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Samuel Johnson: The Cultural Context
The Life of Samuel Johnson, Vol I Part 1/2 Full Audiobook by James BOSWELL by General Fiction

From his earliest years Johnson was recognized not only for his remarkable intelligence but also for his pride and indolence. In he entered grammar school in Lichfield. At school he made two lifelong friends: Edmund Hector, later a surgeon, and John Taylor, future prebendary of Westminster and justice of the peace for Ashbourne.

In Johnson entered Pembroke College, Oxford. He stayed only 13 months, until December , because he lacked the funds to continue. Yet it proved an important year. Despite the poverty and pride that caused him to leave, he retained great affection for Oxford.

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In the following year Johnson became undermaster at Market Bosworth grammar school, a position made untenable by the overbearing and boorish Sir Wolstan Dixie, who controlled appointments. After failing in his quest for another teaching position, he joined his friend Hector in Birmingham. In or he published some essays in The Birmingham Journal , none of which have survived. In Johnson married Elizabeth Porter, a widow 20 years his senior.

One of his students, David Garrick , would become the greatest English actor of the age and a lifelong friend, though their friendship was not without its strains. The school soon proved a failure, and he and Garrick left for London in Samuel Johnson. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. His health was further complicated by "feeling forlorn and lonely" over Levet's death, and by the deaths of his friend Thomas Lawrence and his housekeeper Williams.

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Although he had recovered his health by August, he experienced emotional trauma when he was given word that Hester Thrale would sell the residence that Johnson shared with the family. What hurt Johnson most was the possibility that he would be left without her constant company. The walk to the church strained him, but he managed the journey unaccompanied.

To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, I commend this family. Bless, guide, and defend them, that they may pass through this world, as finally to enjoy in thy presence everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake.

17 Hilarious Definitions from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary | Mental Floss

Hester Thrale did not completely abandon Johnson, and asked him to accompany the family on a trip to Brighton. On 17 June , Johnson's poor circulation resulted in a stroke [] and he wrote to his neighbour, Edmund Allen, that he had lost the ability to speak. The black dog I hope always to resist, and in time to drive, though I am deprived of almost all those that used to help me. The neighbourhood is impoverished. I had once Richardson and Lawrence in my reach. Allen is dead. My house has lost Levet, a man who took interest in everything, and therefore ready at conversation.

Williams is so weak that she can be a companion no longer. When I rise my breakfast is solitary, the black dog waits to share it, from breakfast to dinner he continues barking, except that Dr. Brocklesby for a little keeps him at a distance. Dinner with a sick woman you may venture to suppose not much better than solitary. After dinner, what remains but to count the clock, and hope for that sleep which I can scarce expect. Night comes at last, and some hours of restlessness and confusion bring me again to a day of solitude.

What shall exclude the black dog from an habitation like this? By this time he was sick and gout-ridden. He had surgery for gout, and his remaining friends, including novelist Fanny Burney the daughter of Charles Burney , came to keep him company. His health began to improve by May , and he travelled to Oxford with Boswell on 5 May With no one to visit, Johnson expressed a desire to die in London and arrived there on 16 November On 25 November , he allowed Burney to visit him and expressed an interest to her that he should leave London; he soon left for Islington , to George Strahan's home.

Many visitors came to see Johnson as he lay sick in bed, but he preferred only Langton's company. I could not believe it. My imagination was not convinced. He was buried on 20 December at Westminster Abbey with an inscription that reads:.


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Johnson's works, especially his Lives of the Poets series, describe various features of excellent writing. He believed that the best poetry relied on contemporary language, and he disliked the use of decorative or purposefully archaic language. Also, Johnson opposed the poetic language of his contemporary Thomas Gray. In his smaller poetic works, Johnson relied on short lines and filled his work with a feeling of empathy, which possibly influenced Housman 's poetic style.

In particular, Johnson emphasises God's infinite love and shows that happiness can be attained through virtuous action.

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When it came to biography, Johnson disagreed with Plutarch 's use of biography to praise and to teach morality. Instead, Johnson believed in portraying the biographical subjects accurately and including any negative aspects of their lives. Because his insistence on accuracy in biography was little short of revolutionary, Johnson had to struggle against a society that was unwilling to accept biographical details that could be viewed as tarnishing a reputation; this became the subject of Rambler In all his biographies he insisted on including what others would have considered trivial details to fully describe the lives of his subjects.

Johnson's thoughts on biography and on poetry coalesced in his understanding of what would make a good critic.


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  6. His works were dominated with his intent to use them for literary criticism. This was especially true of his Dictionary of which he wrote: "I lately published a Dictionary like those compiled by the academies of Italy and France, for the use of such as aspire to exactness of criticism, or elegance of style ".

    To achieve this purpose, Johnson included quotations from Bacon, Hooker, Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, and many others from what he considered to be the most important literary fields: natural science, philosophy, poetry, and theology.

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    These quotations and usages were all compared and carefully studied in the Dictionary so that a reader could understand what words in literary works meant in context. Johnson did not attempt to create schools of theories to analyse the aesthetics of literature. Instead, he used his criticism for the practical purpose of helping others to better read and understand literature.

    His works on Shakespeare were devoted not merely to Shakespeare, but to understanding literature as a whole; in his Preface to Shakespeare, Johnson rejects the previous dogma of the classical unities and argues that drama should be faithful to life. Shakespeare's plays, in particular, had multiple editions, each of which contained errors caused by the printing process. This problem was compounded by careless editors who deemed difficult words incorrect, and changed them in later editions. Johnson believed that an editor should not alter the text in such a way. Johnson's tall [a] and robust figure combined with his odd gestures were confusing to some; when William Hogarth first saw Johnson standing near a window in Samuel Richardson 's house, "shaking his head and rolling himself about in a strange ridiculous manner", Hogarth thought Johnson an "ideot, whom his relations had put under the care of Mr.

    Richardson were sitting and all at once took up the argument Johnson was a devout, conservative Anglican and a compassionate man who supported a number of poor friends under his own roof, even when unable to fully provide for himself. Johnson was also known as a staunch Tory ; he admitted to sympathies for the Jacobite cause during his younger years but, by the reign of George III , he came to accept the Hanoverian Succession. However, Boswell was not around for two of Johnson's most politically active periods: during Walpole's control over British Parliament and during the Seven Years' War.

    Although Boswell was present with Johnson during the s and describes four major pamphlets written by Johnson, he neglects to discuss them because he is more interested in their travels to Scotland. This is compounded by the fact that Boswell held an opinion contradictory to two of these pamphlets, The False Alarm and Taxation No Tyranny , and so attacks Johnson's views in his biography.

    Johnson' so often that he would always be known as such, even though he hated being called such. Boswell's emphasis on Johnson's later years shows him too often as merely an old man discoursing in a tavern to a circle of admirers. Even during their journey together through Scotland, Johnson "exhibited prejudice and a narrow nationalism". Johnson had several health problems, including childhood tuberculous scrofula resulting in deep facial scarring, deafness in one ear and blindness in one eye, gout , testicular cancer , and a stroke in his final year that left him unable to speak; his autopsy indicated that he had pulmonary fibrosis along with cardiac failure probably due to hypertension , a condition then unknown.

    Johnson displayed signs consistent with several diagnoses, including depression and Tourette syndrome. There are many accounts of Johnson suffering from bouts of depression and what Johnson thought might be madness. As Walter Jackson Bate puts it, "one of the ironies of literary history is that its most compelling and authoritative symbol of common sense—of the strong, imaginative grasp of concrete reality—should have begun his adult life, at the age of twenty, in a state of such intense anxiety and bewildered despair that, at least from his own point of view, it seemed the onset of actual insanity".

    Taylor said that Johnson "at one time strongly entertained thoughts of Suicide". Early on, when Johnson was unable to pay off his debts, he began to work with professional writers and identified his own situation with theirs.