Entries by Wayne Jones

Sam Johnson, Blockhead

My title refers to one of the best-known quotations from Sam, which Boswell reported in his biography: No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money. As usual in most things in life, Sam’s or anyone else’s, context is everything. If this is the only quotation that someone knows from Sam, then that person […]

Sam Was Not Woke

One of the definitions of woke in Sam Johnson’s 1755 dictionary gives the sense of the word as it has been used since at least the 13th century, as the past tense of wake: Not to sleep … To be roused from sleep … To cease to sleep The English language changes of course, and […]

Happy with Sam

Last Thursday I interviewed Gretchen Rubin, the author of Happier at Home, a bestselling book which mentions Samuel Johnson in the subtitle. I had seen one of the epigraphs she uses in the book — “To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which all enterprise and labour […]

Sam Johnson: Rambler, Adventurer, Idler

Sam was all of these in person, but those are also the names of three separate periodicals/magazines that he contributed to in the 1750s, when he was mostly in his forties. Here are the basic facts about the extent of his writing for them, so that you can get a sense of perspective on his […]

The English Language and Sam’s Dictionary

Sam published his Dictionary of the English Language on April 15, 1755. It has been called the first dictionary of English (which is not true) or the first modern dictionary of English (which is closer to the truth). A couple of interesting facts about it: The full title is A Dictionary of the English Language, […]

Sam and Home

Two things happened this week. One is that as a welcome of two friends to the same condo complex that I live in in Ottawa, I visited their place and brought rosé champagne and some homemade pecan shortbread cookies. I also gave them a card — specifically this one from the line of greeting cards […]

Sam Dying

I happen to be working on the part of the book covering the last two years of Sam’s life. Not only did a lot happen during this time (1783–1784), but there is a fair bit written by various witnesses. During the last year of his life, for example, Sam lost one of his closest friends, […]

Sam’s Health

I just received this great, nicely specific book in the mail a couple of days ago, and am hopeful it will provide fairly up-to-date information (it was originally published in 1991) all in one place about Sam’s various ailments. I haven’t started reading yet, but the first chapter is “Johnson’s Medical History: Facts and Mysteries.” […]

Sam, Sam, and Technology

I had a great chat this past Monday with my 11-year-old nephew Sam. He has a keen interest and lots of knowledge about various aspects of computer technology — especially hardware, gaming, and social media — and so we talked about the differences between tech in Sam Johnson’s century and tech in Sam Jones’s century. […]