The Wit of Samuel Johnson

Lead: Born in poverty in 1709, Samuel Johnson became England's premier eighteenth-century man of letters and was the author of the first great dictionary of the English language.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The son of a bookseller, Johnson early on developed a healthy appetite for reading but he was not a willing convert to scholarship. He later attributed his commanding knowledge of Latin to the severe beatings he received at the hand of his master at Litchfield grammar school. Johnson spent thirteen months at Pembroke College, Oxford but had to leave because the money ran out. Back in Litchfield he attempted to start a school of his own, which failed, and he acquired a wife, Tetty Porter, a widow twenty years his senior. Their stormy years together became the source of his many clever observations on married life, such as this one, "if marriage is a struggle against the odds, remarriage is the triumph of hope over experience."


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Lead:  Born in the infant years of one of the most turbulent of centuries the poet Petrarch is considered by many scholars to be the first truly modern man.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In European history, the 1300s was an extraordinary time of violence and destruction. The Roman Catholic Pope had left Rome, taken up residence in the southern French city of Avignon, and had become, for all practical purposes, a client of French King. England and France began tear each other apart and for over a hundred years were at war over English claims to the French throne. The Black Death, the bubonic plague, by mid-century was taking nearly a third of the population of the Continent in a macabre harvest of death. Italy was in political disarray.

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