Samuel Johnson Biography

Samuel Johnson is the subject of a seminal biography in English literature, The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell. Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Johnson attended Pembroke College, Oxford, for just over a year, but a lack of funds forced him to leave.

Biography of Samuel Johnson

He was educated at Lichfield Grammar School before going to Pembroke College, Oxford. However, due to a lack of funds, he left after a year – never completing his degree. After Oxford, he worked as a teacher in Market Bosworth and Birmingham. In spite of these infirmities, there are early tales of his independence. Once, when his babysitter failed to pick him up on time from nursery school, Johnson decided he would get home on his own, crawling on all fours in order to see the gutter and avoid falling in. The babysitter followed at some distance, but when Johnson saw her watching, protested against her following him, vehemently.

samuel johnson biography

Achievement And Reputation

Johnson is well remembered for his aphorisms, which contributed to his becoming one of the most frequently quoted of English writers. Many of these are recorded in Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., including his famous assertion “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” and his admonition “Clear your mind of cant.” Others appear in his own writings, including “Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.” He possessed the gift of contracting “the great rules of life into short sentences.”

More Information About Samuel Johnson

Assorted References
  • portrayal in “The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides” (in The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides)
  • struggle with Tourette syndrome (in Tourette syndrome)
association with
  • Burney (in Fanny Burney)
  • Chesterfield (in Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th earl of Chesterfield)
  • Garrick (in David Garrick: Early years)
  • Goldsmith (in Oliver Goldsmith (Anglo-Irish author): Life)
  • Hawkesworth (in John Hawkesworth)
  • Hawkins (in Sir John Hawkins (English magistrate and author))
  • Lauder (in William Lauder)
  • Lichfield, U.K. (in Lichfield (England, United Kingdom))
  • Steevens (in George Steevens)
  • Thrale (in Hester Lynch Piozzi)
authorship of
  • “Dictionary of the English Language” (in A Dictionary of the English Language (work by Johnson)) (in dictionary: From 1604 to 1828)
    • criticism by Webster (in Noah Webster)
    • financing and publication (in history of publishing: England)
    • influence on English language (in English language: Restoration period)
  • “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, A” (in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland)
  • “Rambler, The” (in The Rambler)
  • “Rasselas” (in Rasselas)
biography by
  • Bate (in W. Jackson Bate)
  • Boswell (in James Boswell) (in The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.)
contribution to
  • English literature (in English literature: Johnson’s poetry and prose)
  • periodical publishing (in history of publishing: Great Britain)
views on
  • British politics (in United Kingdom: Britain from 1742 to 1754)
  • emendation (in textual criticism: Emendation)
  • literature (in literary criticism: Neoclassicism and its decline)
    • biography (in biography: 17th and 18th centuries)
    • drama (in dramatic literature: General characteristics) (in dramatic literature: Dramatic structure) (in dramatic literature: Western theory)
    • satire (in satire)
    • tragedy (in tragedy: Neoclassical theory)
  • London (in urbanization)
  • Milton’s “Lycidas” (in poetry: Poetry as a mode of thought: the Protean encounter) (in prosody: The 18th century)
  • Shakespeare (in William Shakespeare: Eighteenth century)
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