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V17 2014 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 39, September 21, 2014, Article 27

QUERY: SAMUEL JOHNSON'S GOLD MEDALLION

I enjoy listening to NPR's Writer's Almanac, and the September 18, 2014 edition included an intriguing numismatic reference in a piece about Samuel Johnson, -Editor

It's the birthday of Samuel Johnson (books by this author), born in Litchfield, England (1709). He was a sickly boy, and had been since the day he was born — "almost dead," he said. He contracted the lymphatic form of tuberculosis, called scrofula, when he was two, and because it was popularly believed that the touch of royalty could cure scrofula, he was taken to the queen. She touched him and gave him a gold medallion, which he kept for the rest of his life. Her touch didn't cure him, and neither did various disfiguring treatments that left him scarred. But he grew up strong and tall, and enjoyed walking, swimming, and riding. He was also very intelligent, proud, and somewhat lazy.

In 1735, he married a widow who was 20 years his senior. He set out to find an intelligent wife, since he was convinced that his parents' marriage had been unhappy because of his mother's lack of education. Around this time, he also started writing. He published some essays early in the 1730s, and began a play, the historical tragedy Irene. In 1738, he became associated with the first modern magazine — called The Gentleman's Magazine — and contributed poems and prose.

The 1750s were his most productive period. Not only did he write more than 200 essays for the twice-weekly newspaper The Rambler, but he was also at work on a monumental undertaking: a dictionary of the English language. The dictionary took him nine years to write

So.. what was that gold medallion given to him by the Queen? And what became of it? If he kept it until his death, who had it next? Can it be located today? -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
The Writer's Almanac Thursday Sep. 18, 2014 (writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2014/09/18)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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