Category Archives: Literature

Goethe and the Conservatism of Experience

The adage, often apocryphally attributed to Churchill, about age and political disposition may actually have originated with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The German poet once said to a friend that “everybody is a democrat in youth, when they have nothing … Continue reading

Posted in Art and Culture, History, Literature, Politics

A Curmudgeon’s Tour of Scotland

Once again I invoke the “patron saint” of this blog, Samuel Johnson, who never ceases to delight me with his observations on “life and manners” as I peruse excepts from his Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland,* in which … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Samuel Johnson

Reviewing Nineteenth Century Authors

A friend from work, now retired, kindly passed along copies of some pricey intellectual journals, including the November 2016 issue of The New Criterion, which proved to be a trove of commentary on nineteenth century literature. Among the columns was … Continue reading

Posted in Cardinal Newman, Literature

An Instance of Fortitude

In his “Essay on Epitaphs,” Samuel Johnson recalls the lines inscribed on the tomb of the Greek Stoic teacher: “Epictetus, who lies here, was a slave and a cripple, poor as the beggar in the proverb, and the favourite of … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson, Stoicism

Wherever Human Nature is to Be Found

“The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantic absurdities or incredible fictions; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson

Hilaire Belloc: Contemporary Reviews

In the years before the internet supplanted old-fashioned book and microfiche research, I had the opportunity to look up some original reviews of works by Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc. Here are two of them. I hope that other fans of … Continue reading

Posted in Hilaire Belloc, Literature

A Page of Boswell

In one page of Boswell’s Life of Johnson (687 in the Oxford edition) perused at random I find two very interesting observations by Johnson during the course of a conversation with his biographer for March 16, 1776. The first deals … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Religion, Samuel Johnson

Johnson’s Existential Quest

“Happiness… must be something solid and permanent, without fear and without uncertainty.”—Samuel Johnson, Rasselas I am returning to the roots of my journal with a discussion of Samuel Johnson’s novel Rasselas (1759), an exotic imaginary travelogue in which the characters … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Samuel Johnson

The Uncertainty of Good and Evil

“All fear is in itself painful, and when it conduces not to safety is painful without use.”—Samuel Johnson My latest meditation is based on Johnson’s Rambler essay “The folly of anticipating misfortunes” (No. 29). Few things in life are so … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Samuel Johnson

Mankind is Governed by Names

I have continued my reading of Gibbon, with his discussion of the Roman Constitution and the decline of the republic. The true and lasting origins of imperial power, we are told, lay not in the spectacular and short-lived dictatorship of … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Politics