Sunday, March 11, 2018

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 208

Edited by Dan Leo, Associate Professor of 18th Century British Social Studies, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Poetic Footman, the Olney Community College Press.

Art direction by rhoda penmarq (layout, pencils, inks, springwater-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for the penmarq™ studios, a wholly owned subsidiary of the bob’s bowery bar™ corporation.

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'His friend Garrick was so busy in conducting the drama, that they could not have so much intercourse as Mr. Garrick used to profess an anxious wish that there should be. There might, indeed, be something in the contemptuous severity as to the merit of acting, which his old preceptor nourished in himself, that would mortify Garrick after the great applause which he received from the audience. For though Johnson said of him, "Sir, a man who has a nation to admire him every night, may well be expected to be somewhat elated;" yet he would treat theatrical matters with a ludicrous slight. He mentioned one evening, "I met David coming off the stage, drest in a woman's riding-hood, when he acted in The Wonder; I came full upon him, and I believe he was not pleased."'

'He would allow no settled indulgence of idleness upon principle, and always repelled every attempt to urge excuses for it. A friend one day suggested, that it was not wholesome to study soon after dinner.  'JOHNSON. "Ah, Sir, don't give way to such a fancy. At one time of my life I had taken it into my head that it was not wholesome to study between breakfast and dinner."'

'Dr. Goldsmith, upon occasion of Mrs. Lennox's bringing out a play, said to Dr. Johnson at the CLUB, that a person had advised him to go and hiss it, because she had attacked Shakspeare in her book called Shakspeare Illustrated.  'JOHNSON. "And did not you tell him he was a rascal?" 
'GOLDSMITH. "No, Sir, I did not. Perhaps he might not mean what he said." 
'JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, if he lied, it is a different thing." 
'Colman slily said, (but it is believed Dr. Johnson did not hear him,) "Then the proper expression should have been,— Sir, if you don't lie, you're a rascal."'

'His affection for Topham Beauclerk was so great, that when Beauclerk was labouring under that severe illness which at last occasioned his death, Johnson said, (with a voice faultering with emotion,) "Sir, I would walk to the extent of the diameter of the earth to save Beauclerk."' 'One night at the CLUB he produced a translation of an Epitaph which Lord Elibank had written in English, for his Lady, and requested of Johnson to turn into Latin for him. When he had read it once aloud, and there had been a general approbation expressed by the company, he addressed himself to Mr. Dyer in particular, and said, "Sir, I beg to have your judgement, for I know your nicety."

Dyer then very properly desired to read it over again; which having done, he pointed out an incongruity in one of the sentences. Johnson immediately assented to the observation, and said, "Sir, this is owing to an alteration of a part of the sentence, from the form in which I had first written it; and I believe, Sir, you may have remarked, that the making a partial change, without a due regard to the general structure of the sentence, is a very frequent cause of errour in composition."'

'Johnson was well acquainted with Mr. Dossie, authour of a treatise on Agriculture; and said of him, "Sir, of the objects which the Society of Arts have chiefly in view, the chymical effects of bodies operating upon other bodies, he knows more than almost any man." Johnson, in order to give Mr. Dossie his vote to be a member of this Society, paid up an arrear which had run on for two years. 

'On this occasion he mentioned a circumstance as characteristick of the Scotch. One of that nation, (said he,) who had been a candidate, against whom I had voted, came up to me with a civil salutation. Now, Sir, this is their way. An Englishman would have stomached it, and been sulky, and never have taken further notice of you; but a Scotchman, Sir, though you vote nineteen times against him, will accost you with equal complaisance after each time, and the twentieth time, Sir, he will get your vote.'

'Talking on the subject of toleration, one day when some friends were with him in his study, he made his usual remark, that the State has a right to regulate the religion of the people, who are the children of the State. A clergyman having readily acquiesced in this, Johnson, who loved discussion, observed, "But, Sir, you must go round to other States than our own. You do not know what a Bramin has to say for himself. In short, Sir, I have got no further than this: Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test."'

'A man, he observed, should begin to write soon; for, if he waits till his judgement is matured, his inability, through want of practice to express his conceptions, will make the disproportion so great between what he sees, and what he can attain, that he will probably be discouraged from writing at all. As a proof of the justness of this remark, we may instance what is related of the great Lord Granville; that after he had written his letter, giving an account of the battle of Dettingen, he said, "Here is a letter, expressed in terms not good enough for a tallow-chandler to have used.'"

'Talking of a Court-martial that was sitting upon a very momentous publick occasion, he expressed much doubt of an enlightened decision; and said, that perhaps there was not a member of it, who in the whole course of his life, had ever spent an hour by himself in balancing probabilities.' 'Goldsmith one day brought to the CLUB a printed Ode, which he, with others, had been hearing read by its authour in a publick room at the rate of five shillings each for admission. One of the company having read it aloud, Dr. Johnson said, "Bolder words and more timorous meaning, I think never were brought together."'

'Talking of Gray's Odes, he said, "They are forced plants raised in a hot-bed; and they are poor plants; they are but cucumbers after all."  'A gentleman present, who had been running down Ode-writing in general, as a bad species of poetry, unluckily said, "Had they been literally cucumbers, they had been better things than Odes."
'"Yes, Sir, (said Johnson,) for a hog."'

'He used to quote, with great warmth, the saying of Aristotle recorded by Diogenes Laertius; that there was the same difference between one learned and unlearned, as between the living and the dead.' 'It is very remarkable, that he retained in his memory very slight and trivial, as well as important things. As an instance of this, it seems that an inferiour domestick of the Duke of Leeds had attempted to celebrate his Grace's marriage in such homely rhimes as he could make; and this curious composition having been sung to Dr. Johnson he got it by heart, and used to repeat it in a very pleasant manner. Two of the stanzas were these:—
"When the Duke of Leeds shall married be
  To a fine young lady of high quality
  How happy will that gentlewoman be
  In his Grace of Leeds good company.  

 She shall have all that's fine and fair,
And the best of silk and sattin shall wear;
And ride in a coach to take the air,
And have a house in St. James's-square."

To hear a man, of the weight and dignity of Johnson, repeating such humble attempts at poetry, had a very amusing effect. He, however, seriously observed of the last stanza repeated by him, that it nearly comprized all the advantages that wealth can give.'

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 207

Edited by Dan Leo, Associate Professor of 18th Century British Theatrical Farce, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: Mrs. Clive’s Request, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (layout, pencils, inks, steel engravings by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas ) for penmarq™ globalist productions.

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Being disappointed in my hopes of meeting Johnson this year, so that I could hear none of his admirable sayings, I shall compensate for this want by inserting a collection of them, for which I am indebted to my worthy friend Mr. Langton, whose kind communications have been separately interwoven in many parts of this work. Very few articles of this collection were committed to writing by himself, he not having that habit; which he regrets, and which those who know the numerous opportunities he had of gathering the rich fruits of Johnsonian wit and wisdom, must ever regret.

I however found, in conversations with him, that a good store of Johnsoniana treasured in his mind; and I compared it to Herculaneum, or some old Roman field, which when dug, fully rewards the labour employed. The authenticity of every article is unquestionable. For the expression, I, who wrote them down in his presence, am partly answerable.

'It may be questioned, whether there is not some mistake as to the methods of employing the poor, seemingly on a supposition that there is a certain portion of work left undone for want of persons to do it; but if that is otherwise, and all the materials we have are actually worked up, or all the manufactures we can use or dispose of are already executed, then what is given to the poor, who are to be set at work, must be taken from some who now have it.

We may apply to well-meaning, but misjudging persons in particulars of this nature, what Giannone said to a monk, who wanted what he called to convert him: "Tu sei santo, ma tu non sei filosofo" {“You are holy, but you are not a philosopher” – Editor} — It is an unhappy circumstance that one might give away five hundred pounds in a year to those that importune in the streets, and not do any good.'

'There is nothing more likely to betray a man into absurdity than condescension; when he seems to suppose his understanding too powerful for his company.'

'Having asked Mr. Langton if his father and mother had sat for their pictures, which he thought it right for each generation of a family to do, and being told they had opposed it, he said, "Sir, among the anfractuosities of the human mind, I know not if it may not be one, that there is a superstitious reluctance to sit for a picture."' {Johnson, in his Dictionary, defines Anfractuousness as ‘Fulness of windings and turnings’. – Editor}

'John Gilbert Cooper related, that soon after the publication of his Dictionary, Garrick being asked by Johnson what people said of it, told him, that among other animadversions, it was objected that he cited authorities which were beneath the dignity of such a work, and mentioned Richardson. "Nay, (said Johnson,) I have done worse than that: I have cited thee, David."'

'Talking of expence, he observed, with what munificence a great merchant will spend his money, both from his having it at command, and from his enlarged views by calculation of a good effect upon the whole. "Whereas (said he) you will hardly ever find a country gentleman who is not a good deal disconcerted at an unexpected occasion for his being obliged to lay out ten pounds."'

'When in good humour he would talk of his own writings with a wonderful frankness and candour, and would even criticise them with the closest severity. One day, having read over one of his Ramblers, Mr. Langton asked him, how he liked that paper; he shook his head, and answered, "too wordy." At another time, when one was reading his tragedy of Irene to a company at a house in the country, he left the room; and somebody having asked him the reason of this, he replied, Sir, I thought it had been better.'

'Talking of a point of delicate scrupulosity of moral conduct, he said to Mr. Langton, "Men of harder minds than ours will do many things from which you and I would shrink; yet, Sir, they will perhaps do more good in life than we. But let us try to help one another. If there be a wrong twist it may be set right. It is not probable that two people can be wrong the same way."'

'Of the Preface to Capel's Shakspeare, he said, "If the man would have come to me, I would have endeavoured to endow his purposes with words; for as it is, he doth gabble monstrously."'

'He related, that he had once in a dream a contest of wit with some other person, and that he was very much mortified by imagining that his opponent had the better of him. "Now, (said he,) one may mark here the effect of sleep in weakening the power of reflection; for had not my judgement failed me, I should have seen, that the wit of this supposed antagonist, by whose superiority I felt myself depressed, was as much furnished by me, as that which I thought I had been uttering in my own character."'

'Of Sir Joshua Reynolds, he said, "Sir, I know no man who has passed through life with more observation than Reynolds."'

'He repeated to Mr. Langton, with great energy, our SAVIOUR'S gracious expression concerning the forgiveness of Mary Magdalen, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." He said, "the manner of this dismission is exceedingly affecting."'

'He thus defined the difference between physical and moral truth; "Physical truth, is, when you tell a thing as it actually is. Moral truth, is, when you tell a thing sincerely and precisely as it appears to you. I say such a one walked across the street; if he really did so, I told a physical truth. If I thought so, though I should have been mistaken, I told a moral truth."'

'Talking of the Farce of High Life below Stairs, he said, "Here is a Farce, which is really very diverting when you see it acted; and yet one may read it, and not know that one has been reading any thing at all."'

'He used at one time to go occasionally to the green room of Drury-lane Theatre, where he was much regarded by the players, and was very easy and facetious with them. He had a very high opinion of Mrs. Clive's comick powers, and conversed more with her than with any of them. He said, "Clive, Sir, is a good thing to sit by; she always understands what you say." And she said of him, "I love to sit by Dr. Johnson; he always entertains me." 

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part 208

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 206

Edited by Dan Leo, Assistant Professor of 18th Century British Same-Sex Platonic Friendship Studies, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: Mrs. Boswell’s Dilemma, the Olney Community College Press.

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My next letters to him were dated August 24, September 6, and October 1, and from them I extract the following passages:—

'My brother David and I find the long indulged fancy of our comfortable meeting again at Auchinleck, so well realised, that it in some degree confirms the pleasing hope of O! preclarum diem! {“Oh! Beautiful day!” – Editor} in a future state.'

'I beg that you may never again harbour a suspicion of my indulging a peevish humour, or playing tricks; you will recollect that when I confessed to you, that I had once been intentionally silent to try your regard, I gave you my word and honour that I would not do so again.'

'I rejoice to hear of your good state of health; I pray GOD to continue it long. I have often said, that I would willingly have ten years added to my life, to have ten taken from yours; I mean, that I would be ten years older to have you ten years younger.

But let me be thankful for the years during which I have enjoyed your friendship, and please myself with the hopes of enjoying it many years to come in this state of being, trusting always, that in another state, we shall meet never to be separated. Of this we can form no notion; but the thought, though indistinct, is delightful, when the mind is calm and clear.'

'The riots in London were certainly horrible; but you give me no account of your own situation, during the barbarous anarchy. A description of it by DR. JOHNSON would be a great painting; you might write another London, a Poem.'

'I am charmed with your condescending affectionate expression, "let us keep each other's kindness by all the means in our power;" my revered Friend! how elevating is it to my mind, that I am found worthy to be a companion to Dr. Samuel Johnson! All that you have said in grateful praise of Mr. Walmsley, I have long thought of you; but we are both Tories, which has a very general influence upon our sentiments.

I hope that you will agree to meet me at York, about the end of this month; or if you will come to Carlisle, that would be better still, in case the Dean be there. Please to consider, that to keep each other's kindness, we should every year have that free and intimate communication of mind which can be had only when we are together. We should have both our solemn and our pleasant talk.'

'I write now for the third time, to tell you that my desire for our meeting this autumn, is much increased. I wrote to Squire Godfrey Bosville, my Yorkshire chief, that I should, perhaps, pay him a visit, as I was to hold a conference with Dr. Johnson at York. I give you my word and honour that I said not a word of his inviting you; but he wrote to me as follows:— 

'"I need not tell you I shall be happy to see you here the latter end of this month, as you propose; and I shall likewise be in hopes that you will persuade Dr. Johnson to finish the conference here. It will add to the favour of your own company, if you prevail upon such an associate, to assist your observations.

I have often been entertained with his writings, and I once belonged to a club of which he was a member, and I never spent an evening there, but I heard something from him well worth remembering."

'We have thus, my dear Sir, good comfortable quarters in the neighbourhood of York, where you may be assured we shall be heartily welcome. I pray you then resolve to set out; and let not the year 1780 be a blank in our social calendar, and in that record of wisdom and wit, which I keep with so much diligence, to your honour, and the instruction and delight of others.'

Mr. Thrale had now another contest for the representation in parliament of the borough of Southwark, and Johnson kindly lent him his assistance, by writing advertisements and letters for him. I shall insert one as a specimen:



'A new Parliament being now called, I again solicit the honour of being elected for one of your representatives; and solicit it with the greater confidence, as I am not conscious of having neglected my duty, or of having acted otherwise than as becomes the independent representative of independent constituents; superiour to fear, hope, and expectation, who has no private purposes to promote, and whose prosperity is involved in the prosperity of his country.

As my recovery from a very severe distemper is not yet perfect, I have declined to attend the Hall, and hope an omission so necessary will not be harshly censured.

'I can only send my respectful wishes, that all your deliberations may tend to the happiness of the kingdom, and the peace of the borough. 

'I am, Gentlemen, 

'Your most faithful 

'And obedient servant, 


'Southwark, Sept. 5, 1780.'

On his birth-day, Johnson has this note:— 

'I am now beginning the seventy-second year of my life, with more strength of body, and greater vigour of mind, than I think is common at that age.' 

But still he complains of sleepless nights and idle days, and forgetfulness, or neglect of resolutions. He thus pathetically expresses himself,— 

'Surely I shall not spend my whole life with my own total disapprobation.'



'I am sorry to write you a letter that will not please you, and yet it is at last what I resolve to do. This year must pass without an interview; the summer has been foolishly lost, like many other of my summers and winters. I hardly saw a green field, but staid in town to work, without working much.

'Mr. Thrale's loss of health has lost him the election; he is now going to Brighthelmston, and expects me to go with him; and how long I shall stay, I cannot tell. I do not much like the place, but yet I shall go, and stay while my stay is desired. We must, therefore, content ourselves with knowing what we know as well as man can know the mind of man, that we love one another, and that we wish each other's happiness, and that the lapse of a year cannot lessen our mutual kindness.

'I was pleased to be told that I accused Mrs. Boswell unjustly, in supposing that she bears me ill-will. I love you so much, that I would be glad to love all that love you, and that you love; and I have love very ready for Mrs. Boswell, if she thinks it worthy of acceptance. I hope all the young ladies and gentlemen are well. 

'I take a great liking to your brother. He tells me that his father received him kindly, but not fondly; however, you seem to have lived well enough at Auchinleck, while you staid. Make your father as happy as you can.

'You lately told me of your health: I can tell you in return, that my health has been for more than a year past, better than it has been for many years before. Perhaps it may please GOD to give us some time together before we are parted.

'I am, dear Sir,

'Yours most affectionately, 


'October 17, 1780.'

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part 207

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 205

Edited by Dan Leo, Associate Professor of 18th Century British Epistolary Literature, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Decayed Gentlewoman, the Olney Community College Press.

Artwork, design and layout personally supervised by rhoda penmarq (pencils, inks, biodegradable plant-based paints by eddie el greco; lettering by roy dismas) for penmarqdetriomphe™ productions.

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'Edinburgh, April 29, 1780. 


'This will be delivered to you by my brother David, on his return from Spain. You will be glad to see the man who vowed to "stand by the old castle of Auchinleck, with heart, purse, and sword;" that romantick family solemnity devised by me, of which you and I talked with complacency upon the spot. I trust that twelve years of absence have not lessened his feudal attachment; and that you will find him worthy of being introduced to your acquaintance. 

'I have the honour to be,

'With affectionate veneration, 

'My dear Sir, 

'Your most faithful humble servant, 


Johnson received him very politely, and has thus mentioned him in a letter to Mrs. Thrale: 

'I have had with me a brother of Boswell's, a Spanish merchant, whom the war has driven from his residence at Valentia; he is gone to see his friends, and will find Scotland but a sorry place after twelve years' residence in a happier climate. He is a very agreeable man, and speaks no Scotch.'



'More years than I have any delight to reckon, have passed since you and I saw one another; of this, however, there is no reason for making any reprehensory complaint – sic fata ferunt. But methinks there might pass some small interchange of regard between us.

If you say, that I ought to have written, I now write; and I write to tell you, that I have much kindness for you and Mrs. Beattie; and that I wish your health better, and your life long. Try change of air, and come a few degrees Southwards: a softer climate may do you both good; winter is coming on; and London will be warmer, and gayer, and busier, and more fertile of amusement than Aberdeen. 'My health is better; but that will be little in the balance, when I tell you that Mrs. Montagu has been very ill, and is I doubt now but weakly.

Mr. Thrale has been very dangerously disordered; but is much better, and I hope will totally recover. He has withdrawn himself from business the whole summer. Sir Joshua and his sister are well; and Mr. Davies has got great success as an authour, generated by the corruption of a bookseller. More news I have not to tell you, and therefore you must be contented with hearing, what I know not whether you much wish to hear, that I am, Sir, 

'Your most humble servant, 


'Bolt-court, Fleet-street, August 21, 1780.'



'I find you have taken one of your fits of taciturnity, and have resolved not to write till you are written to; it is but a peevish humour, but you shall have your way.

'I have sat at home in Bolt-court, all the summer, thinking to write the Lives, and a great part of the time only thinking. Several of them, however, are done, and I still think to do the rest.

'Mr. Thrale and his family have, since his illness, passed their time first at Bath, and then at Brighthelmston; but I have been at neither place. I would have gone to Lichfield, if I could have had time, and I might have had time if I had been active; but I have missed much, and done little.

'In the late disturbances, Mr. Thrale's house and stock were in great danger; the mob was pacified at their first invasion, with about fifty pounds in drink and meat; and at their second, were driven away by the soldiers. Mr. Strahan got a garrison into his house, and maintained them a fortnight; he was so frighted that he removed part of his goods. Mrs. Williams took shelter in the country.

'I know not whether I shall get a ramble this autumn; it is now about the time when we were travelling. I have, however, better health than I had then, and hope you and I may yet shew ourselves on some part of Europe, Asia, or Africa. In the mean time let us play no trick, but keep each other's kindness by all means in our power.

'The bearer of this is Dr. Dunbar, of Aberdeen, who has written and published a very ingenious book, and who I think has a kindness for me, and will, when he knows you, have a kindness for you.

'You are afraid of falling into some improprieties in the daily service by reading to an audience that requires no exactness. Your fear, I hope, secures you from danger. They who contract absurd habits are such as have no fear. It is impossible to do the same thing very often, without some peculiarity of manner: but that manner may be good or bad, and a little care will at least preserve it from being bad: to make it good, there must, I think, be something of natural or casual felicity, which cannot be taught. 

'Your present method of making your sermons seems very judicious. Few frequent preachers can be supposed to have sermons more their own than yours will be. Take care to register, somewhere or other, the authours from whom your several discourses are borrowed; and do not imagine that you shall always remember, even what perhaps you now think it impossible to forget.

'My advice, however, is, that you attempt, from time to time, an original sermon; and in the labour of composition, do not burthen your mind with too much at once; do not exact from yourself at one effort of excogitation, propriety of thought and elegance of expression. Invent first, and then embellish.

The production of something, where nothing was before, is an act of greater energy than the expansion or decoration of the thing produced. Set down diligently your thoughts as they rise, in the first words that occur; and, when you have matter, you will easily give it form: nor, perhaps, will this method be always necessary; for by habit, your thoughts and diction will flow together.

'The composition of sermons is not very difficult: the divisions not only help the memory of the hearer, but direct the judgement of the writer; they supply sources of invention, and keep every part in its proper place.

'What I like least in your letter is your account of the manners of your parish; from which I gather, that it has been long neglected by the parson. The Dean of Carlisle, who was then a little rector in Northamptonshire, told me, that it might be discerned whether or no there was a clergyman resident in a parish by the civil or savage manner of the people. Such a congregation as yours stands in need of much reformation; and I would not have you think it impossible to reform them. A very savage parish was civilised by a decayed gentlewoman, who came among them to teach a petty school. My learned friend Dr. Wheeler of Oxford, when he was a young man, had the care of a neighbouring parish for fifteen pounds a year, which he was never paid; but he counted it a convenience that it compelled him to make a sermon weekly.

One woman he could not bring to the communion; and, when he reproved or exhorted her, she only answered, that she was no scholar. He was advised to set some good woman or man of the parish, a little wiser than herself, to talk to her in a language level to her mind. Such honest, I may call them holy artifices, must be practised by every clergyman; for all means must be tried by which souls may be saved. Talk to your people, however, as much as you can; and you will find, that the more frequently you converse with them upon religious subjects, the more willingly they will attend, and the more submissively they will learn.

A clergyman's diligence always makes him venerable. I think I have now only to say, that in the momentous work you have undertaken, I pray GOD to bless you.

'I am, Sir, 

'Your most humble servant, 


'Bolt-court, Aug. 30, 1780.'

classix comix™is brought to you by Bob’s Bowery Bar, providing spiritous and fermented drinks and hearty comestibles at astoundingly reasonable prices in an atmosphere of good cheer and fellowship: “One needn’t be a communicant of one of the Christian faiths to partake of the special Lenten Menu at my favorite urban oasis Bob’s Bowery Bar! Come on in and try the seasonal Bob’s Mom’s Seafood Special: a great platter piled high with deep-fried cod balls, quahogs, squid ‘n’ eel, and a mélange of likewise deep-fried carrots, rutabagas ‘n’ cauliflower, served with your choice of potato or sweet-potato fries and Bob’s special Hellfire Sauce! Goes swell with a brimming imperial pint of Bob’s famous basement-brewed house bock.”

– Horace P. Sternwall, host and narrator of Bob’s Bowery Bar Presents Philip Morris Commander’s “Blanche Weinberg: Lady Psychiatrist”, broadcast live 8pm Sundays {EST} exclusively on the Dumont Television Network. This week’s play:A Cactus Grows in Brooklyn, by Hélène P. Scaramouche, starring Kitty Carlisle as “Dr. Blanche”, with special guest star Thelma Ritter as “Miss Moople”.) 

part 206