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Samuel Johnson: Selected Writings: A Tercentenary Celebration Hardcover – October 30, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Readers should find much pleasure and insight in this collection. (Anthony Pucci Library Journal 2009-09-01)

We see in [Johnson's] essays the tiny brushwork of brilliant self-portraiture; we hear the rhythm of moral seriousness, the sound of contemplation as it engages with the questions of how to live and how to manage in the face of death. But most of all we feel the reach of an author--a writer attempting to reach past self-doubt, poverty, cant, and orthodoxy, in order to assert the power of individual authorship and free thinking in the face of more nebulous authorities. Samuel Johnson may have failed often enough to be personable, but he nevertheless freed subjectivity...and brought both dignity and self-sufficiency to the writing game, allowing authors to be who they chose to be, unshackled from patronage and the requirement to please great men. We see it in his essays and we see it again in his Lives of the Poets: a writer's writer, beckoning individual creative power out of the mire of dependency, making the work answerable only to high standards of excellence stringently applied. (Andrew O'Hagan New York Review of Books 2009-10-08)

This handsome book, with its fine printing and striking cover, commemorates the 2009 tercentennial of Johnson's birth by introducing uninitiated readers to the most accessible of his writing, Martin satisfies this aim well, producing a title that serves as a companion to his Samuel Johnson: A Biography. (C. S. Vilmar Choice 2010-02-01)

Peter Martin, who joined the crowded ranks of Johnson's biographers last year, has given us a fair representation of [his] works here...Harvard Press deserves lavish praise for producing a handsome, well-made edition. (Barton Swaim Weekly Standard 2010-06-14)

About the Author

Peter Martin has taught English literature on both sides of the Atlantic and is the author of A Life of James Boswell.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 536 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1 edition (September 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674035852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674035850
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,957,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Frank Lynch on March 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Well, if I've only given this four stars, and not five, it's not due to any failure of Samuel Johnson's. Everything in this book is fine. But the anthology published by Oxford (edited by Donald Greene) is decidedly better.
The Oxford Anthology has twice as many of his essays, the Preface to Shakespeare is -complete-, not "From...", and the complete preface to the Dictionary; it also has his short fiction Rasselas (complete), as well as a sermon or two and some early examples of his biographies; the Vision of Theodore, Hermit of Tenerife.
Honestly, I can't complain about ANY anthology of Johnson; and this will do you very well. But the Oxford Anthology will do you so much better.
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A must purchase for fans of Samuel Johnson. The informed editor, Peter Martin, judiciously has selected portions from Dr. Johnson's wide written legacy and made them available in a convenient form for the modern reader. Mr. Martin allows his hero, Dr. Johnson, to speak for himself without cluttering this book with his own commentary and asides.

(I do highly recommend Peter Martin's 2008 biography of Samuel Johnson, in which the editor of this book does give his commentary on the powerful life of the English man of letters.)

I have read many books about Dr. Johnson: this one provided me with the handy opportunity to consider selections from his own writings that I had previously been aware of only indirectly, such as "Lives of the Poets" and "Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia."
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