1709 – 1784
Who was Samuel Johnson?
Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history." He is also the subject of "the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature": James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson.
Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Johnson attended Pembroke College, Oxford for just over a year, before his lack of funds forced him to leave. After working as a teacher he moved to London, where he began to write for The Gentleman's Magazine. His early works include the biography The Life of Richard Savage, the poems "London" and "The Vanity of Human Wishes", and the play Irene.
After nine years of work, Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755. It had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship." This work brought Johnson popularity and success. Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson's was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary. His later works included essays, an influential annotated edition of William Shakespeare's plays, and the widely read tale Rasselas. In 1763, he befriended James Boswell, with whom he later travelled to Scotland; Johnson described their travels in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Towards the end of his life, he produced the massive and influential Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, a collection of biographies and evaluations of 17th- and 18th-century poets.
- No man was more foolish when he had not a pen in his hand, nor more wise when he had.
- If I have said something to hurt a man once, I shall not get the better of this by saying many things to please him.
- There can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity.
- Do not discourage your children from hoarding, if they have a taste to it; whoever lays up his penny rather than part with it for a cake, at least is not the slave of gross appetite; and shows besides a preference always to be esteemed, of the future to the present moment.
- Nature makes us poor only when we want necessaries, but custom gives the name of poverty to the want of superfluities.
- Players, Sir! I look on them as no better than creatures set upon tables and joint stools to make faces and produce laughter, like dancing dogs.
- Life cannot subsist in society but by reciprocal concessions.
- He that fails in his endeavors after wealth or power will not long retain either honesty or courage.
- Books that you carry to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are most useful after all.
- If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.
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- Sep 18, 1709
- Also known as
- Dr Johnson
- Dr Samuel Johnson
- Elizabeth Porter
(1735/07/09 - 1752/03/17)
- Elizabeth Porter
- Kingdom of Great Britain
- Pembroke College, Oxford
- Lived in
(1737 - )
- Dr. Johnson's House
(1748 - 1759)
( - 1737)
- Dec 13, 1784
- Resting place
- Westminster Abbey
on July 23, 2013