Thursday, November 27, 2014


by Edgar A Guest

illustrated by roy dismas

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still

Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.
Home from the east land an’ home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.

Out of the sham of the cities afar
We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,
Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,

Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 60

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Horace P. Sternwall Professor of Orthography and Calligraphy, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Hypochondriacal Hypocrite, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrations by rhoda penmarq inks and lettering by by eddie el greco, coloring by roy dismas); a penmarq studios™/sheldon leonard productions™ co-production.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

About this time he was afflicted with a very severe return of the hypochondriack disorder, which was ever lurking about him. He was so ill, as, notwithstanding his remarkable love of company, to be entirely averse to society, the most fatal symptom of that malady.

Dr. Adams told me, that as an old friend he was admitted to visit him, and that he found him in a deplorable state, sighing, groaning, talking to himself, and restlessly walking from room to room. He then used this emphatical expression of the misery which he felt:

'I would consent to have a limb amputated to recover my spirits.’

Talking to himself was, indeed, one of his singularities ever since I knew him. I was certain that he was frequently uttering pious ejaculations; for fragments of the Lord's Prayer have been distinctly overheard. His friend Mr. Thomas Davies, of whom Churchill says,

'That Davies hath a very pretty wife,'

when Dr. Johnson muttered 'lead us not into temptation,' used with waggish and gallant humour to whisper Mrs. Davies, 'You, my dear, are the cause of this.'

He had another particularity, of which none of his friends ever ventured to ask an explanation.

It appeared to me some superstitious habit, which he had contracted early, and from which he had never called upon his reason to disentangle him. This was his anxious care to go out or in at a door or passage by a certain number of steps from a certain point, or at least so as that either his right or his left foot, (I am not certain which,) should constantly make the first actual movement when he came close to the door or passage.

Thus I conjecture: for I have, upon innumerable occasions, observed him suddenly stop, and then seem to count his steps with a deep earnestness; and when he had neglected or gone wrong in this sort of magical movement, I have seen him go back again, put himself in a proper posture to begin the ceremony, and, having gone through it, break from his abstraction, walk briskly on, and join his companion.

A strange instance of something of this nature, even when on horseback, happened when he was in the isle of Sky. Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed him to go a good way about, rather than cross a particular alley in Leicester-fields; but this Sir Joshua imputed to his having had some disagreeable recollection associated with it.

That the most minute singularities which belonged to him, and made very observable parts of his appearance and manner, may not be omitted, it is requisite to mention, that while talking or even musing as he sat in his chair, he commonly held his head to one side towards his right shoulder, and shook it in a tremulous manner, moving his body backwards and forwards, and rubbing his left knee in the same direction, with the palm of his hand.

In the intervals of articulating he made various sounds with his mouth, sometimes as if ruminating, or what is called chewing the cud, sometimes giving a half whistle, some-times making his tongue play backwards from the roof of his mouth, as if clucking like a hen, and sometimes protruding it against his upper gums in front, as if pronouncing quickly under his breath, too, too, too: all this accompanied sometimes with a thoughtful look, but more frequently with a smile.

Generally when he had concluded a period, in the course of a dispute, by which time he was a good deal exhausted by violence and vociferation, he used to blow out his breath like a Whale. This I supposed was a relief to his lungs; and seemed in him to be a contemptuous mode of expression, as if he had made the arguments of his opponent fly like chaff before the wind.

I am fully aware how very obvious an occasion I here give for the sneering jocularity of such as have no relish of an exact likeness; which to render complete, he who draws it must not disdain the slightest strokes. But if witlings should be inclined to attack this account, let them have the candour to quote what I have offered in my defence.

(To be continued. This week’s chapter was made possible in part through a generous grant from the Bob’s Bowery Bar™ Foundation on the Arts: “Alone in the big city for the holiday? Why not stop in at Bob’s Bowery Bar at Bleecker and the Bowery and tuck into a plate of ‘Bob’s Mom’s Thanksgiving Free Range Turkey Dinner with all the ‘trimmings’?

$5 per customer, includes a complimentary schooner of Bob’s Basement-Brewed House Bock. (Offer good while supplies last.)” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of Horace P. Sternwall Presents the Bob’s Bowery Bar Mystery Theatre, exclusively on the Dumont Television Network, Sundays at 2pmt, EST.)

part 61

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 59

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Horace P. Sternwall Professor of Boswellology, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Dagenham Drabs, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrations by rhoda penmarq , with the assistance of eddie el greco and roy dismas; a penmarq studios™/david susskind productions™ co-production. 

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

Early in 1764 Johnson paid a visit to the Langton family, at their seat of Langton, in Lincolnshire, where he passed some time, much to his satisfaction. His friend Bennet Langton, it will not be doubted, did every thing in his power to make the place agreeable to so illustrious a guest; and the elder Mr. Langton and his lady, being fully capable of understanding his value, were not wanting in attention. He, however, told me, that old Mr. Langton, though a man of considerable learning, had so little allowance to make for his occasional 'laxity of talk,' that because in the course of discussion he sometimes mentioned what might be said in favour of the peculiar tenets of the Romish church, he went to his grave believing him to be of that communion. 

Johnson, during his stay at Langton, had the advantage of a good library, and saw several gentlemen of the neighbourhood. I have obtained from Mr. Langton the following particulars of this period.

He was now fully convinced that he could not have been satisfied with a country living; for, talking of a respectable clergyman in Lincolnshire, he observed, 'This man, Sir, fills up the duties of his life well. I approve of him, but could not imitate him.'

To a lady who endeavoured to vindicate herself from blame for neglecting social attention to worthy neighbours, by saying, 'I would go to them if it would do them any good,' he said, 'What good, Madam, do you expect to have in your power to do them? It is shewing them respect, and that is doing them good.'

So socially accommodating was he, that once when Mr. Langton and he were driving together in a coach, and Mr. Langton complained of being sick, he insisted that they should go out and sit on the back of it in the open air, which they did. And being sensible how strange the appearance must be, observed, that a countryman whom they saw in a field, would probably be thinking, 'If these two madmen should come down, what would become of me.’

Soon after his return to London, which was in February, was founded that CLUB which existed long without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's funeral became distinguished by the title of THE LITERARY CLUB.

Sir Joshua Reynolds had the merit of being the first proposer of it, to which Johnson acceded, and the original members were, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent, Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins. They met at the Turk's Head, in Gerrard-street, Soho, one evening in every week, at seven, and generally continued their conversation till a pretty late hour.

Sir John Hawkins represents himself as a 'seceder' from this society, and assigns as the reason of his 'withdrawing' himself from it, that its late hours were inconsistent with his domestick arrangements. In this he is not accurate;

for the fact was, that he one evening attacked Mr. Burke, in so rude a manner, that all the company testified their displeasure; and at their next meeting his reception was such, that he never came again.

He is equally inaccurate with respect to Mr. Garrick, of whom he says, 'he trusted that the least intimation of a desire to come among us, would procure him a ready admission; but in this he was mistaken. Johnson consulted me upon it; and when I could find no objection to receiving him, exclaimed,—"He will disturb us by his buffoonery;"—and afterwards so managed matters that he was never formally proposed, and, by consequence, never admitted.'

In justice both to Mr. Garrick and Dr. Johnson, I think it necessary to rectify this mis-statement. The truth is, that not very long after the institution of our club, Sir Joshua Reynolds was speaking of it to Garrick. 'I like it much, (said he,) I think I shall be of you.'

When Sir Joshua mentioned this to Dr. Johnson, he was much displeased with the actor's conceit.

'He'll be of us, (said Johnson) how does he know we will permit him? The first Duke in England has no right to hold such language.'

However, when Garrick was regularly proposed some time afterwards, Johnson, though he had taken a momentary offence at his arrogance, warmly and kindly supported him, and he was accordingly elected, was a most agreeable member, and continued to attend our meetings to the time of his death.

Mrs. Piozzi has also given a similar misrepresentation of Johnson's treatment of Garrick in this particular, as if he had used these contemptuous expressions: 'If Garrick does apply, I'll black-ball him. Surely, one ought to sit in a society like ours,

'Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player.'

I am happy to be enabled by such unquestionable authority as that of Sir Joshua Reynolds, as well as from my own knowledge, to vindicate at once the heart of Johnson and the social merit of Garrick.

In this year, except what he may have done in revising Shakspeare, we do not find that he laboured much in literature.

The ease and independence to which he had at last attained by royal munificence, increased his natural indolence. In his Meditations he thus accuses himself:—

'Good Friday, April 20, 1764.—I have made no reformation; I have lived totally useless, more sensual in thought, and more addicted to wine and meat.'

And next morning he thus feelingly complains:—

'My indolence, since my last reception of the sacrament, has sunk into grosser sluggishness, and my dissipation spread into wilder negligence. My thoughts have been clouded with sensuality; and, except that from the beginning of this year I have, in some measure, forborne excess of strong drink, my appetites have predominated over my reason. A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over me, without leaving any impression.'

He then solemnly says,

'This is not the life to which heaven is promised;'

and he earnestly resolves an amendment. 

It was his custom to observe certain days with a pious abstraction; viz. New-year's-day, the day of his wife's death, Good Friday, Easter-day, and his own birth-day. He this year says:—

'I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. 0 GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake. Amen.' 

Such a tenderness of conscience, such a fervent desire of improvement, will rarely be found. It is, surely, not decent in those who are hardened in indifference to spiritual improvement, to treat this pious anxiety of Johnson with contempt.

(To be continued. This week’s chapter was sponsored by Bob’s Bowery Bar™ at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “How well I remember my younger days as a struggling scribe, when after a hard day of pounding out stories for the penny-dreadfuls I would stagger bleary-eyed into Bob’s Bowery Bar™,

and without a word Bob would draw and serve me my ‘usual’: a refreshing schooner of his justly-famous ‘basement-brewed house bock’, and quite suddenly all was right with the world and its poor confused inhabitants.” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of The Bob’s Bowery Bar Bock Beer Theatre, exclusively on the Dumont Television Network, Saturdays at midnight, EST.)

part 60

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Selections from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: “J”

Edited by Dan Leo,Horace P. Sternwall Professor of Theology, Canasta Club Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Jocular Jackanapes; the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrations by rhoda penmarq; inks by roy dismas; lettering by eddie el greco; a penmarq studios™/sheldon leonard productions™  co-production.

to begin selections from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

for previous selection from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

to begin at the beginning of Boswell's Life of Johnson, click here

for previous chapter of Boswell's Life of Johnson, click here

to Jabber.  To talk idly; to prate without thinking; to chatter.

We scorn, for want of talk, to jabber
Of parties.


Jack Pudding. A zani; a merry Andrew.

A buffoon is called by every nation by the the name of the dish they like best: in French jean pottage, and in English jack pudding. Guardian.


Jackal. A small animal supposed to start prey for the lyon.

The mighty lyon, before whom stood the little jackal, the faithful spy of the king of beasts. Arbuth. and Pope's M. Scrib.


Jackalent. A simple sheepish fellow.

You little jackalent, have you been true to us?  Shakesp. Merry Wives of Windsor.


Jackanapes. A coxcomb; an impertinent.

People wondered how such a young upstart jackanapes should grow so pert and saucy, and take so much upon him. Arbuth.


Jackdaw. A cock daw; a bird taught to imitate the human voice.

To impose on a child to get by heart a long scroll of phrases, without any ideas, is a practice fitter for a jackdaw than for any thing that wears the shape of man. Watts.


Jacob’s Staff. A staff concealing a dagger.


Jactitation. Tossing; motion; restlessness; heaving.

If the patient be surprised with jactitation, or great oppression about the stomach, expect no relief from cordials. Harv.


Jaculation. The act of throwing missive weapons.

So hills amid' the air encounter'd hills, Hurl'd to and fro with jaculation dire. Milt. Parad. Lost.


Jade. A young woman: in irony and slight contempt

. You see now and then some handsome young jades among them: the sluts have very often white teeth and black eyes. Add.


Jadish. Unchaste; incontinent.

'Tis to no boot to be jealous of a woman; for if the humour takes her to be jadish, not all the locks and spies in nature can keep her honest. L'Estrange.


Jailbird. One who has been in jail.


Jakes. A house of office.

Some have fished the very jakes for papers left there by men of wit. Swift.


Jay. A bird.

I am highly delighted to see the jay or the thrush hopping about my walks. Spectator.


Jealousy. Suspicion in love.

But gnawing jealousy, out of their sight
Sitting alone, his bitter lips did bite.
Fairy Queen.


Joker. A jester; a merry fellow.

Thou mad'st thy first appearance in the world like a dry joker, buffoon, or jack-pudding. Dennis.


(Our illustrated version of Boswell’s Life of Johnson will resume next week. Classix Comix is sponsored in part by Bob’s Bowery Bar™, at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “Allow me to recommend the Bob’s Bowery Bar™ Welsh Rarebit:

‘Tangy Upstate Cheddar ‘n’ Bock Beer Sauce, served over “Bob’s Mom’s” homemade whole-wheat toast’ – and be sure to wash it down with a mug or two of Bob’s famous ‘basement-brewed’ house bock!” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of The Bob’s Bowery Bar Classics Theatre, exclusively on the Dumont Television Network, Sundays at 2pm, EST.)


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 58

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Horace P. Sternwall Professor of Ancient Greek and Latin Literatures, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Missing Case of Claret, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrations by rhoda penmarq ; inks by eddie el greco, lettering by roy dismas ; a penmarq studios™/jack webb productions™ co-production. 

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

While we were left by ourselves, after the Dutchman had gone to bed, Dr. Johnson talked of that studied behaviour which many have recommended and practised. He disapproved of it; and said, 'I never considered whether I should be a grave man, or a merry man, but just let inclination, for the time, have its course.’

He flattered me with some hopes that he would, in the course of the following summer, come over to Holland, and accompany me in a tour through the Netherlands.

I teized him with fanciful apprehensions of unhappiness. A moth having fluttered round the candle, and burnt itself, he laid hold of this little incident to admonish me;

saying, with a sly look, and in a solemn but quiet tone, 'That creature was its own tormentor, and I believe its name was BOSWELL.'

Next day we got to Harwich to dinner; and my passage in the packet-boat to Helvoetsluys being secured, and my baggage put on board, we dined at our inn by ourselves. I happened to say it would be terrible if he should not find a speedy opportunity of returning to London, and be confined to so dull a place.

JOHNSON. 'Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters. It would not be terrible, though I were to be detained some time here.'

The practice of using words of disproportionate magnitude, is, no doubt, too frequent every where; but, I think, most remarkable among the French, of which, all who have travelled in France must have been struck with innumerable instances.

We went and looked at the church, and having gone into it and walked up to the altar, Johnson, whose piety was constant and fervent, sent me to my knees, saying, 'Now that you are going to leave your native country, recommend yourself to the protection of your CREATOR and REDEEMER.'

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. 

I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it thus.' 

My revered friend walked down with me to the beach, where we embraced and parted with tenderness, and engaged to correspond by letters.

I said, 'I hope, Sir, you will not forget me in my absence.'

JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, it is more likely you should forget me, than that I should forget you.'

As the vessel put out to sea, I kept my eyes upon him for a considerable time, while he remained rolling his majestick frame in his usual manner: and at last I perceived him walk back into the town, and he disappeared.

Utrecht seeming at first very dull to me, after the animated scenes of London, my spirits were grievously affected; and I wrote to Johnson a plaintive and desponding letter, to which he paid no regard. Afterwards, when I had acquired a firmer tone of mind, I wrote him a second letter, expressing much anxiety to hear from him.

At length I received the following epistle, which was of important service to me, and, I trust, will be so to many others.



'You are not to think yourself forgotten, or criminally neglected, that you have had yet no letter from me. I love to see my friends, to hear from them, to talk to them, and to talk of them; but it is not without a considerable effort of resolution that I prevail upon myself to write. I would not, however, gratify my own indolence by the omission of any important duty, or any office of real kindness.

'To tell you that I am or am not well, that I have or have not been in the country, that I drank your health in the room in which we sat last together, and that your acquaintance continue to speak of you with their former kindness, topicks with which those letters are commonly filled which are written only for the sake of writing, I seldom shall think worth communicating;

but if I can have it in my power to calm any harassing disquiet, to excite any virtuous desire, to rectify any important opinion, or fortify any generous resolution, you need not doubt but I shall at least wish to prefer the pleasure of gratifying a friend much less esteemed than yourself, before the gloomy calm of idle vacancy.

Whether I shall easily arrive at an exact punctuality of correspondence, I cannot tell. I shall, at present, expect that you will receive this in return for two which I have had from you. The first, indeed, gave me an account so hopeless of the state of your mind, that it hardly admitted or deserved an answer; by the second I was much better pleased: and the pleasure will still be increased by such a narrative of the progress of your studies, as may evince the continuance of an equal and rational application of your mind to some useful enquiry.

'You will, perhaps, wish to ask, what study I would recommend. I shall not speak of theology, because it ought not to be considered as a question whether you shall endeavour to know the will of GOD.

'I shall, therefore, consider only such studies as we are at liberty to pursue or to neglect; and of these I know not how you will make a better choice, than by studying the civil law, as your father advises, and the ancient languages, as you had determined for yourself; at least resolve, while you remain in any settled residence, to spend a certain number of hours every day amongst your books. The dissipation of thought, of which you complain, is nothing more than the vacillation of a mind suspended between different motives, and changing its direction as any motive gains or loses strength. If you can but kindle in your mind any strong desire, if you can but keep predominant any wish for some particular excellence or attainment, the gusts of imagination will break away, without any effect upon your conduct, and commonly without any traces left upon the memory.

'There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart a desire of distinction, which inclines every man first to hope, and then to believe, that Nature has given him something peculiar to himself. This vanity makes one mind nurse aversion, and another actuate desires, till they rise by art much above their original state of power; and as affectation, in time, improves to habit, they at last tyrannise over him who at first encouraged them only for show. 

‘Every desire is a viper in the bosom, who, while he was chill, was harmless; but when warmth gave him strength, exerted it in poison. You know a gentleman, who, when first he set his foot in the gay world, as he prepared himself to whirl in the vortex of pleasure, imagined a total indifference and universal negligence to be the most agreeable concomitants of youth, and the strongest indication of an airy temper and a quick apprehension.

Vacant to every object, and sensible of every impulse, he thought that all appearance of diligence would deduct something from the reputation of genius;

and hoped that he should appear to attain, amidst all the ease of carelessness, and all the tumult of diversion, that knowledge and those accomplishments which mortals of the common fabrick obtain only by mute abstraction and solitary drudgery. He tried this scheme of life awhile, was made weary of it by his sense and his virtue; he then wished to return to his studies; and finding long habits of idleness and pleasure harder to be cured than he expected, still willing to retain his claim to some extraordinary prerogatives, resolved the common consequences of irregularity into an unalterable decree of destiny, and concluded that Nature had originally formed him incapable of rational employment.

'Let all such fancies, illusive and destructive, be banished henceforward from your thoughts for ever. Resolve, and keep your resolution; choose, and pursue your choice. If you spend this day in study, you will find yourself still more able to study to-morrow; not that you are to expect that you shall at once obtain a complete victory. Depravity is not very easily overcome. Resolution will sometimes relax, and diligence will sometimes be interrupted; but let no accidental surprise or deviation, whether short or long, dispose you to despondency. Consider these failings as incident to all mankind. Begin again where you left off, and endeavour to avoid the seducements that prevailed over you before.

'This, my dear Boswell, is advice which, perhaps, has been often given you, and given you without effect. But this advice, if you will not take from others, you must take from your own reflections, if you purpose to do the duties of the station to which the bounty of Providence has called you.

'Let me have a long letter from you as soon as you can. I hope you continue your journal, and enrich it with many observations upon the country in which you reside. It will be a favour if you can get me any books in the Frisick language, and can enquire how the poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. I am, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate servant, 'SAM. JOHNSON.'


'London, Dec. 8, 1763.'

(To be continued. This week’s chapter was made possible in part by a generous grant from the Bob’s Bowery Bar™ Foundation of the Graphic and Literary Arts. “What better way to top off a long night on the town than the Bob’s Bowery Bar™ Breakfast Special: 

‘Bob’s Mom’s’ Homemade Beef Scrapple ‘n’ Scrambled Eggs ‘n’ Cheese (your choice of whole-wheat or white toast) served with a pint of Bob’s justly-famed Basement-Brewed House Bock’, all for only $2.50. Offer good only from 7am to 9am daily.” – Horace P. Sternwall, host of The Bob’s Bowery Bar Showcase Theatre, exclusively on the Dumont Television Network, Wednesdays at 10pm EST)

part 59