Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Home - Men - Women - All Biographies


Lola Montez And King Ludwig Of Bavaria
Lola Montez! The name suggests dark eyes and abundant...

Frederick Barbarossa
Emperor from 1152-1190 Frederick I was one of ...

The Empress Catharine And Prince Potemkin
It has often been said that the greatest Frenchman wh...

James Clerk Maxwell
The story of the life of James Clerk Maxwell has been...

Ellis And Acton Bell
It has been thought that all the works published under the...

The Story Of The Hugos
Victor Hugo, after all criticisms have been made, sta...

Mary Queen Of Scots And Lord Bothwell
Mary Stuart and Cleopatra are the two women who have ...

Charlotte Corday And Adam Lux
Perhaps some readers will consider this story inconsi...

Florence Nightingale.
Eminent Men and Women."] One of the most interesting place...

Honore De Balzac And Evelina Hanska
I remember once, when editing an elaborate work on li...

Dr Samuel Johnson

In a quaint old house in Lichfield, England, now used as a draper's
shop, Samuel Johnson, son of a poor bookseller and bookbinder, was born.
Here, as in Westminster Abbey, a statue is erected to his memory. Near
by is the schoolhouse where Addison and Garrick studied.

When Samuel was two and a half years old, diseased with scrofula, his
good mother, with ten dollars sewed in her skirt so that nobody could
steal it, took him to London that, with two hundred others, he might be
touched by Queen Anne, and thus, as superstitious people believed, be
healed. On this journey she bought him a silver cup and spoon. The
latter he kept till his dying-day, and parted with the cup only in the
dire poverty of later years.

The touch of the Queen did no good, for he became blind in one eye; with
the other he could not see a friend half a yard off, and his face was
sadly disfigured. Being prevented thus from sharing the sports of other
boys, much time was spent in reading. He was first taught at a little
school kept by Widow Oliver, who years after, when he was starting for
Oxford, brought him a present of gingerbread, telling him he was the
best scholar she ever had. After a time he studied Latin under a master
who "whipped it into him." The foolish teacher would ask the boy the
Latin word for candlestick, or some unexpected thing, and then whip him,
saying, "This I do to save you from the gallows!"

Naturally indolent, Samuel had to struggle against this tendency. He
had, however, the greatest ambition to excel, and to this he attributed
his later success. He was also inquisitive, and had a wonderful memory.
When he wore short dresses, his mother gave him the Prayer-Book one day,
and, pointing to the Collect, said, "You must get this by heart." She
went up stairs, but no sooner had she reached the second floor than she
heard him following. He could repeat it perfectly, having looked it over
but twice. He left school at sixteen, spending two years at home in
helping his parents, and studying earnestly. One day, his father, being
ill, asked him to go to a neighboring town and take his place in selling
books at a stall on market-day. He was proud, and did not go. Fifty
years afterward, in his greatness, then an old man, he went to this
stall, and, with uncovered head, remained for an hour in the rain where
his father had formerly stood, exposed to the sneers of the bystanders
and the inclemency of the weather. It showed the repentance of a noble
soul for disobedience to a parent.

At nineteen, he entered Pembroke College, Oxford, where he acted as
servant. He used to go daily to his friend Taylor, and get lectures
second-hand, till his feet, showing through his worn-out shoes, were
perceived by the students, and he ceased going. A rich young man
secretly put a pair of new shoes at his door, which he indignantly threw
out of the window. He was willing to work and earn, but would not
receive charity. At the end of three years he became so poor that he was
obliged to leave college, his father dying soon after.

After various experiences, he sought the position of usher at a school,
but was refused because it was thought that the boys would make fun of
his ugliness. He finally obtained such a place, was treated with great
harshness, and left in a few months. Strange to say, the poor, lonely
scholar, only twenty-six, now fell in love with a widow forty-eight
years old. After obtaining his mother's consent, he married her, and the
union proved a most happy one. With the little money his wife possessed,
he started a school, and advertised for pupils; but only three came, and
the school soon closed. In despair he determined to try London, and see
if an author could there earn his bread. In that great city he lived for
some time on nine cents a day. One publisher to whom he applied
suggested to him that the wisest course would be to become a porter and
carry trunks.

A poem written at this time, entitled "London," for which he received
fifty dollars, one line of which was in capital letters,


attracted attention; and Pope, who was then at the height of his fame,
asked Dublin University to give to the able scholar the degree of M.A.,
that he might thus be able to take the principalship of a school, and
earn three hundred dollars a year; but this was refused. Out of such
struggles come heroic souls.

When he was forty, he published the "Vanity of Human Wishes," receiving
seventy-five dollars, asserted by many to be the most impressive thing
of its kind in the language. The lines,

"There mark what ills the scholar's life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail,"

show his struggles. A drama soon after, played by the great actor, David
Garrick, brought him nearly a thousand dollars; but the play itself was
a failure. When asked by his friends how he felt about his ill success,
he replied, "Like the monument," meaning that he continued firm and
unmoved, like a column of granite. Fame was coming at last, after he had
struggled in London for thirteen years--and what bitterness they had

For two years he worked almost constantly on a paper called the
"Rambler." When his wife said that, well as she had thought of him
before, she had never considered him equal to this, he was more pleased
than with any praise he ever received. She died three days after the
last copy was published, and Johnson was utterly prostrated. He buried
himself in hard work in his garret, a most inconvenient room; but he
said, "In that room I never saw Mrs. Johnson." Her wedding-ring was
placed in a little box, and tenderly kept till his death.

Three years afterward, his great work, his Dictionary, appeared, for
which he received eight thousand dollars; but, as he had been obliged to
employ six assistants for seven years, he was still poor, but now
famous. The Universities of Oxford and Dublin, when he no longer needed
their assistance, hastened to bestow their degrees upon him. Even George
III. invited him to the royal palace,--a strange contrast to a few years
before, when Samuel Johnson was under arrest for a debt of thirty
dollars! When asked by Reynolds how he had obtained his accuracy and
flow of language in conversation, he replied, "By trying to do my best
on every occasion and in every company." About this time his aged mother
died, and in the evenings of one week, to defray her funeral expenses,
he wrote "Rasselas," and received five hundred dollars for it. He wrote
in his last letter to her, "You have been the best mother, and I believe
the best woman, in the world. I thank you for your indulgence to me, and
beg forgiveness of all that I have done ill, and of all that I have
omitted to do well." His last great work was "The Lives of the Poets."

He received now a pension of fifteen hundred dollars a year, for his
valuable services to literature, but never used more than four hundred
dollars for himself. He took care of a blind woman of whom he said, "She
was a friend to my poor wife, and was in the house when she died, she
has remained in it ever since," of a mother and daughter dependent upon
an old family physician, and of two men whom nobody else would care for.
Once when he found a poor woman on the street late at night, he took her
home, and kept her till she was restored to health. His pockets were
always filled with pennies for street Arabs; and, if he found poor
children asleep on a threshold, he would slip money into their hands
that, when they awakened, they might buy a breakfast. When a servant was
dying who had been in the family for forty-three years, he prayed with
her and kissed her, the tears falling down his cheeks. He wrote in his
diary, "We kissed and parted--I humbly hope to meet again, and part no
more." He held, rightly, that Christianity levels all distinctions of

He was very tender to animals. Once, when in Wales, a gardener brought
into the house a hare which had been caught in the potatoes, and was
told to give it to the cook. Dr. Johnson asked to have it placed in his
arms; then, taking it to the window, he let it go, shouting to it to
run as fast as possible. He would buy oysters for his cat, Hodge, that
the servants, from seeing his fondness for it, might be led to treat it

He died at the age of seventy-five, such men as Burke and Reynolds
standing by his bedside. Of the latter, he begged that he would "read
his Bible, and never paint on Sundays." His last words were to a young
lady who had asked his blessing: "God bless you, my dear!" He was buried
with appropriate honors in Westminster Abbey, and monuments are erected
to him in St. Paul's Cathedral, and at Lichfield. The poor boy, nearly
blind, became "the brightest ornament of the eighteenth century."

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network