Dr Samuel Johnson Biography

Dr Samuel Johnson (1709–84) was the leading literary scholar and critic of his time. A man celebrated for his brilliant and witty conversation, Dr. Johnson was England ‘s first full-dress man of letters, and his mind and personality helped to create the traditions that have guided English taste and criticism. His rather gross appearance and manners were viewed tolerantly, if not with a certain admiration.

Early Life and Works

The son of a bookseller, Johnson excelled at school in spite of illness (he suffered the effects of scrofula throughout his life) and poverty. He entered Oxford in 1728 but was forced to leave after a year for lack of funds. He sustained himself as a bookseller and schoolmaster for the next six years, during which he continued his wide reading and published some translations.

Johnson settled in London in 1737 and began his literary career in earnest. At first he wrote primarily for Edward Cave ‘s Gentleman’s Magazine—poetry and prose on subjects literary and political. His poem “ London ,” published anonymously in 1738, was praised by Pope and won Johnson recognition in literary circles. His Life of Savage (1744) is a bitter portrait of corruption in London and the miseries endured by writers. Also of note are The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) and his essays in the periodical The Rambler (1750–52).

Later Life and Works

Johnson’s first work of lasting importance, and the one that permanently established his reputation in his own time, was his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the first comprehensive lexicographical work on English ever undertaken. Rasselas, a moral romance, appeared in 1759, and The Idler, a collection of his essays, in 1761. The following year was marked by his meeting with James Boswell, whose famous biography presents Johnson in exhaustive and fascinating detail, often recreating his conversations verbatim. In 1765 Johnson’s long-heralded edition of Shakespeare appeared. Its editorial principles served as a model for future editions, and its preface and critical notes are still highly value

See also  TS Eliot Biography

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