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Life of Johnson (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – August 1, 2008


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Life of Johnson (Oxford World's Classics) + Samuel Johnson: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) + The Journey to the Western Islands Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Penguin English Library)
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 1536 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199540217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540211
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 2.3 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

`Boswell's life must be the greatest biography ever written; crammed with sage advice and anecdotes both comical and touching, it is best taken unabridged.' The Week

About the Author

JAMES BOSWELL (1740-1795), Scottish man of letters, was born in Edinburgh and studied civil law at Glasgow, but his true ambition was literary fame and the company of great men. In spring 1760 he ran away to London, where he first met Samuel Johnson. He eventually met Voltaire, Rousseau, and Paoli, the hero of Corsica, whom he Boswellized in Account of Corsica, which was an immediate success. In 1773 he was elected to Johnson's famous literary club. After Johnson's death and the publication of The Journal of the Tour of the Hebrides, another great success, he began his acknowledged masterpiece, The Life of Samuel Johnson. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Slokes VINE VOICE on December 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
The abridged version of Boswell's "Life Of Johnson" is the only humane version to recommend to a first-time reader, but to get a full sense not only of Johnson but of the man who introduced him to posterity, unabridged is the way to go.

Samuel Johnson was already an established man of letters, his period of greatest productivity behind him, when he met the itinerant Scottish laird-to-be James Boswell. A somewhat toadying social striver who had trouble living up to his high moral code, Boswell took to Johnson as a kind of rock upon which to build an edifice for life as it should be lived. Boswell's biography soaks up Johnson's conversation, casual and otherwise, as well as experiences shared by the two men. Through it all, Johnson emerges as a magnetic, vital, yet very human avatar for a worldly yet Christian life.

Never mind that neither man was all that, something Boswell quietly allows both in his own commentary and in some of the many quotes he offers from Johnson.

"Because a man cannot be right in all things, is he to be right in nothing?" Johnson asks. "Because a man sometimes gets drunk, it he therefore to steal?"

I can identify with this sense of ethical compromise. Decades ago I wrote my college thesis on this book, and for years felt guilty that I had used the abridged version. I never read the unabridged version, but for years carried one around like Sisyphus. Finally I read it, just finishing it today after over a month. It's a huge time investment, and often tedious. The abridged version, by contrast, is like a greatest-hits collection; you get Johnson's best quotes and the most vital episodes with Boswell.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By P. B. McCaffery on May 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Where would we be without Dr. Johnson? Where would we be without his little and admirable friend, Boswell? In the Life, we learn as much about this giant as we might our mothers; only, we learn things that actually intrigue, whereas a mother's life at times must bore. This is an excellent way to befriend Johnson and his life. It will start a relationship that, I promise you, will not end.
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0 of 14 people found the following review helpful By jjrose on September 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have decided to write a review as a warning. I have given the book one star for the people who, like me, read the best and the worst before reading more glowing reviews. I am here to say THIS BOOK IS 1400 PAGES LONG; I almost threw it away without even opening it. I have kept it but it in in my stack of books "To read".
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3 of 59 people found the following review helpful By James E. McVoy on July 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
This biography is one of the "classics" of English literature. Unfortunately, I found the subject, Samuel Johnson, a thoroughly unlikeable, arrogant prig. Despite Boswell's best efforts at hero worship, I could not get past Johnson's self-righteousness.
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