Father of English Criticism: Samuel Johnson



The father of English criticism is widely considered to be Samuel Johnson, a 18th century English writer, lexicographer, and literary critic. He is best known for his influential Dictionary of the English Language and his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, which helped to establish literary criticism as a respected field of study. Johnson’s work was marked by his strong sense of morality and his belief in the power of literature to instruct and improve society. He also wrote many essays, poems, and plays, and his writing style was admired for its clarity, wit, and precision. He was also respected for his extensive knowledge of literature, history and classical literature. He is considered as one of the most prominent figures of the 18th century literary scene and his work continues to be studied and admired today.

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Samuel Johnson: His Early Life & Career

Samuel Johnson was an English writer, poet, and literary critic who lived in the 18th century. He was born on September 18, 1709, in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. He was the son of a bookseller and his mother was a former lady’s maid. Johnson’s father died when he was only six, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings.

Johnson’s early life was marked by poverty and hardship. Despite this, he was able to attend school and receive a basic education. He later attended Pembroke College, Oxford, but was forced to leave due to financial difficulties. After leaving Oxford, Johnson worked as a schoolteacher, but his true passion was for writing.

In 1737, Johnson published his first book, a collection of poetry called “London: A Poem in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal.” This was followed by “The Vanity of Human Wishes” in 1749, which is considered one of his most important works. In 1745, Johnson began working as a literary critic, writing for the Gentleman’s Magazine and the Literary Magazine.

Johnson’s reputation as a literary critic grew, and in 1755 he published “A Dictionary of the English Language,” which was widely considered to be the most comprehensive and accurate dictionary of the time. The dictionary took him nearly a decade to complete and it was a monumental achievement. It was widely used as a reference work and had a great influence on the development of the English language.

Johnson’s work as a literary critic continued to flourish, and in 1779 he published “Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets,” a collection of biographies and critiques of some of the most important poets in English literature. This work solidified his reputation as one of the leading literary critics of his time.

Throughout his life, Johnson struggled with poor health and financial difficulties. Despite these challenges, he continued to write and publish, and his contributions to literature and literary criticism are still widely respected today. He died on December 13, 1784, in London.

Samuel Johnson: Major Work

  1. “A Dictionary of the English Language” – Samuel Johnson’s most famous work, published in 1755. It was the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language and set the standard for future dictionaries.
  2. “The Rambler” – A series of essays written by Johnson and published twice a week in the early 1750s. It covered a wide range of topics including literature, politics, and morality.
  3. “Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets” – A collection of biographical and critical essays on the poets of Johnson’s time, published in 1779-1781.
  4. “The Adventurer” and “The Idler” – Two other series of essays written by Johnson and published in the late 1700s, covering similar topics as “The Rambler.”
  5. “The Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language” – An early proposal for his dictionary, published in 1747, which laid out his plan for creating a comprehensive and scholarly work.

Father of English Criticism FAQs

Q.1 Who is considered the father of English criticism?

Samuel Johnson is considered the father of English criticism.

Q.2 What was Samuel Johnson’s most famous work?

Samuel Johnson’s most famous work is his “Dictionary of the English Language,” which was published in 1755.

Q.3 How did Samuel Johnson contribute to the field of literary criticism?

Samuel Johnson contributed to the field of literary criticism through his critical essays and reviews, as well as his “Lives of the Poets” series, which provided biographical and critical analysis of poets of his time.

Q.4 What was Samuel Johnson’s approach to literary criticism?

Samuel Johnson’s approach to literary criticism was pragmatic and moralistic, emphasizing the importance of understanding the intentions of the author and the moral implications of literature.

Q.5 What is the legacy of Samuel Johnson’s contributions to literary criticism?

The legacy of Samuel Johnson’s contributions to literary criticism is that his critical works and dictionaries continue to be respected and widely studied, and his approach to literary criticism has had a lasting influence on the field.