The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

by James Boswell

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"A Nest Of Singing Birds"

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Context: A friend of Samuel Johnson's, Dr. Adams, told Boswell that when Johnson was at Pembroke College, Oxford, he was much liked by all who knew him, he having been a gay and frolicsome fellow. Boswell mentioned this conversation to Johnson, who said that he was mad and violent, being miserably poor and thus opposed to all power and authority. The Bishop of Dromore told Boswell that Johnson was given to lounging around the college gate with a crowd of his juniors. Boswell could not find that he formed any intimacies with fellow students, but he had a strong love for his college and sent it a complete set of his writings. He was proud of the important men who had been educated at Pembroke. Boswell writes:

. . . He took a pleasure in boasting of the many eminent men who had been educated at Pembroke. In this list are found the names of Mr. Hawkins the Poetry Professor, Mr. Shenstone, Sir William Blackstone, and others, not forgetting the celebrated popular preacher, Mr. George Whitefield, of whom, though Johnson did not think very highly, it must be acknowledged that his eloquence was powerful, his views pious and charitable, his assiduity most incredible, and that since his death, the integrity of his character has been fully vindicated. Being himself a poet, Johnson was peculiarly happy in mentioning how many of the sons of Pembroke were poets; adding, with a smile of sportive triumph, "Sir, we are a nest of singing birds."

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