Samuel Johnson

Facts about Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson died at 75 years old
Birthplace: Lichfield, England
Best known as: Author of 1755's A Dictionary of the English Language

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Samuel Johnson Biography

A towering figure of 18th-century English literature, Samuel Johnson gained fame from his conversation and wit as much as from his writings.

The son of a bookseller, Johnson moved to London in the 1730s and tried to make a living as a writer.

He had modest success writing poems, political essays and plays during the 1740s, but after his publication of A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) he was a national sensation.

His social life for many years revolved around Henry and Hester Thrale, who hosted parties where Johnson and others — including James Boswell — could engage in intellectual discussions. Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) recorded many of Johnson’s quips and commentaries, ensuring his place in history.

Other works by Johnson include his essays for The Rambler (1750-52) and The Idler (1758-60), an eight-volume edition of the works of William Shakespeare (1765), and The Lives of the Poets (1779-81).

Extra credit

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” is one of Johnson’s most famous quips… Johnson needed nine years to write his famous dictionary; he began in 1746 and published it in 1755… The term “Boswell” is now used to describe any sidekick who writes an admiring biography of a famous friend… Johnson was widely known as “Doctor Johnson” and also “Doctor Dictionary.”


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