THE LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON.
(Westminster: Archibald Constable and Co., 1896). 178 x 114 mm. (7 x 4 1/2"). Bound with the half titles. Six volumes. Edited by Augustine Birrell.
Simple but pleasing contemporary tan crushed morocco over vertically ribbed green buckram, spines flat with gilt lettering, olive green chalky endpapers, top edges gilt, other edges rough trimmed. With engraved frontispiece in each volume. A touch of rubbing to the joints and extremities, spines just very slightly sunned, but an extremely appealing little set, the bindings with negligible wear (the cloth boards like new), and the text entirely fresh and clean.
Generally considered to be the greatest biography in any language, this account of Dr. Johnson reveals the most fully realized figure in literature, and it prefigures modern biography in emphasizing the character of the subject, rather than his deeds. It is also a tribute to Boswell's genius in that the bulk of the text is made up of accounts by the author of situations that he himself created so that his subject would be prompted to behave in a revealing and memorable way. Boswell "was a consummate impresario, stage-managing the setting and 'dramatis personae' amidst which Johnson would glitter, and then providing topics and opinions to elicit the magnificent rejoinders of Johnson." The result is that we see an unforgettable portrait of a man brilliant and profound and at the same time dogmatic, overbearing, prejudiced, and irascible. (Day) This edition of the famous biography was edited by Augustine Birrell (1850-1933), lawyer, Liberal politician, and chief secretary for Ireland during the difficult years 1907-16. Birrell was also a respected man of letters and bibliophile, amassing a library of more than 10,000 volumes. DNB calls his essay on Johnson "witty and elegant." (ST11462a-194)