About Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson (often referred to as Dr Johnson) (18 September 1709 [O.S. 7 September] – 13 December 1784) was an English author. Beginning as a Grub Street journalist, he made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, novelist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and political conservative, and has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history". He is also the subject of "the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature": James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and attended Pembroke College, Oxford for a year, before his lack of funds forced him to leave. After working as a teacher he moved to London, where he began to write essays for The Gentleman's Magazine. His early works include the biography The Life of Richard Savage, the poems London and The Vanity of Human Wishes, and the play Irene.

After nine years of work, Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755; it had a far-reaching impact on Modern English and has been described as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship". The Dictionary brought Johnson popularity and success; until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary, 150 years later, Johnson's was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary. His later works included essays, an influential annotated edition of William Shakespeare's plays, and the widely read novel Rasselas. In 1763, he befriended James Boswell, with whom he later travelled to Scotland; Johnson described their travels in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Towards the end of his life, he produced the massive and influential Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, a collection of biographies and evaluations of 17th- and 18th-century poets.

Johnson had a tall and robust figure, but his odd gestures and tics were confusing to some on their first encounter with him. Boswell's Life, along with other biographies, documented Johnson's behaviour and mannerisms in such detail that they have informed the posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome (TS), a condition unknown in the 18th century. After a series of illnesses he died on the evening of 13 December 1784, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. In the years following his death, Johnson began to be recognised as having had a lasting effect on literary criticism, and even as the only great critic of English literature.

The patronage in his life

Beginning as a Grub Street journalist, he made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, novelist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. There was dissatisfaction with the dictionaries of the period, so in June 1746 a group of London booksellers including Thomas Longman contracted Johnson to write a dictionary for the sum of 1,500 guineas (£1,575).
It took nearly nine years for him to complete the work. Walter Jackson Bate described the project as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship.” However, Johnson's general financial situation continued in its dismal fashion for some years after 1755 and he gave up the house in Gough Square in March 1759. The reputation of the Dictionary at last brought him reward. In July 1762 Johnson was granted a state pension of £300 a year by the twenty-four-year-old monarch, George III.

A Dictionary of the English Language

Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language.

There was dissatisfaction with the dictionaries of the period, so in June 1746 a group of London booksellers contracted Johnson to write a dictionary for the sum of 1,500 guineas (£1,575). Johnson took nearly nine years to complete the work, though he had claimed he could finish it in three. Remarkably, he did so single-handedly, with only clerical assistance to copy out the illustrative quotations that he had marked in books. Johnson wrote several revised editions during his life.

Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary, 150 years later, Johnson's was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary. According to Walter Jackson Bate, the Dictionary "easily ranks as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever performed by one individual who labored under anything like the disadvantages in a comparable length of time".

[Source: Wikipedia]

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Samuel Johnson

A Dictionary of the English Language