Page 3, 2nd January 1959

2nd January 1959
Page 3
Page 3, 2nd January 1959 — 'Obstinate rationality' kept him out

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'Obstinate rationality' kept him out

By FRANK DAVEY JOHNSON AND BOSWELL, by Hcsketh Pearson (Heinemann, 21s.).

THERE is probably little new to be said about Doctor Johnson or his egregious biographerespecially since the discovery and publication of Boswell's journals. But it was a good idea to link them together in a joint biography where each throws light upon the other. For a balanced study of Boswell, it is still necessary to read D. B. Wyndham Lessis's "The Hooded Hawk".

Constantly one is struck. in reading about Johnson in Grub Street, by resemblances between the Doctor and G. K. Chesterton. Both were religious men, though the Lichfield bookseller's son may have been "bitten early by the bug of Puritanism" in his Calvanistic mother's arms.

Mr. Pearson finds the roots of his melancholia in a religion which "sat uncomfortably upon him. He was an exceptionally rational man dealing with an essentially irrational emotion . . thrown back upon an unreasoning faith." From such a practised hand the obtrusion of his own belief or disbelief offends. as when he comments that "the reward of those who believe in a future hell is that they create a present hell within themselves".

The Mass

THE Doctor "could swallow 39

'Articles but the Mass stuck in his throat". At Douai with the Thrales he left High Mass before the Elevation lest compelled to kneel.

'The obstinate rationality which rro ented him from ombracing the

Roman Catholic religion," writes Mr. Pearson, "made him uncomfortable in any other . . his congenital scepticism was at war with a yearning for what was durable." Johnson himself said: "I would he a Papist if I could. I have fear enough; but an obstinate rationality prevents me. I shall never be a Papist unless on the near approach of death, of which I have a very great terror."

On his troubled deathbed. with Jam morituras on his lips he "quietly expired, his terror of the Last Judgment vanishing with his last breath".

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A FRENCHMAN and two Americans were a.warded honorary degrees at the ceremonies opening the academic year at the Sacred Heart University at Milan. Jacques Maritain. the well-known Catholic philosopher, was awarded a degree in political science; Goetz Briefs, professor of economics at Georgetown University, Washington. D.C., received a degree in economics and commerce; and John E. McKeen, president of Charles Pfizer and Co. of Brooklyn. N.Y.. was awarded a degree in agrarian

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