The New Student's Reference Work/Johnson, Dr. Samuel

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John′son, Dr. Samuel, was born at Lichfield, England, on Sept. 18, 1709. He received his early education in his native town and from his father’s library. In 1729 he went to Pembroke College, Oxford. Here Johnson spent the unhappiest period of his life. He was oppressed by debt and other difficulties, which prevented him from taking his degree. After teaching school, which he greatly disliked and in which he was a failure, he began to translate for the press; and when his affairs were at their worst he married. In 1737, with a tragedy and twopence half-penny in his pocket, he came to London. His struggle for a living is touching. Sometimes dinnerless and bedless, always ill-fed and shabbily dressed, he never whined about his hardships, and there is no braver figure in English literature. Meanwhile he was slowly becoming the foremost writer of the day. In 1738 appeared his poem of London. From 1747 to 1755 he worked on his famous Dictionary. When the huge undertaking was nearly done, a nobleman whose help at an earlier time had been refused to Johnson wished to patronize the writer and his work. To this Johnson replied in the famous letter of Feb. 7, 1755, which perhaps is the finest piece of indignant writing on record. About this time came out his Vanity of Human Wishes and The Rambler. In 1759 was published Rasselas. A pension of $1,500 a year enabled him to spend his last twenty-two years in comfort. He gathered at his house a queer company of homeless friends, besides providing a night’s lodging to many waifs and strays and often putting pennies into the hands of street Arabs asleep on the pavement, that they might wake up and find that they had wherewith to buy a breakfast. In 1781 appeared his Lives of the Poets, perhaps his most enduring work. He died at London on Dec. 13, 1784. See Boswell’s Life of Johnson. See the Essay by Macaulay, that by Carlyle and Leslie StephensJohnson in the English Men of Letters Series.