Johnsonian Resolutions

In between works of fiction I still find time to pick up Boswell’s Life of Johnson. It reads as easily as a novel with the advantage that it draws its lively details from real people and events. Taken at random from last night’s reading are some comments by Johnson in letters written to his future biographer.

I wish you would a little correct or restrain your imagination, and imagine that happiness, such as life admits, may be had at other places as well as London. Without asserting Stoicism, it may be said, that it is our business to exempt ourselves as much as we can from the power of external things. There is but one solid basis of happiness; and that is, the reasonable hope of a happy futurity. This may be had every where.

Johnson’s advice is interesting because it is almost pure Stoicism right out of Epictetus, albeit fortified with the theological virtue of Christian hope. (Anyone who has read Johnson’s novel Rasselas knows that he was often critical of Stoicism for what he considered to be its unrealistically heroic aloofness in the face of hardship.)

When any fit of anxiety, or gloominess, or perversion of mind, lays hold upon you, make it a rule not to publish it by complaints, but exert your whole care to hide it; by endeavouring to hide it, you will drive it away. Be always busy.

This could be a New Year’s resolution in itself!

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