The Corner

Inspissated Gloom

Kathryn:

You must remember that my great literary hero, whom I never tire of reading, and reading about, is Dr. Johnson. As a matter of fact, at lunchtime I happened to read through, for around the 125th time, Macaulay’s splendid essay on him, from which:

“A deep melancholy took possession of him, and gave a dark tinge to all his views of human nature and of human destiny. Such wretchedness as he endured has driven many men to shoot themselves or drown themselves. But he was under no temptation to commit suicide. He was sick of life; but he was afraid of death; and he shuddered at every sight or sound which reminded him of the inevitable hour. In religion he found but little comfort during his long and frequent fits of dejection, for his religion partook of his own character. The light from heaven shone on him indeed, but not in a direct line, or with its own pure splendour. The rays had to struggle through a disturbing medium; they reached him refracted, dulled and discoloured by the thick gloom which had settled on his soul, and, though they might be sufficiently clear to guide him, were too dim to cheer him.”

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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