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The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. by James…

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791)

by James Boswell

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Two volumes bound as one. India paper edition.
  mandojoe | Apr 26, 2017 |
I came to this "biography" (the ironic quotes because of the present controvery; google and learn, if you're interested) by way of the epigram to Nabokov's "Pale Fire": "This reminds me of the ludicrous account he gave Mr. Lanton, of the despicable state of a young gentleman of good family. 'Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.' And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, 'But Hodge shan't be shot: no, no, Hodge shall not be shot."

Dr. Johnson wrote the first respectable English Dictionary. He was imperious and funny and he once at so much that "he nearly died from downright eating."

Read and love. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Obviously, this rating is for myself alone. Two stars in my library means that I did not like the book, but that someone else might. In this case, I found Boswell to fawning for my enjoyment, and there were far more details than I was interested in. It is perhaps more an indication of my state of mind rather than an indictment on Boswell that I don't have the patience to read this huge tome. ( )
  MrsLee | Jul 19, 2015 |
Many segments of this were interesting or entertaining but having finished it I definitely feel like I would have been better served by the abridged version. Boswell's digressions are almost half the book. It's somewhat unintentionally humorous the way he keeps bringing things around to talking about himself and somewhat ironic that he's been completely successful in his attempt to immortalize himself as much as his subject by this work but that this only resulted in being confirmed as a complete and utter tool to centuries of posterity. Most striking is possibly the two page rant he inserts about how Johnson was wrong to oppose slavery.

As Boswell only knew Johnson during the last twenty years of Johnson's life, much of the book is devoted to describing that period, and the experience of an old man confronting his own mortality as he dies after seeing the deaths of most of his friends. Based on the consistency and fervor with which Johnson communicates his fear of death one is struck by the impression that the professed religious beliefs of even those of a previous, more credible age are quite hollow. ( )
  jhudsui | Aug 1, 2014 |
Boswell is a good biographer, better than most modern ones. Samuel Johnson was quite a character, one who, even today, would be interesting to know. Whether discussing the rebellion in the North American colonies, what words to place in his dictionary, a critique of Goldsmith's latest drama or what he likes to eat, Johnson lives in this book. So does London. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (113 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Boswellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Abbott, Herbert VaughanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chadsey, C. P.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evans, BergenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rawson, ClaudeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ross, GordonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shewan, RodneyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments, or his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task.
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it THUS."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679417176, Hardcover)

James Boswell is for some the ideal scribe, for others a sycophantic toady. Edmund Wilson, for example, memorably labeled him "a vain and pushing diarist." Boswell can even be seen as someone unconsciously intent on undermining his idol in sonorous, balanced sentences. Early on in his massive Life, he puts all manner of ideas into our heads with his boobish attempts to clear the youthful Johnson of potential impropriety: "His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, however, very transient; and it is certain that he formed no criminal connection whatsoever." And while it's often tempting to ignore Boswell's more personal intrusions and delight solely in the melancholic master's words and deeds, there are suchdelightful admissions as, "I was at this time so occupied, shall I call it? or so dissipated, by the amusements of London that our next meeting was not till Saturday, June 25..."

Samuel Johnson was born in 1709 and died in 1784--a long life, though one marred by depression and fear of death. On April 20, 1764, for example, he declared, "I would consent to have a limb amputated to recover my spirits." Many of the quotes Boswell includes are a sort of greatest hits: Johnson's definitions of oats and lexicographer, his love for his cat Hodge, as well as thousands of bon, and mal, mots. ("Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel"; "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all.") But there are also many unfamiliar pleasures--Boswell's accounts of Johnson's literary industry, including the Dictionary, The Rambler, and Lives of the Poets; Johnson's singular loathing for Scotland and France; and the surprising hints of revelry. Awakened at 3 AM by friends, he greets them with, "What, is it you, you dogs! I'll have a frisk with you." This at age 42. Johnson's final years were marked by pain and loneliness but certainly no loss of wit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:26 -0400)

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Regarded as one of the finest literary biographies ever published, this book reveals a man of outsized appetites and private vulnerabilities, and is the source of much of what we know about one of the towering figures of English literature. This edition collates and corrects the textual inaccuracies of previous versions, returning to the original manuscript in order to present a definitive edition of this landmark text.… (more)

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