The JSA celebrated the Johnson Tercentenary in typically convivial fashion at a dinner on Friday, May 15, at the Montague Hotel in South Melbourne, where President John Wiltshire welcomed 19 guests.
Before, during and after the dinner, a number of celebrated eminences on the Johnsonian landscape were honoured by readings from The Life and other sources. John Wiltshire read the letter to Chesterfield, surely one of literary history’s greatest “come-uppances”, Barrie Sheppard entertained us with a reading of Soames Jenyns verse epitaph written at the death of Johnson; and Boswell’s reply, Bronwen Hickman chose extracts from Fanny Burney’s diaries recording the acrimonious and one-sided argument by Johnson with Mr Pepys, while Bryan Reid read Boswell’s description of his meeting with Johnson in Tom Davies’ parlour.
Anthony Marshall’s contribution took a different tack with a pair of Johnsonian limericks:
Said Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.”
Said Johnson: “This nonsense I damn!
Your Latin is doggy
You impudent Froggy,
You mean, Cogito, Sir, ergo Sam!”
The Frenchman replied: “Are there any
But French wits worth more than a penny?
I refute Doctor Johnson’s
I say: Cogito, Sam, ergo Rene!”
The JSA will continue its tercentenary celebrations with a special program at its annual seminar on July 25.