Friday, January 8, 2010

Essay: "Mrs Johnson." Alice Meynell.

One-minute review: A tribute to Dr. Samuel Johnson’s wife, the often ridiculed “Tetty,” his pet name for her. She has become a caricature because of Dr. Johnson’s awkward love-making, overheard by his students. But he loved her for twenty years and was “solitary” for the thirty-two years he lived after she was gone. She was his only friend.


“ ‘The lover,’ says Macaulay, ‘continued to be under the illusions of the wedding day till the lady died.’ ”

“I have called her his only friend. So indeed she was, though he had followers, disciples, rivals, competitors, and companions, many degrees of admirers, a biographer, a patron and a public.”

“He was ‘solitary’ from the day she died.”

“But her epitaph, that does not name her, is in the greatest of English prose…. ‘I am indifferent… I am known… I am solitary, and cannot impart it.’ ”

Great Essays. Ed. Houston Peterson. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc. 1960.

What is an essay? “They are all prefaces. A preface is nothing but a talk with the reader; and they [essays] do nothing else.” Charles Lamb.

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