Who has not read The Life of Dr. Johnson (1791)? Or read in literature about the deep friendship shared by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, his biographer?
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), historian and essayist wrote of Samuel Johnson. “Through long generations we point to him, and say, ‘Here also was a man; let the world once more have assurance of a man!’” Carlyle admired Johnson’s show of morality, “For as the highest Gospel was a Biography, so is the life of every good man still an indubitable Gospel; and preaches to the eye and heart and whole man, so that Devils even must believe and tremble at these gladdest tidings: Man is heaven-born; not the thrall of Circumstances, of Necessity, but the victorious subduer thereof.”
In his (2000) Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, the Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson, Adam Sisman has added to this enduring literature of friendship by writing another book about Dr. Johnson under observation by his friend, James Boswell who’s sole purpose of shadowing the well-known doctor is to document the family man’s history for posterity. It was tantamount to living in a glass house, the closest friendship reality show available to the 18th Century general public. The masses craved to read attributes of the man, they devoured the juicy details, and not unlike readers of today, demanded more.