Quiz about Johnsonia
Quiz about Johnsonia

Johnsonia Trivia Quiz


Possibly the largest (in more than one sense) English 18th century writer, Samuel Johnson's imprint is still visible today. Here are some notable facts and phrases. Enjoy!

A multiple-choice quiz by manishma. Estimated time: 6 mins.
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Author
manishma
Time
6 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
114,139
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
15
Difficulty
Tough
Avg Score
9 / 15
Plays
258
This quiz has 2 formats: you can play it as a or as shown below.
Scroll down to the bottom for the answer key.
1. In 1765 Johnson met the Thrales and became a frequent house guest. What was Henry Thrale's occupation? Hint

Brewer
Clergyman
Publisher
Textile merchant

2. Johnson's closest female friend was undoubtedly Hester Thrale. Born Hester Lynch Salusbury, after her husband Henry Thrale's death she remarried - to Johnson's dismay - Gabriel Mario Piozzi, an Italian singer and composer. The aristocratic Hester Thrale was also the great-granddaughter of __. Hint

Elizabeth I
Richard II
Henry VII
Mary Tudor

3. On being asked whether he reckoned Derrick or Smart the best poet, Johnson replied: "Sir, there's no settling the point of precedency between __." Hint

An ant and an ant-eater
A hare and a rabbit
An idiot and a blockhead
A louse and a flea

4. Early in his career Johnson was a Parliamentary reporter for the satirical Gentleman's Magazine. What were his reportings called? Hint

Neighing from the Land of Houyhnhnms
Arguments at a Public House
Deliberations of the General Assembly
Debates in the Senate of Lilliput

5. Who or what was the first Whig according to Samuel Johnson? Hint

Louis XIV
A stockjobber
The devil
Oliver Cromwell

6. "You could not stand five minutes with that man beneath a shed while it rained, but you must be convinced you had been standing with the greatest man you had ever yet seen." Who was this extraordinary man whose stream of mind was perpetual according to Johnson? Hint

William Shakespeare
Hermann Boerhaave
John Locke
Edmund Burke

7. Fill in the quote: "Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be __ and little to be __."
Hint

aspired/achieved
lost/found
endured/enjoyed
avoided/spared

8. Finish the quote: "A man of genius has been seldom ruined but by __." Hint

money
himself
misfortune
a woman

9. Who did Johnson get released from debtor's prison by selling the rights of his book (for which he was thrown in there in the first place)? Hint

Samuel Richardson
Daniel Defoe
Oliver Goldsmith
Henry Fielding

10. Which Victorian historian called Boswell's "Life of Johnson" a masterpiece but dismissed the master as a reactionary? Hint

Thomas Carlyle
Sir Walter Scott
Edward Gibbon
Thomas Macaulay

11. From childhood Johnson suffered from several physical afflictions. Which ailment was spared him? Hint

scrofula
chronic bronchitis
partial blindness and deafness
cholera

12. Besides physical ailments Johnson had his share of mental idiosyncrasies, what we would now label Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Which was not one of them? Hint

singing out loud
touching lampposts
talking to himself
jumping over thresholds

13. When Boswell in one of their conversations mentions a man who believed there was no distinction between virtue and vice, Johnson retorts, "Why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons." Who were they discussing? Hint

John Wilkes
Bernard Mandeville
David Hume
Jonathan Swift

14. What was Johnson's house servant Francis Barber originally?
Hint

A priest
An undertaker
A slave
A Scotsman

15. In the allegoric "History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia" (1759) the astronomer believes he can __. Hint

see God in the sky
fly to the moon
control the weather
predict the future


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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. In 1765 Johnson met the Thrales and became a frequent house guest. What was Henry Thrale's occupation?

Answer: Brewer

Henry Thrale owned the Anchor Brewhouse, at one time the third largest beer company in England, but in 1772 almost went bankrupt. He was a Member of Parliament for Southwark from 1765 to 1780 and also became an Alderman and a Sheriff of London.
2. Johnson's closest female friend was undoubtedly Hester Thrale. Born Hester Lynch Salusbury, after her husband Henry Thrale's death she remarried - to Johnson's dismay - Gabriel Mario Piozzi, an Italian singer and composer. The aristocratic Hester Thrale was also the great-granddaughter of __.

Answer: Henry VII

"Bloody" Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's only surviving child from his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, died childless. So did her sister Elizabeth I and the 14th century king, Richard II. The latter, son of Edward, the Black Prince, died in 1400, making it rather difficult to be Hester Thrale's great-grandfather.
3. On being asked whether he reckoned Derrick or Smart the best poet, Johnson replied: "Sir, there's no settling the point of precedency between __."

Answer: A louse and a flea

Christopher Smart and Samuel Derrick were minor contemporary poets. Although Johnson liked Derrick, who was Master of Ceremonies at Bath, he mockingly called him King of Bath, adding "Had he not been a writer, he must have been sweeping the crossings in the streets, and asking halfpence from everybody that past." Smart didn't live up to his name and ended up in a mad house. Of him Johnson said, "Madness frequently discovers itself merely by unnecessary deviation from the usual modes of the world. My poor friend Smart showed the disturbance of his mind, by falling upon his knees, and saying his prayers in the street..."
4. Early in his career Johnson was a Parliamentary reporter for the satirical Gentleman's Magazine. What were his reportings called?

Answer: Debates in the Senate of Lilliput

Since the press were not allowed to attend or report Parliamentary affairs, reporters had to make up most of the debates. Though they were being satirised, some MP's had become much more elegant than they ever were in real life, so they didn't object much. Nevertheless, as an ardent Tory Johnson made sure the 'Whig dogs' didn't get the best of it.
5. Who or what was the first Whig according to Samuel Johnson?

Answer: The devil

Johnson probably disliked all of them, stockjobbers/brokers for making money without actually delivering a product or service, Cromwell for his reign of terror and Louis just for being French.
6. "You could not stand five minutes with that man beneath a shed while it rained, but you must be convinced you had been standing with the greatest man you had ever yet seen." Who was this extraordinary man whose stream of mind was perpetual according to Johnson?

Answer: Edmund Burke

All four admired men. Shakespeare is the most quoted author in Johnson's Dictionary. Johnson quoted Locke in saying, "The chief art of learning is to attempt but little at a time." On Boerhaave, the Dutch physician and botanist, Johnson wrote a praising Life, calling him learned, judicious and pious. Yet Burke is our man (and also the only contemporary here). Though in politics they 'agreed to disagree,' Johnson certainly admired Burke.

Another quote: "That fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I to see Burke now it would kill me."
7. Fill in the quote: "Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be __ and little to be __."

Answer: endured/enjoyed

He could be a pessimist at times.
8. Finish the quote: "A man of genius has been seldom ruined but by __."

Answer: himself

Johnson was not against making money in itself. For one thing it kept that ever lurking danger of idleness at bay. Nor was he such a mysogynist, despite the famous line: "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."
9. Who did Johnson get released from debtor's prison by selling the rights of his book (for which he was thrown in there in the first place)?

Answer: Oliver Goldsmith

Many authors at one time or another faced debtor's prison. Johnson, himself bailed out in 1756 by Samuel Richardson, sold the rights of Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield" to get Goldsmith out. Daniel Defoe was such a failure in business that he went bankrupt and was thrown into debtor's prison.

The publication of "Joseph Andrews" kept Henry Fielding out of debtor's prison, though his father died in one.
10. Which Victorian historian called Boswell's "Life of Johnson" a masterpiece but dismissed the master as a reactionary?

Answer: Thomas Macaulay

Macaulay's 1831 review of a new edition of James Boswell's "Life of Johnson" had great influence on how Johnson was viewed - in fact, says Jack Lynch, "to this day, Johnsonian scholars are fighting to undo some of the damage inflicted."
Carlyle extolled Johnson in his "Heroes and Hero Worship," approvingly quoting him: "No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men."
Gibbon, author of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" was a member of Dr Johnson's Club, albeit not a very popular one.
Scott, finally, was more into "Gothic" novels than late-Augustan writers.
11. From childhood Johnson suffered from several physical afflictions. Which ailment was spared him?

Answer: cholera

Baby Sam had infected glands from being fed milk from a tuberculotic cow, causing blindness in his left eye, deafness in his right ear and scrofula. Consequently, Johnson derived little pleasure from music or theatre. For scrofula he was taken to London at the age three to be touched by the queen.

This rather made things worse, for it literally scarred him for life, which could have been prevented with proper treatment. Besides all these, he also developed dropsy, gout, arthritis, gallstones, chronic indigestion and Tourette's syndrome.

While he had much to complain about Johnson was also a hypochondriac.
12. Besides physical ailments Johnson had his share of mental idiosyncrasies, what we would now label Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Which was not one of them?

Answer: singing out loud

Johnson had a melancholy disposition, bordering on depression and feelings of worthlessness. This caused him to reflect, "When I survey my past life, I discover nothing but a barren waste of time, with some disorders of the body, and disturbances of the mind, very near to madness, which I hope He that made me will suffer to extenuate many faults, and excuse many deficiencies." Apart from touching every lamppost he passed (and going back if he missed one) Johnson had constant tics, noises, gesticulations and rituals.

He would measure his footsteps on leaving a room; at thresholds he would make all kinds of hand motions and rituals; he wouldn't step on cracks between paving stones. Singing does not seem to have been one, though (involuntary) whistling was.

But he wasn't alone - for famous depressives, see http://mixednuts.net/depression-famous2.html
13. When Boswell in one of their conversations mentions a man who believed there was no distinction between virtue and vice, Johnson retorts, "Why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons." Who were they discussing?

Answer: David Hume

Hume was one of Johnson's betes noires. Johnson especially found his atheism horrifying.
At Oxford Johnson read and was impressed by Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, in which the author argues that what are commonly considered virtues are in fact disguised vices.
Wilkes, a libertine and champion of liberty of Whig persuasion, and Johnson were considered arch-enemies. This seems an overstatement; Boswell had even arranged two meetings between them, which apparently were very enjoyable.
Swift's cynicism and downright misanthropy were objectionable to our hero.
14. What was Johnson's house servant Francis Barber originally?

Answer: A slave

Francis was born a slave in Jamaica. He became Johnson's manservant in 1752 and lived with his wife Elizabeth at Johnson's house in Bolt Court untilk his master's death in 1784. Johnson apparently disliked being waited on and is said to have treated Francis as his son, sending him to grammar school and eventually making him an heir.
15. In the allegoric "History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia" (1759) the astronomer believes he can __.

Answer: control the weather

The astronomer believes that long study has given him the power to control wind and rain. "The sun has listened to my dictates, and passed, from tropick to tropick, by my direction; the clouds, at my call have poured their waters." Rasselas manages to cure him from these delusions.
Source: Author manishma

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