Reading Experience Database

Basic Search

Advanced Search

Record 21802

Reading Experience:

'On Sunday, April 12, I found him at home before dinner; Dr. Dodd's poem entitled "Thoughts in Prison" was lying upon his table. This appearing to me an extraordinary effort by a man who was in Newgate for a capital crime, I was desirous to hear Johnson's opinion of it: to my surprize, he told me he had not read a line of it. I took up the book and read a passage to him. JOHNSON. "Pretty well, if you are previously disposed to like them". I read another passage, with which he was better pleased. He then took the book into his own hands, and having looked at the prayer at the end of it, he said, "What evidence is there that this was composed the night before he suffered? I do not believe it". He then read aloud where he prays for the King, &c. and observed, "Sir, do you think that a man the night before he is to be hanged cares for the succession of a royal family?--Though, he may have composed this prayer, then. A man who has been canting all his life, may cant to the last.--And yet a man who has been refused a pardon after so much petitioning, would hardly be praying thus fervently for the King".
Century: 1700-1799
Date: 12 Apr 1778
Country: England
Time: daytime: before dinner
Place: city: London
Type of Experience (Reader):
silent aloud unknown
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown
Type of Experience (Listener):
solitary in company unknown
single serial unknown

Reader/Listener/Reading Group:

Reader:James Boswell
Age Adult (18-100+)
Gender Male
Date of Birth 29 Oct 1709
Socio-economic group: Professional / academic / merchant / farmer
Occupation: writer and lawyer
Religion: n/a
Country of origin: Scotland
Country of experience: England
Listeners present if any:
(e.g. family, servants, friends, workmates)
Dr Johnson
Additional comments: n/a


Text Being Read:

Author: William Dodd
Title: Thoughts in Prison
Genre: Poetry
Form of Text: Print: Book
Publication details: n/a
Provenance: read in situ
read at Dr Johnson's house


Source Information:

Record ID: 21802  
Source - Print  
  Author: James Boswell
  Editor: R.W. Chapman
  Title: Life of Johnson
  Place of Publication: Oxford
  Date of Publication: 1980
  Vol: n/a
  Page: 930
  Additional comments: n/a

Citation: James Boswell, R.W. Chapman (ed.), Life of Johnson (Oxford, 1980), p. 930,, accessed: 06 June 2023

Additional comments:

Originally published 1791. Dodd was a clergyman hanged for fraud, whom Johnson had tried to help.



Reading Experience Database version 2.0.  Page updated: 27th Apr 2016  3:15pm (GMT)