Wednesday 18 May 2022

Johnson as Kangaroo

 One of the most endearing things about that endlessly complex man, Samuel Johnson, was his capacity for childlike exuberance, even downright silliness (something he shared with Keats). Perhaps, in Johnson's case, it was a counterweight to the depression that always threatened to drag him down to the depths. Boswell more than once notes the Doctor's fondness for rolling down hills, with every evidence of enjoyment, and there's another delightful instance of his exuberance that was not recorded at the time by Boswell, but finds its place in the Life. It happened at an inn in Inverness when he and Boswell were on their way to the Hebrides. The Rev. Alexander Grant, who was there, reported that Johnson 'was in high spirits. In the course of conversation he mentioned that Mr Banks [the famous botanist Joseph Banks, who travelled on Cook's first voyage] had, in his travels in New South Wales, discovered an extraordinary animal called the Kangaroo. The appearance, conformation and habits of this quadruped were of the most singular kind: and in order to render his description more vivid and graphic, Johnson rose from his chair and volunteered an imitation of the animal. The company stared; and Mr Grant said nothing could be more ludicrous than the appearance of a tall, heavy, grave-looking man like Dr Johnson standing up to mimic the shape and motions of a kangaroo. He stood erect, put out his hands like feelers, and, gathering up the tail of his huge brown coat so as to resemble the pouch of the animal, made two or three vigorous bounds across the room!'

No comments:

Post a Comment