Monday 27 January 2020

The atrocious crime of being a young man

'The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honorable gentleman [Horace Walpole] has, with such spirit and decency, charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny; but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience. Whether youth can be
imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not, sir, assume the province of determining; but surely age may become justly contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings have passed away without improvement and vice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided.'
William Pitt the Elder. I am ashamed that I made the mistake of thinking it was his son, Pitt the Younger, who was 24 when he became Prime Minister.
'Long afterwards, at a dinner at Foote's, Francis (the father of Junius) mentioned this speech of Pitt's as the best he had ever read, and superior to anything in Demosthenes. Hereupon Johnson replied, "I wrote that speech in a garret in Exeter Street."' 

Sir Leslie Stephen (first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography and the father of Virginia Woolf), in his life of Samuel Johnson. 

Johnson wrote up all the debates inexactly and famously 'made sure the Whig dogs did not have the best of it'. Now we have it broadcast on television.

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