Sunday, December 18, 2005

Dr. Johnson and Adam Smith

That book of American literary anecdotes is full of stories about meetings between famous people. Some of the encounters seem apocryphal. Indeed, there are two different stories about Hemingway's roughing it up with Gene Tunney, in both of which Hemingway is humiliated. (Both stories cannot be true.)

I'll relate some of the encounters later, but now I want to recall a famous encounter between Samuel Johnson, the writer and lexicographer, and Adam Smith, the economist.

Smith had recorded notes about the death of David Hume, the philosopher, and made no mention of Hume's alleged last-minute religious conversation -- although, apparently, there had been rumors to that effect.

So, when Dr. Johnson met Smith at a party, he said to him, you lie!

Replied Smith, You, sir, are the son of a bitch!

Funny. And appalling.

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