28. A Life of Johnson by James Boswell
Since this particular chapter in Invitation to the Classics involves reading Johnson's Selected Essays, Prayers, and Rasselas, I decided to opt for the greatly abridged version of this book by NAXOS audio rather than the full 1300+ page unabridged version. I did look at the unabridged in the library and followed along as I listened for a good chunk of it.
I really enjoyed the narrator, Bill Hartman, with his deep Scottish brogue. Since my 2nd great grandparents immigrated from Scotland to Pennsylvania in 1864, it was special for me!
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was THE man of literature in the mid-eighteenth-century England. He wrote moral essays, poetry and prayers (Johnson was a devout Anglican). He is probably most famously known for publishing a Dictionary of the English Language or sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary (1755) that stood as the authoritative dictionary until the Oxford English Dictionary came 150 years later.
Johnson would not have been SO well-known had it not been for the biography by James Boswell (1740-1795). Boswell sort of had a "man-crush" on Johnson. I thought their first conversation was funny:
[Boswell:] "Mr. Johnson, I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it."
[Johnson:] "That, Sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help."
We have Johnson to thank for the familiar "...hell is paved with good intentions," and "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."