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Paperback The Life of Samuel Johnson Book

ISBN: 0140431160

ISBN13: 9780140431162

The Life of Samuel Johnson

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

The most celebrated English biography is a group portrait in which extraordinary man paints the picture of a dozen more At the centre of a brilliant circle which included Burke, Reynolds, Garrick, Fanny Burney and even George III, Boswell captures the powerful, troubled and witty figure of Samuel Johnson, who towers above them all. Yet this is also an intimate picture of domestic life, which mingles the greatest talkers of a talkative age with the...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

A Great Book, Funny and Profound

Note: I made some immature Mormon angry because of my negative reviews of books that attempted to prove the Book of Mormon, and that person has been slamming my reviews almost as fast as they are posted. I must have really burned him or her because I've deleted this review and re-posted it and within an hour, I had a "not helpful" vote. Give me a break. That person's faith must be very fragile, indeed. Oh, well. I'm trying to be "helpful," and you can see that it took some work to put this review together. So, your "helpful" votes are appreciated. Thanks, and I hope you find some enjoyable quotations (below) from Boswell's wonderful book, but first a little history. Samuel Johnson, the irascible but generous lexicographer of the eighteenth century, is mostly remembered because of Boswell, and Boswell is remembered because he wrote Johnson's biography. At the time, Johnson was already famous for his "Dictionary of the English Language," an impressive work for the year 1755. Among many other writings, Johnson put out an edition of Shakespeare's works (1765), with valuable notes that are still referred to today. Johnson published a "series of grave and moral discourses" in the periodical called the Rambler, but when it was translated into Italian, it came out as the ludicrous "El Vagabondo," something far from Johnson's pious intentions. And of good intentions, it was Johnson who said, "Sir, Hell is paved with good intentions." "(Johnson's) defense of tea against Mr. Jonas Hanway's violent attack upon that elegant and popular beverage, shows how very well a man of genius can write upon the slightest subject, when he writes, as the Italians say, con amore." Johnson despised Americans and was prejudiced against Scotland. He said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." Johnson was a male chauvinist. Yet, he was "a king of men." He was a "robust genius, born to grapple with whole libraries," and although "indolence and procrastination were inherent in his constitution, whenever he made an exertion he did more than any one else." As a person who is afraid of death in the normal sense, I was surprised that in spite of being very religious, Johnson had an extreme fear of death. "'The better a man is, the more afraid he is of death, having a clearer view of infinite purity.' Said Boswell, "Johnson owned, that our being in an unhappy uncertainty as to our salvation, was mysterious; and said, 'Ah! We must wait till we are in another state of being, to have many things explained to us.' Even the powerful mind of Johnson seemed foiled by futurity." Boswell's commentary brings to mind a story told by St. Augustine in his monumental City of God. A philosopher was abroad a ship captained by a bad man, and after a violent storm, the fearless captain jeered the philosopher for his terror. Said the philosopher, quoting from a similar incident that occurred to the pagan Aristippus, 'A rogue need not worry about losing his worthless life, but Ari

An Epic Friendship

Charged with everything from homosexuality to hatred of his subject, Boswell gives us a great gift in this monumental work. What must be the greatest document of a friendship besides being a fine piece of biography and an important resource for social historians, The Life of Johnson should not be missed by any student of eighteenth-century English literature. Other than Johnson's literary opinions, you can learn about his days's thoughts on anxiety and religious doubts. So turn your TV off for a month and read a great book and become acquainted with some truly interesting and intellectual people.

The ultimate airport book

Ah, Ol' Sam, the Great Cham as somebody called him (it's an 18th century misreading of "Khan", fact fans). My opinion of Johnson the writer fluctuates over the years; sometimes he seems a long-winded authoritarian, at other times his juggernaut sentences seem possessed of a superhuman vitality. Whatever. This isn't Johnson the writer we're concerned with, so much as Johnson the talker - the gruff, ridiculously prejudiced, gloomy, scrofulous clubman, holding forth from the biggest chair in the room, wisecracking, bullying, brooding and sulking. Johnson was as lucky to have Boswell, as Boswell was to have Johnson. The conversations of great men tend not to be much fun; Eckermann's "Conversations with Goethe" is fascinating, all right, but Goethe's mixture of gossipy cattiness and Olympian pomposity gets to you after a while (Donald Barthelme wrote an evil parody of it). With Boswell's Johnson it's different. He seems at once painfully real and a caricature of himself. Boswell captures both the readiness to pontificate about anything under the sun and the panicky vulnerability. Eckermann's Goethe leaves the room when he's upset (nothing must ruffle the patrician facade) but Boswell's Johnson stays in his chair - we can see his reaction. Of course there are drawbacks, in that half of the book covers the last ten or so years of Johnson's life, but there really isn't that much hard evidence about Johnson's early life beyond what Boswell himself collected. I reserve my doubts about Johnson's cultural politics, but the rolling, rumbling figure that Boswell sets down is one of my favourite characters in literature. Swift has a darker and more perplexing fascination for me, but you wouldn't have got the 44-year-old Swift out of bed at 3AM for a ramble. He'd have hurled his bedpan at you.Why is it a great airport book? Because there's a lot of it, it's unfailingly entertaining and informative, and it's guaranteed not to include a description of an air crash.

Great Book (Bad Edition)

Needless to say, Boswell's LIFE OF JOHNSON is one of the preeminent works of biography and should be read by anyone interested in Johnson or the genre. It is a great book (also great is W. Jackson Bate's SAMUEL JOHNSON [1st published 1975]which is a MUST for anyone interested in Johnson). But although I love the Everyman's Library, I do not recommend this edition of Boswell. Unlike the usual quality of the Everyman's Library, its Boswell is rife with typographical errors (there's even missing text!). Though it's the only edition of Boswell I've read, I regret that a correct edition is not on my bookshelf. That being said, if this is the only affordable hardcover version you can find -- and you buy only hardcovers -- go ahead and purchase the Everyman's despite the numerous and distracting errors.
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