Anniversarial — 2009

1709 — birth of Samuel Johnson

On the 18th September 1709, the great English scholar, journalist and lexicographer, Samuel Johnson (later Dr Johnson), was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England.

Educated at the University of Oxford 1728, he left without taking a degree (he was awarded LLD Dublin in 1765, and an Oxford doctorate in 1775); his attempts to work as a schoolmaster were unsuccessful and he moved to London in 1737 with a former student, the actor David Garrick, and worked as a journalist for the Gentleman's Magazine and writer, particularly of satire; his Dictionary of the English Language (1755) made his reputation as one of the foremost scholars of his age; a status confirmed by his edition of Shakespeare (1765) and his Lives of the Poets (1779–1781).

Editor of The Rambler (1750–1752), The Adventurer (1753–1754) and The Literary Magazine (1756); he was awarded a pension 1762. The acknowledged star of the Literary Club, he was the centre of a wide circle of literary friends and acquaintances, the most important of whom were his biographer James Boswell and his long-time friend and memorialist Hester Thrale.

Currently, EE has letters (covering a period 1738 to 1784) to or from Johnson and the following correspondents:


1709 — rescue of "Robinson Crusoe"

Three hundred years ago, on or about 2 February 1709, the sailor Alexander Selkirk was rescued from the desert island of Aguas Buenas (now the Isla Robinson Crusoe) in the archipelago of Juan Fernández in the South Pacific, where he had been abandoned four years previously. His experiences inspired what is sometimes called the first novel in English, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719. The eighteenth-century view of Robinson Crusoe (both the person and novel) can be seen in letters such as:

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