Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 [OS 7 September] 13 December 1784), often called Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. He was a devout Anglican, and a committed Tory. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography calls him “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”. James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson was selected by Walter Jackson Bate as “the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature”.Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, he attended Pembroke College, Oxford until lack of funds forced him to leave. After work as a teacher, he moved to London and began writing for The Gentleman’s Magazine. Early works include Life of Mr Richard Savage, the poems London and The Vanity of Human Wishes and the play Irene. After nine years’ effort, Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language appeared in 1755 with far-reaching effects on Modern English, acclaimed as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship”. Until the arrival of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson’s was pre-eminent. Later work included essays, an annotated The Plays of William Shakespeare and The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. In 1763 he befriended James Boswell, with whom he travelled to Scotland, as Johnson described in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Near the end of his life came a massive, influential Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets of 17th and 18th centuries.
Tall and robust, he displayed gestures and tics that disconcerted some on meeting him. Boswell’s Life, along with other biographies, documented Johnson’s behaviour and mannerisms in such detail that they have informed the posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome, a condition not defined or diagnosed in the 18th century. After several illnesses, he died on the evening of 13 December 1784 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Thereafter he was increasingly seen to have had a lasting effect on literary criticism and even claimed to be the one truly great critic of English literature.


eBooks: A Grammar of the English Tongue | A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland | Lives of Poets: Addison, etc. | Lives of Poets: Gay, etc. | Lives of the English Poets: Waller, Milton, Cowley | Lives of the Poets, Vol. 1 | Notes to Shakespeare, Vol. 1 | Notes to Shakespeare, Vol. III: The Tragedies | Preface to Shakespeare | Rasselas | Shorter Novels, Eighteenth Century Horace Walpole and William Beckford | The Lives of the English Poets: Prior, Congreve, Blackmore and Pope | The Vanity of Human Wishes, and Two Rambler papers | The Works of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. in Nine Volumes | The Works of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., in Nine Volumes, Volume the Secon | The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 10 | The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 11 | The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 6

Works by Samuel Johnson: