Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia

By Samuel Johnson | Go to book overview

SAMUEL JOHNSON.

IN the London newspapers of March, 1712, may be found a notice that Queen Anne, on certain appointed days, will "touch" for the king's-evil, or scrofula.

That announcement was made in accordance with the ancient belief that the English sovereigns possessed the power of removing some forms of disease by placing their hands on the patient's head and uttering the words, "The king toucheth thee; may God cure thee."

Among those who went to the palace to get help of this kind was Michael Johnson, a bookseller of Lichfield, who carried up his little son, Samuel, a feeble, sickly child of three, half-blind with a humor of the eyes.

Though so young, yet the event made an indelible impression on the boy's mind, so that, he says, he always retained "a confused, but somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds and a long black hood."

The ceremony, however, seems to have had no perceptible effect, but time brought some relief; and at the age of sixteen the lad had grown to be a large-framed, awkward young fellow, who cared much more for the society of the books he found on the shelves of his father's shop than for that of boys of his own age.

As this thirst for learning increased, his father began to think of giving him an education, and as an opportunity offered to send him to Oxford, the young man, who

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