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Presentation #1 Title

Samuel Johnson's Charity Sermon for Henry Hervey Aston in St. Paul's Cathedral, May 23, 1745

Presentation #1 Abstract

The layman Samuel Johnson (1709-84) wrote some forty sermons, twenty-eight of which survive. The significant majority of these were purchased by Johnson’s old school mate and prebend of Westminster, John Taylor of Ashbourne. The clergyman or his amanuensis paid a two-guinea fee, copied out the sermon, and then destroyed the manuscript. Johnson's basic mode was the practical sermon. He teaches basic Christian principles' ability to improve daily moral life and thereby improve the possibility for rewards in eternal life.

There are exceptions: Johnson's sermon for his friend Henry Hervey Aston, fourth son of John Hervey, Baron Ickworth of Suffolk and first Earl of Bristol. Hervey went nowhere as an army officer, and thanks to family influence was ordained by late September of 1743. His father appointed him Rector of Shotley in Suffolk, whose charms he rejected in favor of London. He married Catherine Aston on 2 March 1730 and in 1744 assumed her name when his brother-in-law's estate passed to her. In spite of limited experience, he was asked to present a sermon at St. Paul's on behalf of the families of deceased Anglican clergymen. Aston probably thought himself neither prepared nor worthy to deliver such a sermon at such a place before the Great and the Good, like John Potter, Archbishop of Canterbury, eight bishops including Thomas Secker Bishop of Oxford and in 1758 Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Chief Justice Sir John Willes.

Johnson agreed that when addressing “Nobles let fine Periods flow.” His rhetoric thus establishes Aston as the social equal of the grandees in his audience, and thereby his own argument on authority. Johnson, though, flexibly reverts to his “practical” style once he considers the bereft families themselves.“Fine Periods” yield to a request for the Christian act of providing tangible help to bereft widows and children of deceased Anglican clergymen.

At-A-Glance Bios- Presenter #1

Howard Weinbrot is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Samuel Johnson's Charity Sermon for Henry Hervey Aston in St. Paul's Cathedral, May 23, 1745

Montréal, QC

The layman Samuel Johnson (1709-84) wrote some forty sermons, twenty-eight of which survive. The significant majority of these were purchased by Johnson’s old school mate and prebend of Westminster, John Taylor of Ashbourne. The clergyman or his amanuensis paid a two-guinea fee, copied out the sermon, and then destroyed the manuscript. Johnson's basic mode was the practical sermon. He teaches basic Christian principles' ability to improve daily moral life and thereby improve the possibility for rewards in eternal life.

There are exceptions: Johnson's sermon for his friend Henry Hervey Aston, fourth son of John Hervey, Baron Ickworth of Suffolk and first Earl of Bristol. Hervey went nowhere as an army officer, and thanks to family influence was ordained by late September of 1743. His father appointed him Rector of Shotley in Suffolk, whose charms he rejected in favor of London. He married Catherine Aston on 2 March 1730 and in 1744 assumed her name when his brother-in-law's estate passed to her. In spite of limited experience, he was asked to present a sermon at St. Paul's on behalf of the families of deceased Anglican clergymen. Aston probably thought himself neither prepared nor worthy to deliver such a sermon at such a place before the Great and the Good, like John Potter, Archbishop of Canterbury, eight bishops including Thomas Secker Bishop of Oxford and in 1758 Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Chief Justice Sir John Willes.

Johnson agreed that when addressing “Nobles let fine Periods flow.” His rhetoric thus establishes Aston as the social equal of the grandees in his audience, and thereby his own argument on authority. Johnson, though, flexibly reverts to his “practical” style once he considers the bereft families themselves.“Fine Periods” yield to a request for the Christian act of providing tangible help to bereft widows and children of deceased Anglican clergymen.