I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Ludwig Wittgenstein admired Samuel Johnson. Perhaps I should not have been surprised: both of them sought -- to use one of Wittgenstein's characteristic words -- "clarity," and both of them abhorred -- to use one of Johnson's characteristic words -- "cant."
But I digress. The purpose of this post is simply to share two wonderful anecdotes that I came across. They have nothing to do -- on the face of it -- with clarity or cant. No interpretations or elucidations or theories are necessary.
"Sometimes he came to my house in Searle Street for supper. Once, after supper, Wittgenstein, my wife, and I went for a walk on Midsummer Common. We talked about the movements of the bodies of the solar system. It occurred to Wittgenstein that the three of us should represent the movements of the sun, earth, and moon, relative to one another. My wife was the sun and maintained a steady pace across the meadow; I was the earth and circled her at a trot. Wittgenstein took the most strenuous part of all, the moon, and ran around me while I circled my wife. Wittgenstein entered into this game with great enthusiasm and seriousness, shouting instructions at us as he ran. He became quite breathless and dizzy with exhaustion."
Norman Malcolm, "A Memoir," in Portraits of Wittgenstein (edited by F. A. Flowers), Volume 3 (1999), page 78.
H. D. Best's account of his visit to the country house of Bennet Langton contains this anecdote relating to a visit that Johnson made to the house in 1764 (when Johnson was 55):
"After breakfast we walked to the top of a very steep hill behind the house. When we arrived at the summit, Mr. Langton said, 'Poor, dear Dr. Johnson, when he came to this spot, turned to look down the hill, and said he was determined "to take a roll down." When we understood what he meant to do, we endeavoured to dissuade him; but he was resolute, saying, he had not had a roll for a long time; and taking out of his lesser pockets whatever might be in them -- keys, pencil, purse, or pen-knife, and laying himself parallel with the edge of the hill, he actually descended, turning himself over and over till he came to the bottom.'"
Johnsonian Miscellanies (edited by George Birkbeck Hill), Volume II (1897), page 391.