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[Samuel Johnson was not only very famous, even in his own day, but famously unattractive in the opinion of those who knew and loved him. As a poor, young man with physical disadvantages and strong religious principles, it is not surprising that he reacted the way he did to a woman who had youth, beauty, and good birth. The passage below is from Samuel Johnson by Hugh Kingsmill, 1933.]

At the house of Gilbert Walmsley, and elsewhere among the gentle folk of Lichfield, Johnson met, and was attracted by, several young women. But though he put an unusual constraint on his roughness in their presence, he never trusted himself beyond ordinary courtesy. For one of these girls, Molly Aston, Gilbert Walmsley’s sister-in-law, he felt the adoration which is inspired by the unattainable. The happiest year of his life, he told Mrs. Thrale, was the one which had been sweetened by a single evening with Molly Aston. “That, indeed, was not happiness, it was rapture,” he said. The evening alluded to, Mrs. Thrale is careful to explain, was not passed tête-à-tête but in a select company.

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