Thursday, June 10, 2010

Samuel Johnson Runs A Foot-Race

In a previous post, we saw Samuel Johnson suddenly decide to roll sideways down a hill at the country house of Bennet Langton.  ("Ludwig Wittgenstein Pretends To Be The Moon. Samuel Johnson Rolls Down A Hill": May 8, 2010.)  That Johnson could be so playful and exuberant is something that we should remember, so that we do not accept uncritically the caricature of him as the harrumphing, orotund Great Cham.

"At a gentleman's seat in Devonshire, as he and some company were sitting in a saloon, before which was a spacious lawn, it was remarked as a very proper place for running a race.  A young lady present boasted that she could outrun any person; on which Dr. Johnson rose up and said, 'Madam, you cannot outrun me'; and, going out on the lawn, they started.  The lady at first had the advantage; but Dr. Johnson happening to have slippers on much too small for his feet, kick'd them off up into the air, and ran a great length without them, leaving the lady far behind him, and, having won the victory, he returned, leading her by the hand, with looks of high exultation and delight."

"Recollections of Dr. Johnson by Miss Reynolds," Johnsonian Miscellanies (edited by George Birkbeck Hill), Volume II (1897), page 278.
                       Joshua Reynolds, "Samuel Johnson" (c. 1769)

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