Samuel Johnson
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Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709  – 13 December 1784), often called Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist,
critic A critic is a person who communicates an assessment and an opinion of various forms of creative works such as Art criticism, art, Literary criticism, literature, Music journalism, music, Film criticism, cinema, Theater criticism, theater, Fas ...
, biographer, editor and
lexicographer Lexicography is the study of lexicons, and is divided into two separate academic disciplines. It is the art of compiling dictionaries. * Practical lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries. * Theore ...
. The ''
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography The ''Dictionary of National Biography'' (''DNB'') is a standard work of reference on notable figures from History of the British Isles, British history, published since 1885. The updated ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' (''ODNB'') ...
'' calls him "arguably the most distinguished
man of letters An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and Human self-reflection, reflection about the reality of society, and who proposes solutions for the normative problems of society. Coming from the world of culture, ei ...
in English history". Born in
Lichfield Lichfield () is a city status in the United Kingdom, cathedral city and Civil parishes in England, civil parish in Staffordshire, England. Lichfield is situated roughly south-east of the county town of Stafford, south-east of Rugeley, north- ...

Lichfield
,
Staffordshire Staffordshire (; postal abbreviation Staffs.) is a landlocked Counties of England, county in the West Midlands (region), West Midlands region of England. It borders Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwicks ...

Staffordshire
, he attended
Pembroke College, Oxford Pembroke College, a Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent college of the University of Oxford, is located at Pembroke Square, Oxford, Pembroke Square, Oxford. The college was founded in 1624 by King James I of England, using in part ...

Pembroke College, Oxford
until lack of funds forced him to leave. After working as a teacher, he moved to London and began writing for ''
The Gentleman's Magazine ''The Gentleman's Magazine'' was a monthly magazine founded in London, England, by Edward Cave in January 1731. It ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, until 1922. It was the first to use the term ''magazine'' (from the French language, Fre ...
''. Early works include '' Life of Mr Richard Savage'', the poems ''
London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom, with a population of just under 9 million. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary dow ...
'' and '' The Vanity of Human Wishes'' and the play ''
Irene Irene is a name derived from εἰρήνη (eirēnē), the Greek for "peace". Irene, and related names, may refer to: * Irene (given name) Places * Irene, Gauteng, South Africa * Irene, South Dakota, United States * Irene, Texas, United States ...
''. After nine years' effort, Johnson's ''
A Dictionary of the English Language ''A Dictionary of the English Language'', sometimes published as ''Johnson's Dictionary'', was published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson. It is among the most influential dictionary, dictionaries in the history of the English la ...
'' appeared in 1755, and was acclaimed as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship". Later work included essays, an annotated ''
The Plays of William Shakespeare ''The Plays of William Shakespeare'' was an 18th-century edition of the Shakespeare's plays, dramatic works of William Shakespeare, edited by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens. Johnson announced his intention to edit Shakespeare's plays in hi ...
'', and the apologue '' The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia''. In 1763 he befriended James Boswell, with whom he travelled to Scotland, as Johnson described in '' A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland''. Near the end of his life came a massive, influential '' Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets'' of the 17th and 18th centuries. He was a devout
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, ...
, and a committed
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of Traditionalist conservatism, traditionalism and conservatism, which upholds the supremacy of social order as it has evolved in the English cul ...
. Tall and robust, he displayed gestures and tics that disconcerted some on meeting 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 Tourette syndrome or Tourette's syndrome (abbreviated as TS or Tourette's) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood or adolescence. It is characterized by multiple movement (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic ...
, and a condition not defined or diagnosed in the 18th century. After several illnesses, he died on the evening of 13 December 1784 and was buried in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is an historic, mainly Gothic architecture, Gothic Church (building), church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of ...

Westminster Abbey
. In his later life Johnson became a celebrity, and following his death he was increasingly seen to have had a lasting effect on literary criticism, even being claimed to be the one truly great critic of English literature. A prevailing mode of
literary theory Literary theory is the systematic research, study of the nature of literature and of the methods for literary analysis.Jonathan Culler, Culler 1997, p.1 Since the 19th century, literary scholarship includes literary theory and considerations of ...
in the 20th century drew from his views, and he had a lasting impact on
biography A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person's experience of these life events. Unlike a profile or c ...

biography
. Johnson's ''Dictionary'' had far-reaching effects on
Modern English Modern English (sometimes New English or NE (ME) as opposed to Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest of 1066, until the lat ...

Modern English
, and was pre-eminent until the arrival of the ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the first and foundational historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a com ...
'' 150 years later.
James Boswell James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (; 29 October 1740 (New Style, N.S.) – 19 May 1795), was a Scottish biographer, diarist, and lawyer, born in Edinburgh. He is best known for his biography of his friend and older contemporary the Englis ...

James Boswell
's '' Life of Samuel Johnson'' was selected by Johnson biographer Walter Jackson Bate as "the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature".


Life and career


Early life and education

Samuel Johnson was born on 18 September 1709, to Sarah (née Ford) and Michael Johnson, a bookseller. His mother was 40 when she gave birth to Johnson in the family home above his father's bookshop in
Lichfield Lichfield () is a city status in the United Kingdom, cathedral city and Civil parishes in England, civil parish in Staffordshire, England. Lichfield is situated roughly south-east of the county town of Stafford, south-east of Rugeley, north- ...

Lichfield
, Staffordshire. This was considered an unusually late pregnancy, so precautions were taken, and a man-midwife and surgeon of "great reputation" named George Hector was brought in to assist. The infant Johnson did not cry, and there were concerns for his health. His aunt exclaimed that "she would not have picked such a poor creature up in the street". The family feared that Johnson would not survive, and summoned the vicar of St Mary's to perform a baptism. Two godfathers were chosen, Samuel Swynfen, a physician and graduate of
Pembroke College, Oxford Pembroke College, a Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent college of the University of Oxford, is located at Pembroke Square, Oxford, Pembroke Square, Oxford. The college was founded in 1624 by King James I of England, using in part ...

Pembroke College, Oxford
, and Richard Wakefield, a lawyer, coroner and Lichfield town clerk. Johnson's health improved and he was put to
wet-nurse A wet nurse is a woman who breastfeeding, breastfeeds and cares for another's child. Wet nurses are employed if the mother dies, or if she is unable or chooses not to nurse the child herself. Wet-nursed children may be known as "milk-siblings", ...

wet-nurse
with Joan Marklew. Some time later he contracted scrofula, known at the time as the "King's Evil" because it was thought royalty could cure it. Sir John Floyer, former physician to , recommended that the young Johnson should receive the "
royal touch The royal touch (also known as the king's touch) was a form of laying on of hands, whereby List of French monarchs, French and English monarchs touched their subjects, regardless of social classes, with the intent to cure them of various disease ...
", and he did so from on 30 March 1712. However, the ritual proved ineffective, and an operation was performed that left him with permanent scars across his face and body. Queen Anne gave Johnson an amulet on a chain he would wear the rest of his life. When Johnson was three, Nathaniel was born. According to Nathaniel, in a letter he wrote to Sarah, complained Johnson "would scarcely ever use me with common civility." With the birth of Johnson's brother their father was unable to pay the debts he had accrued over the years, and the family was no longer able to maintain its standard of living. Johnson displayed signs of great intelligence as a child, and his parents, to his later disgust, would show off his "newly acquired accomplishments". His education began at the age of three, and was provided by his mother, who had him memorise and recite passages from the ''
Book of Common Prayer The ''Book of Common Prayer'' (BCP) is the name given to a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion and by other Christianity, Christian churches historically related to Anglicanism. The original book, published in 1549 ...

Book of Common Prayer
''. When Samuel turned four, he was sent to a nearby school, and, at the age of six he was sent to a retired shoemaker to continue his education. A year later Johnson went to , where he excelled in Latin. For his most personal poems, Johnson used Latin. During this time, Johnson started to exhibit the tics that would influence how people viewed him in his later years, and which formed the basis for a posthumous diagnosis of
Tourette syndrome Tourette syndrome or Tourette's syndrome (abbreviated as TS or Tourette's) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood or adolescence. It is characterized by multiple movement (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic ...
. He excelled at his studies and was promoted to the upper school at the age of nine. During this time, he befriended Edmund Hector, nephew of his "man-midwife" George Hector, and John Taylor, with whom he remained in contact for the rest of his life. At the age of 16, Johnson stayed with his cousins, the Fords, at
Pedmore Pedmore is a residential suburb of Stourbridge in the West Midlands (county), West Midlands of England. It was originally a village in the Worcestershire countryside until extensive housebuilding during the interwar years saw it gradually merged in ...
, Worcestershire. There he became a close friend of Cornelius Ford, who employed his knowledge of the classics to tutor Johnson while he was not attending school. Ford was a successful, well-connected academic, and notorious alcoholic whose excesses contributed to his death six years later. After spending six months with his cousins, Johnson returned to Lichfield, but Hunter, the headmaster, "angered by the impertinence of this long absence", refused to allow Johnson to continue at the school. Unable to return to Lichfield Grammar School, Johnson enrolled at the King Edward VI grammar school at
Stourbridge Stourbridge is a market town in the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley in the West Midlands (county), West Midlands, England, situated on the River Stour, Worcestershire, River Stour. Historic counties of England, Historically in Worcestershire, i ...

Stourbridge
. As the school was located near Pedmore, Johnson was able to spend more time with the Fords, and he began to write poems and verse translations. However, he spent only six months at Stourbridge before returning once again to his parents' home in Lichfield. During this time, Johnson's future remained uncertain because his father was deeply in debt. To earn money, Johnson began to stitch books for his father, and it is likely that Johnson spent much time in his father's bookshop reading and building his literary knowledge. The family remained in poverty until his mother's cousin Elizabeth Harriotts died in February 1728 and left enough money to send Johnson to university. On 31 October 1728, a few weeks after he turned 19, Johnson entered Pembroke College, Oxford. The inheritance did not cover all of his expenses at Pembroke, and Andrew Corbet, a friend and fellow student at the college, offered to make up the deficit. Johnson made friends at Pembroke and read much. His tutor asked him to produce a Latin translation of
Alexander Pope Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 Old Style and New Style dates, O.S. – 30 May 1744) was an English poet, translator, and satirist of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment era who is considered one of the most prominent English poets of the earl ...

Alexander Pope
's ''Messiah'' as a Christmas exercise. Johnson completed half of the translation in one afternoon and the rest the following morning. Although the poem brought him praise, it did not bring the material benefit he had hoped for. The poem later appeared in ''Miscellany of Poems'' (1731), edited by John Husbands, a Pembroke tutor, and is the earliest surviving publication of any of Johnson's writings. Johnson spent the rest of his time studying, even during the Christmas holiday. He drafted a "plan of study" called "Adversaria", which he left unfinished, and used his time to learn French while working on his Greek. Johnson's tutor, Jorden, left Pembroke some months after Johnson's arrival, and was replaced by William Adams. Johnson enjoyed Adams's tutoring, but by December, was already a quarter behind in his student fees, and was forced to return to Lichfield without a degree, having spent 13 months at Oxford. He left behind many books that he had borrowed from his father because he could not afford to transport them, and also because he hoped to return. He eventually did receive a degree. Just before the publication of his ''Dictionary'' in 1755, the
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
awarded Johnson the degree of
Master of Arts A Master of Arts ( la, Magister Artium or ''Artium Magister''; abbreviated MA, M.A., AM, or A.M.) is the holder of a master's degree awarded by University, universities in many countries. The degree is usually contrasted with that of Master of ...
. He was awarded an honorary
doctorate A doctorate (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around pr ...
in 1765 by
Trinity College Dublin , name_Latin = Collegium Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis Reginae Elizabethae juxta Dublin , motto = ''Perpetuis futuris temporibus duraturam'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Ital ...

Trinity College Dublin
and in 1775 by the University of Oxford. In 1776 he returned to Pembroke with and toured the college with his former tutor Adams, who by then was the Master of the college. During that visit he recalled his time at the college and his early career, and expressed his later fondness for Jorden.


Early career

Little is known about Johnson's life between the end of 1729 and 1731. It is likely that he lived with his parents. He experienced bouts of mental anguish and physical pain during years of illness; his tics and gesticulations associated with Tourette syndrome became more noticeable and were often commented upon. By 1731 Johnson's father was deeply in debt and had lost much of his standing in Lichfield. Johnson hoped to get an usher's position, which became available at Stourbridge Grammar School, but since he did not have a degree, his application was passed over on 6 September 1731. At about this time, Johnson's father became ill and developed an "inflammatory fever" which led to his death in December 1731 when Johnson was twenty-two. Devastated by his father's death, Johnson sought to atone for an occasion he did not go with his father to sell books. Johnson stood for a "considerable time bareheaded in the rain" in the spot his father's stall used to be. After the publication of Boswell's ''Life of Samuel Johnson,'' a statue was erected in that spot. Johnson eventually found employment as undermaster at a school in
Market Bosworth Market Bosworth is a market town and civil parish in western Leicestershire, England. At the United Kingdom Census 2001, 2001 Census, it had a population of 1,906, increasing to 2,097 at the 2011 census. It is most famously near to the site of t ...
, run by Sir Wolstan Dixie, who allowed Johnson to teach without a degree. Johnson was treated as a servant, and considered teaching boring, but nonetheless found pleasure in it. After an argument with Dixie he left the school, and by June 1732 he had returned home. Johnson continued to look for a position at a Lichfield school. After being turned down for a job at Ashbourne School, he spent time with his friend Edmund Hector, who was living in the home of the publisher . At the time, Warren was starting his '' Birmingham Journal'', and he enlisted Johnson's help. This connection with Warren grew, and Johnson proposed a translation of
Jerónimo Lobo Jerónimo Lobo (1595 – 29 January 1678) was a Portuguese Jesuit The Society of Jesus ( la, Societas Iesu; abbreviation: SJ), also known as the Jesuits (; la, Iesuitæ), is a religious order (Catholic), religious order of clerics regu ...
's account of the Abyssinians. Johnson read Abbé Joachim Le Grand's French translations, and thought that a shorter version might be "useful and profitable". Instead of writing the work himself, he dictated to Hector, who then took the copy to the printer and made any corrections. Johnson's ''A Voyage to Abyssinia'' was published a year later. He returned to Lichfield in February 1734, and began an annotated edition of
Poliziano Agnolo (Angelo) Ambrogini (14 July 1454 – 24 September 1494), commonly known by his nickname Poliziano (; anglicized as Politian; Latin: '' Politianus''), was an Italian classical scholar and poet of the Florentine Renaissance. His scho ...

Poliziano
's Latin poems, along with a history of Latin poetry from
Petrarch Francesco Petrarca (; 20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374), commonly anglicized as Petrarch (), was a scholar and poet of early Italian Renaissance, Renaissance Italy, and one of the earliest Renaissance humanism, humanists. Petrarch's rediscov ...

Petrarch
to Poliziano; a ''Proposal'' was soon printed, but a lack of funds halted the project. Johnson remained with his close friend Harry Porter during a terminal illness, which ended in Porter's death on 3 September 1734. Porter's wife Elizabeth (née Jervis) (otherwise known as "Tetty") was now a widow at the age of 45, with three children. Some months later, Johnson began to court her. William Shaw, a friend and biographer of Johnson, claims that "the first advances probably proceeded from her, as her attachment to Johnson was in opposition to the advice and desire of all her relations," Johnson was inexperienced in such relationships, but the well-to-do widow encouraged him and promised to provide for him with her substantial savings. They married on 9 July 1735, at St Werburgh's Church in
Derby Derby ( ) is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority area in Derbyshire, England. It lies on the banks of the River Derwent, Derbyshire, River Derwent in the south of Derbyshire, which is ...

Derby
. The Porter family did not approve of the match, partly because of the difference in their ages: Johnson was 25 and Elizabeth was 46. Elizabeth's marriage to Johnson so disgusted her son Jervis that he severed all relations with her. However, her daughter Lucy accepted Johnson from the start, and her other son, Joseph, later came to accept the marriage. In June 1735, while working as a tutor for the children of Thomas Whitby, a local Staffordshire gentleman, Johnson had applied for the position of headmaster at
Solihull School Solihull School is a coeducational Independent school (UK), independent day school in Solihull, West Midlands (county), West Midlands, England. Founded in 1560, it is the oldest school in the town and is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmi ...
. Although Johnson's friend Gilbert Walmisley gave his support, Johnson was passed over because the school's directors thought he was "a very haughty, ill-natured gent, and that he has such a way of distorting his face (which though he can't help) the gents think it may affect some lads". With Walmisley's encouragement, Johnson decided that he could be a successful teacher if he ran his own school. In the autumn of 1735, Johnson opened as a private academy at Edial, near Lichfield. He had only three pupils: Lawrence Offley, George Garrick, and the 18-year-old
David Garrick David Garrick (19 February 1717 – 20 January 1779) was an English actor, playwright, Actor-manager, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of European theatrical practice throughout the 18th century, and was a pupil a ...
, who later became one of the most famous actors of his day. The venture was unsuccessful and cost Tetty a substantial portion of her fortune. Instead of trying to keep the failing school going, Johnson began to write his first major work, the historical tragedy ''
Irene Irene is a name derived from εἰρήνη (eirēnē), the Greek for "peace". Irene, and related names, may refer to: * Irene (given name) Places * Irene, Gauteng, South Africa * Irene, South Dakota, United States * Irene, Texas, United States ...
''. Biographer Robert DeMaria believed that Tourette syndrome likely made public occupations like schoolmaster or tutor almost impossible for Johnson. This may have led Johnson to "the invisible occupation of authorship". Johnson left for London with his former pupil David Garrick on 2 March 1737, the day Johnson's brother died. He was penniless and pessimistic about their travel, but fortunately for them, Garrick had connections in London, and the two were able to stay with his distant relative, Richard Norris. Johnson soon moved to
Greenwich Greenwich ( , ,) is a town in south-east London, England, within the Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county of Greater London. It is situated east-southeast of Charing Cross. Greenwich is notable for its maritime history and for ...

Greenwich
near the Golden Hart Tavern to finish ''Irene''. On 12 July 1737 he wrote to
Edward Cave Edward Cave (27 February 1691 – 10 January 1754) was an English printer, editor and publisher. He coined the term "magazine A magazine is a periodical literature, periodical publication, generally published on a regular schedule (often ...

Edward Cave
with a proposal for a translation of
Paolo Sarpi Paolo Sarpi (14 August 1552 – 15 January 1623) was a Italian people, Venetian historian, prelate, scientist, canon lawyer, and statesman active on behalf of the Venetian Republic during the period of its successful defiance of the Venetian In ...

Paolo Sarpi
's ''The History of the Council of Trent'' (1619), which Cave did not accept until months later. In October 1737 Johnson brought his wife to London, and he found employment with Cave as a writer for ''
The Gentleman's Magazine ''The Gentleman's Magazine'' was a monthly magazine founded in London, England, by Edward Cave in January 1731. It ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, until 1922. It was the first to use the term ''magazine'' (from the French language, Fre ...
''. His assignments for the magazine and other publishers during this time were "almost unparalleled in range and variety," and "so numerous, so varied and scattered" that "Johnson himself could not make a complete list". In May 1738 his first major work, the poem ''
London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom, with a population of just under 9 million. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a estuary dow ...
'', was published anonymously. Based on
Juvenal Decimus Junius Juvenalis (), known in English as Juvenal ( ), was a Roman Empire, Roman poet active in the late first and early second century Common Era, CE. He is the author of the collection of satirical poems known as the ''Satires (Juvenal ...

Juvenal
's Satire III, it describes the character Thales leaving for Wales to escape the problems of London, which is portrayed as a place of crime, corruption, and poverty. Johnson could not bring himself to regard the poem as earning him any merit as a poet. Alexander Pope said that the author "will soon be déterré" (unearthed, dug up), but this would not happen until 15 years later. In August, Johnson's lack of an MA degree from Oxford or Cambridge led to his being denied a position as master of the Appleby Grammar School. In an effort to end such rejections, Pope asked Lord Gower to use his influence to have a degree awarded to Johnson. Gower petitioned Oxford for an honorary degree to be awarded to Johnson, but was told that it was "too much to be asked". Gower then asked a friend of
Jonathan Swift Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish Satire, satirist, author, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whig (British political party), Whigs, then for the Tories (British political party), Tories), poe ...
to plead with Swift to use his influence at the
University of Dublin The University of Dublin ( ga, Ollscoil Átha Cliath), corporately designated the Chancellor, Doctors and Masters of the University of Dublin, is a university located in Dublin, Ireland. It is the degree-awarding body for Trinity College Dubl ...
to have a master's degree awarded to Johnson, in the hope that this could then be used to justify an MA from Oxford, but Swift refused to act on Johnson's behalf. Between 1737 and 1739, Johnson befriended poet Richard Savage. Feeling guilty of living almost entirely on Tetty's money, Johnson stopped living with her and spent his time with Savage. They were poor and would stay in taverns or sleep in "night-cellars". Some nights they would roam the streets until dawn because they had no money. During this period, Johnson and Savage worked as Grub Street writers who anonymously supplied publishers with on-demand material. In his ''Dictionary,'' Johnson defined "grub street" as "the name of a street in Moorfields in London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems, whence any mean production is called ''grubstreet."'' Savage's friends tried to help him by attempting to persuade him to move to Wales, but Savage ended up in Bristol and again fell into debt. He was committed to debtors' prison and died in 1743. A year later, Johnson wrote '' Life of Mr Richard Savage'' (1744), a "moving" work which, in the words of the biographer and critic Walter Jackson Bate, "remains one of the innovative works in the history of biography".


''A Dictionary of the English Language''

In 1746, a group of publishers approached Johnson with the idea of creating an authoritative dictionary of the English language. A contract with William Strahan and associates, worth 1,500
guineas The guinea (; commonly abbreviated gn., or gns. in plural) was a coin, minted in United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Great Britain between 1663 and 1814, that contained approximately one-quarter of an ounce of gold. The name came from t ...
, was signed on the morning of 18 June 1746. Johnson claimed that he could finish the project in three years. In comparison, the
Académie Française An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, higher learning (and generally also research or honorary membershi ...
had 40 scholars spending 40 years to complete their dictionary, which prompted Johnson to claim, "This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman." Although he did not succeed in completing the work in three years, he did manage to finish it in eight. Some criticised the dictionary, including the historian
Thomas Babington Macaulay Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay, (; 25 October 1800 – 28 December 1859) was a British historian and Whig (British political faction), Whig politician, who served as the Secretary at War between 1839 and 1841, and as the Payma ...

Thomas Babington Macaulay
, who described Johnson as "a wretched etymologist," but according to Bate, the ''Dictionary'' "easily ranks as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever performed by one individual who laboured under anything like the disadvantages in a comparable length of time." Johnson's constant work on the ''Dictionary'' disrupted his and Tetty's living conditions. He had to employ a number of assistants for the copying and mechanical work, which filled the house with incessant noise and clutter. He was always busy, and kept hundreds of books around him. John Hawkins described the scene: "The books he used for this purpose were what he had in his own collection, a copious but a miserably ragged one, and all such as he could borrow; which latter, if ever they came back to those that lent them, were so defaced as to be scarce worth owning." Johnson's process included underlining words in the numerous books he wanted to include in his ''Dictionary''. The assistants would copy out the underlined sentences on individual paper slips, which would later be alphabetized and accompanied with examples. Johnson was also distracted by Tetty's poor health as she began to show signs of a terminal illness. To accommodate both his wife and his work, he moved to near his printer, William Strahan. In preparation, Johnson had written a ''Plan'' for the ''Dictionary''.
Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, (22 September 169424 March 1773) was a British statesman, diplomat, and man of letters, and an acclaimed wit of his time. Early life He was born in London to Philip Stanhope, 3rd Earl of Ches ...

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
, was the patron of the ''Plan'', to Johnson's displeasure. Seven years after first meeting Johnson to go over the work, Chesterfield wrote two anonymous essays in ''The World'' recommending the ''Dictionary''. He complained that the English language lacked structure and argued in support of the dictionary. Johnson did not like the tone of the essays, and he felt that Chesterfield had not fulfilled his obligations as the work's patron. In a letter to Chesterfield, Johnson expressed this view and harshly criticised Chesterfield, saying "Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind: but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it." Chesterfield, impressed by the language, kept the letter displayed on a table for anyone to read. The ''Dictionary'' was finally published in April 1755, with the title page noting that the University of Oxford had awarded Johnson a Master of Arts degree in anticipation of the work. The dictionary as published was a large book. Its pages were nearly tall, and the book was wide when opened; it contained 42,773 entries, to which only a few more were added in subsequent editions, and it sold for the extravagant price of £4 10s, perhaps the rough equivalent of £350 today. An important innovation in English
lexicography Lexicography is the study of lexicons, and is divided into two separate academic disciplines. It is the art of compiling dictionaries. * Practical lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionary, dictionaries. ...

lexicography
was to illustrate the meanings of his words by literary quotation, of which there were approximately 114,000. The authors most frequently cited include
William Shakespeare William Shakespeare ( 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's nation ...

William Shakespeare
,
John Milton John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) was an English people, English poet and intellectual. His 1667 epic poetry, epic poem ''Paradise Lost'', written in blank verse and including over ten chapters, was written in a time of immense ...

John Milton
and
John Dryden '' John Dryden (; – ) was an English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who in 1668 was appointed England's first Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, Poet Laureate. He is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration ...

John Dryden
. It was years before ''Johnson's Dictionary'', as it came to be known, turned a profit. Authors' royalties were unknown at the time, and Johnson, once his contract to deliver the book was fulfilled, received no further money from its sale. Years later, many of its quotations would be repeated by various editions of the ''
Webster's Dictionary ''Webster's Dictionary'' is any of the English language dictionaries edited in the early 19th century by American lexicographer Noah Webster (1758–1843), as well as numerous related or unrelated dictionaries that have adopted the Webster's n ...

Webster's Dictionary
'' and the ''
New English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the first and foundational historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a com ...
''. Johnson's dictionary was not the first, nor was it unique. Other dictionaries, such as
Nathan Bailey Nathan Bailey (died 27 June 1742), was an England, English philologist and lexicography, lexicographer. He was the author of several dictionaries, including his ''An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, Universal Etymological Dictionary'', ...
's ''Dictionarium Britannicum'', included more words, and in the 150 years preceding Johnson's dictionary about twenty other general-purpose monolingual "English" dictionaries had been produced. However, there was open dissatisfaction with the dictionaries of the period. In 1741,
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 New Style, NS (26 April 1711 Old Style, OS) – 25 August 1776)Maurice Cranston, Cranston, Maurice, and T. E. Jessop, Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999avid Hume" ''Encyclopædia Britannica''. Retrieve ...

David Hume
claimed: "The Elegance and Propriety of Stile have been very much neglected among us. We have no Dictionary of our Language, and scarce a tolerable Grammar." Johnson's ''Dictionary'' offers insights into the 18th century and "a faithful record of the language people used". It is more than a reference book; it is a work of literature. It was the most commonly used and imitated for the 150 years between its first publication and the completion of the ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the first and foundational historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a com ...
'' in 1928. Johnson also wrote numerous essays, sermons, and poems during his years working on the dictionary. In 1750, he decided to produce a series of essays under the title ''
The Rambler ''The Rambler'' was a periodical (strictly, a series of short papers) by Samuel Johnson. Description ''The Rambler'' was published on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 1750 to 1752 and totals 208 articles. It was Johnson's most consistent and sustain ...

The Rambler
'' that were to be published every Tuesday and Saturday and sell for twopence each. During this time, Johnson published no fewer than 208 essays, each around 1,200-1,500 words long. Explaining the title years later, he told his friend, the painter
Joshua Reynolds Sir Joshua Reynolds (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792) was an English painter, specialising in portraits. John Russell (art critic), John Russell said he was one of the major European painters of the 18th century. He promoted the Grand manner, ...

Joshua Reynolds
: "I was at a loss how to name it. I sat down at night upon my bedside, and resolved that I would not go to sleep till I had fixed its title. ''The Rambler'' seemed the best that occurred, and I took it." These essays, often on moral and religious topics, tended to be more grave than the title of the series would suggest; his first comments in ''The Rambler'' were to ask "that in this undertaking thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me, but that I may promote thy glory, and the salvation of myself and others." The popularity of ''The Rambler'' took off once the issues were collected in a volume; they were reprinted nine times during Johnson's life. Writer and printer
Samuel Richardson Samuel Richardson (baptised 19 August 1689 – 4 July 1761) was an English writer and Printer (publisher), printer known for three epistolary novels: ''Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded'' (1740), ''Clarissa, Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady' ...

Samuel Richardson
, enjoying the essays greatly, questioned the publisher as to who wrote the works; only he and a few of Johnson's friends were told of Johnson's authorship. One friend, the novelist Charlotte Lennox, includes a defence of ''The Rambler'' in her novel ''The Female Quixote'' (1752). In particular, the character Mr. Glanville says, "you may sit in Judgment upon the Productions of a ''Young'', a ''Richardson'', or a ''Johnson''. Rail with premeditated Malice at the ''Rambler''; and for the want of Faults, turn even its inimitable Beauties into Ridicule." (Book VI, Chapter XI) Later, the novel describes Johnson as "the greatest Genius in the present Age." Not all of his work was confined to ''The Rambler''. His most highly regarded poem, '' The Vanity of Human Wishes'', was written with such "extraordinary speed" that Boswell claimed Johnson "might have been perpetually a poet". The poem is an imitation of Juvenal's '' Satire X'' and claims that "the antidote to vain human wishes is non-vain spiritual wishes". In particular, Johnson emphasises "the helpless vulnerability of the individual before the social context" and the "inevitable self-deception by which human beings are led astray". The poem was critically celebrated but it failed to become popular, and sold fewer copies than ''London''. In 1749, Garrick made good on his promise that he would produce ''Irene'', but its title was altered to '' Mahomet and Irene'' to make it "fit for the stage." ''Irene,'' which was written in blank verse, was received rather poorly with a friend of Boswell's commenting the play to be "as frigid as the regions of Nova Zembla: now and then you felt a little heat like what is produced by touching ice." The show eventually ran for nine nights. Tetty Johnson was ill during most of her time in London, and in 1752 she decided to return to the countryside while Johnson was busy working on his ''Dictionary''. She died on 17 March 1752, and, at word of her death, Johnson wrote a letter to his old friend Taylor, which according to Taylor "expressed grief in the strongest manner he had ever read". Johnson wrote a sermon in her honour, to be read at her funeral, but Taylor refused to read it, for reasons which are unknown. This only exacerbated Johnson's feelings of loss and despair. Consequently, John Hawkesworth had to organise the funeral. Johnson felt guilty about the poverty in which he believed he had forced Tetty to live, and blamed himself for neglecting her. He became outwardly discontented, and his diary was filled with prayers and laments over her death which continued until his own. She was his primary motivation, and her death hindered his ability to complete his work.


Later career

On 16 March 1756, Johnson was arrested for an outstanding debt of £5 18Shilling, s. Unable to contact anyone else, he wrote to the writer and publisher Samuel Richardson. Richardson, who had previously lent Johnson money, sent him six Guinea (coin), guineas to show his good will, and the two became friends. Soon after, Johnson met and befriended the painter Joshua Reynolds, who so impressed Johnson that he declared him "almost the only man whom I call a friend". Reynolds's younger sister Frances observed during their time together "that men, women and children gathered around him [Johnson]", laughing at his gestures and gesticulations. In addition to Reynolds, Johnson was close to Bennet Langton and Arthur Murphy (writer), Arthur Murphy. Langton was a scholar and an admirer of Johnson who persuaded his way into a meeting with Johnson which led to a long friendship. Johnson met Murphy during the summer of 1754 after Murphy came to Johnson about the accidental republishing of the ''Rambler'' No. 190, and the two became friends. Around this time, Anna Williams (poet), Anna Williams began boarding with Johnson. She was a minor poet who was poor and becoming blind, two conditions that Johnson attempted to change by providing room for her and paying for a failed cataract surgery. Williams, in turn, became Johnson's housekeeper. To occupy himself, Johnson began to work on ''The Literary Magazine, or Universal Review'', the first issue of which was printed on 19 March 1756. Philosophical disagreements erupted over the purpose of the publication when the Seven Years' War began and Johnson started to write polemical essays attacking the war. After the war began, the ''Magazine'' included many reviews, at least 34 of which were written by Johnson. When not working on the ''Magazine'', Johnson wrote a series of prefaces for other writers, such as Giuseppe Baretti, William Payne (mathematician), William Payne and Charlotte Lennox. Johnson's relationship with Lennox and her works was particularly close during these years, and she in turn relied so heavily upon Johnson that he was "the most important single fact in Mrs Lennox's literary life". He later attempted to produce a new edition of her works, but even with his support they were unable to find enough interest to follow through with its publication. To help with domestic duties while Johnson was busy with his various projects, Richard Bathurst, a physician and a member of Johnson's Club, pressured him to take on a freed slave, Francis Barber, as his servant. Johnson's work on ''
The Plays of William Shakespeare ''The Plays of William Shakespeare'' was an 18th-century edition of the Shakespeare's plays, dramatic works of William Shakespeare, edited by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens. Johnson announced his intention to edit Shakespeare's plays in hi ...
'' took up most of his time. On 8 June 1756, Johnson published his ''The Plays of William Shakespeare#Proposal, Proposals for Printing, by Subscription, the Dramatick Works of William Shakespeare'', which argued that previous editions of Shakespeare were edited incorrectly and needed to be corrected. Johnson's progress on the work slowed as the months passed, and he told music historian Charles Burney in December 1757 that it would take him until the following March to complete it. Before that could happen, he was arrested again, for a debt of £40, in February 1758. The debt was soon repaid by Jacob Tonson, who had contracted Johnson to publish ''Shakespeare'', and this encouraged Johnson to finish his edition to repay the favour. Although it took him another seven years to finish, Johnson completed a few volumes of his ''Shakespeare'' to prove his commitment to the project. In 1758, Johnson began to write a weekly series, ''The Idler (1758–60), The Idler'', which ran from 15 April 1758 to 5 April 1760, as a way to avoid finishing his ''Shakespeare''. This series was shorter and lacked many features of ''The Rambler''. Unlike his independent publication of ''The Rambler'', ''The Idler'' was published in a weekly news journal ''The Universal Chronicle'', a publication supported by John Payne, John Newbery, Robert Stevens and William Faden. Since ''The Idler'' did not occupy all Johnson's time, he was able to publish his philosophical novella ''The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, Rasselas'' on 19 April 1759. The "little story book", as Johnson described it, describes the life of Prince Rasselas and Nekayah, his sister, who are kept in a place called the Happy Valley in the land of Abyssinia. The Valley is a place free of problems, where any desire is quickly satisfied. The constant pleasure does not, however, lead to satisfaction; and, with the help of a philosopher named Imlac, Rasselas escapes and explores the world to witness how all aspects of society and life in the outside world are filled with suffering. They return to Abyssinia, but do not wish to return to the state of constantly fulfilled pleasures found in the Happy Valley. ''Rasselas'' was written in one week to pay for his mother's funeral and settle her debts; it became so popular that there was a new English edition of the work almost every year. References to it appear in many later works of fiction, including ''Jane Eyre'', ''Cranford (novel), Cranford'' and ''The House of the Seven Gables''. Its fame was not limited to English-speaking nations: ''Rasselas'' was immediately translated into five languages (French, Dutch, German, Russian and Italian), and later into nine others. By 1762, however, Johnson had gained notoriety for his dilatoriness in writing; the contemporary poet Charles Churchill (satirist), Churchill teased Johnson for the delay in producing his long-promised edition of Shakespeare: "He for subscribers baits his hook / and takes your cash, but where's the book?" The comments soon motivated Johnson to finish his ''Shakespeare'', and, after receiving the first payment from a government pension on 20 July 1762, he was able to dedicate most of his time towards this goal. Earlier that July, the 24-year-old King George III granted Johnson an annual pension of £300 in appreciation for the ''Dictionary''. While the pension did not make Johnson wealthy, it did allow him a modest yet comfortable independence for the remaining 22 years of his life. The award came largely through the efforts of Thomas Sheridan (actor), Sheridan and the John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, Earl of Bute. When Johnson questioned if the pension would force him to promote a political agenda or support various officials, he was told by Bute that the pension "is not given you for anything you are to do, but for what you have done". On 16 May 1763, Johnson first met 22-year-old
James Boswell James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (; 29 October 1740 (New Style, N.S.) – 19 May 1795), was a Scottish biographer, diarist, and lawyer, born in Edinburgh. He is best known for his biography of his friend and older contemporary the Englis ...

James Boswell
—who would later become Johnson's first major biographer—in the bookshop of Johnson's friend, Thomas Davies (bookseller), Tom Davies. They quickly became friends, although Boswell would return to his home in Scotland or travel abroad for months at a time. Around the spring of 1763, Johnson formed "The Club (dining club), The Club", a social group that included his friends Reynolds, Edmund Burke, Burke, Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith, Goldsmith and others (the membership later expanded to include Adam Smith and Edward Gibbon, in addition to Boswell himself). They decided to meet every Monday at 7:00 pm at the Turk's Head in Gerrard Street, London, Gerrard Street, Soho, and these meetings continued until long after the deaths of the original members. On 9 January 1765, Murphy introduced Johnson to Henry Thrale, a wealthy brewer and Member of Parliament, MP, and his wife Hester Thrale, Hester. They struck up an instant friendship; Johnson was treated as a member of the family, and was once more motivated to continue working on his ''Shakespeare''. Afterwards, Johnson stayed with the Thrales for 17 years until Henry's death in 1781, sometimes staying in rooms at Thrale's Anchor Brewery, Southwark, Anchor Brewery in Southwark. Hester Thrale's documentation of Johnson's life during this time, in her correspondence and her diary (''Thraliana''), became an important source of biographical information on Johnson after his death. Johnson's edition of ''Shakespeare'' was finally published on 10 October 1765 as ''The Plays of William Shakespeare, in Eight Volumes ... To which are added Notes by Sam. Johnson'' in a printing of one thousand copies. The first edition quickly sold out, and a second was soon printed. The plays themselves were in a version that Johnson felt was closest to the original, based on his analysis of the manuscript editions. Johnson's revolutionary innovation was to create a set of corresponding notes that allowed readers to clarify the meaning behind many of Shakespeare's more complicated passages, and to examine those which had been transcribed incorrectly in previous editions. Included within the notes are occasional attacks upon rival editors of Shakespeare's works. Years later, Edmond Malone, an important Shakespearean scholar and friend of Johnson's, stated that Johnson's "vigorous and comprehensive understanding threw more light on his authour than all his predecessors had done".


Final works

On 6 August 1773, eleven years after first meeting Boswell, Johnson set out to visit his friend in Scotland, and to begin "a journey to the western islands of Scotland", as Johnson's A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, 1775 account of their travels would put it. That account was intended to discuss the social problems and struggles that affected the Scottish people, but it also praised many of the unique facets of Scottish society, such as a school in Edinburgh for the deaf and mute. Also, Johnson used the work to enter into the dispute over the authenticity of James Macpherson, James Macpherson's Ossian poems, claiming they could not have been translations of ancient Scottish literature on the grounds that "in those times nothing had been written in the Earse [i.e. Scots Gaelic] language". There were heated exchanges between the two, and according to one of Johnson's letters, MacPherson threatened physical violence. Boswell's account of their journey, ''The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides'' (1786), was a preliminary step toward his later biography, ''Life of Johnson, The Life of Samuel Johnson''. Included were various quotations and descriptions of events, including anecdotes such as Johnson swinging a Basket-hilted sword, broadsword while wearing Scottish garb, or dancing a Highland jig. In the 1770s, Johnson, who had tended to be an opponent of the government early in life, published a series of pamphlets in favour of various government policies. In 1770 he produced ''The False Alarm'', a political pamphlet attacking John Wilkes. In 1771, his ''Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland's Islands'' cautioned against war with Spain. In 1774 he printed ''The Patriot'', a critique of what he viewed as false patriotism. On the evening of 7 April 1775, he made the famous statement, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." This line was not, as widely believed, about patriotism in general, but what Johnson considered to be the false use of the term "patriotism" by Wilkes and his supporters. Johnson opposed "self-professed Patriots" in general, but valued what he considered "true" patriotism. The last of these pamphlets, ''Taxation No Tyranny'' (1775), was a defence of the Coercive Acts and a response to the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, Declaration of Rights of the First Continental Congress, which protested against No taxation without representation, taxation without representation. Johnson argued that in emigrating to America, colonists had "voluntarily resigned the power of voting", but they still retained "virtual representation" in Parliament. In a parody of the Declaration of Rights, Johnson suggested that the Americans had no more right to govern themselves than the Cornish people, Cornish, and asked "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the Slavery in the colonial United States, drivers of negroes?" If the Americans wanted to participate in Parliament, said Johnson, they could move to England and purchase an estate. Johnson denounced English supporters of American separatists as "traitors to this country", and hoped that the matter would be settled without bloodshed, but he felt confident that it would end with "English superiority and American obedience". Years before, Johnson had stated that the French and Indian War was a conflict between "two robbers" of Native Americans in the United States, Native American lands, and that neither deserved to live there. After the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), 1783 Treaty of Paris, marking the colonists' victory over the British, Johnson became "deeply disturbed" with the "state of this kingdom". On 3 May 1777, while Johnson was trying and failing to save William Dodd (priest), Reverend William Dodd from execution for forgery, he wrote to Boswell that he was busy preparing a "little Lives" and "little Prefaces, to a little edition of the English Poets". Tom Davies, William Strahan and Thomas Cadell (publisher), Thomas Cadell had asked Johnson to create this final major work, the ''Lives of the English Poets'', for which he asked 200 guineas, an amount significantly less than the price he could have demanded. The ''Lives'', which were critical as well as biographical studies, appeared as prefaces to selections of each poet's work, and they were longer and more detailed than originally expected. The work was finished in March 1781 and the whole collection was published in six volumes. As Johnson justified in the advertisement for the work, "my purpose was only to have allotted to every Poet an Advertisement, like those which we find in the French Miscellanies, containing a few dates and a general character." Johnson was unable to enjoy this success because Henry Thrale, the dear friend with whom he lived, died on 4 April 1781. Life changed quickly for Johnson when Hester Thrale became romantically involved with the Italian singing teacher Gabriel Mario Piozzi, which forced Johnson to change his previous lifestyle. After returning home and then travelling for a short period, Johnson received word that his friend and tenant Robert Levet, had died on 17 January 1782. Johnson was shocked by the death of Levet, who had resided at Johnson's London home since 1762. Shortly afterwards Johnson caught a cold that developed into bronchitis and lasted for several months. His health was further complicated by "feeling forlorn and lonely" over Levet's death, and by the deaths of his friend Thomas Lawrence (physician), Thomas Lawrence and his housekeeper Williams.


Final years

Although he had recovered his health by August, Johnson 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. Months later, on 6 October 1782, Johnson attended church for the final time in his life, to say goodbye to his former residence and life. The walk to the church strained him, but he managed the journey unaccompanied. While there, he wrote a prayer for the Thrale family: Hester Thrale did not completely abandon Johnson, and asked him to accompany the family on a trip to Brighton. He agreed, and was with them from 7 October to 20 November 1782. On his return, his health began to fail, and he was left alone after Boswell's visit on 29 May 1783. On 17 June 1783, Johnson's poor circulation resulted in a stroke and he wrote to his neighbour, Edmund Allen, that he had lost the ability to speak. Two doctors were brought in to aid Johnson; he regained his ability to speak two days later. Johnson feared that he was dying, and wrote: By this time he was sick and gout, gout-ridden. He had surgery for gout, and his remaining friends, including novelist Frances Burney, Fanny Burney (the daughter of Charles Burney), came to keep him company. He was confined to his room from 14 December 1783 to 21 April 1784. His health began to improve by May 1784, and he travelled to Oxford with Boswell on 5 May 1784. By July, many of Johnson's friends were either dead or gone; Boswell had left for Scotland and Hester Thrale had become engaged to Piozzi. With no one to visit, Johnson expressed a desire to die in London and arrived there on 16 November 1784. On 25 November 1784, 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. His final moments were filled with mental anguish and delusions; when his physician, Thomas Warren, visited and asked him if he were feeling better, Johnson burst out with: "No, Sir; you cannot conceive with what acceleration I advance towards death." Many visitors came to see Johnson as he lay sick in bed, but he preferred only Langton's company. Burney waited for word of Johnson's condition, along with Windham, Strahan, Hoole, Cruikshank, Des Moulins and Barber. On 13 December 1784, Johnson met with two others: a young woman, Miss Morris, whom Johnson blessed, and Francesco Sastres, an Italian teacher, who was given some of Johnson's final words: "''Iam Moriturus''" ("I who am about to die"). Shortly afterwards he fell into a coma, and died at 7:00 p.m. Langton waited until 11:00 p.m. to tell the others, which led to John Hawkins' becoming pale and overcome with "an agony of mind", along with Seward and Hoole describing Johnson's death as "the most awful sight". Boswell remarked, "My feeling was just one large expanse of Stupor ... I could not believe it. My imagination was not convinced." William Gerard Hamilton joined in and stated, "He has made a chasm, which not only nothing can fill up, but which ''nothing has a tendency to fill up''. –Johnson is dead.– Let us go to the next best: There is nobody; –''no man can be said to put you in mind of Johnson''." He was buried on 20 December 1784 at
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is an historic, mainly Gothic architecture, Gothic Church (building), church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of ...

Westminster Abbey
with an inscription that reads: :Samuel Johnson, LL.D. :''Obiit XIII die Decembris,'' :''Anno Domini'' :M.DCC.LXXXIV. :''Ætatis suœ'' LXXV.


Literary criticism

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. He was suspicious of the poetic language used by Milton, whose blank verse he believed would inspire many bad imitations. Also, Johnson opposed the poetic language of his contemporary Thomas Gray. His greatest complaint was that obscure allusions found in works like Milton's ''Lycidas'' were overused; he preferred poetry that could be easily read and understood. In addition to his views on language, Johnson believed that a good poem incorporated new and unique imagery. 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 ''London'', his first imitation of Juvenal, Johnson uses the poetic form to express his political opinion and approaches the topic in a playful and almost joyous manner. However, his second imitation, ''The Vanity of Human Wishes'', is completely different; the language remains simple, but the poem is more complicated and difficult to read because Johnson is trying to describe complex Christian ethics. These Christian values are not unique to the poem, but contain views expressed in most of Johnson's works. In particular, Johnson emphasises God's infinite love and argues that happiness can be attained through virtuous action. 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'' 60. Furthermore, Johnson believed that biography should not be limited to the most famous and that the lives of lesser individuals, too, were significant; thus in his ''Lives of the Poets'' he chose both great and lesser poets. In all his biographies he insisted on including what others would have considered trivial details to fully describe the lives of his subjects. Johnson considered the genre of autobiography and diaries, including his own, as one having the most significance; in ''Idler'' 84 he writes that a writer of an autobiography would be the least likely to distort his own life. Johnson's thoughts on biography and on poetry coalesced in his understanding of what would make a good critic. 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''". Although a smaller edition became the household standard, Johnson's original ''Dictionary'' was an academic tool that examined how words were used, especially in literary works. To achieve this purpose, Johnson included quotations from Bacon, Hooker, Milton, Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Spenser, and many others from what he considered to be the most important literary fields: natural science, philosophy, poetry, and theology. 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. When it came to Shakespeare's plays, Johnson emphasised the role of the reader in understanding language: "If Shakespeare has difficulties above other writers, it is to be imputed to the nature of his work, which required the use of common colloquial language, and consequently admitted many phrases allusive, elliptical, and proverbial, such as we speak and hear every hour without observing them". 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. However, Johnson did not only defend Shakespeare; he discussed Shakespeare's faults, including what he saw as lack of morality, vulgarity, carelessness in crafting plots, and occasional inattentiveness when choosing words or word order. As well as direct literary criticism, Johnson emphasised the need to establish a text that accurately reflects what an author wrote. 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.


Views and character

Johnson's tall and robust figure combined with his odd gestures were confusing to some; when William Hogarth first saw Johnson standing near a window in 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". Hogarth was quite surprised when "this figure stalked forwards to where he and Mr. Richardson were sitting and all at once took up the argument ... [with] such a power of eloquence, that Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and actually imagined that this ideot had been at the moment inspired". Beyond appearance, Adam Smith claimed that "Johnson knew more books than any man alive", while Edmund Burke thought that if Johnson were to join Parliament, he "certainly would have been the greatest speaker that ever was there". Johnson relied on a unique form of rhetoric, and he is well known for his "Appeal to the stone, refutation" of George Berkeley, Bishop Berkeley's immaterialism, his claim that matter did not actually exist but only seemed to exist: during a conversation with Boswell, Johnson powerfully stomped a nearby stone and proclaimed of Berkeley's theory, "I refute it ''thus''!" Johnson was a devout, conservative
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, ...
and a compassionate man who supported a number of poor friends under his own roof, even when unable to fully provide for himself. Johnson's Christian morality permeated his works, and he would write on moral topics with such authority and in such a trusting manner that, Walter Jackson Bate claims, "no other moralist in history excels or even begins to rival him". However, Johnson's moral writings do not contain, as Donald Greene points out, "a predetermined and authorized pattern of 'good behavior, even though Johnson does emphasise certain kinds of conduct. He did not let his own faith prejudice him against others, and had respect for those of other denominations who demonstrated a commitment to Christian beliefs. Although Johnson respected Milton's poetry, he could not tolerate Milton's Puritan and Republican beliefs, feeling that they were contrary to England and Christianity. He was an opponent of slavery on moral grounds, and once proposed a toast to the "next rebellion of the negroes in the West Indies". Beside his beliefs concerning humanity, Johnson is also known for his love of cats, especially his own two cats, Hodge (cat), Hodge and Lily. Boswell wrote, "I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat. Johnson was also known as a staunch Tory; he admitted to sympathies for the Jacobitism, Jacobite cause during his younger years but, by the reign of George III of the United Kingdom, George III, he came to accept the Act of Settlement 1701, Hanoverian Succession. It was Boswell who gave people the impression that Johnson was an "arch-conservative", and it was Boswell, more than anyone else, who determined how Johnson would be seen by people years later. 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 1770s 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. In his ''Life of Samuel Johnson'' Boswell referred to Johnson as 'Dr. 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. Although Boswell, a Scotsman, was a close companion and friend to Johnson during many important times of his life, like many of his fellow Englishmen, Johnson had a reputation for despising Scotland and its people. Even during their journey together through Scotland, Johnson "exhibited prejudice and a narrow nationalism". Hester Thrale, in summarising Johnson's nationalistic views and his anti-Scottish prejudice, said: "We all know how well he loved to abuse the Scotch, & indeed to be abused by them in return."


Health

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". To overcome these feelings, Johnson tried to constantly involve himself with various activities, but this did not seem to help. Taylor said that Johnson "at one time strongly entertained thoughts of suicide". Boswell claimed that Johnson "felt himself overwhelmed with an horrible melancholia, with perpetual irritation, fretfulness, and impatience; and with a dejection, gloom, and despair, which made existence misery". 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. During this time, Johnson witnessed Christopher Smart's decline into "penury and the madhouse", and feared that he might share the same fate. Hester Thrale Piozzi claimed, in a discussion on Smart's mental state, that Johnson was her "friend who feared an apple should intoxicate him". To her, what separated Johnson from others who were placed in asylums for madness—like Christopher Smart—was his ability to keep his concerns and emotions to himself. Two hundred years after Johnson's death, the posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome became widely accepted. The History of Tourette syndrome, condition was unknown during Johnson's lifetime, but Boswell describes Johnson Societal and cultural aspects of Tourette syndrome#Samuel Johnson, displaying signs of Tourette syndrome, including tics and other involuntary movements. According to Boswell "he commonly held his head to one side ... moving his body backwards and forwards, and rubbing his left knee in the same direction, with the palm of his hand ... [H]e made various sounds" like "a half whistle" or "as if clucking like a hen", and "... all this accompanied sometimes with a thoughtful look, but more frequently with a smile. Generally when he had concluded a period, in the course of a dispute, by which time he was a good deal exhausted by violence and vociferation, he used to blow out his breath like a whale." There are many similar accounts; in particular, Johnson was said to "perform his gesticulations" at the threshold of a house or in doorways. When asked by a little girl why he made such noises and acted in that way, Johnson responded: "From bad habit." The diagnosis of the syndrome was first made in a 1967 report, and Tourette syndrome researcher Arthur K. Shapiro described Johnson as "the most notable example of a successful adaptation to life despite the liability of Tourette syndrome". Details provided by the writings of Boswell, Hester Thrale, and others reinforce the diagnosis, with one paper concluding:


Legacy

Johnson was, in the words of Steven Lynn, "more than a well-known writer and scholar"; he was a celebrity, for the activities and the state of his health in his later years were constantly reported in various journals and newspapers, and when there was nothing to report, something was invented. According to Bate, "Johnson loved biography," and he "changed the whole course of biography for the modern world. One by-product was the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature, Boswell's ''Life of Johnson'', and there were many other memoirs and biographies of a similar kind written on Johnson after his death." These List of contemporary accounts of Samuel Johnson's life, accounts of his life include Thomas Tyers's ''A Biographical Sketch of Dr Samuel Johnson'' (1784); Boswell's ''The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides'' (1785); Hester Thrale's ''Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson'', which drew on entries from her diary and other notes; John Hawkins's ''Life of Samuel Johnson (Hawkins book), Life of Samuel Johnson'', the first full-length biography of Johnson; and, in 1792, Arthur Murphy's ''An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson'', which replaced Hawkins's biography as the introduction to a collection of Johnson's ''Works''. Another important source was Fanny Burney, who described Johnson as "the acknowledged Head of Literature in this kingdom" and kept a diary containing details missing from other biographies. Above all, Boswell's portrayal of Johnson is the work best known to general readers. Although critics like Donald Greene argue about its status as a true biography, the work became successful as Boswell and his friends promoted it at the expense of the many other works on Johnson's life. In criticism, Johnson had a lasting influence, although not everyone viewed him favourably. Some, like Macaulay, regarded Johnson as an Savant syndrome, idiot savant who produced some respectable works, and others, like the Romantic poetry, Romantic poets, were completely opposed to Johnson's views on poetry and literature, especially with regard to Milton. However, some of their contemporaries disagreed: Stendhal's ''Racine et Shakespeare'' is based in part on Johnson's views of Shakespeare, and Johnson influenced Jane Austen's writing style and philosophy. Later, Johnson's works came into favour, and Matthew Arnold, in his ''Six Chief Lives from Johnson's "Lives of the Poets"'', considered the ''Lives'' of Milton, Dryden, Pope, Joseph Addison, Addison, Swift, and Gray as "points which stand as so many natural centres, and by returning to which we can always find our way again". More than a century after his death, literary critics such as George Birkbeck Norman Hill, G. Birkbeck Hill and T. S. Eliot came to regard Johnson as a serious critic. They began to study Johnson's works with an increasing focus on the critical analysis found in his edition of Shakespeare and ''Lives of the Poets''. Yvor Winters claimed that "A great critic is the rarest of all literary geniuses; perhaps the only critic in English who deserves that epithet is Samuel Johnson". F. R. Leavis agreed and, on Johnson's criticism, said, "When we read him we know, beyond question, that we have here a powerful and distinguished mind operating at first hand upon literature. This, we can say with emphatic conviction, really ''is'' criticism". Edmund Wilson claimed that "The ''Lives of the Poets'' and the prefaces and commentary on Shakespeare are among the most brilliant and the most acute documents in the whole range of English criticism". The critic Harold Bloom placed Johnson's work firmly within the Western canon, describing him as "unmatched by any critic in any nation before or after him ... Bate in the finest insight on Johnson I know, emphasised that no other writer is so obsessed by the realisation that the mind is an ''activity'', one that will turn to destructiveness of the self or of others unless it is directed to labour." Johnson's philosophical insistence that the language within literature must be examined became a prevailing mode of
literary theory Literary theory is the systematic research, study of the nature of literature and of the methods for literary analysis.Jonathan Culler, Culler 1997, p.1 Since the 19th century, literary scholarship includes literary theory and considerations of ...
during the mid-20th century. Half of Johnson's surviving correspondence, together with some of his manuscripts, editions of his books, paintings and other items associated with him are in the Donald and Mary Eccles, Viscountess Eccles, Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, housed at Houghton Library at Harvard University since 2003. The collection includes drafts of his ''Plan for a Dictionary'', documents associated with Hester Thrale Piozzi and James Boswell (including corrected proofs of his ''Life of Johnson'') and a teapot owned by Johnson. There are many societies formed around and dedicated to the study and enjoyment of Samuel Johnson's life and works. On the bicentennial of Johnson's death in 1984, Oxford University held a week-long conference featuring 50 papers, and the Arts Council of Great Britain held an exhibit of "Johnsonian portraits and other memorabilia". The London ''The Times, Times'' and ''Punch (magazine), Punch'' produced parodies of Johnson's style for the occasion. In 1999, the BBC Four television channel started the Samuel Johnson Prize, an award for non-fiction. A Royal Society of Arts blue plaque, unveiled in 1876, marks Johnson's Gough Square house. In 2009, Johnson was among the ten people selected by the Royal Mail for their Great Britain commemorative stamps 2000–2009, "Eminent Britons" commemorative postage stamp issue. On 18 September 2017 Google commemorated Johnson's 308th birthday with a Google Doodle. The date of his death, 13 December, is Commemoration (Anglicanism), commemorated in the Church of England's Calendar of saints (Church of England), Calendar of Saints. There is a memorial to him at St Paul's Cathedral in London.William Sinclair (Archdeacon of London), Sinclair, W. (1909). ''Memorials of St Paul's Cathedral''. Chapman & Hall, Ltd. p. 486.


Major works


Notes


References

Specific General * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * * Johnston, Freya, "I'm Coming, My Tetsie!" (review of ''Samuel Johnson'', edited by David Womersley, Oxford, 2018, , 1,344 pp.), ''London Review of Books'', vol. 41, no. 9 (9 May 2019), pp. 17–19. ""His attacks on [the pursuit of originality in the writing of literature] were born of the conviction that literature ought to deal in universal truths; that human nature was fundamentally the same in every time and every place; and that, accordingly (as he put it in the 'Life of John Dryden, Dryden'), 'whatever can happen to man has happened so often that little remains for fancy or invention.'" (p. 19). * * * * Jenny Uglow, Uglow, Jenny, "Big Talkers" (review of Leo Damrosch, ''The Club (book), The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age'', Yale University Press, 473 pp.), ''The New York Review of Books'', vol. LXVI, no. 9 (23 May 2019), pp. 26–28.


External links

* * * * *
Samuel Johnson's Dictionary Online

Samuel Johnson
at th
Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive (ECPA)

Samuel Johnson and Hodge his Cat

Full text of Johnson's essays
arranged chronologically * BBC Radio 4 audio program
''In Our Time''
an
''Great Lives''

A Monument More Durable Than Brass: The Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson
nbsp;– online exhibition from Houghton Library, Harvard University
The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page
comprehensive collection of quotations
Samuel Johnson
at the National Portrait Gallery, London * by
James Boswell James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (; 29 October 1740 (New Style, N.S.) – 19 May 1795), was a Scottish biographer, diarist, and lawyer, born in Edinburgh. He is best known for his biography of his friend and older contemporary the Englis ...

James Boswell
, abridged by Charles Grosvenor Osgood in 1917 "... omitt[ing] most of Boswell's criticisms, comments and notes, all of Johnson's opinions in legal cases, most of the letters, ..." {{DEFAULTSORT:Johnson, Samuel Samuel Johnson, Samuel Johnson 1709 births 1784 deaths 18th-century English writers 18th-century English male writers Alumni of Pembroke College, Oxford Burials at Westminster Abbey Conversationalists English Anglicans English biographers English book editors English booksellers Schoolteachers from Staffordshire English essayists English lexicographers English literary critics English sermon writers English travel writers James Boswell People educated at King Edward VI School, Lichfield People from Lichfield Writers from London People with mood disorders Linguists of English People with Tourette syndrome People educated at King Edward VI College, Stourbridge Male essayists English male poets Last of the Romans Anglican saints Male biographers 18th-century lexicographers Streathamites