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Samuel Johnson: The Struggle
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Samuel Johnson: The Struggle

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  32 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
Ford Madox Ford declared Samuel Johnson “the most tragic of all our major literary figures.” Blessed with a formidable intellect and a burning passion for ideas, Johnson also struggled throughout his life with mental instability and numerous physical defects. One of the most illustrious figures of the English literary tradition, Johnson made his fame as poet, essayist, cri ...more
Hardcover, 552 pages
Published December 2nd 2008 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jul 14, 2009 Orin rated it really liked it
This is my second biography of Dr. Johnson in less than a year. I have four or five more around here somewhere and I wonder if I can get to the all before Dr. J's birthday in September, his 300th. If you don't have the time for the whole thing, do sample chapter five for an excellent evocation of 18th century London in the 1730s. You should also look at the final chapter, which makes some excellent observations on Johnson's legacy, his effect on Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Nabokov. I think ...more
John P
Aug 19, 2015 John P rated it really liked it
The great Doctor is an interesting character, to say the very least. I am tempted to seek and read Boswell's book as a follow-up.

The trials that Johnson endured during childhood must have bolstered his constitution; he lived, with all his medical and psychological issues to the then very ripe old age of 75. The book describes vividly the conditions of life in London, the Midlands, and elsewhere and, believe me, the degree of improvement in social conditions that most of enjoy today cannot be ov
Jan 10, 2010 James rated it really liked it
Samuel Johnson was really odd. A sample:

"Johnson nourished and cared for a number of life's casualties who found with him a sure but sorrowful retreat from the evils of the world.... Johnson's household included Anna Williams, a shrewish blind woman; Francis Barber, a freed black slave; Poll Carmichael and Bet Flint, two prostitutes who occasionally reverted to their trade; Elizabeth Desmoulins, a perpetually discontented widow; and Robert Levet, a medical quack; and some of their dependents."
May 30, 2016 John rated it it was amazing
I hope to record further responses to this book in future. At this point, however, it seems clear that Meyers' biography derives from the insights into Johnson's highly troubled life that Richard Holmes developed in "Dr. Johnson and Mr. Savage" an altogether astonishing example of the work that we have now in the "golden age" literary biography." Holmes investigates Johnson's highly disordered inner life in the context of a single relationship. Holmes extends this analysis to an entire life.

I ha
Aug 18, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
This was a literary biography of a bizarre in character/brilliant in language author of 18th century. While it was hard to get through due to my unfamiliarity with the time period (history and literature of) in question, it was well worth it. Going on my "To Read List" are some of his works that are in my Norton's Anthology of English Literature.
May 16, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it
In honor of Johnson's 300th birthday there are TWO new biographies out (at least as far as I know.) This looked like the better of the two, so we'll see...
A fascinating individual and a very readable biography. Paints a picture of a quite different Johnson than the one I read in school.
Jul 10, 2009 Peter rated it really liked it
The second of two new biographies of Samuel Johnson, the great man of literature. Meyers' work is thematic and biographical with intense emphasis on the subject matter and less inquiry into the minutia of Johnson's daily eccentric existence. A provocative and well written account.
Apr 18, 2009 Gramarye rated it liked it
An often clunky writing style makes this biography of Samuel Johnson a bit wearying to read, but worth looking into as an introduction to the life of a very complicated man.
Jan 20, 2015 Lauren rated it really liked it
Shelves: research
Excellent biography. What amazed me was how I cheered for Johnson the same way I would in a novel. I didn't know that non fiction could make me do that, until now.
Dec 09, 2008 Jim marked it as to-read
After reading Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker, how could I pass this one up?
Apr 16, 2009 Alan rated it it was ok
I found it tedious. Johnson became more and more unpleasant as it went along.
Leslie Stein
Apr 28, 2009 Leslie Stein rated it it was ok
Another slog although the subject was certainly a coloful person.
Jun 09, 2009 joshuA rated it liked it
Bookmarked at page 176.
May 03, 2009 Christan rated it really liked it
Well worth the read so far.
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Jeffrey Meyers, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has recently been given an Award in Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Thirty of his books have been translated into fourteen languages and seven alphabets, and published on six continents. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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