Johnson Commemoration

Johnson (Samuel) Commemoration

Saturday following September 18
Samuel Johnson, the English lexicographer, writer, critic, and conversationalist known popularly as Dr. Johnson, was born on this day in 1709. His hometown of Lichfield commemorates its most famous citizen by laying a laurel wreath at the foot of his statue, after which the cathedral choir sings religious songs and intones Dr. Johnson's final prayer while standing on the steps of his birth house. In the evening, there is a candlelight supper based on Dr. Johnson's favorite meal: steak-and-kidney pudding with mushrooms or mutton, with apple tarts and cream for dessert. The guests are served ale and hot punch by people dressed in costumes of the 18th century.
On this same day in Uttoxeter, 18 miles away, the story of Samuel Johnson's quarrel with his father is told to the town's assembled schoolchildren. Michael Johnson, the writer's father, sold books from a stall in the Uttoxeter market, and Samuel's rejection of his father's request for help in manning the stall caused a breach between them that was never healed. After his father's death, Samuel decided that the best way to punish himself for his unforgivable behavior was to stand hatless for hours in pouring rain in the exact location where his father's business had once stood.
The 19th-century American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, on a visit to the area, found out the children growing up there did not know the story. Ever since that time, it has been recited to them in the marketplace on this day. Afterwards, one of them lays a wreath on the memorial plaque that marks the place where Dr. Johnson made his penance.
CONTACTS:
Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum
Breadmarket St.
Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13 6LG United Kingdom
44-15-4326-4972
www.lichfield.gov.uk
SOURCES:
EngCustUse-1941, p. 107
YrFest-1972, p. 71
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