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The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Samuel Johnson , Donald Greene
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) 4.3 out of 5 stars (6)
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Book Description

6 July 2000 Oxford World's Classics
This authoritative edition was formerly published in the acclaimed Oxford Authors series under the general editorship of Frank Kermode. It brings together a unique combination of Johnson's poetry and prose - all the major poems, complemented by essays, criticism, and fiction - to give the essence of his work and thinking. Samuel Johnson's literary reputation rests on such a varied output that he defies easy description: poet, critic, lexicographer, travel writer, essayist, editor, and, thanks to his good friend Boswell, the subject of one of the most famous English biographies. This volume celebrates Johnson's astonishing talent by selecting widely across the full range of his work. It includes 'London' and 'The Vanity of Human Wishes' among other poems, and many of his essays for the Rambler and Idler. The prefaces to his edition of Shakespeare and his famous Dictionary, together with samples from the texts, are given, as well as selections from A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, the Lives of the Poets, and Rasselas in its entirety. There is also a substantial representation of lesser-known prose, and of his poetry, letters, and journals.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192840428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192840424
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13.1 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 679,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Johnson's Mojor Works 18 Oct 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Johnson is best known from Boswell's excellent biography, but I've come to like reading Johnson as much. Boswell's Johnson and Johnson's own writing give very different pleasures. In Boswell Johnson is always speaking, and so his opinions -- of which he was stuffed -- come over with colloquial force and humour. As Boswell himself noted, Johnson's writings aren't often very funny.
That said, it's not true that there's no humour in Johnson. His poems, for example, are mainly what could be called light verse; and there are the two imitations of Juvenal's satires, which although not funny, or witty, in the way Pope is, are comedic -- worldly and cynical -- in outlook. The Lives of the Poets have a similar outlook; and are written with a style that is much clearer and, for me, more palatable than some of Johnson's earlier prose.
Johnson's not very widely read at the moment, which is a pity -- he's not a writer merely for "students of literature"; although at the same time, it must be confessed, not a writer who is likely to become immensely popular. There are more entertaining writers (and as entertainment Boswell's biography is justly more widely read than Johnson's own works): Johnson offers what, perhaps, will become more valued -- surety, rootedness and freedom from all types of trick. He's the opposite of spin and showiness.
There's so much in this book to read. (Which is, much to OUP's credit, a few quid cheaper than the previous edition.) There are extracts from articles, essays, poems, diaries, meditations, letters, the Lives of the Poets, the dictionary, a few pages reprinted from Johnson's edition of Shakespeare to show what that looked like, and from Johnson's account of his and Boswell's trip to Scotland.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pay a Visit to the Good Doctor 30 Nov 2002
Format:Paperback
Samuel Johnson was in his era what E.F. Hutton was in his. When the Doctor spoke, people listened. His sidekick and amanuensis, James Boswell, of course immortalized his utterances in one of the grandest biographies ever written. What this volume (and similar collections) indicates is that Johnson was equally irrepressible in print.
Johnson was nothing if not opinionated. Yet, coming from him, they are never merely opinions. There is always a great degree of heft and weight supporting them (no pun intended, as he was an immense man physically as well as intellectually)). Though he received only an honorary degree from Oxford (he was too poor to remain at school), he was one of the most learned men of any era. The range and breadth of his reading is unsurpassed by any other major literary figure, with the possible exception of Milton. Yet Johnson never comes across as overblown, nor does he ever trumpet his learning. His writing is informed be a sense of humility and compassion, that no doubt were among the attributes that endeared him to so many of the leading lights of his generation. And of course, he also had a marvelous sense of humor, which also comes through in this collection. Unfortunately for him, his good moods were often followed by serious bouts of depression, which is reflected in his most famous poem, "The Vanity of Human Wishes." By today's standards, he would be diagnosed most probably as a manic-depressive. There were many days when he found it difficult to summon the resolve to get out of bed and face the day. What saved him was his naturally gregarious nature. He thoroughly enjoyed the company he found in London's taverns.
His compassion for others is legendary. He thought that the character of a country was determined by the degree to which it ministered to the poor.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought and manna for the soul 13 Oct 2011
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just days ago Samuel Johnson was to me little more than a sort of literary giant of whom I knew virtually nothing: 'the author of the Dictionary of the English Language', and the subject of James Boswell's biography, that about sums it up. To my mind he was not so much an author himself but rather a lexicographer, and a critic writing about other authors. I had neither read anything by Johnson himself, nor Boswell's biography. And then, on a whim, I decided this would not do, so I purchased the Oxford World's Classics edition of 'The Major Works'.

To my astonishment, and great delight, Johnson turned out to be as prolific and diversified a writer as few others. This book contains an overwhelming range of literary output: poetry (and good poetry it often is too), criticism (and not just literary), essays, biography, travel writing, fiction. Even better, in his writings Johnson comes across as an astonishing talent and a fascinating man. A true 'uomo universalis', writing - often with great verve and sound judgement - on the most diverse topics: marriage, sorrow, political partisanship, how to become a critic, capital punishment, epitaphs, .... And whatever the subject, Samuel Johnson has a style completely his own: at times dense, always learned and astute, and often full of irony and wit.

I've read less than half this massive book (792 pages, not counting the introduction and notes) as I'm writing this, but I simply could not restrain myself from extolling Johnson's praise.
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