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What they call a puppy’s mother

The rivalry between James Boswell’s and Hester Thrale Piozzi’s dueling Johnson biographies was a popular subject for contemporary satirists. Peter Pindar’s Bozzy and Piozzi includes a Hogarth engraving that shows them hurling accusations of impropriety at one another. Boswell asks (rhetorically) “Who, mad’ning with an anecdotic itch / Declar’d that Johnson call’d his mother, b-tch?” Well, I just had to know what that was about. Thanks to Harvard’s access to Eighteenth Century Collctions Online, I didn’t have to search through the whole of Mrs. Piozzi’s Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson to find the answer. It turns out that she quotes Johnson as saying “I did not respect my own mother, though I loved her: and one day when in anger she called me a puppy, I asked her if she knew what they called a puppy’s mother.”

Published in:John Overholt |on May 24th, 2005 |Comments Off on What they call a puppy’s mother

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