Johnson and His Circle


Thomas Percy. Account of the founding of the Club. 1788. Manuscript. MS Hyde 24

Boswell relentlessly canvassed Johnson's friends and associates for reminiscences to incorporate into the Life. One of his principal informants was Thomas Percy (1729-1811), Bishop of Dromore (Ireland) and author of Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. Percy was one of the earlier members of the Club, also known as the Literary Club, which Sir Joshua Reynolds founded in 1764. He drafted an account of its founding, as well as a list of its members, for Boswell's use. Percy recounts that the Club was for many years limited to just twelve members including, at the outset, Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, and Edmund Burke. They intended

that the Club should consist of such men as that if only two of them chanced to meet, they should be able to entertain each other sufficiently without wishing for more company with whom to pass an evening.