Let Obſervation with extenſive View,
Survey Mankind, from China to Peru;
Remark each anxious Toil, each eager Strife,
And watch the buſy Scenes of crouded Life...Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) was an English writer, noted for his Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, his political and social conservatism, his gruff irascibility, and his confident literary and moral judgement. His works include A Dictionary of the English Languagenote (which included such famous definitions as "NETWORK — Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections" and "OATS — A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people"); critical work, including an important annotated edition of the works of William Shakespeare; essays, published mostly in The Rambler and The Idler; several poems (one of which, The Vanity of Human Wishes, is awesome;) and a novella, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. He also wrote a popular book about his travels in Western and Northern Scotland, which at the time was considered by English readers a remote, exotic and rather scary place. He also wrote a play, Irene, which was quite a success at the time but which has almost never been performed since its premiere, because it's very boring.Although Johnson's views of black people were as paternalistic as any man's of the time, he loathed the institution of slavery; when once asked to give a toast, he shocked the room with "Here's to the next insurrection of the Negroes in the West Indies!" He hated the American revolutionaries not just for their disloyalty to the Crown but also for (as he saw it) the unforgivable hypocrisy of clamoring for "liberty" while denying it to their slaves, famously asking "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?" He himself left his entire estate (less a few legacies) to his black servant, Frank Barber, who had been born a slave.As a critic, Johnson believed strongly in logic and decorum (in the 18th century sense of probable characterization) in literary works; moreover, he believed that they should be judged on moral as well as artistic grounds. He was a firm Classicist who wrote a considerable number of his poems in Latin, and insofar as the incipient Romantic movement crossed his radar at all, he had a strong distaste for it. The Romantics returned the disfavour, disparaging him as "Ursa Major — the Great Bear"; Elizabeth Browning wrote of his Lives of the English Poets that he "wrote the lives of the poets and left out the poets!".note Later writers such as T. S. Eliot and Samuel Beckett have been admirers of Johnson's work, especially for its emphasis on the importance of enduring suffering.Some modern writers have suggested that Johnson suffered from obsessive-compulsive syndrome. Doctors with historical interests, however, are generally agreed that his symptoms are much more like Tourette's Syndrome than OCD. He also suffered from extreme bouts of depression that made him fear for his sanity and beg his friend Hester Thrale to "chain him up" if he ever did go insane. At least one 20th century writer took that to mean that he was having an S&M affair with her.His fans called him the Great Cham (ie. Khan) of Literature, and his fame during his lifetime was such that he was badgered by friends, acquaintances, and even the general public on everything from career advice to funeral inscriptions. These days he's chiefly known nowadays through James Boswell's Life of Johnson, which is considered the greatest biography in English.note Such are the vagaries of fame.
— Dr. Samuel Johnson, The Vanity of Human Wishes
Tropes associated with Dr. Samuel Johnson or found in his works:
Appearances in fiction