It’s the first weekend of a new month! You know what that means: a new Patron Saint! Let us introduce you Dr. Samuel Johnson!
You probably know him from the “what-did-I-just-read-meme”, which is actually not all that far off from Dr. Johnson’s actual profession as a (among other things) literary critic, and one of the most famous ones at that!
Dr. Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, on the 18th of September 1709. He attended Pembroke College, Oxford, for about a year until he had to drop out as his family could no longer afford the fees of attending the prestigious school. Dr. Johnson worked as a teacher for a while and then moved to London (supposedly reaching London by walking, which is roughly a two-day trip). In London, Dr. Johnson supported himself by writing for The Gentleman’s Magazine and wrote a number of poems and tales that are still hailed today as innovative and moving.
Now, you might know Dr. Johnson (aside from the meme) as the author of A dictionary of the English language, a massive work that took Dr. Johnson 8 years to complete (though, in all fairness, it took 40 French scholars 40 years to finish theirs, so Dr. Johnson work was fast (!)). The work, while neither the first of its kind or unique, became hugely popular and was the most commonly used and imitated dictionary until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary was completed in 1928. Dr. Johnson’s work was, of course, extremely impressive and there is no doubt that it was made at a perfect time in history: many had expressed a dissatisfaction over the dictionaries available and that almost certainly is a part of the dictionary’s popularity.
Following the completion of his dictionary, Dr. Johnson, who was eventually given an honorary doctorate by both Trinity College and Oxford, continued to write quite a LOT, primarily articles in magazines and prefaces to other authors’ works, but also an annotated edition of William Shakespeare’s plays; an apologue about happiness called The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia; and a popular travel narrative called A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland; and a work called Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, which includes short biographies and critical appraisals of 52 poets (primarily from the 18th century).
Though the dictionary may be the crown jewel of Dr. Johnson’s long career, his marvellous contribution to the linguistic and literary fields, as well as his continued influence today, some 235 years after his passing, earns him the place as the HLC’s very first Patron Saint of 2019!