Samuel Johnson is a writer of such significance that his era — the second half of the 18th 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 lexiconographer. 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 200 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.