Dr Johnson, who lived from 1709 to 1784, was one of the most remarkable Englishmen of all time: scholar, poet, Parliamentary reporter, essayist, moralist, critic, lexicographer and a character whose talk and opinions illuminate the best-known biography in the language, The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell, which first appeared in 1791.
It has been the author's purpose to show Johnson in his grandeur independently of Boswell. This he is able to do through quotations which spring from long acquaintance with the entire range of the sage's work.
Sir Sydney Roberts, who was Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, has written much on Johnson, always with point and wit, always relating his learning to the daily life which was dear to Johnson's heart.
'Why, Sir', Johnson once said, 'Fleet Street has a very animated appearance, but I think the full tide of human existence is at Charing Cross.' It is partly this insistence on humanity, and on actuality, which continues to make Johnson so fascinating, and it is one of the aspects of his personality which emerges most strongly from Sir Sydney's pages.
Johnson's bibliography is large and complicated. In this field, as in his expository essay, Sir Sydney has provided a thoroughly useful guide.