May 16: Biographer’s Day

James Boswell by Joshua Reynolds 1785Today is Biographer’s Day, because on this day James Boswell first met Samuel Johnson. The resulting relationship eventually led to the world famous biography Life of Samuel Johnson. Of course, this book isn’t exactly flying off the shelves today. The friends met on May 16, 1763, and the book wasn’t published until 1791. Nevertheless, it is a classic, a ground-breaking book, and, according to many, the greatest biography ever written.

And now that you know all that, I have a confession: I have never read it.

Ouch. Actually, I really do want to read this. I read large sections while researching for a thoroughly fascinating essay on Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I chose to do a college essay on Johnson’s Dictionary. In addition, I rather enjoyed writing it. What can I say?)

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds in 1775

Samuel Johnson was really a fascinating man. He was a rather tall man with atrociously bad eyesight and was often seen to make extremely strange movements and sounds (seemingly involuntary). Recent biographers have suggested that he suffered from Tourette Syndrome. Some of his contemporaries assumed he was mentally handicapped when they first saw him, due to his odd looks and movements, but he was a marvelous speaker (and writer), and would shock these new acquaintances by his great knowledge and arguments.

And, of course, I can’t stop without letting you know that he wrote what is generally considered the first “real” English dictionary, not quite single-handedly, but close.

Literary Club - Boswell is on the far left, and Johnson the second to the leftI suggest celebrating Biographer’s Day by reading a biography (especially if it happens to be Life of Samuel Johnson, but any biography will work) or writing a biography.

I suppose, if you know a biographer, today would be the day to send a card, flowers, candy, etc. 🙂

Today’s verse is not terrifically applicable, especially considering the length of this post, but I couldn’t resist:

“The more the words,
the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?”

Ecclesiastes 6:11

P.S. It seems like a lot of people are excited about another holiday for May 16, which I blogged about last year (#6 on my most viewed posts ever!). It’s Wear Purple For Peace Day! Click the link to read it yourself, but, as a teaser, it involves world peace, purple clothing, and aliens. 🙂

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