Nor was his belief in the wickedness of slavery a mere abstract commitment of the kind so familiar to scribblers then as now. Johnson's valet Francis Barber was a freed black Jamaican who eventually became his heir, an astonishing bequest that was widely reported in the English press at the time. With the help of his friend Tobias Smollett, Johnson secured Barber's release from naval service (for which he thought he should have been disqualified on grounds of health) and paid for him to receive an education. Johnson's relationship with Barber was one of genuine friendship and the latter was an invaluable source for James Boswell and other early biographers of the great man, including those like Sir John Hawkins who were disgusted by their subject's "ostentatious bounty [and] favour to negroes."
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
… The statues of Samuel Johnson can stay. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)