Samuel Johnson

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Arriving in eighteenth-century London as one more young literary hopeful from the provinces, SJ achieved such a name for himself as an arbiter of poetry, of morality (through his Rambler and other periodical essays and his prose fiction Rasselas), of the language (the Dictionary), and of the literary canon (his edition of Shakespeare and the Lives of the English Poets) that literary history has often typecast him as hidebound and authoritarian. This idea has been facilitated by his ill-mannered conversational dominance in his late years and by the portrait of him drawn by the hero-worshipping Boswell . In fact he was remarkable for his era in seeing literature as a career open to the talented without regard to gender. From his early-established friendships with Elizabeth Carter and Charlotte Lennox to his mentorship of Hester Thrale , Frances Burney , and (albeit less concentratedly) of Mary Wollstonecraft and Henrietta Battier , it was seldom that he crossed the path of a woman writer without friendly and relatively egalitarian encouragement.

Milestones

7 September 1709
SJ , man of letters, was born above his father's bookshop at Lichfield in Staffordshire.
This was the date of his birth in Old Style. New Style (introduced in 1752) made this date 18 September; SJ sometimes referred to his birthday by its Old Style date, which has occasionally caused confusion.
Greene, Donald. “Introduction”. Samuel Johnson, The Oxford Authors, Oxford University Press, 1984, p. xi - xxx.
xxix
20 March 1750-14 March 1752
SJ published The Rambler, a twice-weekly series of essays, almost all written by himself.
Bate, Walter Jackson, Albrecht B. Strauss, and Samuel Johnson, editors. “Introduction”. The Rambler, Yale Edition, Yale University Press, 1969, p. xxi - xlii.
xxi
2, 5 November 1751
In Rambler numbers 170 and 171 SJ , writing as a prostitute calling herself Misella, expressed indignation at those who regard such women as irreclaimable or undeserving of sympathy.
Johnson, Samuel. The Rambler. Bate, Walter Jackson and Albrecht B. StraussEditors , Yale University Press, 1969.
3: 135-45
15 April 1755
SJ published his long-awaited Dictionary of the English Language, after a number of obstacles and interruptions which scholars are still investigating.
Johnson, Samuel. The Letters of Samuel Johnson. Redford, BruceEditor , Princeton University Press, 1994.
1: 104n4
15 March 1779
SJ published the first four volumes of his Lives of the English Poets: the last six came out in 1781.
Johnson, Samuel. Lives of the English Poets. Hill, George BirkbeckEditor , Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1905.
1: xxv
13 December 1784
SJ , man of letters, died in London.
Greene, Donald. “Introduction”. Samuel Johnson, The Oxford Authors, Oxford University Press, 1984, p. xi - xxx.
xxx

Biography

Birth in Staffordshire

7 September 1709
SJ , man of letters, was born above his father's bookshop at Lichfield in Staffordshire.
This was the date of his birth in Old Style. New Style (introduced in 1752) made this date 18 September; SJ sometimes referred to his birthday by its Old Style date, which has occasionally caused confusion.
Greene, Donald. “Introduction”. Samuel Johnson, The Oxford Authors, Oxford University Press, 1984, p. xi - xxx.
xxix