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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Samuel Johnson: Man and Superman..., January 4, 2010
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This review is from: Samuel Johnson: A Biography (Paperback)
W. Jackson Bate's highly praised "Samuel Johnson: A Biography" is in its fourth edition since first publication in 1975. Its 600+ pages constitute an exhaustive and very nearly definitive biography of the great journalist, poet, author, moralist, literary critic, political commentator, and lexicographer of late 18th Century England.

Bate examines in great detail Johnson's challenging life for the basis and context of his astonishing literary skills, great sense of morality, and perhaps greater sense of humanity. Bate begins with Johnson's difficult childhood and proceeds through his checkered attendance at school, his lifelong struggle to make a living, and his bouts with persistent poverty, mental depression and physical ill-health, to his final years as the grand old man of his literary world.

Along the way, Bate carefully explores the development, and the nuances, of Johnson's religious, political, and moral views, and of course of his relationships with his many famous and infamous friends, including his biographer Boswell. While Bate purposely emphasizes biography over literary criticism, he must and does address Johnson's prodigous output. The resulting narrative is a detailed portrait of a complex and fascinating man, made wiser and more understanding of his world by his difficult passage through it. The book includes a nice selection of prints and portraits. Bate does not address the recent, posthumous diagnosis that Johnson may have suffered from Tourette's Syndrome, which could account for his distracting physical mannerisms.

"Samuel Johnson: A Biography" is very highly recommended to students of the life and times of a great man.
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D.S.Thurlow
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Location: California

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