The Life of Samuel Johnson
James Boswell (Author) Bernard Mayes (Read by)
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DescriptionJames Boswell forever changed the genre of biography when he painstakingly transformed a scholarly profusion of detail into a perceptive, lifelike portrait of Dr. Samuel Johnson. James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson reveals a man of outsized appetites and private vulnerabilities and is the source of much of what we know about one of the towering figures of English literature. Boswell spent a great deal of time with Johnson in his final years and from his scrupulously accurate memory and copious journal was able to faithfully record the brilliance and wit of Dr. Johnson's conversation. Boswell's aim and achievement was completeness; no detail was too small for him. On this point Dr. Johnson remarked to him, "There is nothing, sir, too little for so little a creature as man." Boswell's thirst for detail makes this indisputably the finest of many biographies of Johnson. This biography gained its unique place in literary history from the fact that its style was revolutionary. The usual style of biographers of that era was to record dry facts from the subject's public life only. Boswell differed by incorporating actual conversations of Dr. Johnson, which Boswell had previously noted down in journals, and by including many more details of personal life. The result revolutionized the genre. For both its subject and its style, The Life of Samuel Johnson is still popular with modern critics and students of the history of English thought and of English literature.
October 20, 2017
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About the Author
Scottish biographer, lawyer, and ninth Laird of Auchinleck James Boswell was born in Edinburgh. His biography of his friend and more senior colleague, the English author Samuel Johnson, is best known and is regarded as the best biography ever written in the English language. Boswell began his studies at the University of Edinburgh's arts program when he was thirteen years old which he attended from 1753 to 1758. Though he experienced a significant depression halfway but fully recovered. He was transferred to the University of Glasgow to complete his studies after turning nineteen, where he heard lectures by Adam Smith. Boswell made the decision to become a Catholic monk while he was still in Glasgow. In February 1766, Boswell traveled back to London with Rousseau's lover, with whom he briefly had an affair while on the road. On November 25, 1769, Boswell wed his cousin Margaret Montgomerie. Boswell urged the Home Secretary to assist four Botany Bay escapees, including Mary Bryant, in obtaining royal pardons in 1792. Due to a venereal condition and years of heavy drinking, his health started to deteriorate during this period. On May 19, 1795, Boswell passed away in London. His body was laid to rest in the crypt of the Boswell family mausoleum in Ayrshire.
Bernard Mayes is a teacher, administrator, corporate executive, broadcaster, actor, dramatist, and former international commentator on US culture. He is best known for his readings of historical classics.