This is proving to be a banner year for culture-hero jubilees. On May 16, 250 years ago, the young Scottish laird James Boswell met the middle-aged English polymath Samuel Johnson in a London bookshop and recorded his first impression: “Mr Johnson is a man of a most dreadful appearance . . . a very big man . . . very slovenly in his dress . . . Yet his great knowledge and strength of expression command vast respect and render him excellent company. He has great humour and is a worthy man. But his dogmatical roughness of manners is disagreeable. I shall mark what I remember of his conversation.”
German composer Richard Wagner and Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard were born in the same month of May 200 years ago—one imagines an astrological chart showing Sturm und Drang in the ascendant.
Swami Vivekananda was born 150 years ago and in turn gave birth to the interfaith movement at the 1893 Parliament of World Religions, held in Chicago.