Well, academic writing month came and went – AcWriMo, as folks call it – and alas I didn’t get much writing done as I was working on a freelance editing project that took a lot of time. In fact, November was even the first month during which I did not do at least one posting here since I started this blog about a year and a half ago.

I am back at it now, though, and was happy to have written some of the book yesterday. It will give you an idea of the way I am going about this when I tell you that the part I wrote was about Sam Johnson’s birth in 1709. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve completed the structure of the book, and I’ve got most of the research and ideas inserted at the appropriate place in that structure, so it turns out I can basically write about any period in Sam’s life at any time. I’ve written about the dictionary (1755) and his edition of Shakespeare (1765), but obviously, so to speak, I ended up doing so even before he was born.

Order and structure and organization are not only important things for me in life generally, but in this book they are really essential. There is a huge mass of other scholars’ and other peoples’ writing to consult, in addition to my own research and interviews, so that I have to make sure it’s all ordered, or I must just sit down at this computer and stare at the screen and not know quite what to do. I am happy to have this under control, and I feel strongly that control is necessary.

We’re coming up on the anniversary of the death of Johnson on December 13 (it was 1784), but I’ve been thinking a lot about humour lately, deriving mostly from satire by two of the best comedians during the T***p administration (John Oliver and Stephen Colbert), a young comedian who started on TikTok but eventually became a huge hit with her lip syncing of the president (Sarah Cooper), and some non-political comedy by one of the best comedians ever, the great Ricky Gervais. I will write about it in my next post.

BTW Sam Johnson was not a big fan of satire. He wasn’t an admirer of the stellar satirist who came a little earlier in the 18th century, Jonathan Swift (the anniversary of his birth was just two days ago – he was born in 1667). Sam and I differ on this point.

2 replies
  1. Wayne Jones
    Wayne Jones says:

    Yes, Sam certainly liked other humour. Some of his favourite activities were being in a large crowd at a pub, discussing and talking about all sorts of things, and laughing. And he had a good sense of humour. Many of the quotations that have come down to us since he died are witty or funny. There’s a lot to choose from, but one of the ones I like best is his description of when a man gets married for the second time: “the triumph of hope over experience.” Funny and classy at the same time! As for satire, I probably overstated it a bit when I said he didn’t like it much — but I don’t think he was a fan of Swift’s style. Swift had a much harder edge in his writing, and that wasn’t really Sam’s style. He was more in the mode of teaching life lessons, using excellent writing, and, even him, sometimes satire, too.

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