Three important essayists and their best work: Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Swift & Christopher Hitchens. Topics: Procrastination, poverty, satire, and death

  1. Samuel Johnson The Rambler


“I sat yesterday morning employed in deliberating on which, among the various subjects that occurred to my imagination, I should bestow the paper of today. After a short effort of meditation by which nothing was determined, I grew every moment more irresolute, my ideas wandered from the first intention, and I rather wished to think, than thought upon any settled subject; till at last I was awakened from this dream of study by a summons from the press: the time was come for which I had been thus negligently purposing to provide, and, however dubious or sluggish, I was now necessitated to write.”

“The folly of allowing ourselves to delay what we know cannot be finally escaped is one of the general weaknesses which, in spite of the instruction of moralists, and the remonstrances of reason, prevail to a greater or lesser degree in every mind; even they who most steadily withstand it find it, if not the most violent, the most pertinacious of their passions, always renewing its attacks, and, though often vanquished, never destroyed.”

*O! Procrastination…I know you all too well…you are there when I wake up and pour myself my first cup of coffee. Why do I put up with you?

2. Jonathan Swift A Modest Proposal


“I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.”
* Satire at its best. Too many poor children…cook em’ up and serve them with stew!
3. Christopher Hitchens Trial of the Will
“Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to “do” death in the active and not the passive sense. And I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span. However, one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
*Even in the face of death, Hitchen’s sense of humor never waned. Although am a fan of Nietzsche, I do find his old quote to be my least favorite.

My favorite modern essayist has passed away.

Christopher Hitchens lost his battle with cancer this past Thursday while seeking care at a hospital in Texas. I am saddened by the news and look forward to his upcoming memoir which will be released in January. Hitchens was brilliant. He was the most archaic journalist of our time. Witty, facetious…..brave. There is no one quite like him. He will be deeply missed.