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

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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

Scottish lawyer and essayist, known for his two-volume biography A Life of Samuel Johnson.

Pat Rogers is DeBartolo Professor in the Liberal Arts at the University of South Florida.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 1536 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The greatest "novel" ever written. Boswell made his chum up in his head and animated his imagination with one of THE greatest creations--about one of the greatest creative creators in history--ever. Read it--abridged or no--and weep (and laugh like mad, and be blown away with profundity, humanity, character, incredible anecdotes, insights, drama, the LOT). Amazing book. Have read it twenty times if I've read it once.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A tome - an endless and somewhat sycophantic rant as Boswell lingers on Johnson all his live long life! Brings the sense of the era absolutely but takes ages to get through --- read other things along the way to help you through - think of it as a rite of passage!
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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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