What would Dr Johnson say?
Dr Johnson had a rare ability. He could the truth with humour. It is sometimes forgotten that truth-telling is as rare as wit. Together they made him a sensation.
Samuel Johnson grew up destitute and had bad health. His "life was a tale of triumph over every kind of obstacle". He worked very hard, particularly on the dictionary of English, which he laced with bracing quotations, and he was stupendously lucky in Boswell, the best biographer a man ever had.
Dr Johnson continues to fascinate. Another in a fairly long list of biographies has just been published.
Dr Johnson famously said that "patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel". For the last hundred years this comment has been interpreted as a scathing criticism of patriotism.
In fact it was a scathing criticism of a scoundrel.
Dr Johnson detested slavery. He left the bulk of his estate to a man who had been, before he reached England and worked for him, a slave.