2022 Events Gallery
Tuesday, 5 April 2022: Johnson’s Willow Comes to Woburn Abbey
Johnson’s Willow belongs to a species now called the Bedford willow (Salix x fragilis var. russelliana) in honour of the Fifth Duke of Bedford, who popularised the species in about 1800; his younger brother the Sixth Duke commissioned a new engraving of Johnson’s Willow itself as the frontispiece to a book published in 1829 about the willows growing at his seat, Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. The current Duke and Duchess of Bedford graciously agreed to the planting in the grounds of Woburn Abbey of a sapling grown from the Fourth Johnson’s Willow, to commemorate and renew these historic connections. The sapling was planted in a small ceremony on the morning of Tuesday, 5 April 2022. The Johnson Society is grateful to Paul Niven and Lichfield District Council for providing the sapling, and to the staff of Woburn Abbey and Bedford House for arranging the event. (Photos by Stephen Brierley.)
(Left to right:) Sean Pursey (Deputy Head Gardener, Woburn Abbey), Peter Crann (Head Gardener, Bedford House), John Winterton (Heritage Liaison Officer, the Johnson Society) and Paul Niven (Community Gardener, Lichfield District Council) preparing for the planting.
Paul Niven and John Winterton planting the tree.
Paul Niven and Sean Pursey adding topsoil to the tree.
Sean Pursey, Paul Niven and John Winterton after the planting.
The young Willow in its new home.
John Winterton (centre) talking about the links between Johnson’s Willow and Woburn Abbey to (left to right) Paul Niven, Samantha McMillan (PA to Henrietta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford), Peter Crann and Sean Pursey.
Wednesday, 2 March 2022: Johnson’s Chair Ceremony
On Wednesday, 2 March 2022 the Society held its ‘Chair Ceremony’ at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, to honour a chair associated with Johnson, and also to commemorate Johnson’s journey to London with David Garrick on that date in 1737.
The Johnson’s Society President for 2021–2, Posy Simmonds, had generously given the Society an 1803 satirical engraving of ‘Dr. Johnson’s ghost’. During the ceremony, our Chairman, Phil Jones, presented this to Councillor Gwyneth Boyle, Chair of the Johnson Birthplace Advisory Committee, to hang on loan at the Birthplace.
June Nicholls read from Johnson’s original Idler essay no. 22, a powerful condemnation of war, which the situation in Ukraine made tragically apposite.
The culmination of the ceremony was the drinking of the traditional toasts: ‘Bon Voyage to Johnson and Garrick!’ and ‘The immortal memory of Dr Samuel Johnson’.
After the ceremony, the Society’s Annual lecture, which this year was on the subject of ‘Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Happiness’, was delivered by Peter Moore at the Methodist Church on Tamworth Street.
Friday, 21 January 2022: Presentation to Lichfield Cathedral School
On this date, the Johnson Society presented a copy of the new Yale anthology of Johnson’s works to Lichfield Cathedral School; the school is housed in the old Bishop’s Palace, which has notable connections with Johnson. As a very young man, Johnson frequently came to the palace to enjoy the cultured hospitality of Gilbert Walmesley, Registrar of Lichfield’s Ecclesiastical Court; later in life, he returned there to visit Canon Thomas Seward and his daughter, the poet Anna Seward. Many thanks to the staff and students of the Cathedral School for their kindness and hospitality during this event.
John Winterton, the Johnson Society’s Heritage Officer, presenting the book to some of the school’s students (photo by Stephen Brierley).
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