Johnson and Change

Robert, Jr. DeMaria

in Samuel Johnson

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654345
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745003 | DOI:
Johnson and Change

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This chapter discusses Johnson's iconic embodiment of stability, durability, and constancy and finds that he was also in many respects changeful as an intellect and as a writer. He outlined a standard kind of evolution of the mind into middle and old age in Rambler 151, and he lived out this evolution himself in his life and works. This is demonstrable in an examination of stylistic and thematic changes visible in Johnson's biographical writing from his early days in the service of Edward Cave to his late work in the Lives of the Poets. On the whole, Johnson's late biographies are plainer, more personal and blunter in their evaluations than the earlier pieces. As Johnson's model of mental evolution predicts, the late work as well as the late life shows a greater interest in reflection than in discovery, in fact rather than fiction, and in reconciliation rather than rebellion.

Keywords: Samuel Johnson; biography; style; literary criticism; change; stability; mind; sociability

Chapter.  6206 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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