On the subject of horses: David Nokes devotes no more than two or three sentences to one of the great set pieces in Johnson’s life, his journey to London with his pupil Davy Garrick. They had fourpence in their pockets and one horse between them. They would take it in turns to go ahead on the horse, tether it to a wayside post, then walk on until the other one caught up. It is a mark of Nokes’s singular lack of curiosity that he does not attempt to provide answers to any of the obvious questions about this. Where did they get the horse and what happened to it when they arrived in London? How common was such an arrangement and how come the horse never got stolen? (When I was living in Cambridge years ago, the city council came up with a scheme of leaving free bicycles tethered to wayside posts so that people could get around town without using their cars – they all disappeared within a week.)


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