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Founded 1984
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In October, 1728, having just turned nineteen, Johnson entered Pembroke College, Oxford. His mother had inherited a lump sum which was enough to pay for a year at Oxford, and he had the prospect of further aid. But this fell through, and after one year Johnson was forced to leave. Out of Oxford and with no hope of an academic career, for which his natural talents suited him, Johnson sank into a deep depression for two years. A despair and inability to act, wherein, as he later told a friend, he could stare at the town clock and not be able to tell what time it was. He feared that he was falling into insanity, and considered suicide. He developed convulsive tics, jerks, and twitches, that remained with him for the rest of his life, and often caused people, those who did not know him, to think he was an idiot.

In this depressed state, Johnson met the Porters. Mr. Porter was a prosperous merchant. He and his family valued Johnson's company and conversation, and were not put off by his appearance and mannerisms.

From them, Johnson gained renewed self-confidence, and largely emerged from his depressed state. After the death of Henry Porter, his wife Elizabeth, "Tetty", as Johnson came to call her, encouraged Johnson into a closer friendship, and eventually they were married. She was 20 years older than he was and brought to the marriage a dowry of over 600 pounds. In those days the interest alone on such a sum would have been almost enough for the couple to live on. There is every indication that it was a love match on both sides. On Tetty's side, the love was reinforced by the perception of future greatness. On Johnson's side, the love was reinforced by gratitude towards this woman whose approval and acceptance had given him back his sanity and self-respect.

The newly-married Johnson undertook to open a private school, Edial Hall. One of his first students was David Garrick, who became a lifelong friend and was later known as the foremost actor of his day. Incidentally, it is highly likely that Garrick was a pupil at Dixie, coming with him when he was an Usher 1732.

Johnson’s school closed a little over a year later, having failed to attract enough pupils. He had invested most of his wife's dowry in it, hoping to multiply her capital. Instead, he had lost nearly all of it, leaving them desperately poor. Johnson and Garrick determined to seek their fortune in London. When they arrived, Johnson had twopence halfpenny in his pocket, and Garrick three halfpence.

Johnson began to do small writing jobs for Edward Cave, publisher of The Gentleman's Magazine, the first example of a magazine in the modern sense.

Probably the most easily recognised of all the people associated with the Dixie Grammar School. Even those unaware of his connection to the School will know of Dr. Johnson. But just who was he and what sort of life did he have?

Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield, on the 18th of September 1709. His father was a bookseller. As his mother did not have enough milk for him, he was put out to a wet-nurse. From her he contracted a tubercular infection called scrofula, which inflamed the lymph glands and spread to the optic and auditory nerves, leaving him deaf in the left ear, almost blind in the left eye, and dim of vision in the right eye. It also left scar tissue which disfigured his face, as did a later childhood bout of small-pox.

The young Johnson responded to his disabilities by a fierce determination to be independent and to accept help and pity from no one.  Throughout his life, he feared that ill health would tempt him to self-indulgence and self-pity, and he bent over backwards to resist the temptation. He had an uncle who was a local boxing champion who taught him to fight, so that years later he walked without fear in the worst sections of London. Sports where he had to see a ball were out of the question, so he turned instead to swimming, leaping and climbing. As a youth, he developed a fondness for argument, and often, he would admit, chose the wrong side of the debate because it would be more challenging.

1709 - 1784
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Johnson House_2