The Life of Samuel Johnson – James Boswell (1907)


The Life of Samuel Johnson – James Boswell (1907)


Title: The Life of Samuel Johnson, to which is added a Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

Author: James Boswell

Publisher: Bliss Sands & Co., 1907.

Condition: Hardcover, fair. Bookplates to endpaper. Significant wear to cover, binding sagging, tanned pages. 723pp. 10″ by 6.5″. A heavy book. Overseas shipping will cost extra.

1 in stock

SKU: boswell-johnson2 Categories: ,


About the book (from Wikipedia):

The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791) is a biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson written by James Boswell. It is regarded as an important stage in the development of the modern genre of biography; many have claimed it as the greatest biography written in English. While Boswell’s personal acquaintance with his subject only began in 1763, when Johnson was 54 years old, Boswell covered the entirety of Johnson’s life by means of additional research. The biography takes many critical liberties with Johnson’s life, as Boswell makes various changes to Johnson’s quotations and even censors many comments. Regardless of these actions, modern biographers have found Boswell’s biography as an important source of information on Johnson and his times. The work was popular among early audiences and with modern critics, but some of the modern critics believe that the work cannot be considered a proper biography.

On 16 May 1763, Johnson met 24-year-old Boswell, the man who would later become his first major biographer, for the first time in the book shop of Johnson’s friend, Tom Davies. They quickly became friends, although Boswell would return to his home in Scotland or travel abroad for months at a time. During his life, Boswell kept a series of journals that detailed the various moments that he felt were important. This journal, when published in the 20th century, filled eighteen volumes, and it was from this large collection of detailed notes that Boswell would base his works on Johnson’s life.[1] Johnson, in commenting on Boswell’s excessive note taking playfully wrote to Hester Thrale, “One would think the man had been hired to spy upon me”.

On 6 August 1773, eleven years after first meeting Boswell, Johnson set out to visit his friend in Scotland, in order to begin “a journey to the western islands of Scotland”, as Johnson’s 1775 account of their travels would put it. Boswell’s account, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1786), was a preliminary attempt at a biography before his Life of Johnson. With the success of that work, Boswell started working on the “vast treasure of his conversations at different times” that he recorded in his journals. His goal was to recreate Johnson’s “life in scenes”. However, Boswell suffered the problem of having not met Johnson until Johnson was 53, and this created an imbalance on what portions of Johnson’s life were actually discussed. Furthermore, as literary critic Donald Greene has pointed out, Boswell’s works only describe 250 days that Boswell could have actually been present with Johnson, the rest of the information having to come from either Johnson himself or from secondary sources recounting various incidents.