November 10, 2003

When Adam Smith met Dr. Samuel Johnson

I read this anectdote ages ago. Just now it occurred to me that I could Google it and find it again...

Mr. BOSWELL has chosen to omit, for reasons which will be presently obvious, that Johnson and Adam Smith met at Glasgow; but I have been assured by Professor John Miller that they did so, and that Smith, leaving the party in which he had met Johnson, happened to come to another company where Miller was. Knowing that Smith had been in Johnson's society, they were anxious to know what had passed, and the more so as Dr. Smith's temper seemed much ruffled.

At first Smith would only answer, 'He's a brute—he's a brute;' but on closer examination, it appeared that Johnson no sooner saw Smith than he attacked him for some point of his famous letter on the death of Hume. Smith vindicated the truth of his statement.

'What did Johnson say?' was the universal inquiry. '

Why, he said,' replied Smith, with the deepest impression of resentment, 'he said, you lie!'

'And what did you reply?'

'I said, you are the son of a ��.'

On such terms did these two great moralists meet and part, and such was the classical dialogue between two great teachers of philosophy.

Posted by John Weidner at November 10, 2003 8:08 AM
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