When it first appeared in 1985, Boswell's "Life of Johnson" brought
together the most recent and most lively assessments of the
literary merit and historical accuracy of Boswell's biography. In
an invigorating exchange placed at the center of the collection,
Donald Greene's description of the "Life" as a fictionalized
biography that screens the real, complex Johnson from view is
challenged by Frederick Pottle's defense of Boswell's biographical
method, of his sturdy compilation of detail that presents the
factual rather than the fictional Johnson. Other essays explore the
effect of Johnson's humor on the shaping of his image in the
"Life," the recent developments in literary criticism and the
effect they have had on eighteenth-century studies, and the
continuing interest of Boswell's "Life" as a showcase for members
of Johnson's famous circle. The volume concludes with an assessment
of the Boswellian problem--of the difficulties the "Life" presents
to readers, scholars, and teachers.
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