This chapter discusses Francis Barber’s decision to join the British Royal Navy, leaving Samuel Johnson distressed. Barber went to sea on July 7, 1758. He would be going as far away from London—and from Johnson—as it was possible to get. To Johnson, Barber was making a dreadful mistake. There is something puzzling about the level of Johnson’s hostility towards the seagoing life. It was a subject to which he returned over and over again, and in the strongest terms. According to James Boswell, “His abhorrence of the profession of a sailor was uniformly violent.” This chapter examines the possible reasons for Barber’s decision to join the navy at a time when Britain was engaged in the Seven Years’ War. It also considers his experience on board the HMS Stag and his discharge from the navy to be reunited with Johnson.
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