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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Writer Writing About a Great Writer
James Boswell's "Life of Johnson" is commonly regarded as the finest biography in the English language. For 155 years after his death, Boswell was known primarily for this great work. But then in 1949 through 1951, in a series of three separate discoveries, Boswell's journal was found. Boswell is now also regarded as one of history's best diarists. Boswell...
Published on January 10, 2001

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14 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Honestly, I can't finish this, but not enthralled so far.
I think it's healthy for a biographer to love his subject, because a fine biography takes years of effort. But there are many points where I feel as if Martin's love for his subject -- assuming he loves Boswell -- obstructs a properly critical perspective. As someone who loves Johnson's works, I've tried really hard to be open to this biography, but I can't go on...
Published on December 3, 2000 by Frank Lynch


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Writer Writing About a Great Writer, January 10, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Life of James Boswell (Hardcover)
James Boswell's "Life of Johnson" is commonly regarded as the finest biography in the English language. For 155 years after his death, Boswell was known primarily for this great work. But then in 1949 through 1951, in a series of three separate discoveries, Boswell's journal was found. Boswell is now also regarded as one of history's best diarists. Boswell was a libertine and at times a heavy drinker who, no matter how inebriated he became at the London Literary Club, where he listened to Garrick, Goldsmith, Burke, Reynolds and other brilliant men discuss the topics of the day, would race home to enter their conversation in his journal. So he preserved much of Samuel Johnson's wit ("Fishing: a stick and a string, a fish on one end and a fool on the other.") and philosophy. Peter Martin concludes that Boswell's journal is the best reading that exists regarding London in the late 1700s. Martin's book is an exhaustively researched and beautifully written account of an eccentric, gifted man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling, March 5, 2006
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This review is from: A Life of James Boswell (Hardcover)
Literary biographies tend to disappoint me and often leave me feeling as if I and the subject of the biography have been buried in details, but this one is utterly readable and brings the irrepressible and obviously very irritating Boswell alive. The book is beautifully printed as well. It was a very great pleasure to read- and Boswell does deserve attention having himself written one of the best books in English.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous and lively history, August 25, 2001
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This review is from: A Life of James Boswell (Hardcover)
Dr. Martin writes with unabashed affection about his subject, making for lively, energetic reading. This book pours life into a literary figure who, in less caring hands, could have been made out to be dead dull.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff, January 17, 2009
Martin writes well on Boswell and Johnson. Both biographies make for excellent reading. My only beef was the appalling editing this book enjoyed. It was awash with ridiculous literals.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Searching, May 8, 2004
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Daniel Myers (Greenville, SC USA) - See all my reviews
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This is an ample and competent biography of the man who gave us what is termed our first "modern" biography. But, in the end, I think Boswell's biography of Johnson and his other writings (The famous Boswell papers etc) actually reveal more about the man than any biography of Boswell himself I've run across. Martin's accounts of Boswell's seemingly pathological obsession with sex and death make interesting reading, as accounts of sex and death generally do; but couldn't we have more reflection from the biographer here on these matters, a bit more involvement with the subject than the encomia noted by another reviewer? Boswell's ghost is still searching for a biographer as good as he.
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14 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Honestly, I can't finish this, but not enthralled so far., December 3, 2000
This review is from: A Life of James Boswell (Hardcover)
I think it's healthy for a biographer to love his subject, because a fine biography takes years of effort. But there are many points where I feel as if Martin's love for his subject -- assuming he loves Boswell -- obstructs a properly critical perspective. As someone who loves Johnson's works, I've tried really hard to be open to this biography, but I can't go on. Perhaps others who love Boswell as much as Martin does will have less difficulty than I do. But I cannot. If you DO love Boswell, then take my opinions with a grain of salt.
I have read about 20% of this (I am trying to be honest with you here, so don't ding me...) But some of Martin's descriptions of Boswell are SO effusive, I can't go on. If you read Bate's biography of Johnson, you never doubted his love for Johnson, but you probably felt that Bate was being even-handed. But Martin doesn't strike me this way. Discussing Boswell's "London Journal," Martin writes, "the world has come to see it as a literary masterpiece." Hello? Sure, we all loved to read about the peccadilloes, and enjoyed it, but a 'literary masterpiece'? Like "Hamlet"? "Absalom, Absalom"? "Ulysses"? "The Vanity of Human Wishes"? I am very curious about the world Martin refers to here. The effusiveness continues a couple pages later, when Martin expresses thanks (that's OK) that Boswell didn't suppress himself in the journals, but the tone - - "We must thank the literary muses who watched over him that he did not succeed against his better literary judgement..."
Leading to this stage in London, there are many many pages where Martin works to forgive a tendency in Boswell which I would call flightiness, but Martin attributes to Boswell's artistic tendency and difficulties in conforming to his surroundings. Part of me wants to respond in a way I suspect Johnson would have: get serious. Martin also never seems to weigh in on Boswell's affairs with married women - - should we read Martin's silence as his condoning?
Please forgive me here if I post this review without having read further. But if I can't finish it - - and I have finished a number of 'difficult' books, and some that are poorly written, you disregard this at your own risk.
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A Life of James Boswell
A Life of James Boswell by Peter Martin (Hardcover - September 10, 2000)
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