Samuel Johnson

(1709 - 1784)

Born to a bookseller in Staffordshire, Samuel Johnson spent just one year at Oxford before dropping out due to lack of funds. The subject of James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, arguably the most important piece work in the field of biography, Johnson was plagued by physical and mental illnesses throughout most of his life. After suffering a stroke in 1783, he was unable to speak, and later in the year bedridden by gout. He died in December 1784 and is buried at Westminster Abbey.

All Writing

Disease generally begins that equality which death completes.

—Samuel Johnson, 1750

Voices In Time

1751 | London

Test of Time

Samuel Johnson judges the outdated books of seasons past.More

The true art of memory is the art of attention.

—Samuel Johnson, 1759


James Boswell recorded that during the sale of Henry Thrale’s brewery, Samuel Johnson—an executor of the business—“appeared bustling about, with an inkhorn and pen in his buttonhole, like an exciseman,” and was asked what he considered to be the true value of the property. “We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats,” Johnson responded, “but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”

A merchant may, perhaps, be a man of an enlarged mind, but there is nothing in trade connected with an enlarged mind.

—Samuel Johnson, 1773

A jest breaks no bones.

—Samuel Johnson, 1781

Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel.

—Samuel Johnson, c. 1770

Many need no other provocation to enmity than that they find themselves excelled.

—Samuel Johnson, 1751

Every man has a lurking wish to appear considerable in his native place.

—Samuel Johnson, 1771

Issues Contributed