Backstory to Ramblings
I first read Samuel Johnson’s essays thanks to Walter Jackson Bate’s “Eighteenth Century Literature” class at Harvard. Ay first reading, I was put off by Johnson’s apparent (and actual) pomposity, his uncompromisingly emphatic and virtuous tone of voice, and his ponderous prose.
Years later, though, when I was not completing the work on my doctoral dissertation, I recalled Johnson’s candid essay on procrastination (Rambler #134?), and so reread it. Now it seemed full of good sense, and ought to serve as a push for my efforts to finish my work. I also came to appreciate the similarity between Johnson’s cadences and the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose flute sonatas I was working on at the time.
Subsequently, I have reread all the Rambler essays every decade or so, just for the pleasure of the prose and the thought-provoking good sense of his maxims. Then, a few years back, Jack Lynch, the eminent Johnson scholar, asked me to take over the management of the Johnsonian list housed at Yahoo. I took on the task, and found it little trouble, since the Johnsonian list members rarely posted. The list was so listless, in fact, that I decided to post, twice a week (on Tuesdays and Saturdays, Johnson’s own publication schedule for his Rambler) my responses to Johnson’s work on whatever topic caught my fancy. I have since collected my Ramblings and posted them on my web site, where they may be read as infrequently as the responses to them on the Johnsonian list itself:
But I am not complaining of neglect. I wrote my Ramblings pieces for my own enjoyment, with the lingering hope that some list members might be enjoying them too, even if they rarely responded to the Johnsonian list itself.