Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Johnson, Samuel

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JOHNSON, SAMUEL, an English lexicographer; born in Litchfield, England, Sept. 18, 1709. He completed his education at Pembroke College, Oxford; and in 1732 taught school at Market Bosworth. In 1735 he married Mrs. Porter of Birmingham who possessed $4,000 and with this capital Johnson started a school at Edial, near Litchfield, obtaining only three scholars, one of whom was David Garrick. It was at this time that he began his tragedy “Irene.” In 1737 he set out for the metropolis, accompanied by Garrick. On fixing his residence in London he formed a connection with Cave, the publisher of the “Gentleman's Magazine,” his principal employment being the reports of the parliamentary debates. It was during this period that he formed a friendship for Richard Savage whom he immortalized in a biographical sketch. In 1749 appeared his “Vanity of Human Wishes,” an imitation of Juvenal's 10th satire. In 1750 he commenced his “Rambler,” a periodical paper, which was continued till 1752. About the period of his relinquishing the “Rambler,” he lost his wife, a circumstance which greatly affected him, as appears from his “Meditations,” and the sermon which he wrote on her death. In 1755 appeared his “Dictionary,” which, instead of three, had occupied eight years. Lord Chesterfield endeavored to assist it by writing two papers in its favor in the “World”; but, as he had hitherto neglected the author, Johnson treated him with contempt. In 1758 he began the “Idler,” which was published in a weekly newspaper. On the death of his mother, in 1759, he wrote the romance of “Rasselas,” to defray the expenses of her funeral, and to pay her debts. In 1762 George III. granted him a pension. In 1763, Boswell, his future biographer, was introduced to him, a circumstance to which we owe the most minute account of a man's life and character that has ever been written. In 1773 he went on a tour with Boswell to the W. islands of Scotland, of which journey he shortly afterward published an account, which occasioned a difference between him and Macpherson, relative to the poems of Ossian. In 1779 he began his “Lives of the British Poets,” which was the last of his literary labors. He died in England, Dec. 13, 1784.