James Boswell (1740-1795) was a lawyer, diarist, and author born in Edinburgh. He is best known as the biographer of Samuel Johnson. Boswell is known for taking voracious notes on the grand tour of Europe that he took as a young nobleman and, subsequently, of his tour to Scotland with Johnson. He also recorded meetings and conversations with eminent individuals belonging to 'The Club', including David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Joshua Reynolds and Oliver Goldsmith. Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield in 1709 and was educated at Lichfield Grammar School and, for a short time, at Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1735 he married Elizabeth Jervis Porter and in 1737 moved to London. There, he became a regular contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine, but struggled to earn a living from writing. His London: A Poem in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal was published anonymously in 1738 and attracted some attention. From 1750 to 1752 he issued the Rambler, a periodical written almost entirely by himself, and consolidated his position as a notable moral essayist with some twenty-five essays in the Adventurer. When his Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755, Johnson took on the proportions of a literary monarch in the London of his day. In need of money to visit his sick mother, he wrote Rasselas (1759) reportedly in the evenings of one week, finishing a couple of days after his mother's death. In 1763 Boswell became his faithful follower and it is mainly due to him that we owe our intimate knowledge of Johnson. Johnson's last major work was Lives of the Poets. He died in December 1784.
The Life of Samuel Johnsonby James Boswell
Notoriously and self-confessedly intemperate, Boswell shared with Johnson a huge appetite for life and threw equal energy into recording its every aspect in minute but telling detail. This irrepressible Scotsman was 'always studying human nature and
Poet, lexicographer, critic, moralist and Great Cham, Dr. Johnson had in his friend Boswell the ideal biograoher.
Notoriously and self-confessedly intemperate, Boswell shared with Johnson a huge appetite for life and threw equal energy into recording its every aspect in minute but telling detail. This irrepressible Scotsman was 'always studying human nature and making experiments', and the marvellously vivacious Journals he wrote daily furnished him with first-rate material when he came to write his biography.
THe result is a masterpiece that brims over with wit, anecdote and originality. Hailed by Macaulay as the best biography ever written and by Carlyle as a book 'beyond any other product of the eighteenth century', The Life of Samuel Johnson today continues to enjoy its status as a classic of the language.
This shortened version is based on the 1799 edition, the last in which the author had a hand.
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In college, I had the pleasure of spending an entire semester studying Samuel Johnson. During the course of this semester, I managed to work my through the entirety of Boswell's Life of Johnson, due mainly to a strict regimen of daily readings. Despite sickness and the claims of college life, I made it all the way through, cover to cover. No one else in the class did the same. Interestingly, I found myself to be the only one in the class who didn't enjoy the book. Perhaps this is because Boswell's biography is not meant to be read like a novel, but rather noted as an historical document. Unfortunately, it falls short even as that. Boswell's Life of Johnson is an ambitious, almost epic chronicling of the minutiae of only that portion of Johnson's life spent with Boswell. Almost no information is given about Johnson's life before 40, and every word spoken by the man is treated by the author as if it were manna from heaven. Boswell's jealousy of Johnson's other friends, most notably Hester Thrale, the woman who released her own biography of Johnson before Boswell's was completed, causes one to doubt at times the author's commitment to the truth. Impressive as the book's detail might be, it amounts to little more than a camera-acurate portrayal of one man's dinner parties. As primary source material for some other, more gifted biographer, however, there is no book more useful.
This biography is a masterpiece in and of itself. It was the most thorough tracing of a man's life that I have ever read. It covers the years that Boswell knew him in the most detail. The exchanges with Boswell and Johnson are the high point. However, throughout most of the text Boswell intentionally antagonizes Dr. Johnson in order to gather his views on a variety of subjects. If you are a fan of the history of English, or a great biography then you will enjoy this.
Dont bother. Pay at least .99 for something readable.