vrijdag 9 januari 2015

James Boswell: Life of Johnson

Product DetailsDe biografie van James Boswell over het leven van Samuel Johnson wordt beschouwd als de eerste volledige biografie ooit geschreven en geldt nog steeds als een van de beste. In ruim 1200 blz geeft Boswell een zeer uitgebreide levensbeschrijving door de afwisseling van brieven van en aan Johnson en een weergave van zijn gesprekken.

Johnson is een van de bekendste auteurs van de 18e eeuw en na Shakespeare de meest geciteerde Engelse auteur. Boswell was 22 en Johnson 53 toen ze elkaar voor het eerst ontmoetten. In eerste instantie verliep de kennismaking vrij stroef maar al gauw raakten de twee bevriend. Boswell maakte altijd notities van de opmerkingen van Johnson zodat hij later een goed beeld van hem kon schetsen.

Gedurende 20 jaar zagen ze elkaar gedurende een periode per jaar als Boswell in Londen was (plus eenmaal voor een lange reis door de Hebriden) en schreven ze elkaar veel brieven. De kracht van het boek ligt in de talloze details waarin allerlei uitspraken van Johnson genoteerd staan. Om een idee te geven zal ik een aantal citaten uit het boek geven. Voor een overzicht van citaten van Johnson zie op internet: www.samueljohnson.com met ruim 1000 citaten.

- If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in conctant repair.

- A short letter to a distant friend is, in my opinion, an insult like that of a slight bow or a cursory salutation. .... Yet it must be remembered, that he who continues the same sort of life in the same place, will have little to tell.

- There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.

- Labouring man who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or never troubled with low spirits.

- This was a good dinner enough, to be sure: but it was not a dinner to ask a man to.

- If therefore the profession you have chosen has some unexpected inconveniences, console yourself by reflecting that no profession is without them; and that all the importunities and perpexities of business are softness and luxury, compared with the incessant cravings of vacancy, and the unsatisfactory expedients of idleness.

- Why, Sir, I reconcile my principles very well, because mankind are happier in a state of inequality and subordination. .... All intellectual improvement arises from leisure; all leisure arises from one working for another.

- I believe marriages would in general be as happy, and more often so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor, upon a due consideration of the characters and circumstances, without the parties having any choice in the matter.

- Questioning is not the mode of conversation among gentlemen. It is assuming a superiority, and it is particurlarly wrong to question a man concerning himself. There may be parts of his former life which he may not wish to be made known to other persons, or even brought to his own recollection.

- While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till grief be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.

- Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and therefore, it is the poets that preserve languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language, if we could have all that is written in it just as well in translation.

- A man will please more upon the whole by negative qualities than by positive; by never offending, than by giving a great deal of delight. In the first place, man hate more steadily than they love; and if I have said something to hurt a man once, I shall not get the better of this, by saying many things to please him.

- The world has few greater pleasures than that which two friends enjoy, in tracing back, at some distant time, those transactions and events through which they have passed together.

- Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

- You cannot spend money in luxury without doing good to the poor. Nay, you do more good to them by spending it in luxury, you make them exert industry, whereas by giving it, you keep them idle.

- Wine makes a man better pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others .... The danger is, that while a man grows better pleased with himself, he may be growing less pleasant to others.

- We are all agreed as to our own liberty; we would have as much of it as we can get; but we are not agreed as to the liberty of others: for in proportion as we take, others must lose.

- Boswell "Is not the Giant's causeway worth seeing?" Johnson "Worth seeing? yes; but not worth going to see."

- The great direction which Burton has left to men disordered like you, is this, Be not solitary; be not idle: which I would thus modify;- If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle.

- He whose inclination prompts him to cultivate your friendship of his own accord, will love you more than one whom you have been at pains to attach to you.

- Every man desires to see of what he has read; but no man desires to read an account of what he has seen: so much does description fall short of reality. Description only excites curiosity: seeing satifies it.

- A man may be very severe in good principles, without having good practice.


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