For sorrow there is no remedy provided by nature; it is often occasioned by accidents irreparable, and dwells upon objects that have lost or changed their existence; it requires what it cannot hope, that the laws of the universe should be repealed; that the dead should return, or the past should be recalled….Sorrow is properly that state of the mind in which our desires are fixed upon the past, without looking forward to the future, an incessant wish that something were otherwise than it has been, a tormenting and harassing want of some enjoyment or possession which we have lost and which no endeavours can possibly regain.
– Samuel Johnson in The Rambler, No-47 August 28, 1750
Samuel Johnson was an extraordinary literary personality of the 18th century, one of the first confirmed celebrity eccentrics.
Those who have read Macaulay’s essay on Johnson or better still perused what is considered the greatest biography of all time, James Boswell’s splendid work on his friend Johnson cannot fail to be impressed by the man.
For Johnson, despite all his warts of which there were many, was a towering figure in the world of letters.
Johnson’s Lives of the Poets and the many essays in the Rambler still have the power to delight and by the way he’s also credited with compiling the first authoritative dictionary in modern times.