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The Biography Conundrum – Was Boswell smarter than Johnson?

May 31, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm BST

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Boswell’s Life of Johnson is one of the greatest biographies ever written. It’s a vast, vivid, precise account of the character of one of the great intellects and personalities of the eighteenth century. Join Henry Oliver, writer of The Common Reader, to think about what really makes this book great.

Is what makes it great the subject Samuel Johnson, pioneering lexicographer, poet, essayist, pillar of morality, and Latin scholar—or the author James Boswell, failed lawyer, frequenter of prostitutes, sycophant, and a drunk?

Once we start uncovering Boswell’s talents, we might be surprised by the answer… To the Victorians, Boswell was an idiot who stumbled on a great subject. Modern scholarship shows a more complicated picture, although we might start to wonder how much of his book is fact and how much is fiction.

There is no better book to start thinking about what really makes a biography great.




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May 31, 2022
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm BST
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