Magazine May 6, 2019, Issue

Samuel Johnson’s World

A literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds’ by D. George Thompson (National Portrait Gallery)
The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age, by Leo Damrosch (Yale University Press, 488 pp., $30)

In the famous dictionary he published in 1755, Samuel Johnson defined a “club” as “an assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions.” Nine years later, in 1764, the lexicographer became a founder of the Club, with a capital C. Its good fellows met under these conditions: They gathered one evening each week near the Strand in London, where they took a private room at the Turk’s Head Tavern, ordered food and wine, and conversed about topics great and small. Members “had to be good company — ready to talk, laugh, drink, eat, and argue until late into the night,”

This article appears as “Assembly For the Ages” in the May 6, 2019, print edition of National Review.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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