James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson has often been described as the greatest biography ever written. It has also come to be known as the first true modern biographythe first resembling what we think of as biography today.
At the center of a brilliant literary circle that included Burke, Reynolds, Garrick, Burney and even George III, Boswell captures the powerful, witty, often troubled figure of Samuel Johnson, who towers above them all.
Through a series of wonderfully detailed anecdotes, Johnson emerges as a fascinating figure with a huge appetite for life. Yet Johnson had a vulnerable, even tragic, side with anxieties and obsessions that haunted his private hours.
Boswell set new standards for thoroughness, accuracy, and research, with such detail that Johnson could later be diagnosed in our time as likely suffering from Tourette's syndrome.
Most remarkable of all, is that The Life of Samuel Johnson is immensely readable and entertaining, hundreds of years later, which can be said of very few biographies indeed.
It has been three centuries since Samuel Johnson was born, on Sept. 7, 1709. But thanks to James Boswell's care, we now have the most vivid portrait of an age - as well as a person - that may ever have been published.
SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-1784) was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, literary critic, and lexicographer described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history". He was the subject of the most celebrated biography in English literature, The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell.