BOSWELL, James. The Life of Samuel Johnson. London: Henry Baldwin, .
Two vols. 4to. Rebound full calf; raised bands to spines, ruled in gilt, spines lettered and ornamented in gilt; speckled edges; marbled endpapers; pp. xii, [xvi], 516; [iv], 588; engraved frontispiece in vol. I of Johnson by J. Heath after Joshua Reynolds; with two facsimile plates, one showing Johnson's handwriting; minimal rubbing to hinges of spines; internally clean; a very good set.
First edition, second issue, with the 'give' printed on p. 135. Widely praised since its publication, Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson provides an entertaining in-depth account of Johnson, based on material kept in Boswell's diaries. Extensive in both size and subject, this work provides intricate details about arguably one of the most important literary figures of the eighteenth century.
"The Life of Samuel Johnson" by James Boswell is a seminal biographical work that has left an indelible mark on the world of literature and biography. First published in 1791, this biography is a comprehensive and intimate portrait of Samuel Johnson, a towering figure in 18th-century English literature, known as "Dr. Johnson." James Boswell, a Scottish lawyer and writer, was not only a close friend of Johnson but also his dedicated chronicler, and this work is a testament to their enduring friendship.
Boswell's biography is a meticulously detailed account of Johnson's life, beginning with his early years and tracing his journey through the intellectual and literary circles of the time. It explores Johnson's upbringing, his struggles with poverty, and his remarkable literary achievements. Boswell's narrative is peppered with direct quotations from Johnson and their conversations, allowing readers to not only understand Johnson's life but to hear his unique voice and wit. The work provides a glimpse into Johnson's relationships with other notable figures of his time, including the likes of Joshua Reynolds and Edmund Burke, further enriching the historical and cultural context of the narrative. This work offers valuable insights into 18th-century England, its intellectual and social life, and the burgeoning literary scene, giving readers a deeper understanding of the historical context in which Johnson lived and worked. Additionally, Boswell's approach to biography, which combines personal observation, interviews, and correspondence, has had a profound influence on the way biographies are written, becoming a standard practice in the genre. It also serves as a historical and cultural document, offering a window into 18th-century England, the emergence of modern literary criticism, and the challenges faced by writers of the time. This work continues to be a cornerstone in the world of biography and literature, and its cultural significance endures through the ages, and without it, our contemporary understanding of the character of Johnson would be far less detailed.