James Boswell: The Life of Samuel Johnson

(1040 words)

When James Boswell published in 1791 his Life of the dominant figure of the later eighteenth-century literary scene, it was at once both condemned as to content and manner and hailed as a classic of a new kind. Johnson had been distinguished not only for his learning, seriousness of thought and ornate prose style, but for his grotesque and eccentric personality and pungent conversation. In Boswell he found the ideal biographer to display this aspect, since Boswell had already developed in his extensive personal journals an acute sense of the physically-precise description and a wonderful ear for and ability to render dialogue. A generation younger than Johnson, and his social superior as a well-born Scots lawyer, Boswell had early …

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McGowan, Ian. "The Life of Samuel Johnson". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 January 2001
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=358, accessed 01 July 2015.]