The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Synopsis

This is the first and only scholarly edition of Sir John Hawkins's Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., a work that has not been widely available in complete form for more than two hundred years. Published in 1787, some four years before James Boswell's biography of Johnson, Hawkins's Life complements, clarifies, and often corrects numerous aspects of Boswell's Life.

Samuel Johnson (1709-84) is the most significant English writer of the second half of the eighteenth century; indeed, this period is widely known as the Age of Johnson. Hawkins was Johnson's friend and legal adviser and the chief executor of his will. He knew Johnson longer and in many respects better than other biographers, including Boswell, who made unacknowledged use of Hawkins's Life and helped orchestrate the critical attacks that consigned the book to obscurity.

Sir John Hawkins had special insight into Johnson's mental states at various points in his life, his early days in London, his association with the Gentleman's Magazine, and his political views and writings. Hawkins's use of historical and cultural details, an uncommon literary device at the time, produced one of the earliest "life and times" biographies in our language. The Introduction by O M Brack, Jr., covers the history of the composition, publication, and reception of the Life and provides a context in which it should be read. Annotations address historical, literary, and linguistic uncertainties, and a full textual apparatus documents how Brack arrived at this definitive text of Hawkins's Life.

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