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Samuel Johnson

A Biography

List Price: $24.95

August 18, 2009 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 668 Pages | ISBN 9781582435244
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“No other biographer of Johnson has meditated so profitably on the qualities that made him ‘a heroic, intensely honest, and articulate pilgrim in the strange adventure of human life.’” —Time

Samuel Johnson is a writer of such significance that his era — the second half of the eighteenth century— is known as the Age of Johnson. Starting out as a Grub Street journalist, he made his mark on history as a poet, author, moralist, literary critic, political commentator, and lexicographer. We, as moderns, need to know this man, and W. Jackson Bate’s formidable biography, with its uncanny depth and empathy, is the book that makes that happen.

Professor W. Jackson Bate is a lyrical writer who deftly explains the effect Johnson has had on scholars, critics, and readers of all kinds through the past two hundred years: “The reason Johnson has always fascinated so many people of different kinds,” Bate writes, “is not simply that [he] is so vividly picturesque and quotable . . . The deeper secret of his hypnotic attraction, especially during our own generation, lies in the immense reassurance he gives to human nature.”

Bate delves deep into the character that formed Johnson’s intellect and fueled his prodigious contribution to literature, religion, politics, and our understanding of the nature of humankind, revealing the fascinating nature — both odd and adored — of this literary luminary.

W. JACKSON BATE was the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and the author of two other canonical biographies: John Keats, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. One of the leading biographers of the twentieth century, he also received the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He died in 1999.

Praise

“No other biographer of Johnson has meditated so profitably on the qualities that made him ‘a heroic, intensely honest, and articulate pilgrim in the strange adventure of human life.’” —Time

“Clearly the best modern life of Johnson… Bate’s empathy is so convincing that one has the uncanny illusion of experiencing Johnson’s struggles inside his skin.” —Newsweek

“In such depths of pain and courage—which Bate describes so well—we find Johnson’s enduring achievements.” —New York Times Book Review

“What Prof. Bate has done is to restore the whole Johnson, the very human, very admirable man behind the monument.” —Los Angeles Times

“Perhaps the supreme virtue of Bate’s book is that it makes us comprehend how little we have known Johnson and how much he has to offer those who, like himself, seek ‘the consolation of biography.’” —San Francisco Chronicle

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