- Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint; 1st Counterpoint pbk. ed edition (June 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1887178767
- ISBN-13: 978-1887178761
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,091,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Samuel Johnson Paperback – June 1, 1998
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Top Customer Reviews
In some ways, Johnson's personality was as complex and as tragic as that of his best-known biographer, James Boswell. Johnson's towering genius was often at odds with his uncouth ways, his disfigured face, and his seemingly lunatic tics and stutters. He controlled his desires and needs with an iron fist of self-control, often denying himself even the most innocent pleasures in his never-ending quest for spiritual purity. Bate shows us how Johnson's neglectful childhood and his crushing poverty as a young man forged his emotional character, and how his many disappointments as an adult moulded his spiritual character.
The only qualm I have about recommending this book is that Bate sometimes goes too far in his psychological analysis. Since this book was published, a consensus has arisen that Johnson suffered from Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological condition characterized by ticcing, a quick wit, an unusual gait, and specific personality quirks. If this is the case, and if many of Johnson's character traits can be attributed to Tourette's and not emotional damage, much of Bate's analysis is incorrect.
Having said that, I still highly recommend this book. Bate can't be faulted for omitting a diagnosis that couldn't have been made at the time he wrote the book. Moreover, the bulk of his analysis is spot-on, and his love of and respect for the subject of the book are obvious in every chapter.
I highly recommend this book.
Bate employs Freudian analysis, something of which I am not often fond, but he does it in an unobtrusive and persuasive way. The book carefully discussses Johnson's works and puts them into historical and literary context, but the real emphasis is on the life.
Read Boswell's Life of Johnson after reading Bate, but read Bate. Now that this rather long book is in paperback, it is affordable so even a relatively slow reader can take the time to learn the story behin "Dictionary Johnson." At the risk of hyperbole, reading this book and becoming acquainted with Johnson's life has made me a better person. I hope as many people as possible venture down that same path.
I urge anyone with an interest in English literature or 18th century England or in the heights to which a honest and brave man can reach to make the effort to read this book. It is, at the very least, a good read. It may also make ytou a better person.
The physiological analysis of Johnson's character may strike some readers as heavy-handed, yet it ultimately illuminates the full character of Johnson, helping the modern reader to understand more clearly the time and culture that produced a character as complex and powerful as Dr. Johnson.
As I neared the end of this wonderful volume, I felt the same pangs one feels toward the conclusion of an excellent novel. Bate writes with such power, clarity, and insight that I cannot foresee any other biography of Johnson dislodging this one as the definitive rendering of his epic life.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good read on JOhnson, tho when Bates starts a literary analysis of JOhnson , it can bog a bit. JOhnson's life and the anecdotes are the core of the book, and that makes it a... Read morePublished on June 27, 2014 by warrren leming
Using Amazon as the middle-man to locate this out-of-print hardback was very easy. This is a work that I am pleased to own in hard-back rather than as as an e-book. Read morePublished on August 2, 2013 by Patricia J. Barnett
A little too Freudian for my taste, and Bate unblushingly reads minds, across centuries. Most people find it difficult enough to read minds across a dinner table.Published on March 10, 2010 by WD Grissom
I found this in out annual library sale for $1. I look forward to reading it based on the reviews here on Amazon. I suspect he is the famous Dr. Read morePublished on June 4, 2006 by William S Jamison
I always wondered how anyone dare write a biography of Samuel Johnson since Boswell's Johnson is arguably the single greatest volume in all biographical literature. Read morePublished on April 5, 2006 by Shalom Freedman
Samuel Johnson was a brilliant critic, perhaps the greatest English writer after Shakespeare, a fascinating eccentric, and a genuinely heroic man. The great merit of Mr. Read morePublished on February 23, 2005 by John W. Chuckman
This biography has everything: meticulous scholarship, incisive literary criticism, and a prose style that recalls the days when professors could actually write a beautiful... Read morePublished on March 13, 2004 by Rotpeter