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Samuel Johnson: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – April 15, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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About the Author

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, novelist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. The late Donald Greene was a Professor Emeritus of English, University of Southern California.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538331
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 2 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Hori on January 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read Johnson in the same way that I read Jane Austen, for the pure joy--and the celebration--of their beautifully balanced sentences. Indeed, it's almost like playing Bach to perform these sentences as they mount into paragraphs. One walks away feeling that one's thinking apparatus has been lovingly oiled, buffed, spun and polished. In addition, there's the incredible range of this man's thinking to applaud as well. However, the problem for some people might be that the book in question, with its generous selection and its easy-on-the eye type size, is roughly the same dimensions as Johnson's brain, and probably a tad heavier, which mitigates against taking it out for a stroll stuffed into the back pocket for an occasional dip. Instead it should be installed in the bedroom or the bathroom or any room where it can be consulted in an on-again, off-again manner. I read the Rambler selections, the dictionary and the poetry in this way. What's good about Johnson is that his prose is like poetry--it can't be read through just once, but demands re-reading, and each time offers yet another prize for the effort. Funny that it all came from a grotesque hypocrite and snob who enjoyed bullying others and was none too clean about his shirt and linen. Finally, brilliant as he was, I have to disagree with Johnson when he says, at the beginning of his Rambler Essay "The Need for General Knowledge" "That wonder is the effect of ignorance has been often observed....Wonder is a pause of reason, a sudden cessation of the mental progress, which lasts only while the understanding is fixed upon some single idea, and is at an end when it recovers force enough to divide the subject into its parts, or mark the intermediate gradations from the first agent to the last consequence...." (pg. 222 this book). The more I understand Johnson and his times, his parts and his divisions, the more I am struck with wonder.
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Format: Paperback
OK, I'll admit it... When I dropped out of high school at the tender age of 14 for a career of glue-sniffing and joy-riding round the graffiti-sprayed council estates of my native Irvine, I was a 'seven-stone weakling' in terms of using the English language.

Brought up on a diet of comic books, tabloid newspapers, and football magazines (Shoot, Match Weekly, etc) and 'educated' in a Socialist-inspired 'comprehensive' school, I wasn't really equipped for my future career as an international journalist. But then something very strange and bewitching happened - I discovered 'THE DOCTOR,' as we acolytes refer to him, and started mentally working out on his long, finely wrought sentences.

At first, each seemingly interminable sentence was like trying to swim the English Channel - I thought I would drown before reaching the other end - but, somehow, I survived and found myself on dry land, confused and wet, but nevertheless alive and raring to have another go.

In the months that followed, the good doctor's erudite style became Mother's milk to me as I progressively beefed up my English. This enabled me to grab a place at the prestigious university of Thames Polytechnic and, then, on graduation, to a career writing for a wide range of excellent publications, including Riff Raff, Tokyo Notice Board, and the Wall Street Journal.

The great thing about THE DOCTOR's prose is that he uses a disproportionate number of abstract nouns, which means you have to mentally provide your own examples. At first this can be extremely challenging, but if you stick with it, your brain will become, as mine has, a potent and expressive tool.
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Format: Paperback
It's a bit of a misnomer to call this anthology "The Major Works," because the principle guiding the original selection (under a different title) was to provide a diverse sampling of what he'd written -- and included items which would never be considered "major works" (such as a Latin school exercise and letters). They are worth reading, but not "major works." That having been said, as an *anthology* of Johnson's writings, this is the one to get.
Oxford's anthology of Samuel Johnson's writings is superior to Penguin's because it is more comprehensive, and displays more of his variety, as well as more of what he is known for. In comparison to the Penguin anthology, this collection includes all of Johnson's short fiction "Rasselas" (an excellent book -- read my review of it in the Penguin edition of Rasselas): Penguin will ask you to buy a separate copy of Rasselas on top of their anthology. In addition, Oxford's anthology offers extracts of "Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland" (Penguin has a separate volume of that, although there it is complete and coupled with Boswell's companion piece).
The Oxford anthology offers 40 periodic essays (Ramblers, Adventurers, & Idlers), a form for which he is well known; plus his prefaces to Shakespeare and the Dictionary; the major poems (chief among them "London" and "The Vanity of Human Wishes"); a sermon; an extract of a Parliamentarian debate; his Life of Boerhaave; his review of Soame Jenyn's "A Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil," his political pamphlet "The Patriot," an extract from a law lecture, extracts from "The Lives of The Poets", some letters... At over 800 pages, this is very comprehensive.
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