Please read “The Character of Englishness” in the September issue of Standpoint. The author is Jonathan Bate, the wonderful biographer of John Clare. Here’s a sample:
“With the possible exception of his true successor (though his political and moral opposite) William Hazlitt, Dr Johnson is the greatest writer of critical prose in the English language. James Boswell tells us how he did it:
“`Sir Joshua Reynolds once asked him by what means he had attained his extraordinary accuracy and flow of language. He told him, that he had early laid it down as a fixed rule to do his best on every occasion, and in every company: to impart whatever he knew in the most forcible language he could put it in; and that by constant practice, and never suffering any careless expressions to escape him, or attempting to deliver his thoughts without arranging them in the clearest manner, it became habitual to him.’”
We celebrate Johnson’s 300th birthday on Sept. 18.