The Life of Samuel Johnson
Wordsworth Editions, 2008 M01 5 - 997 pages
With an Introduction by Dr Angus Calder.
The 22-year old James Boswell first met Johnson, who was then aged 54, in 1763. Nine years later he wrote in his journal of his 'constant plan to write the life of Mr Johnson'. Boswell was tireless in his search for authenticated proof, and his training as a lawyer helped him sift the evidence of friends and to operate forensically on Johnson himself. Boswell drew him out as no one else could, and although three-quarters of the book concerns the last twenty years of Johnson's life, his skill in constructing the early years is remarkable.
The text of this complete and unabridged edition is that of the 1791 first edition, and it remains, by common consent, the greatest biography in the English language. Johnson's centrality in 18th century letters is established not only by Boswell's record of his life and conversations, but also by the success of the work in placing him in a literary and cultural context. James Boswell (1740-95) was educated at Edinburgh and Glasgow universities as a lawyer. He moved to London in 1760, and was by turns a libertine and a Puritan. Introduced by his friends Sheridan and Garrick, Boswell met Johnson in 1763, and discovered a life's calling.