The Supplicating Voice
The Spiritual Writings of Samuel Johnson
By Samuel Johnson
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375725678, 352pp.)
Publication Date: April 12, 2005
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A unique one-volume selection of Samuel Johnson’s writings on spiritual and moral topics provides an unusually inspiring portrait of the man and his thought.
Most readers know Dr. Johnson (1709—1784) as the formidable compiler of his famous Dictionary and as the witty conversationalist portrayed in Boswell’s Life. By contrast, this book–which draws on little-known unsigned sermons he wrote for hire for clergy friends, his private prayers and devotions, essays, poems, diaries, letters, and even key definitions from the Dictionary–offers a rare opportunity to discover Johnson’s rich insight and consoling spirituality gathered in one place. Boswell observed that "He was a sincere and zealous ChristianÉ. He was steady and inflexible in maintaining the obligations of religion and morality; both from a regard for the order of society, and from a veneration for the Great Source of all order." This Vintage Spiritual Classics Original opens a window on the moral universe of the leading English writer of the eighteenth century.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was born in Lichfield, England. Early in his career he lived by a variety of literary strategies (translation, biography, poetry, pamphleteering, commissions, hackwork) until embarking in 1747 on the greatest project of his career, the singlehanded compilation of the first major dictionary of the English language. Seven torturing, exhausting years of relentless work later it appeared, and his fame and reputation for the first time were assured. Over the succeeding decade Johnson devoted himself largely to essay writing, and in 1759 he published his famous philosophical tale, Rasselas, Or, The Prince of Abyssynia. Recognizing a lifetime of achievement, King George III in 1762 was persuaded to award him an annual pension. It was not until 1763 that Johnson met his future biographer, James Boswell. For the last 21 years of his life Dr. Johnson's wit and conversation would circulate ever more widely, taking on even mythic proportions. During this period he also published his magnificent Lives of the English Poets, a crowning work of brilliant criticism.
Owen Chadwick, Regius Professor Emeritus of Modern History and Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge University, 1956-83, is the author of many important works of church history including A History of Christianity and A History of the Popes.