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29 August 1991
A Voyage to Abyssinia 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Joel Gold.
Yale, 350 pp., £39.50, July 1985, 0 300 03003 7
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Rasselas, and Other Tales 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Gwin Kolb.
Yale, 290 pp., £24.50, March 1991, 0 300 04451 8
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A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) 
by Samuel Johnson.
Longman, 1160 pp., £195, September 1990, 0 582 07380 4
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The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 1746-1773 
by Allen Reddick.
Cambridge, 249 pp., £30, October 1990, 0 521 36160 5
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Samuel Johnson’s Attitude to the Arts 
by Morris Brownell.
Oxford, 195 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 19 812956 4
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Johnson’s Shakespeare 
by G.F. Parker.
Oxford, 204 pp., £25, April 1989, 0 19 812974 2
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... Orientalism, the sentiments of a Balfour or Cromer, as parroted by a barrackroom sage or vainglorious subaltern, without the bland solvent of self-righteous statesmanship. In fact, they’re from SamuelJohnson’s first book, A Voyage to Abyssinia (1735), an excellent and little-noticed edition of which, by Joel Gold, appeared in 1985. They come at the conclusion of a distressing episode in which ...

Holy Padlock

Pat Rogers

6 October 1983
The Religious Life of Samuel​ Johnson 
by Charles Pierce.
Athlone, 184 pp., £12.50, March 1983, 0 485 30010 9
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... The Lawless Roads, Graham Greene saw among the peasant women of Monterrey the signs of a real religious life about him – ‘the continuous traffic of piety’. One of the most striking things about SamuelJohnson is the depth of his urge towards piety: not spirituality at every moment, but what we might today call ‘mere’ piety. His private diaries are written in the margin of the Christian year ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: From Nuclear Bombs to Samuel Johnson

18 November 1982
... they should be issued to everyone. I had not intended to be drawn into arguments over the nuclear bomb, a topic on which I ran out of ideas twenty years ago. What I had in mind was to write about Dr Johnson, simply because I had promised myself to read Boswell’s Life of Johnson at least once a decade and on checking my reading-list found I had not done so. But how am I to get from nuclear bombs to ...

Human Wishes

Irvin Ehrenpreis

20 December 1984
Samuel​ Johnson 
by Walter Jackson Bate.
Hogarth, 646 pp., £6.95, July 1984, 0 7012 0562 8
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A Preliminary Handlist of Copies of Books Associated with Dr Samuel​ Johnson 
by J.D. Fleeman.
Oxford Bibliographical Society, 101 pp., £5, March 1984, 0 901420 41 7
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Samuel Johnson​ 1709-84: A Bicentenary Exhibition 
edited by K.K. Yung.
Arts Council/Herbert Press, 144 pp., £9.95, July 1984, 9780906969458
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Samuel​ Johnson 
by Donald Greene.
Oxford, 872 pp., £15, June 1984, 9780192541796
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... Johnsonians have been telling us for decades that Boswell makes an unreliable guide to the mind of his mentor. They say that one tastes Johnson’s profundity not in his conversation but in his writing, and above all in the essays on morality. In those works, says W.J. Bate, ‘we have the essence of Johnson.’ A careful reader of the life ...
27 June 1991
Samuel Johnson​ in the Medical World: The Doctor and the Patient 
by John Wiltshire.
Cambridge, 293 pp., £30, March 1991, 0 521 38326 9
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... I want to draw some connections between SamuelJohnson, the amateur doctor and enthusiast for medicine, and the Doctor Johnson who figures so largely in the cultural imagination ... If we focus on the figure of SamuelJohnson, the unco-ordinated, discontinuous events of 18th-century medicine will seem momentarily at least to ...
5 June 1986
Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed 
by David Nokes.
Oxford, 427 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 19 812834 7
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... a nature a little lower than that of angels and assumed by far higher than they,’ according to Edward Young’s Conjectures on Original Composition (1759). In short, was Swift a monster, as SamuelJohnson nearly said: ‘The greatest difficulty that occurs, in analysing his character, is to discover by what depravity of intellect he took delight in revolving ideas from which almost every other mind ...

Taking Sides

John Mullan: On the high road with Bonnie Prince Charlie

22 January 2004
The ’45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising 
by Christopher Duffy.
Cassell, 639 pp., £20, March 2003, 0 304 35525 9
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Samuel Johnson​ in Historical Context 
edited by J.C.D. Clark and Howard Erskine-Hill.
Palgrave, 336 pp., £55, December 2001, 0 333 80447 3
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... in notable cultural figures, is for some a way of affirming your ideological vision of the 18th century. Certain literary figures have attracted special scrutiny, in recent years none more so than SamuelJohnson. SamuelJohnson in Historical Context is a collection of essays pursuing a sometimes acrimonious debate which has taken place in academic books and journals over the last decade. To innocent ...

Pay me for it

Helen Deutsch: Summoning Dr Johnson

9 February 2012
Samuel JohnsonA Life 
by David Nokes.
Faber, 415 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22636 8
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Selected Writings 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Peter Martin.
Harvard, 503 pp., £16.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 06034 0
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The Brothers Boswell: A Novel 
by Philip Baruth.
Corvus, 336 pp., £7.99, January 2011, 978 1 84887 446 6
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The Life of Samuel Johnson​ LL.D. 
by John Hawkins, edited by O.M. Brack.
Georgia, 554 pp., £53.50, August 2010, 978 0 8203 2995 6
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... On Saturday, July 30, Dr Johnson and I took a sculler at the Temple-stairs, and set out for Greenwich. I asked him if he really thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential requisite to a good education. JOHNSON ...

Boswell’s Bowels

Neal Ascherson

20 December 1984
James Boswell: The Later Years 1769-1795 
by Frank Brady.
Heinemann, 609 pp., £20, November 1984, 0 434 08530 8
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... James Boswell created the ‘Age of Johnson’, rescuing the late 18th century, above all, for the Victorians. The Boswell industry at Yale University has given an ‘Age of Boswell’ to the 20th century. This second volume of the grand ...

Two Poems

John Burnside

7 October 2010
... venom in whatever peace she wins, the random acts of love, the venial sins. Disappointment   Hope will predominate in every mind, till it has been suppressed by frequent disappointments. SamuelJohnson I turn left out of the rain at Kippo junction, the windshield clearing to sky and a skim of swallows over the road like the last few pages of a 50s story book where someone is walking ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody

5 November 1992
The Letters of Samuel JohnsonVol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... One of the things that letters rather than biographies display is how much incidental illness human beings tend to undergo, even those of reasonable health who are destined to make old bones. Johnson has all the 18th-century’s bluntness on matters of health. ‘The old flatulence distressed me again last night,’ he tells Hester Thrale in 1775, adding with comic intent: ‘The world is full of ...

‘I’m coming, my Tetsie!’

Freya Johnston: Samuel Johnson’s Shoes

9 May 2019
Samuel​ Johnson 
edited by David Womersley.
Oxford, 1344 pp., £95, May 2018, 978 0 19 960951 2
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... The first time​ Tetty Porter met her future husband, SamuelJohnson, she told her daughter, Lucy, that she had never encountered a more ‘sensible’ man. Most readers assume she was praising Johnson’s sober, rational side; Leslie Stephen, writing in 1878, went so far as to commend Tetty’s penetrative ‘good sense’ for discerning the same quality in Johnson, despite his ‘grotesque ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment

5 April 2007
The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... In March 1776, James Boswell and SamuelJohnson visited Pembroke College, Oxford and called on the master, William Adams. According to Richard Sher, Boswell wrote in his journal how dismayed he had been to see in the master’s library a copy of ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The biography of stuff

5 July 2001
... Announcing the winner of this year’s SamuelJohnson Prize, Andrew Marr was pleased to be able to say that none of the shortlisted books was the obvious result of a publisher’s ‘wheeze’, or the so-called biography of something which couldn’t in ...

Self-Hugging

Andrew O’Hagan: A Paean to Boswell

5 October 2000
Boswell's Presumptuous Task 
by Adam Sisman.
Hamish Hamilton, 352 pp., £17.99, November 2000, 0 241 13637 7
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’: Research Edition: Vol. II 
edited by Bruce Redford and Elizabeth Goldring.
Edinburgh, 303 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 7486 0606 8
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Samuel JohnsonThe Life of an Author 
by Lawrence Lipking.
Harvard, 372 pp., £11.50, March 2000, 0 674 00198 2
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Dr Johnson's London 
by Liza Picard.
Weidenfeld, 362 pp., £20, July 2000, 0 297 84218 8
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... A good example of this offers itself at the opening of Vanity Fair – ‘A Novel without a Hero’ – when the single-minded Becky Sharp, high in a coach bound for Russell Square, flings a copy of Johnson’s Dictionary out of the window to land on the grass at the feet of her former teacher, a sworn disciple of the Great Lexicographer. ‘So much for the Dictionary,’ says Becky Sharp as the ...

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