The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

by James Boswell

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"It Is Better To Live Rich, Than To Die Rich"

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Context: Boswell recounts that as Dr. Johnson was walking home from church one Sunday in 1778 he was accosted by a gentleman identifying himself as a London solicitor named Oliver Edwards who had been one of Johnson's companions at Oxford forty-nine years earlier. Delighted to meet Edwards again after so many years, Johnson arranged to see him again to talk over old times. They met at a tavern and walked to Johnson's quarters, chatting of many things, while Boswell lent an attentive ear. Readers of The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. may recall that it was in this conversation that Edwards wistfully observed that he had always wanted to be a philosopher but had been unable to become one because "cheerfulness was always breaking in." At another point in their talk, Johnson speculated on Edwards' career:


JOHNSON
From your having practised the law long, Sir, I presume you must be rich.
EDWARDS
No, sir; I got a good deal of money; but I had a number of poor relations to whom I gave a great part of it.
JOHNSON
Sir, you have been rich in the most valuable sense of the word.
EDWARDS
But I shall not die rich.
JOHNSON
Nay, sure, Sir, it is better to live rich, than to die rich.

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