Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
English poet, critic, essayist, and lexicographer. In spite of childhood poverty, poor eyesight, and a neuropsychiatric condition that was probably Tourette syndrome, Johnson achieved renown in his day as a wit, a conversationalist, and an astute observer of the human experience. In 1737, having withdrawn from Oxford University for lack of funds and then failing as a schoolmaster, he sought his fortune in London, where he began contributing essays and poems to the Gentleman’s Magazine. In 1750 he founded the Rambler, a popular periodical containing essays, fables, and criticism. One of the greatest prose stylists of the English language, Johnson won fame for Rasselas (1759), a didactic tale; The Lives of the Poets (1779–1781); and the monumental Dictionary of the English Language (1755). The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), written by his friend and travel companion, James Boswell, is English literature’s most famous biography. See also samueljohnson.com.