Passage of the Day – Samuel Johnson on Sorrow

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that have lost or changed their existence; it requires what it cannot hope, that the laws of the universe should be repealed; that the dead should return, or the past should be recalled….Sorrow is properly that state of the mind in which our desires are fixed upon the past, without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.

5 Responses to "Passage of the Day – Samuel Johnson on Sorrow"

  1. sam   May 5, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Off-topic: Vaanam, the new Tamil film is having a lot of positive reviews. Why not go and try it? Responds:

    Were Vadivelu here, he would say Vaanamavadhu, Komanamavadhu. 😉

    Here’s the review for the Telugu original Vedam.

  2. vjcool   May 5, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Think you’ll like Cicero’s works.. Responds:

    Maybe. Don’t have any of his works.

  3. vjcool   May 5, 2011 at 8:35 am

    That’s about cicero.

    this is a link to one of his books, its in public domain. Responds:


    We’ll take a look at it after finishing Tacitus’ Histories.

  4. rama dasa   May 5, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    if SI loves poetry,try reading dante or william blake,you cant go wrong with those two Responds:

    We haven’t read Dante but have lived through his Inferno by way of Bollywood and Kollywood films.

  5. gk   May 11, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Isn’t Johnson considered an eccentric mainly for his high sounding, pompous language ? If you have the habit of watching TV shows do watch Blackadder. Its a brilliant historical sitcom written and acted by Rowan Atkinson. Check out the episode that features Dr.Johnson(Season 3). Its damn hilarious. Responds:

    You write: Isn’t Johnson considered an eccentric mainly for his high sounding, pompous language

    No, for his behavior.

    Hear, see this excerpt from Macaulay’s essay on Johnson:

    Everything, about him, his coat, his wig, his figure, his face, his scrofula, his St. Vitus’s dance, his rolling walk, his blinking eye, the outward signs which too clearly marked his approbation of his dinner, his insatiable appetite for fish-sauce and veal-pie with plums, his inextinguishable thirst for tea, his trick of touching the posts as he walked, his mysterious practice of treasuring up scraps of orange-peel, his morning slumbers, his midnight disputations, his contortions, his mutterings, his gruntings, his puffings, his vigorous acute and ready eloquence, his sarcastic wit, his vehemence, his insolence, his fits of tempestuous rage, his queer inmates, old Mr. Levett and blind Mrs. Williams, the cat Hodge and the negro, Frank,….

You must be logged in to post a comment Login