Samuel Johnson: A Biography

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Harvard University Press, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 608 pages
6 Reviews

Bewigged, muscular and for his day unusually tall, adorned in soiled, rumpled clothes, beset by involuntary tics, opinionated, powered in his conversation by a prodigious memory and intellect, Samuel Johnson (1709‚e"1784) was in his life a literary and social icon as no other age has produced. ‚eoeJohnsonianissimus,‚e as Boswell called him, became in the hands of his first biographers the rationalist epitome and sage of Enlightenment. These clich√©s‚e"though they contain elements of truth‚e"distort the complexity of the public and private Johnson. Peter Martin portrays a Johnson wracked by recriminations, self-doubt, and depression‚e"a man whose religious faith seems only to have deepened his fears. His essays, scholarship, biography, journalism, travel writing, sermons, fables, as well as other forms of prose and poetry in which he probed himself and the world around him, Martin shows, constituted rational triumphs against despair and depression. It is precisely the combination of enormous intelligence and frank personal weakness that makes Johnson‚e(tm)s writing so compelling.

Benefiting from recent critical scholarship that has explored new attitudes toward Johnson, Martin‚e(tm)s biography gives us a human and sympathetic portrait of Dr. Johnson. Johnson‚e(tm)s criticism of colonial expansion, his advocacy for the abolition of slavery, his encouragement of women writers, his treatment of his female friends as equals, and his concern for the underprivileged and poor make him a very ‚eoemodern‚e figure. The Johnson that emerges from this enthralling biography, published for the tercentenary of Johnson‚e(tm)s birth, is still the foremost figure of his age but a more rebellious, unpredictable, flawed, and sympathetic figure than has been previously known.

  

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Review: Samuel Johnson: A Biography

User Review  - Marc Maitland - Goodreads

A masterly work, meticulously researched and most engagingly written. From his earliest days as a small boy in Lichfield, through his abortive Oxford years, through his country-wide tours, high days ... Read full review

Review: Samuel Johnson: A Biography

User Review  - Mike Horne - Goodreads

Quote from Christopher Hitchens (The Atlantic) "Having been disappointed by the failure of Walter Jackson Bate to tell this important tale aright in his immense 1978 biographical study, I was full of ... Read full review

Contents

Anecdotes of Beggary
3
Stepping on the Duckling
19
Leaping over the Rail
33
Two Benefactors
50
DESPONDENCY AND HOPE
69
Oxford Wielding a Scholars Weapon
71
Horrible Imaginings
94
Stirrings in Birmingham
105
Once More unto the Breach Back to the Dictionary
285
DEPRESSION SHAKESPEARE TRAVEL AND ANGER
307
Stalled
309
Suffering Chimeras
329
Vain and Corrupt Imaginations
346
Boswell and Mrs Thrale
359
Shakespeare and the Living World
374
Coliseum of Beasts
393

Taking a Wife
118
SLOW RISES WORTH
137
Stranger in London
139
Sons of Misery Finding Richard Savage
150
Slow Rises Worth by Poverty Depressd
171
Wandering in the Midlands
191
TRIUMPH THE DICTIONARY YEARS
199
London Revived A Lion in Harness
201
A Lifeline The Dictionary
220
Poetic Interludes
241
Tetty and Amorous Propensities
253
The Triumph of the Moralist
264
Darkness Falls
276
Back to Shakespeare and the Dictionary
406
The Road to the Hebrides
420
Politics and Travel
437
BIOGRAPHY AND THE RACE WITH DEATH
455
A Very Poor Creeper upon the Earth
457
Biographical Straitjacket
473
Losing Ground
494
The Last Days
516
Notes
527
Bibliography
565
Acknowledgements
573
Index
575
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Peter Martin has taught English literature on both sides of the Atlantic and is the author of A Life of James Boswell.

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