Letter: Lost for words

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A N WILSON ("What do you say to an ignorant, greedy world? Nothing", 20 June) claims that Samuel Johnson dismissed monastic retirement as "absurd". Clearly, Johnson considered that this must be earned by an active life in the world, but, as he told Boswell: "I never read of a hermit, but in imagination I kiss his feet; never of a monastery, but I could fall on my knees, and kiss the pavement." Hester Piozzi said that his "respect ... for places of religious retirement was carried to the greatest degree of earthly veneration", and that he left the Prior of the Benedictine convent in Paris "with tears of tenderness". Wilson's statement that he "deliberately forgot" that "some truths are arrived at by silence" ignores the deeply meditative Johnson of the Diaries, Prayers and Annals.


Wensley, North Yorkshire