The Politics of Samuel Johnson

Greene, Donald.  The Politics of Samuel Johnson.  Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1990.

Donald Greene resists using the categories of Whig and Tory to interpret Samuel Johnson. To an extent he certainly makes his case. He masterfully refutes articles, whether in support of or criticism of, that make Johnson out to be a strict Tory.  These articles, he notes, are drawn from conversations that Boswell had with Johnson and were written down decades from the actual event. So far, so good.  Notwithstanding, it still strains belief to see Johnson as a Whig.

His larger point stands, though.  Let’s take the term “Republican.” It can mean a Trump voter or a never-Trumper, a patriot or a Deep-State groupie.  Something similar was probably true of Whigs vs. Tories. And so he argues: “though Johnson may continue to have a claim to be a Tory, we are not justified in inferring from that label what nineteenth-century writers inferred from it: dogmatism, reaction, subservience to authority” (Greene 20).  Perhaps, though Johnson would have embraced larger nuances of the term: established church, hatred of revolution, and skepticism of the Whig view of history.

The Whig Interpretation

Greene argues that our understanding of Johnson as the “narrow-minded Tory” is the creation of several Whig thinkers. Tories were reactionaries, Whigs progressives.  Moreover, “parties were not parties in the modern British sense” (Greene 5). Rather, groups were held together more by shifting interests than party ideology.

Moreover, Tory and Whig overlap on perhaps the most crucial topic: property.  John Locke, the proto arch-Whig, was also the most vocal champion of private property.  Private property, obviously, is the touchstone of Tory identity.

The Tory Reemerges 

Notwithstanding Greene’s correct observations, Johnson can only but remain a Tory, as even some passages by Greene suggest (132).  Johnson reveals himself to be a true conservative in his comments on political change:

“Experience [and not metaphysical programmes] is the guide which a wise man will follow.”

“Customs, if they are not bad, are not to be changed.”

Such comments could be lifted word-for-word from books by Sir Roger Scruton.  Whigs and revolutionaries normally do not approve of such sentiments.


Greene helpfully reminds us that “eighteenth-century politics is confusing, and Johnson was not a simple person” (43). Quite so.  Moreover, he rightly points out that the term “Tory” at Johnson’s time meant little more than a country gentleman, perhaps a Lord.  If that’s the case, then Johnson really wasn’t a Tory.  If that’s all Greene’s argument claimed, then there wouldn’t be any confusion.  However, Greene soon adopts the methodology he attacks. He then subtly redefines Tory as a high-church partisan of the House of Stuart.

On one hand, so Greene remarks, we can’t take at face-value any of Johnson’s (of Boswell’s Johnson) claim to being a Tory.  On the other hand, if Johnson says anything remotely “Whiggish,” that might be an argument for some secret Whig inside him.

Greene does face the rhetoric in Johnson’s tracts during the 1770s.  He supports the British monarch against the colonies and elsewhere refers to the people as “rabble.”  Greene says to base one’s analysis of Johnson on these comments is special pleading.  He doesn’t tell us why it isn’t special-pleading to ignore other evidence to the contrary.

Greene’s analysis of “Taxation no Tyranny” is rather astute and supports his thesis.  While Johnson did attack the practical Whiggism of the American colonies, he wasn’t putting a Tory alternative in its place.  In fact, his comments on an omnicompetent Parliament sound a lot like Carl Schmitt’s “rule of the exception” (cf. Greene 244).  That’s probably an accurate enough interpretation.  Johnson was usually quite skeptical on the practical good of politics.  It wouldn’t be fair to call him a Hobbesian, but I do think Johnson would agree with Schmitt. Sometimes there is an exception to the law.  He who decides the exception is the actual sovereign (and that one sentence shows how constitutional theory, while useful from time to time, is actually built upon a foundation of sand.)

In the end, he does force us to think hard about the nature of Whig and Tory.  As the terms were used during Johnson’s time, we can all agree that Johnson probably wasn’t a Tory.  Given the outcomes of the French Revolution, however, which Johnson didn’t live to see, it’s not hard to see where Johnson would have landed.   

My criticisms of some of his analysis notwithstanding, Greene’s concluding chapter is a fine and learned exposition of what Johnson might have thought given later political developments.


Samuel Johnson: Selected Essays

Johnson, Samuel.  Selected Essays, ed. David Womersley.  New York: Penguin, 2003.

Samuel Johnson was a modern-day Ecclesiastes.  He puts constantly before our minds the weighty issues of life and the inexorable reality of death and finality.  James Boswell may have written about Johnson, but he could never write such a book as this.

Johnson’s Style

He is the greatest of the English prose authors.  When you read Johnson, note that the last sentence of a paragraph is filled with parallelism.  Consider, speaking of the book reviewer who is tasked,

“With the hopeless labor of uniting heterogenous ideas, digesting independent hints, and collecting into one point the several rays of borrowed light, emitted often with contrary directions” (R No. 23).

We often speak of those great writers with whom we disagree, but also yet with whom we cannot dismiss.  Johnson is one of them.  He is too powerful a force to ignore when he contradicts you.  Let’s take his odd claim that good literature must deal with good themes (Rambler No. 4).  This claim seems manifestly false.  Why would Johnson say it?  I think he means that such knowledge would have to be experiential knowledge, which would mean that the authors were evil in character.  On a less alarming note, such literature normally sells well among the unlearned, base, and ignorant (think of today’s Fifty Shades of Gray).

Johnson doesn’t mean every type of literature. Older romances were generally okay, since they dealt with the fantastic and would not likely be imitated today.  Realistic fiction, however, when coupled with moral ambivalence, is another matter. I think that is Johnson’s point.  Johnson, however, is aware that this isn’t a hard and fast rule.  He writes of a “manifest and striking contrariety between the life of an author and his writings” (R No. 14).

Johnson argues that art imitates nature; therefore, bad art imitates bad nature.  This claim is a bit harder to shake.


“The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope” (R No. 2).

“We know that a few strokes of the axe will lop a cedar; but what arts of cultivation can elevate a shrub” (R No. 25)?

“That friendship may be at once fond and lasting, there must not only be equal virtue on each part, but virtue of the same kind” (R No. 64).

“Exercise cannot secure us from that dissolution to which we are decreed; but while the soul and body continue united, it can make the association pleasing” (171).

“To proceed from one truth to another, and connect distant propositions by regular consequences is the great prerogative of man” (R No. 158).

Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson


Clingham, Greg. The Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Samuel Johnson wasn’t just a writer.  He was a force of nature.  You have to reckon with him, as is perhaps evident in that many writers in this volume have a “feminist” or “post-colonialist” bent to them.  Despite (or because of) that, they are largely appreciative of Johnson. Johnson was honest.  He was a Tory of the most manly sort.  He was a monarchist who stood for a high church, yet he was also realistic about injustices in society.

We have noted that Johnson was a force of nature.  In another sense, nature, or a nexus of universal constants, is the theme of his work.  This is most evident in the chapters on Shakespeare and the Lives of the Poets.

Of particular interest is the chapter on Johnson’s Rambler essays, providing a unifying framework for reading them.


Johnson’s poetic practice requires an intimate connection between the general and the particular (Weinbrot 35). Johnson uses the ancient concept of “concordia discord,” or a juxtaposing of contraries, to illustrate the passions in human nature.

The Essays and the Rambler

Johnson begins (or close to) his foray into essay writing with his famous “No. 4,” discussing whether an author had to be a good man to have good writing.  Johnson backs off from this in his essays on Milton and in Ramblers 36 and 37.

Johnson instructs us in practical literary criticism in Ramblers 86, 88, 90, 92, and 94 (and 139-140). 86, 88, and 90 deal with Milton’s methods. The theme here is the dialectic of imitation and originality.

Johnson is indeed in favor of education for women (Korshin 62).

Johnson’s Politics

While he may have been England’s most famous Tory, nevertheless, one may not necessarily deduce positions from his Toryism (Folkenflik 102). The common ground of his Toryism is the relationship of religion to the state.  While landed gentlemen, the Tories saw themselves as uniquely positioned to protect the poor and middle class from predatory interest.  And on Folkenflik’s reading, it was the Tories, not the Whigs, who opposed both colonialism and slavery (105).

In light of all of this, his Toryism could overlap with gentlemen such as Edmund Burke on revolution.


Johnson sees in Shakespeare a necessary link (yet distance) between “manners” and nature (Smallwood 147).  It is a distinction between surface and depths, between how things appear (manners) and how they are (nature); yet, they can sometimes overlap. Manners reveal the nature.

Lives of the Poets

Nota bene: “It is impossible for any thought to be beautiful which is not just, and has not its foundation in the nature of things” (quoting Addison, 166). Johnson’s criticism is governed by three themes: beauty (Shakespeare), pathos (Milton), and sublime (Pope).

Writing like Johnson, a small tip: when delivering a forceful reply, Johnson not only used parallel terms but ends each parallel with a sharp monosyllable.  Consider

The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours…has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it, till I am solitary and cannot impart it, till I am known and do not want it.”

This volume suffers some repetition but it is full of useful guides for reading Samuel Johnson.


James Boswell: Life of Johnson


This is a great book about a great man, albeit not written by a great man.  I started reading this in 2016, I think.  C. S. Lewis recommends approaching it as “lunch literature.”  This does not mean it is light reading, however.  It is conversational reading, but in these conversations Johnson reveals a remarkable dexterity of mind.

There are several key events in Johnson’s life. One key event is the publishing of his Dictionary.  Age 46: Published the Dictionary.  Received MA in 1755. Another turning point is the death of Johnson’s wife.

The model is the gentleman-scholar shaped by Tory ideals. The model is the “pious Tory.” “Tories are Whigs when out of place, and Whigs, Tories when in place: (Boswell 93).  Johnson was a devout Anglican who held to Tory principles, though the latter were not held irrationally. Johnson was not afraid of Deists and skeptics.  He knew he was their superior and this allowed him to approach the debate with calm and mastery.  He understood that Boswell had doubts but Johnson didn’t immediately crush them. He took Boswell by the hand and guided him.

Sometimes he is even funny.  Boswell tells of the amusing story of when Johnson discussed Toryism with the niece of a friend:

One day when dining at old Mr. Langton’s, where Miss Roberts, his niece, was one of the company, Johnson, with his usual complacent attention to the fair sex, took her by the hand and said, “My dear, I hope you are a Jacobite.” Old Mr. Langton, who, though a high and steady Tory, was attached to the present Royal Family, seemed offended, and asked Johnson, with great warmth, what he could mean by putting such a question to his niece! “Why, Sir, (said Johnson) I meant no offence to your niece, I meant her a great compliment. A Jacobite, Sir, believes in the divine right of Kings. He that believes in the divine right of Kings believes in a Divinity. A Jacobite believes in the divine right of Bishops. He that believes in the divine right of Bishops believes in the divine authority of the Christian religion. Therefore, Sir, a Jacobite is neither an Atheist nor a Deist. That cannot be said of a Whig; for Whiggism is a negation of all principle” (305).

Furthermore, Toriness is a manliness of spirit. Johnson writes concerning a late bishop who deserves Johnson’s support: “and [it will] increase that fervour of Loyalty, which in me, who boast of the name TORY, is not only a principle, but a passion” (804).

Johnson warns of the propensity towards lawsuits and debts.  “Of lawsuits there is no end …I am more afraid of the debts than the House of Lords. It is scarcely imagined what debts will swell, that are daily increasing by small additions, and how carelessly in a state of desperation debts are contracted” (817).

The three moments are “Johnson before marriage,” Johnson after his wife’s death, and Johnson’s companionship with Boswell.  

Johnson is one of those heroic individuals.  Johnson was firm yet gentle with Boswell.  He helped Boswell work through his doubts. The skeptics weren’t to be feared.  Johnson wasn’t impressed with Hume.  Any objection Hume had to the faith, Johnson had already worked through when he was young.  He writes, “Truth, sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull” (314).

Boswell wants us to note that Johnson was “manly.”  Not in a cheap bravado sense, but he was direct, firm, yet polite.  A telling scene was when His Majesty paid a surprise visit to Johnson: “During the whole of this interview, Johnson talked to his Majesty with profound respect, but still in his firm manly manner, with a sonorous voice and never in that subdued tone which …is commonly used in the drawing room” (384).

Around age 66 for Johnson the American colonies were beginning to rebel.  Interestingly, Boswell refers to the Bostonians as a “race” (575).

We should imitate Johnson both in word and deed. Johnson believed–correctly–in a natural hierarchy of mankind.  He opposed the “Leveller” doctrine (quasi-Anabaptists).

Johnson also (correctly) opposed Rousseau. 

Boswell: “Do you really think him [Rousseau] a bad man?” Johnson: “Sir, if you are talking jestingly of this, I don’t talk with you. If you mean to be serious, I think him one of the worst of men; a rascal, who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has been. Three or four nations have expelled him: and it is a shame that he is protected in this country.” Boswell: “I don’t deny, Sir, but that his novel may, perhaps, do harm; but I cannot think his intention was bad.” Johnson: “Sir, that will not do. We cannot prove any man’s intention to be bad. You may shoot a man through the head, and say you intended to miss him; but the Judge will order you to be hanged. An alleged want of intention, when evil is committed, will not be allowed in a court of justice. Rousseau, Sir, is a very bad man. I would sooner sign a sentence for his transportation, than that of any felon who has gone from the Old Bailey these many years. Yes, I should like to have him work in the plantations.”


The Club: Leo Damrosch

Damrosch, Leo. The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends who Shaped an Age. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.

This isn’t a biography of Samuel Johnson.  It is a biography of the social nexus in which Johnson found himself.  It also highlights things that Boswell (for whatever reason) didn’t mention. It also tells you the grit and glory of 18th century London.

This is a “good” book in the plain sense of the word.  We call books “good” because we want to keep reading them.  They are just interesting. This book is like that. As it is, that isn’t all remarkable.  Many books are good. This book, however, continues to be good while never sacrificing scholarly rigor.

While we should beware of a historicist reading of science, we must rejoice that science did kill several bad things–Freud’s psychoanalysis and the “humours” theory of medicine. Freud is wrong because genetics explains more than simply accusing everyone of repressed sexual fantasies. Of course, Freud predates Johnson.  The point here is that later interpreters of Johnson misunderstood him by subjecting him to psychoanalysis.  

As to medicine, “According to a medical theory that went back to ancient greece and was still respected, diseases were caused by an imbalance of four bodily fluids or “humors”–blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile” (17). The solution was usually to constantly drain the blood.  Scripture, however, teaches us that “the life is in the blood.”

This book is 50% Boswell, 30% Johnson, and the remainder dealing with “The Club,” the distinguished gathering of the greatest intellectuals in Britain: Edmund Burke, Edward Gibbon, and others.

This means that Damrosch has to give analyses of Burke, Adam Smith, and Edward Gibbon, and he is mostly successful at that.  

James Boswell

Boswell’s life was never boring–he made sure of that.  Boswell’s faults, often hinted at, are placed fully in the open. He was a lecher.  Indeed, scholars surmise, based on Boswell’s journals, that “by the time of his marriage at age of twenty-nine, Boswell had had liaisons with four actresses, three wives plus Rousseau’s companion Therese, and three middle-class women, as well as brief encounters with over sixty prostitutes–and that’s assuming he recorded them all” (234). His wife probably qualifies for sainthood.

I suspect, though I cannot prove, that Boswell never got over Hume’s attack on human nature and personhood.  For Hume there is no continuous personal identity, for there is no such thing as a stable essence. There is only a “stream of sense impressions that the mind has from moment to moment” (76).  Philosophically, this is sheer idiocy and Thomas Reid made short work of it. Existentially, however, Boswell found it quite compelling.

Edmund Burke

The section on Burke gives the American reader a good understanding of English politics. A Whig didn’t necessarily mean a radical.  It usually meant someone who allied himself with the economic interests of London. This often meant expanding Britain’s empire by war.  Tories, by contrast, allied themselves with Church and Crown. Nevertheless, the two often married each other.

Burke, for example, thought of himself as a Whig.  However, he was such a traditionalist that he could probably have passed as a Tory. Like Johnson, he saw “subordination” as the key structure of “deference that kept society cooperative and peaceful” (165-166).  Burke might have opposed taxing the Americans. He never thought, however, that they should themselves. Nor did he really think of that of the people in general. He believed in “government for the people by the entitled few” (165).


The reader is also urged to pay attention to the chapters on Adam Smith and Edward Gibbon.  This book is a magnificent picture of 18th century London.

Interesting notes

<<<Bath houses usually doubled as brothels (9).

Politically Incorrect Guide to English Literature

Kantor, Elizabeth. The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006.

While Kantor provides good analyses of Shakespeare and others, the book’s key strengths, like all the books in the P.I.G. series, lie in its structure: books you should read, concepts “they” (e.g., Deep State Marxists) don’t want you to know, etc.

On Shakespeare

“Shakespeare celebrates the limits that define us” (77). Shakespeare, unlike postmoderns, believes in “nature.”

Sonnets.  If we can wax ironic and use postmodern categories, the Sonnets are the dark “Other” to the comedies. Sex is very dangerous when handled outside of its proper boundaries. Some notes on the structure: In Italian sonnets there is a “turn” between the octave and sestet.

The Seventeenth Century

John Donne.  

John Milton. “Temptation is the theme of Milton’s poetry” (93).  “Milton’s heroic ideal” is patient obedience

2oth Century, including American Literature

Good section on Oscar Wilde and his decadent friends.  “Aestheticism” meant art for art’s sake; there is no outside meaning.  If we apply this to ourselves, and see our life as art, then we don’t have meaning, either.  

Kantor captured the essence of the South perfectly.  You can’t escape original sin by programs and agendas and trying to be Woke.  Similarly, a flawed culture like the South is superior to no culture at all. With that said, I normally dislike stories by O’Connor and Faulkner.  I just can’t take Steam-of-Consciousness seriously. 

Do it Yourself

Reed’s Rule.  When reading a poem, sometimes ask yourself, “Why is this word, and no other, in this place, and no other place” (218)? 

It is more important to know terms like “Iambic pentameter,” “epic simile,” and Spenserian stanza, not “binaries,” “reception history,” and “imaginary” (as a noun) (222).

Books They Don’t Want You To Read

Lewis, C. S. Allegory of Love.
Stark, Rodney. Victory of Reason.
Pearce, Joseph. The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde.
Kimball, Roger. Tenured Radicals.
Horowitz, David. The Professors.

At War with the Word: Literary Theory and Liberal Education , by R. V. Young, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1999.
Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities , by John M. Ellis, Yale University Press, 1999.
The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis, Harper SanFrancisco, 2001.
A Student’s Guide to Literature , by R. V. Young, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000.
The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric: Understanding the Nature and Function of Language by Miriam Joseph Rauh, Paul Dry, 2002.

Books You Shouldn’t Miss

Medieval Literature

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales.

Langland, Piers Plowman

Gawain and the Green Knight

Malory, Morte d’Arthur

Renaissance Literature

Spenser, Edmund. Faerie Queene.

Sidney, Philip. Defense of Poesy.

Shakespeare, everything.

Seventeenth Century

John Donne, Songs and Sonnets, Holy Sonnets

Herbert, George. The Temple

Bunyan, John. Pilgrim’s Progress.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost.

Restoration and Eighteenth Century

Dryden, John.  Absalom and Achitophel

Pope, Alexander. Rape of the Lock

Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s travels.

Johnson, Samuel. Preface to Shakespeare

A Mini Course in American Literature

While American literature can never compete with English literature, she does offer a good course in it.  Read the following:

O’Connor: “Everything that Rises Must Converge”

Faulkner: “Barn Burning”
Poe: “Cask of Amontillado”
Hemingway: “Big Two-Hearted River”
Hawthorne: “Young Goodman Brown”
Dickinson: “The Soul Selects Her Own Society”
Whitman: “A Noiseless Patient Spider”
Frost: “Nothing Gold Can Stay”
Pound: “In Station of the Metro”

Samuel Johnson: The Major Works


Samuel Johnson walks us through, not only how to think, but how to write.  Not every essay is of equal value. Further, Johnson is often responding to minute controversies in English life, for which even Google might not avail the modern reader.

Still, it is a feast on words.  

Definition of wit: it is that which he [the reader; the critic] never found wonders how he missed it (Johnson 677).


The poems are uneven, but his London, if historically anachronistic, is a delight to read.

And call Britannia‘s Glories back to view;
Behold her Cross triumphant on the Main,
The Guard of Commerce, and the Dread of Spain,
Ere Masquerades debauch’d, Excise oppress’d,
Or English Honour grew a standing Jest.

On the Dictionary

In many ways the highlight of his career.  The dictionary isn’t perfect, nor did Johnson intend it to be.  But it is glorious and manly. And in his legendary preface he gives an interesting survey of how language works.  

As always with Johnson, some words are worth feasting:

“Words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven.”

Method: “The rigour of interpretive lexicography requires that the explanation, and the word explained, should always be reciprocal.”


“So far have I been from any care to grace my pages with modern decorations, that I have studiously endeavoured to collect examples and authorities from the writers before the restoration, whose works I regard as the wells of English undefiled, as the pure sources of genuine diction” (para 61).

The Rambler and the Idler

Both CS Lewis and Boswell said these essays are what put steel in the bones.

The Patriot.  Liberty of conscience is a natural right, and we have no power to withhold it (582).   Interestingly, Johnson here opposed the American counter-revolution (584-585).


Every now and then Johnson will deliver on a philosophical insight that is just brilliant.  For example, I’ve long been an opponent of the philosophical concept of “chain of being.” It was common among ancient philosophy but has no place in a creational worldview.  Unfortunately, even great poets like Alexander Pope held to it. Johnson describes it as: “The universe is a system whose very essence consists in subordination; a scale of being descending, by insensible degrees, from infinite perfection to absolute nothing” (525).

Johnson notes the problems with such a view: “The highest being not infinite must be, as has often been observed, at an infinite distance below infinity….Between the lowest positive existence and nothing, wherever we suppose positive existence to cease, is another chasm infinitely deep; where there is room again for endless orders of subordinate nature, continued forever and ever, and yet infinitely superior to non-existence” (526).

That’s bad enough, but Johnson now ends the debate: “In the scale, wherever it begins or ends, are infinite vacuities.  At whatever distance we suppose the next order of beings to be above man, there is room for an intermediate order of beings between them” (526). This is Gnosticism with its endless pleroma and multiplication of hypostases.  This is the heresy the church fought to the death.

On Poets

Addison: “Whoever wishes to attain an English style familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison” (676).

Milton: our language can’t perform the sonnet as skillfully as the Italian language.  Johnson suggests the reason why is our language has a “greater variety of termination, [and] requires the rhymes to be often changed” (702).

Dryden: Johnson suggests it is to Dryden that we owe “the improvement, perhaps the completion of our metre, the refinement of our language, and much of the correctness of our sentiments” (724).

Pope: “If the flights of Dryden are therefore higher, Pope continues longer on the wing” (737). Pope’s version of Homer “may have tuned the English tongue” (745).

On Writing Poetry

“The music of the English heroic line strikes the ear so faintly that it is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every line cooperate together” (715).

On How to Read Samuel Johnson

I picked up a copy of his Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics) last spring.  I’ve read bits and pieces of it but never had much time to invest in it.  I’ve taught passages from Johnson before and students, even if they didn’t like him, at least followed along.

(For a good intro, see the essay on Johnson in this book Reading the Classics with CS Lewis)
While I recommend getting his Major Works, I am not sure reading it straight through is the best bet.  Here is how I approach him, with perhaps some questions.18119045_1042335419232498_4289689497078929134_n


Johnson’s early foray into the scene.  Magnificent patriotic poem.

Selections from the Rambler

CS Lewis read “The Rambler” before bed most nights.  Here is where Johnson can challenge us.  In no. 114 he criticizes capital punishment.  For those of us with a biblical view of justice, and given that Johnson was such a manly patriot, how do we square this?  (Hint: it has to do with the English justice system; cf. “London,” lines 247-254).

The Idler and The Rambler should constitute the bulk of the early reading of Johnson.  The essays demonstrate admirable prose.  They are to the point.

The English Dictionary

This can present something of a challenge to the reviewer.  Even the abridged versions are long, and most don’t read dictionaries straight through.  However, it makes good reading when you don’t have long to read.  And his not-so-subtle jabs at the French are funny.  And he also goes on thot patrol a few times.