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The Life of Samuel Johnson (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 19, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 1408 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (November 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140436626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140436624
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Womersley teaches at Jesus College, Oxford, and edited Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for Penguin Classics.


David Womersley teaches at Jesus College, Oxford, and edited Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for Penguin Classics.


David Womersley teaches at Jesus College, Oxford, and edited Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for Penguin Classics.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Boswell actually knew Johnson pretty well.
M. JONES
Boswell set new standards for thoroughness, accuracy, and research, greatly expanding the very concept of what a biography could be.
Bill R. Moore
Anyone who cares about great books should read it.
Ingalls

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 96 people found the following review helpful By VA Book Lover on August 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When reading a classic such as Boswell's Life of Johnson, you are mainly looking for two things: good typography and a knowledgeable editor. In this Penguin edition (2008) you get both. With more than 1250 pages of reading, you don't want to be tortured or discouraged by tiny or overstylized type. Here the designer has chosen Adobe Sabon in 9 pt type -- perfect for reading comfortably for long stretches. And you'd be hard pressed to find a better 18th-century scholar than David Womersley (at Oxford). He seems to have a penchant for tackling long and difficult books: Previously, he edited a beautiful edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall, also published by Penguin. His editorial notes are well supported, unobtrusive, and beautifully written -- a real class act. So if you're looking for the right edition, this is it! Enjoy.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on March 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson is often called the greatest biography of all-time and may well be. Perhaps such a work can get no higher praise, but it is also highly notable as the first true modern biography - the first really resembling what we think of as biography today. Boswell set new standards for thoroughness, accuracy, and research, greatly expanding the very concept of what a biography could be. He was also very far ahead of his time in anticipating what was later called gonzo journalism - writers inserting themselves into real-life stories; it is of course not done in the same way as later writers, but the concept is similar. Most remarkable of all, though, is that the book is immensely readable, entertaining, and edifying over two hundred years later, which can be said of very few biographies. It is absolutely essential for anyone even remotely interested in Johnson, Boswell, or the late eighteenth century European intellectual circle.

Johnson was perhaps England's best known writer during his last several decades and one of the most famous in the world besides being widely known and renowned for lexicographical and other accomplishments. However, this book's greatness and fame are such that he has long been known primarily via it. Many read it who have read very little or none of him, showing that, unlike nearly all biographies, it has earned a life of its own. There are many reasons for this, not least the fine writing. Even more fundamental is that the book vividly brings an exciting, integral, and profoundly influential era to life. It covers the late Enlightenment when many of the most important people to ever live were prominent.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Ingalls on November 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Boswell--to use a contemporary idiom-- had a mancrush on Samuel Johnson. He wrote this lengthy portrait of his hero--and it's magnificent. This is a vastly entertaining read. Full of fascinating, insightful, provocative, fun, sometimes gossipy detail, Boswell's Life of Johnson is a real treat. After ten pages, I was hooked. In writing his Life of Johnson, Boswell showed us all how fascinating a single man can be when studied in detail by a sympathetic reporter. I suspect that Boswell's Johnson is a much more interesting character than Johnson's Johnson, but that doesn't matter: Boswell's book is a separate creation and entity than Johnson the man. Boswell's hero worship and adulation is infectious. it is difficult not to wish Boswell success in pulling off this grand project: a 1,400 page portrait of a brilliant, admirable, great but flawed man. Get this. You are going to be entertained. Despite its enormous size, this is a fun, interesting, stimulating read. This is the perfect vacation book for anyone who prefers something with more intellectual meat than a thriller or mystery. Anglophiles MUST read this. Anyone who cares about great books should read it. And anyone looking for a book that has stood the test of time should read it. Simply because you will be denying yourself a great experience if you don't. I would definitely want this with me during a long convalescence--it would be a great companion.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Caraculiambro on August 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I don't know if this is a good thing to admit or not, but I made it through this entire book reading it about 5-10 minutes per night just before nodding off.

Normally I would never a proceed through such a highly-regarded classic like this, but Boswell jumps from topic to topic so frequently, it's almost like each new paragraph is about an entirely different subject. I suppose this would have irked me had I approached this in a focused, solitary way, but as it was it made it possible get through one nugget at a time.

Maybe you should try it. I know of few who have managed to negotiate this one conventionally.

Anyhow, more to the point. If you're fishing around for a good edition, I would definitely go with this Penguin Classics edition, which has copious footnotes and some other stuff. The other one you see everywhere, the Oxford World's Classics has -- unusually for that series -- zilch for footnotes!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jim Coughenour on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Penguin did a shabby job of converting Boswell's masterpiece to the electronic platform. There are vast spaces between paragraphs and words run together within them. I've had the Everyman hardback for years but it's heavy and hard to read - I bought the Penguin edition because I'm a fan of David Womersley's editions (I have his massive set of Gibbon as well). So I'll learn to overlook, I suppose, the indifferent quality of the ebook. When will Penguin and other publishers learn how to create a book for the 21st century? Fine examples of how it should be done are evident in the apps created by Touchpress, e.g., Eliot's Wasteland; Shakespeare's Sonnets; Leonardo's Notebooks. All of these are excellent, deeply immersive, take full advantage of tablet technology and cost no more than crappy Kindle editions.
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