Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory.
"Though grief and fondness in my breast rebel,
When injured Thales bids the town farewell,
Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice commend,
I praise the hermit, but regret the friend,
Resolved at length, from vice and London far,
To breathe in distant fields a purer air,
And, fixed on Cambria's solitary shore,
Give to St David one true Briton more."
"The growth of interest during the last two decades in a clearer understanding of the nature of Samuel Johnson's thought and of the inner workings of his discourse has so far neglected ana evidently important and distinctive feature of his writings: his frequent use and sound grasp of the concepts and idioms of traditional western methodology."
"Samuel Johnson's conversation, as it is recorded in Boswell's <i>Life</i>, is remarkable for its with and its argumentative quality, and should be analyzed in the context of a particular literary tradition, that of the literary lion performing for an audience."
In the later years of his life he became, to some extent, public property, being sought by the famous and the obscure for his advice on literary and worldly problems. The backbone of these years was his friendship with Henry and Hester Thrale, in whose houses he found comfort and a family in whose affairs he could interest himself. The conviviality of this part of his life, however - reflected in his friendships with men and women like James Boswell, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Oliver Goldsmith, Fanny Burney - masked a fear of solitude and mental anguish.
In 1763, he met James Boswell, a young Scottish lawyer, whose 'Life of Johnson' (published in 1791) did much to spread Johnson's name. In 1773, Johnson and Boswell set out on a three-month tour of the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides. Both wrote accounts of their travels. Johnson spent considerable time in Edinburgh in the 1770s.
In 1762 the government awarded Johnson a pension of three hundred pounds a year for his services to literature. The pension freed him from the endless hackwork on which he had been forced to labor for so long, giving him financial security at last.
After an unsuccessful attempt at being a schoolmaster he came to London to make his fortune in 1737, with his friend David Garrick (the famous actor who is buried next to him).
He was educated at Lichfield Grammar School and spent a brief period at Oxford University, but was forced to leave due to lack of money. Unable to find teaching work, he drifted into a writing career. In 1735, he married Elizabeth Porter, a widow more than 20 years his senior.
He worked for nine years on his <i>Dictionary of the English Language</i> (1755), Britain's premier dictionary for 150 years. Other works of his include <i>The Life of Richard Savage</i>, a biography and the short fable <i>Rasselas</i>. James Boswell's <i>Life of Johnson</i> is an impressive account of the writer's years.
Samuel Johnson, the premier English literary figure of the mid- and late eighteenth century, was a writer of exceptional range: a poet, a lexicographer, a translator, a journalist and essayist, a travel writer, a biographer, an editor, and a critic.