Samuel Johnson – Best Guide in 2023

Samuel Johnson, formerly Dr.Johnson, was an English critic, biographer, essayist, poet, and lexicographer who had a significant impact on both the life and writing of the 18th century. On September 18, 1709, Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England, and he died on December 13, 1784, in London.
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

Johnson once disparaged literary biographies as “mournful narratives,” and he believed his life to be “radically wretched.” Nevertheless, his career can be viewed as a literary success story of a sickly boy from the Midlands who rose to fame through talent, grit, and determination. and the age’s best conversationalist. For succeeding generations, Johnson came to represent late 18th-century England. The contrast between his circumstances and accomplishment makes his life particularly fascinating.

Young Age

Samuel Johnson is the son of Michael Johnson, a bookseller, and Sarah Johnson, his wife. Since he was a child, he had struggled with various physical conditions. He was, in his own words, “almost dead” at birth and quickly contracted scrofula (lymphatic gland tuberculosis). The queen’s gold “touch piece,” which he kept with him for the rest of his life, touched him when he was brought to London at the age of 30 due to the widespread notion that the sovereign’s touch could cure scrofula (which was also known as the king’s evil for this reason).

The subsequent medical procedures left him with ugly scars on his face and neck. He displayed severe, outward tics that may have been signs of Tourette syndrome. In addition, his left eye was almost totally blind. As well as having some athletic ability and strength, Johnson possessed these traits. He continued to enjoy swimming, riding, and walking into his later years. He grew enormous and was very tall. Several accounts attest to his physical prowess as well as his moral courage, such as when he threw a snobby theatergoer and his seat from the stage into the pit or resisted would-be robbers until the watch arrived.

Gentleman’s Magazine

Johnson and The Gentleman’s Magazine, frequently referred to as the first modern magazine, started their enduring relationship in 1738. He soon began writing poetry and then prose, including odes to the magazine’s publisher Edward Cave and another writer, the educated Elizabeth Carter. Johnson’s plans to translate Paolo Sarpi’s The History of the Council of Trent were thwarted because another Johnson was working on the same project at the same time. However, his biography of Sarpi, written as a preface to that work, as well as some of his earlier biographies of British admirals, European scholars, and medical experts, were published in The Gentleman’s Magazine.

In addition to a number of satirical works that attacked Sir Robert Walpole’s government and even the Hanoverian monarchy, he published London, Marmor Norfolciense, and A Complete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage in 1738 and 1739. These works included his first significant poem, London. London “imited” Juvenal’s third satire. (Imitation, also known as a loose translation, is the adaptation of a previous poet’s themes and style to the current situation. Richard Savage, a poet Johnson was acquainted with and may have even made friends with at this point, resembles Thales, the poem’s main speaker.

Thales laments the general decline of life in London (and England) before leaving the corrupt city for Wales, which is exemplified by issues like masquerades, atheism, the excise tax, and the ease with which foreign nations violate “English honor” without consequence. Johnson’s motto at the time, “SLOW RISES WORTH, BY POVERTY DEPRESSED,” is the poem’s most famous line and the only one capitalized. When the poem first appeared in 1738 under an assumed name, Pope was led to believe the author would be “déterré” (unearthed).

Pope undoubtedly admired Johnson’s politics and poetry, and he also made fruitless attempts to win Johnson’s support by securing patronage. The Norfolciense Marmor makes fun of Walpole and the Hanovers. The government’s Stage Licensing Act of 1737, which required the lord chamberlain’s approval of all new plays, was ironically defended when Henry Brooke’s Gustavus Vasa, which used a Swedish analogy to criticize the English monarch and his prime minister, was outlawed in 1739. Irish author Jonathan Swift’s literary influence is seen in the last two works.

Teenage Years and Acceptance of Samuel Johnson

The Vanity of Human Wishes, Johnson’s most impressive poem and the first work bearing his name, was released in 1749. It provides a thorough examination of how pointless human attempts to excel and find happiness are. The poem is a parody of one of Juvenal’s satires, like London, but instead of focusing on Juvenal’s social and political themes, it emphasizes the moral lesson.

Johnson later added definitions for terms like “emptiness,” “uncertainty,” “fruitless desire, fruitless endeavor,” “empty pleasure; vain pursuit; idle show; unsubstantial enjoyment; petty object of pride,” and “arrogance,” for instance. his dictionary under the term “vanity.”. “. His portrayals of historical figures, many of whom are from England and continental Europe (Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, the . traveler, Charles XII of Sweden, and Xerxes I of Persia), and human type.

The rich man, the beautiful person, and the scholar are frequently contrasted with their opposites to demonstrate how all are susceptible to the same level of desire disappointment. Juvenal’s Stoic virtues are replaced by the Christian virtue of “patience” in The Vanity of Human Wishes, which also carries Ecclesiastes’ message that “all is vanity.”. “. In comparison to any of Johnson’s other poems, this one is more succinctly powerful and has a richer imagery.

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