The fascinating story of Four Oaks Farm, where for over 60 years Donald and Mary Hyde built the great Johnson Collection, now held at Harvard, was a feature of the JSA’s 2014 seminar, held on July 5.
The paper was given by John Byrne, President of the JSA who corresponded with Mary Hyde for twenty years, and served with her as Governor of Dr Johnson’s House. Last year at the Houghton Library, Harvard, he was given private access to the Hyde treasures.
John also discussed separately one of his book collection “treasures” John Murray’s Johnsoniana.
Joshua Reynolds was famous for his paintings of aristocratic children. In this illustrated talk John Wiltshire showed how Reynolds, a bachelor, and Joseph Wright, a family man who loved children, painted them in quite different modes. In his second paper, John discussed the variety of Johnson’s verse and illustrate its special and characteristic power.
Barrie Sheppard, a long-time member of the JSA. He is a retired senior lecturer, past-President of the Society and its current Treasurer, read The Rambler No 24: Know Thyself; worthy and worthless knowledge.
JSA Secretary Barbara Niven placed William Boyce, a very popular 18th century composer of secular as well as ecclesiastical music, in a Johnsonian context and provided incidental music for the seminar.
Two items on today’s program concern that popular 18th century beverage, tea. Regular JSA seminar presenter, lexicographer and publisher Nick Hudson, provided a witty and informative account of this 18th century passion, while Bronwen Hickman, who has been a JSA Committee member for many years, focussed on Johnson’s relationship with Sir Joshua Reynolds and his sister Fanny.
The seminar attracted a good sized audience with visitors including two from New Zealand— JSA member Michael Fisher from Auckland and a friend, Peter Hardie, from Matamata (there is a small town nearby called Lichfield and Peter has named a cricket team of which he is Captain the Lichfield Idlers, with obvious Johnsonian implications.)