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Wicked Quotes on Writing by Dr. Johnson on the occasion of his 300th

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Samuel Johnson was born on September 18th, 1709. Few books have given me more pleasure than Boswell’s Life. Few men have spoken or strung together more brilliant words. Here are a few the good Dr. imparted on the topic of writing, culled from this goldmine:

"The reciprocal civility of authors is one of the most risible scenes in the farce of life."

"I never desire to converse witha man who has written more than he has read."

"The task of an author is, either to teach what is not known, or to recommend known truths by his manner of adorning them; either to let new light in upon the mind, and open new scenes to the prospect, or to vary the dress and situation of common objects, so as to give them fresh grace and more powerful attractions, to spread such flowers over the regions through which the intellect has already made its progress, as may tempt it to return, and take a second view of things hastily passed over, or negligently regarded."

"I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils:’Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.’"

"Whatever can happen to man has happened so often, that little remains for fancy or invention. We have been all born; we have most of us been married; and so many have died before us, that our deaths can supply but few materials for a poet. In the fate of princes the public has an interest; and what happens to them of good or evil, the poets have always considered as business for the Muse. But after so many inauguratory gratulations, nuptial hymns, and funeral dirges, he must be highly favoured by nature, or by fortune, who says anything not said before. Even war and conquest, however splendid, suggest no new images; the triumphal chariot of a victorious monarch can be decked only with those ornaments that have graced his predecessors."

"Works of imagination excel by their allurement and delight; by their power of attracting and detaining the attention. That book is good in vain which the reader throws away. He only is the master who keeps the mind in pleasing captivity; whose pages are perused with eagerness, and in hope of new pleasure are perused again; and whose conclusion is perceived with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon departing day."

"To fix the thoughts by writing, and subject them to frequent examinations and reviews, is the best method of enabling the mind to detect its own sophisms, and keep it on guard against the fallacies which it practises on others: in conversation we naturally diffuse our thoughts, and in writing we contract them; method is the excellence of writing, and unconstraint the grace of conversation."

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One Response to “Wicked Quotes on Writing by Dr. Johnson on the occasion of his 300th”

  1. Frank Says:

    Samuel Johnson is a gift that just keeps on giving! I swear, though, I hated Boswell’s tone (always found him too obsequious), and if I didn’t put JB down and learn about the wisdom in the essays, I would never have understood what all the hollering was about.

    Thanks for dropping by my site – - always glad to see it discovered and re-discovered.

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