Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Life of Samuel Johnson - by James Boswell

James Boswell is justly celebrated for his monumental work, The Life of Samuel Johnson. (US Edition)  (UK Edition)  (DE Edition)  It is actually offered in six volumes for the Kindle, including additional material in the last couple of volumes.

It is a long book and great fun.  You are just aghast at how much Boswell reveals about himself, and not in a complimentary light!  He devotes his life to telling the story of a great man, famous for his English dictionary.  I laughed out loud many times when I read this book some years ago.

The free Kindle version is somewhat episodic, because it inserts references to the many  The footnotes are at the end, making them difficult to access.  I find it makes the reading choppy, so you may prefer to spend a small amount to get a different version.  Be sure to first download a free chapter to ensure you are not just paying for a duplicate of the free version and that you prefer the one you are buying.   footnotes.

For a dollar, you get the whole shooting match in one Kindle volume with the footnotes interspersed with the text.   (.99  US Edition)  ( £1.39 UK Edition )  (EUR 1,56 DE Edition)   Some people dislike this format.  I prefer that to being teased with numbers referring to footnotes I can't access!  You can't please everyone . . .

Here is an account of the staging of Johnson’s play, “Irene."
Garrick being now vested with theatrical power by being manager of Drury-lane theatre, he kindly and generously made use of it to bring out Johnson's tragedy, which had been long kept back for want of encouragement. But in this benevolent purpose he met with no small difficulty from the temper of Johnson, which could not brook that a drama which he had formed with much study, and had been obliged to keep more than the nine years of Horace[575], should be revised and altered at the pleasure of an actor[576].

 Yet Garrick knew well, that without some alterations it would not be fit for the stage. A violent dispute having ensued between them, Garrick applied to the Reverend Dr. Taylor to interpose. Johnson was at first very obstinate. 'Sir, (said he) the fellow wants me to make Mahomet run mad, that he may have an opportunity of tossing his hands and kicking his heels[577].'

He was, however, at last, with difficulty, prevailed on to comply with Garrick's wishes, so as to allow of some changes; but still there were not enough. [Page 197: The Epilogue to IRENE. Ætat 40.]

Dr. Adams was present the first night of the representation of Irene, and gave me the following account: 'Before the curtain drew up, there were catcalls whistling, which alarmed Johnson's friends. The Prologue, which was written by himself in a manly strain, soothed the audience[578], and the play went off tolerably, till it came to the conclusion, when Mrs. Pritchard[579], the heroine of the piece, was to be strangled upon the stage, and was to speak two lines with the bow-string round her neck.

The audience cried out "Murder! Murder[580]!" She several times attempted to speak; but in vain. At last she was obliged to go off the stage alive.' This passage was afterwards struck out, and she was carried off to be put to death behind the scenes, as the play now has it[581].

Skip the play, read the biography. 

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