English Literature » Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

Table of content

  1. Biography
  2. Essays
  3. Poems


Samuel Johnson (usually known as Dr Johnson) (Sept. 18, 1709, Lichfield, Staffordshire, Eng.— Dec. 13, 1784, London) was an English author, poet, moralist and literary critic. One of Dr Johnson’s greatest contributions was publishing, in 1747, The Dictionary of the English Language.

Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire to a family of pooer booksellers. He was educated at Lichfield Grammar School before going to Pembroke College, Oxford. However, due to a lack of funds, he left after a year – never completing his degree. After Oxford, he worked as a teacher in Market Bosworth and Birmingham. In 1735, he married Elizabeth Porter, a widow 20 years older than him. Together they opened a school at Edial near Lichfield, but it later closed due to a lack of money. The Johnson’s then left for London, where he began spending more time working as a writer.

He made a living writing for the Gentleman’s Magazine – a report on Parliament. He also wrote a tragedy, Irene, and some attempts at poetry.

Johnson was also employed to catalogue the extensive library of Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford. This gave Johnson the opportunity to indulge his great love of reading and the English language. He was inspired to start working on a comprehensive dictionary of the English language. It would take him eight years, but it was considered to be his finest achievement. Though other dictionaries were in existence, the ‘Johnson Dictionary of the English language’ was a huge step forward in its comprehensiveness and quality.

Johnson was a prolific writer. For two years he almost single-handedly wrote a journal – ‘The Rambler’ full of moral essays.

In 1752, his wife ‘Tetty’ died, plunging him into depression, which proved difficult for him to escape during the rest of his life.

After the publication of his dictionary in 1755, he began to be more appreciated by literary society. He was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University, and in 1760 was given a pension of £300 a year from George III. This enabled him to engage in more social and cultural activities. He was friends with many of the leading cultural figures of the day, such as Sir Joshua Reynolds a painter, and the writer Oliver Goldsmith.

In 1764, he met the young Scot, James Boswell who would become his celebrated biographer. Together they toured the Hebrides, which Johnson wrote about in ‘A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland’, (1775) James Boswell wrote about Johnson in great detail, including information on Johnson’s unusual mannerisms, such as odd gestures and tics (which may have been a form of Tourette’s syndrome)

Johnson also embarked on an ambitious project – “Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets” (10 vols) and an influential edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

Essays by Samuel Johnson

  1. A Letter to Lord Chesterfield
  2. A Plan of The English Dictionary
  3. A Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language
  4. Addison
  5. Akenside
  6. Blackmore
  7. Butler
  8. Collins
  9. Congreve
  10. Cowley
  11. Denham
  12. Dorset
  13. Duke
  14. Dyer
  15. Garth
  16. Gay
  17. Gray
  18. Halifax
  19. Hughes
  20. King
  21. Life of Cowley
  22. Lyttelton
  23. Mallet
  24. Milton
  25. Otway
  26. Parnell
  27. Philips, A
  28. Philips, J
  29. Pomfret
  30. Preface to Shakespeare
  31. Prior
  32. Rasselas Prince of Abyssinia
  33. Rochester
  34. Roscommon
  35. Rowe
  36. Savage
  37. Sheffield
  38. Shenstone
  39. Smith
  40. Somervile
  41. Sprat
  42. Stepney
  43. Swift
  44. Thomson
  45. Tickell
  46. Waller
  47. Walsh
  48. Watts
  49. West
  50. Young

Poems by Samuel Johnson

  1. A Short Song Of Congratulation
  2. Anacreon: Ode 9
  3. Autumn
  4. Burlesque
  5. Drury-Lane Prologue Spoken By Mr. Garrick
  6. Epitaph On Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bart.
  7. Evening Ode
  8. Friendship
  9. From Boethius
  10. From Boethius: De Consolatione Philosophiae; Book Ii. Metre 2.
  11. From Boethius: De Consolatione Philosophiae; Book Ii. Metre 4.
  12. From Boethius: De Consolatione Philosophiae; Book Iii. Metre 5
  13. From The Medea Of Euripides
  14. from The Vanity of Human Wishes
  15. Gnothi Seauton
  16. Horace: Book 1, Ode 22
  17. Horace: Book Ii. Ode 9
  18. Horace: Book Iv. Ode 7
  19. Inspiration
  20. London – In Imitation Of The Third Satire Of Juvenal
  21. On Hearing Miss Thrale Consulting With A Friend About A Gown And Hat
  22. On Lyce – An Elderly Lady
  23. On Seeing A Bust Of Mrs. Montague
  24. On the Death of Dr. Robert Levet
  25. On The Death Of Stephen Grey, F.R.S.
  26. One And Twenty
  27. Parody Of A Translation From The Medea Of Euripides
  28. Part Of The Dialogue Between Hector And Andromache
  29. Song
  30. Spring
  31. Stella In Mourning
  32. Summer
  33. The City Of God
  34. The Natural Beauty
  35. The Vanity Of Human Wishes
  36. The Vanity Of Wealth
  37. The Winter’s Walk
  38. The Young Author
  39. To A Young Lady, On Her Birthday
  40. To Lady Firebrace
  41. To Miss Hickman, Playing The Spinet
  42. To Miss—,
  43. To Mrs. Thrale On Her Completing Her Thirty-Fifth Year
  44. To Myrtilis – The New Year’s Offering
  45. Translation Of A Speech Of Aquileio In The Adriano Of Metastasio
  46. Winter
  47. Written At The Request Of A Gentleman To Whom A Lady Had Given A Sprig Of Myrtle