It's Samuel Johnson's birthday today. The picture above is by Joshua Reynolds, one of the group of artists and intellectuals who gathered with Johnson in London in the late 18th Century to discuss.... well, to discuss just about everything. Here's Boswell describing a conversation with Johnson about Edmund Burke:
We talked of Mr. Burke. Dr. Johnson said, he had a great variety of knowledge, store of imagery, copiousness of language. Robertson: "He has wit too." Johnson: "No, Sir; he never succeeds there. 'Tis low; 'tis conceit. I used to say, Burke never once made a good joke. What I most envy Burke for, is, his being constantly the same. He is never what we call humdrum; never unwilling to begin to talk, nor in haste to leave off." Boswell: "Yet he can listen." Johnson: "No; I cannot say he is good at that. So desirous is he to talk, that, if one is speaking at this end of the table, he'll speak to somebody at the other end. Burke, Sir, is such a man, that if you met him for the first time in the street where you were stopped by a drove of oxen, and you and he stepped aside to take shelter for five minutes, he'd talk to you in such a manner, that, when you parted, you would say, this is an extraordinary man."
Must find time to re-read Boswell. It's one of the great documents humanity has created over the past three millenia.