The recent celebrations held at Lichfield in honour of one of Staffordshire's greatest sons were enthusiastically carried out, but the lectures and speeches produced little addition to the facts already known of the life of the great lexicographer. Dr. Johnson, both in his merits and his shortcomings, was a robust type of English character. He lived in an age when affectation and pretence were more common than they are today when fulsome adulation seemed an easy passport to literary success; but this way did not appeal to him - he was nothing if not thorough, and through all the long years he was striving for that recognition he won so hardly, he was sustained by the conviction that he was bound to achieve success eventually; but it was a weary, soul-worrying life he led before the goal was reached.
He was the son of a Lichfield bookseller, and a communication made to "Notes and Queries" in March, 1859, gives the following record:- "Dr. Samuel Johnson was born the 7th day of September, 1709, at Lichfield, near the Market Place, about four o'clock in the afternoon," and he was baptised the same day.

His early life was passed in Lichfield, where he was taught at a Dame School, then placed under the care of the Headmaster of Lichfield Grammar School. At the age of fifteen he went for a time as a pupil at Stourbridge School. He entered a Commoner of Pembroke College, Oxford, on October 31st, 1728.

Unfortunately, his father failed in his business, and Johnson had to leave Oxford. He returned to Lichfield in 1731 without a degree, and four years later, on July 9th, 1735, he married Mrs. Porter, a widow.

He then went to reside at Edjall Hall, about two miles east of Lichfield, where he started a school, but his only pupils were David Garrick and his brother George, with one ether pupil, a Mr. Offly, a young gentleman of good fortune.

Dr. Johnson (after the painting by Sir J. Reynolds).

Dr. Johnson's birthplace, Market Place.

The school was unsuccessful, and he determined to try his fortune in London, where he went in March, 1737, accompanied by his pupil, David Garrick.

It was during his residence in London that Johnson worked to gain that literary recognition which has since made him famous. For many years he worked hard for a bare existence, and was so discouraged that he was tempted to return to the drudgery of teaching again, so he applied for the Headmastership of Appleby Grammar School, in Leicestershire, but was unsuccessful.

In 1738 he published "London," a poem in imitation of the third satire of Juvenal, and in 1747 he published the plan of his great "Dictionary."

In 1749 his tragedy, "Irene," was performed at Drury Lane. In 1750 and 1751 he published his "Rambler," and in 1755 he obtained the degree of Master of Arts at Oxford by diploma.

Stowe Church, Lichfield.

The same year saw the publication of his "Dictionary." In 1758 and 1759 he published the "Idler," and "Rasselas" appeared in 1759. In May, 1761, he was rewarded by the King with a pension of £300 a year. His "Edition of Shakespeare" appeared in 1765. In 1775 he issued his "Tour of the Hebrides," and in 1778, and following years, he produced his "Lives of the Poets." During his residence in London, he resided first at 17, Gough Square, E.C., from 1748 to 1758, and it was here that his wife died, and here that he wrote the greater part of the "Dictionary," the "Rambler," and the "Idler." His own study and the garret, with its sloping roof, in which his six amanuenses worked, are still to be seen. From 1765 to 1776 he resided in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, and removed to 8, Bolt Court in the latter year, where he died in 1784, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

It was at 8, Russell Street, Covent Garden, that Dr. Johnson first met Boswell ("that prince of biographers," to quote Lord Rosebery). This historic event happened on May 16th, 1763, and is thus described by Boswell in his "Life of Johnson": "Mr. Thomas Davies, the actor, who kept a bookseller's shop in Russell Street, Covent Garden, told me that Johnson was very much his friend, and came frequently to his house.

Lichfield Cathedral.

Dr. Johnson's monument, Lichfield.

At last, on Monday, the 16th of May (1763), when I was sitting in Mr. Davies's back parlour, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs. Davies, Johnson unexpectedly came into the shop." Boswell had long been anxious to meet Johnson, but when the opportunity occurred he did not make much impression on the great man, and the marvel is that Boswell and Johnson should afterwards have become so inseparable.

The shining lights of the literary and artistic world of the eighteenth century were Johnson's contemporaries, and these wits regularly met at the old Mitre Tavern, where the great doctor would declaim in thundering tones his views and opinions on men and politics. Among this select coterie were such men as Oliver Goldsmith, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Charles Burney, T. Warton, and others.

His connection with the Thrale family, his trip with them to North Wales, and later to Paris, are so well known to readers of the famous" life" that recapitulation would be wearisome, but we are able to present a few local notes in connection with this famous Staffordshire genius that may be new to some of our readers.

Edjall Hall (from an old engraving).

8 Bolt Court, London, where Dr. Johnson died.

It will probably surprise local readers to know that Dr. Johnson, as a boy, visited at the Manor House at Trysull, now the residence of Howard Mander, Esq. It was in this house that his mother's relation, Mrs. Harriotts, lived with the Barnesleys, and this was the first house Johnson stayed in after his birth at Lichfield.

Visitors to St. Peter's Church will notice the epitaph to Phillips, the violinist. It is in the porch, and was written by Dr. Wilkes, of Willenhall. It was shown to Johnson, and he at once said he could do it better, and produced the following:

Phillips, whose touch harmonious could remove
The pangs of guilty power or hopeless love,
Rest here, distressed by poverty no more;
Here find that calm thou gav'st so oft before,
Sleep undisturbed within this peaceful shrine,
Till angels wake thee with a note like thine.

The greatness of Johnson's personality is apparent in all his literary work. His great dictionary - "the first dictionary which could be read with pleasure," so Macaulay wrote - was the labour of years; yet even while he was "tugging at the oar" in its preparation, he was writing the "Rambler," with his mind distracted by the fatal illness of his wife. His numerous other literary works are too well known to be recapitulated here, but his "Rasselas" has been translated into at least ten languages, while his last and greatest work, "The Lives of the Poets," is now a classic. It was undertaken when Johnson was almost seventy years of age.

Much has been written and said about Johnson's rudeness, but one has to remember the period in which he lived. Again, it must also be remembered that from his earliest years he suffered from an incurable disease. This suffering, combined with his early and desperate struggles for existence, no doubt soured his nature, and when he had at last attained a recognised position helped to foster that domineering manner which was so distasteful to those who did not know him intimately.

Old houses, Bore Street, Lichfield.

But while he was aggressive in argument and abrupt in speech, he was a man who had a great sympathy for others in distress, and if in the heat of argument he hurt another's feelings, he was ever ready to apologise and apply the healing balm of sympathy to his wounded friend.

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