The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

by James Boswell

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"A Very Unclubable Man"

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Context: Boswell relates how the famous club, which for a long time existed without a name, became known at the time of David Garrick's funeral as the Literary Club. This group, established by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Samuel Johnson, at the former's suggestion, began meeting once a week at seven in the evening, for dinner, at the Turk's Head Tavern, Gerrard Street, in London, later moving to other meeting places. The original membership, according to Boswell, consisted of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith, Dr. Nugent, Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. Langton, Mr. Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins. Over the years the number of members in the group increased, and some of the membership changed. Sir John Hawkins, although one of the original members, dropped from the group. He said his "domestick arrangements" were inconsistent with his belonging to the club, that its sessions lasted till too late in the evening. Boswell reports, however, that Hawkins was rude to Edmund Burke on one occasion, and that the next time the club met the members of the group all "testified their displeasure," so that Sir John never came again. It has also been reported, as noted in a footnote, that Sir John, because he usually ate no supper at home, refused to pay a portion of the club's reckoning for a meal; all this seems to have spurred Dr. Johnson to make his comment about the knight, with its famous nonce word:

"Sir John, Sir, is a very unclubable man.

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