Friday, April 19, 2013

Quite Melted in Tenderness

In Part X of THE LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, the chapter concerning 1784, the last year of his life upon the earth, we get this: "a gentleman who had a son whom he imagined to have an extreme degree of timidity, resolved to send him to a publick school, that he might acquire confidence; - 'Sir, (said Johnson,) this is a preposterous expedient for removing his infirmity; such a disposition should be cultivated in the shade. Placing him in a publick school is forcing an owl upon day.'" So at the last possible minute, Dr. Johnson sees to it that there is an owl in the book, allowing me to place it on the list of books with owls in them that is the sole occupation of my lonely days. A few pages later, during his final illness, his friends do something nice for him. "He rose suddenly and quitted the room, quite melted in tenderness." So let's remember him that way, the old crank.