Saturday, September 18, 2010

Samuel Johnson: My Word!

For anyone whose stock in trade is words - even a blogger - Samuel Johnson is a towering figure. If all he'd ever done was compile a Dictionary of the English Language he'd have earned his place in history; as it is, he was also journalist, poet, essayist, moralist, novelist, literary critic, biographer, and editor. So prolific and admired was he that his biography, James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, is either a consummate tribute to a man of enviable accomplishment or else something of an epic reacharound, depending on your point of view.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1709, Johnson was a precocious child who rose above his humble beginnings - writing for the yellow presses of London's Grub Street - having already overcome scrofula (for the treatment of which he received the royal touch at St James's Palace by Queen Anne herself in March 1712 - unsuccessfully it turns out) and despite a lifelong battle with what has been posthumously diagnosed as Tourette syndrome.

Given that Boswell's biography of him is essentially a phone book, I doubt Blogspot has the bandwidth* to let me replicate it here; suffice it to say, Johnson was more than a man of letters - he was a celebrity, and this was back in the days before every third person was a celebrity!

Samuel Johnson's pop culture presence reached its apex when he was portrayed by Robbie Coltrane in the third series of Blackadder, in the episode entitled Ink and Incapability in September 1987.

*And I know I don't have the stamina.

share on: facebook

No comments: