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The Personal History of Samuel Johnson
By Christopher Hibbert
Read by David Case

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The Personal History of Samuel Johnson
The Personal History of Samuel Johnson
By Christopher Hibbert
Read by David Case
Books on Tape, (1998)
An Unabridged Audio Recording
Book Number 5535 - 10 Cassettes
ISBN: 0-7366-8263-5
Genre: Biography, British History

Other editions:
Standard Print (Hardcover)

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 10, 2002

For most people, their first introduction to the life of Samuel Johnson is through James Boswell's intimate histories of Johnson's life in London. Boswell's London Journal which was written in the form of a diary, was touted as both a racy manuscript and as an outstanding example of the biographer's trade. In The Personal History of Samuel Johnson Christopher Hibbert builds upon Boswell's early work, and creating a comprehensive overview of Johnson's entire life and work.

Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield England in 1709, and he died in 1784 after a long and distinguished career as a 'man of letters'. Johnson was a prolific writer who earned his living from his craft. His works ranged from satire to moralistic essays. He most monumental work, however, was his Dictionary of the English Language. Johnson was a remarkably skilled writer and he is heralded as one of the best writers of the 18th Century. He also led a remarkably colorful and complex life. His life and his works, when combined, merge to form the foundation of an intriguing story. This is a story that Hibbert has adeptly captured and retold in his biography of Johnson, The Personal History of Samuel Johnson.

This biography is written in a narrative style that resembles a novel more so than a traditional work of history, in part due to the inclusion of extensive sections of dialog. Throughout, Hibbert has provided facts and stories about Johnson, but he does not summarize the data, nor does he attempt to postulate as to the veracity of other works written about Johnson. Throughout this biography, Hibbert also provides insights and anecdotes about the famous people that Johnson met throughout his life. This unabridged audio recording of The Personal History of Samuel Johnson is read by the practiced British reader, David Case.

Being a complete history of Johnson life, this book naturally begins with his birth and chronicles his days as a school boy. It then follows him to Oxford where he did his undergraduate work, and onward to his life as a married man, and then as a widower. This biography also details Johnson's prolific years in London where he made a name for himself as a writer. It also touches upon his death. Unlike Boswell, who was a personal acquaintance of Johnson, Hibbert had to base his research upon written resources. Although written with a general readership in mind, this history is authoritative and represents one of the best biographies of Johnson currently available.

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