Andrew Lycett

No More Respected and More Read than Johnson

Boswell's Presumptuous Task

By

Hamish Hamilton 392pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

‘I merely attend to the progress of my Life of Johnson’, wrote James Boswell in his journal on the eve of his fiftieth birthday in 1790. Every biographer knows that feeling: when you are in the middle of your work, perhaps at that crucial stage when you lie awake at night, wrestling with a mass of disparate detail, and finally begin to feel that a convincing picture of your biographical quarry is emerging. Then everything else goes out of the window.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,
    • 'The Testaments is, first and foremost, a manual of resistance ... a type of resistance that is organised, articula… ,