Dr Johnson first learned to read of his mother and her old maid Catharine, in whose lap he well remembered sitting while she explained to him the story of St George and the Dragon. I know not whether this is the proper place to add that such was his tenderness, and such his gratitude, that he took a journey to Lichfield 57 years afterwards to support and comfort her in her last illness; he had enquired for his nurse, and she was dead. The recollection of such reading as had delighted him in his infancy, made him always persist in fancying that it was the only reading which could please an infant; and he used to condemn me for putting Newbery’s1 books into their hands as too trifling to engage their attention. ‘Babies do not want [said he] to hear about babies; they like to be told of giants and castles, and of somewhat which can stretch and stimulate their little minds.’ When in answer I would urge the numerous editions and quick sale of Tommy Prudent or Goody Two Shoes: ‘Remember always [said he] that the parents buy the books, and that the children never read them.’ Mrs Barbauld,2 however, had his best praise, and deserved it; no man was more struck than Mr Johnson with voluntary descent from possible splendour to painful duty.
KeywordsPoor People Usual Time Proper Place Parental Authority Publisher Limited
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