Life of Johnson (Oxford World's Classics)

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9780192835314: Life of Johnson (Oxford World's Classics)

Samuel Johnson was a poet, essayist, dramatist, and pioneering lexicographer, but his continuing reputation depends less of his modest literary output than on the fortunate accident of finding an ideal biographer in James Boswell. Surely no other biographer can have had more devotion to his subject, more opportunity to study him, or more talent in bringing him vividly to life than Boswell in his Life of Johnson. As Johnson's constant and admiring companion, Boswell was able to record not only the outward events of his life, but also the humour, wit, and sturdy common sense of his conversation. His brilliant portrait of a major literary figure of the eighteenth century, enriched by historical and social detail, remains a monument to the art of biography.

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Review:

James Boswell is for some the ideal scribe, for others a sycophantic toady. Edmund Wilson, for example, memorably labeled him "a vain and pushing diarist." Boswell can even be seen as someone unconsciously intent on undermining his idol in sonorous, balanced sentences. Early on in his massive Life, he puts all manner of ideas into our heads with his boobish attempts to clear the youthful Johnson of potential impropriety: "His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, however, very transient; and it is certain that he formed no criminal connection whatsoever." And while it's often tempting to ignore Boswell's more personal intrusions and delight solely in the melancholic master's words and deeds, there are suchdelightful admissions as, "I was at this time so occupied, shall I call it? or so dissipated, by the amusements of London that our next meeting was not till Saturday, June 25..."

Samuel Johnson was born in 1709 and died in 1784--a long life, though one marred by depression and fear of death. On April 20, 1764, for example, he declared, "I would consent to have a limb amputated to recover my spirits." Many of the quotes Boswell includes are a sort of greatest hits: Johnson's definitions of oats and lexicographer, his love for his cat Hodge, as well as thousands of bon, and mal, mots. ("Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel"; "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all.") But there are also many unfamiliar pleasures--Boswell's accounts of Johnson's literary industry, including the Dictionary, The Rambler, and Lives of the Poets; Johnson's singular loathing for Scotland and France; and the surprising hints of revelry. Awakened at 3 AM by friends, he greets them with, "What, is it you, you dogs! I'll have a frisk with you." This at age 42. Johnson's final years were marked by pain and loneliness but certainly no loss of wit.

Review:


"I don't need to tell you what a splendid service Oxford performs by having the complete Life available inexpensively and with Chapman's deft annotations and Rogers's smart and useful introduction."--Alexander Poffit, University of North Texas


"...An elegant study of currents and of undercurrents in the travellers' separate accounts of their journey to the Western Islands. Reading this book, we realize better than before what Johnson and Boswell, separately and together, were so passionately in quest of...be grateful for the imaginative light [the book] throws on the mythic-seeming journey and on those mythic-seeming voyagers whose travels still haunt some of our waking dreams."--The Albion


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Boswell, James
Editorial: Oxford University Press (1998)
ISBN 10: 0192835319 ISBN 13: 9780192835314
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Descripción Oxford University Press, 1998. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P110192835319

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Boswell, James
Editorial: Oxford University Press
ISBN 10: 0192835319 ISBN 13: 9780192835314
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Descripción Oxford University Press. PAPERBACK. Estado de conservación: New. 0192835319 New Condition. Nº de ref. de la librería NEW7.0971271

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