Samuel Johnson: The Struggle
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Samuel Johnson: The Struggle

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  23 ratings  ·  11 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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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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I found it tedious. Johnson became more and more unpleasant as it went along.
Leslie Stein
Another slog although the subject was certainly a coloful person.
Bookmarked at page 176.
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.
More about Jeffrey Meyers...
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