The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

by James Boswell

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"A Woman's Preaching Is Like A Dog's Walking On His Hind Legs"

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Context: Boswell made every effort to be in Dr. Johnson's good graces and to spend as much time as possible in his subject's company. He wrote up their visits immediately afterward, before he could lose the material from his memory. Boswell was also extremely pleased to become Johnson's friend, as he almost worshiped the man about whom he was writing. In this passage, for example, Boswell expresses his pleasure, first over the fact that Johnson later visited Auchinleck, the Boswell family's home in Scotland, and described it in his Journey to the Western Islands; but Boswell also expresses his pleasure over Johnson's offer to go to Harwich with him, when Boswell leaves England to travel in Holland. Boswell tells also in this passage how on Sunday, July 31, 1763, he attended a Quaker meeting in the morning, visiting Dr. Johnson later on in the same day. Boswell, probably realizing that Johnson, a conservative and loyal Anglican, would disapprove of a Quaker meeting itself, much less a woman's preaching, tells Johnson about his religious adventure. Dr. Johnson's reply to the information is typically Johnsonian–colorful, dogmatic, and to the point:

. . . "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

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