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Samuel Johnson

1709-1784. Moralist, essayist, and lexicographer. Born at Lichfield and educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, Johnson unsuccessfully attempted schoolmastering before he went to London with the actor Garrick. He had a harsh struggle, in the course of which he wrote for The Gentleman's Magazine. His satiric poems London and The Vanity of Human Wishes appeared in 1739 and 1749, and in 1747 he began work on his great Dictionary which appeared in 1755. He also ran two periodicals, The Rambler (1750-52) and The Idler (1758-60), while in 1759 he published the moral tale, Rasselas. The last twenty years of his life are the Age of Johnson, the great conversationalist, as recorded by Boswell, but they also include his edition of Shakespeare (1765) and his Lives of the Poets (1779-81). Johnson, Tory and Anglican, held deeply sincere religious views, though these are expressed more often in moral than in spiritual terms. Nowhere is this better shown than in the last lines of The Vanity of Human Wishes, where a fine reticence controls profound beliefs. In this regard Johnson ranks among the most reverent of English writers.