch

Got an email from good old Burke telling me I should read Boswell's LIFE OF JOHNSON, which is something I have been meaning to do for, you know, decades. And it's funny, because I was thinking of Samuel Johnson anyway. I recently read (in FOUNDATION by Peter Ackroyd, the same place where I learned about Harold Harefoot) that Queen Anne touched Samuel Johnson when he was a tiny tot and cured him of the scrofula (see also) and he "remained a staunch royalist for the rest of his life." But I have always been bewildered by the array of available editions of the Boswell, and weirdly guilty at the thought of reading an abridgment. In his email, Burke recommended an "abridged Penguin Classics edition that [is] a nice length" and when I stopped by Square Books today, that's just what they had in stock and I took it as a sign. (Burke also said that the LIFE OF JOHNSON reminds him of MASTERS OF ATLANTIS [!].) Just thumbing through the introduction I came across a list of things that Boswell left out. For example, "an occasion when Johnson ate so much of 'a glorious haunch of venison' that it was feared 'he would have died of downright eating, and had not a surgeon been got to administer to him without delay a glister he must have died.'" So I was all like, "What's a glister?" But my WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION from 1974, usually so good with archaic terms, had only the definition I already knew, the sparkly one. With a little of my expert "googling," however, I found that it must be an alternate spelling of "clyster"... an old word for enema. I'm sorry! I didn't know the "blog" was going to go in that direction (again!) when I started this "post"! I didn't even know what a clyster was when I started this "post"! Well now I've ruined everything.