The Johnson Society of Australia

Celebrating the life and work of the 18th Century writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson and his circle.

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Alliance of literary societies mooted

President Barrie Sheppard and Secretary Barbara Niven represented the JSA at an interesting gathering in Sydney on October 8 to discuss the establishment of an alliance of Australian literary societies.

The meeting took the form of a reception at the British Consulate in Sydney, attended by about 80 people representing 11 literary groups.

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Seminar formula an outstanding success

The new formula for the annual seminar program is here to stay, following an enthusiastic reception from a large attendance  at the 2010 seminar held at the English Speaking Union on July 24.

The program started later in the morning, but offered a more varied menu, with only three full-length presentations (40-50 minutes), punctuated by five “stub” papers or readings of 10  to 15 minutes each.

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Review: Literary allusions in Johnson’s Journey

Agustin Coletes Blanco, Literary Allusion in Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Glasgow: The Grimshaw Press, ISBN 184530 060 2

Professor Coletes Blanco teaches at the University of Oviedo in Spain, and has previously published a Spanish translation of Johnson’s Journey.  In this intriguing little publication he has traced more than thirty places in the book where Johnson  alludes, sometimes overtly, sometimes more indirectly, to other literary texts.

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A Johnsonian nightmare

At the Johnson seminar on July 24, I read people a picture of Johnson through the eyes of Fanny Burney. She noted his likes and dislikes; how he despised the Whigs and their policies, how loyal he was to Oxford University and how derisive of Cambridge men; his poor opinion of the Scots, and so on. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed the anecdote I found in Simon Winchester’s book The Meaning of Everything which I have just finished reading.

The book tells the story of the publication of the huge Oxford English Dictionary, and the years of  labour by James Murray and his team to bring it into existence.  A skilled amateur philologist, Murray was the son of a linen draper, a lowland Scot and a Calvinist.  He claimed to have had a dream that illustrated Samuel Johnson’s likely reaction to Murray’s appointment in 1879 as the editor of the Dictionary.

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THE WESTERN IDLER – Treasures from Melbourne

It was a great pleasure to see so many of you at the Annual Seminar in July.  I thought that the new format worked very well.  Many new faces were to be seen, including some younger people.  After such a momentous year, as was the 300th anniversary in 2009, I believe that we all need to make an extra effort to ensure that the enthusiasm generated over that 12 months is continued into the future.  Hopefully, by the time the next seminar rolls around, Elizabeth and I will be living in Victoria.  I hope to take a much more active part in the Society when we complete our move.

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John Wiltshire’s Fleeman Lecture

The 2010 Fleeman Memorial lecture will be delivered by Professor John Wiltshire after our Annual General Meeting at the English Speaking Union 146 West Toorak Road, South Yarra at 2.30pm on Saturday,October 2.

John’s subject will be Samuel Johnson and Literary Ladies, a discussion of Johnson’s encouragement to, and friendship with, intellectual women.

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John Byrne lectures on Johnson and Australia

Samuel Johnson and the Wide Brown Land was the Title of a lecture given by our Western Idler,  John Byrne, on March 17 to the institute of Advanced Studies at the university of Western Australia.

In the lecture, John discussed the faint but fascinating presence of Johnson and his circle in this continent, from the earliest days of English exploration and settlement on the east coast, through to the growth of Johnsonian scholarship to the present day.

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