Samuel Johnson, on a visit to friends, which took place in 1781, was to disappear for much of the day. The friends with whom he was staying, were reluctant to ask him where he had been, but, after a silence of several minutes, he explained that when he was a young man and still was living with his father at home, his father was on a certain day very ill. His father, unable to get out of bed, asked Samuel to go to Uttoxeter and look after his bookstall that he used on market days. However, “my pride prevented me,” said Johnson, and “I gave my father a refusal.”
He further explained that he had today taken “a post chaise to Uttoxeter, and going to the market at the time of high business, uncovered my head, and stood with it bare an hour before the stall which my father had formerly used, exposed to the sneers of the bystanders and the inclemency of the weather. In contrition I stood, and I hope that the penance was expiatory’.
It so appeared that the day that he had disappeared, a rainy day in 1781, was exactly fifty years later than the day on which he had denied his helpless father.