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Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage (1993)

de Richard Holmes

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240483,599 (3.53)5
A classic reissue of Richard Holmes's brilliant book on Samuel Johnson's friendship with the poet Richard Savage, which won the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. Dr Johnson & Mr Savage is the story of a mysterious eighteenth-century friendship. Richard Savage was a poet, playwright and convicted murderer who roamed through the brothels and society salons of Augustan England creating a legend of poetic injustice. Strangest of all his achievements was the friendship he inspired in Samuel Johnson, then a young, unknown schoolmaster just arrived in London to seek his literary fortune. This puzzling intimacy helped to form Johnson's experience of the world and human passions, and led to his masterpiece The Life of Richard Savage, which revolutionized the art of biography and virtually invented the idea of the poet as a romantic, outcast figure. Richard Holmes gradually reconstructs this alliance, throwing suprising new light on the character of Dr Johnson. This extraordinary book also questions the very nature of life-writing and exposes the conflicts between friendship, truth and advocacy which the modern form has inherited.… (més)

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Es mostren totes 4
It is the quality of that friendship I have tried to carry back over the dark river, and the impact it has had on the art of biography ever since.

2.5 stars

During 1738 and 1739 the young Samuel Johnson, struggling to find his way in London, made a fast friendship with the poet Richard Savage. The latter having been recently pardoned after murdering a patron in a pub brawl. On a few occasions the pair walked the streets, for want of lodging , and discussed literature and politics throughout the night. There are no surviving correspondence between the pair nor any accounts of anyone seeing them together. What follows is Richard Holmes examining the journals and court records to configure the sequence and significance of this encounter. It is a stretch and the sleuthing is at time tiring. It would've helped if Holmes had a romantic interest during his investigation -- then we could title it Possession. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
A very interesting examination of the relationship between Samuel Johnson and Richard Savage which is also a critical biography of Savage, a reflection on the genre of biography and an insightful account/speculation about the inner life of Samuel Johnson. ( )
  nmele | Dec 4, 2013 |
This biography allows the reader to peek inside the friendship of Johnson and Savage at the brief moment in history when their lives meet. I will not offer any further information as it has been a while since I have read this book, but I do remember it portraying an extremely different picture of Johnson than the one painted by Boswell. Well worth a look. ( )
  mrsradcliffe | Jul 25, 2007 |
Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage is what might be referred to as a microbiography: author Richard Holmes offers full portraits of neither title character, but rather an examination of the short period when the lives of Samuel Johnson - lexicographer, author, poet, and biographical subject extraordinaire - and Richard Savage - poet, rogue, and murderer - converged for a time. Savage, Johnson's first biographical subject himself, made Johnson's acquaintance soon after that young provincial arrived in London, and their companionship lasted for just about two years, until Savage departed for "retirement" in Wales.

Holmes has little to go on: while it's known that Johnson and Savage knew each other, "there are no authenticated letters between the two men, no mention of each other in private journals, not even a single surviving account from an eyewitness of seeing the two men in each other's company." And yet he's done quite a lot with what few scraps of evidence that do exist, creating an interesting web of narrative around a skeleton of knowable facts. While I am afraid that his speculatory meanderings (particularly in the realm of psychology) get the better of him at times (I felt the same about Greenblatt's recent biography of Shakespeare), Holmes generally at least informs the reader of his upcoming leaps, which is comforting if not exculpatory.

As the author notes, the Johnson we meet cavorting with Savage is not the frumpy but majestic old fellow that Boswell has left us, but a young, desperate man out to make his way in the world, captivated by this strange, conflicted, down-and-out poet. It's another side to Johnson that is interesting to find, even within Holmes' imperfect framework.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2006/09/book-review-dr-johnson-mr-savage.html ( )
1 vota JBD1 | Sep 27, 2006 |
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... For as Johnson is reported to have once said, that 'he could write the life of a Broomstick.'

—Boswell
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Everyone knows the great Dr. Johnson, and the scholars seem to know him in minutest detail; almost no one knows anything definite now about the obscure, minor poet Richard Savage.
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A classic reissue of Richard Holmes's brilliant book on Samuel Johnson's friendship with the poet Richard Savage, which won the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. Dr Johnson & Mr Savage is the story of a mysterious eighteenth-century friendship. Richard Savage was a poet, playwright and convicted murderer who roamed through the brothels and society salons of Augustan England creating a legend of poetic injustice. Strangest of all his achievements was the friendship he inspired in Samuel Johnson, then a young, unknown schoolmaster just arrived in London to seek his literary fortune. This puzzling intimacy helped to form Johnson's experience of the world and human passions, and led to his masterpiece The Life of Richard Savage, which revolutionized the art of biography and virtually invented the idea of the poet as a romantic, outcast figure. Richard Holmes gradually reconstructs this alliance, throwing suprising new light on the character of Dr Johnson. This extraordinary book also questions the very nature of life-writing and exposes the conflicts between friendship, truth and advocacy which the modern form has inherited.

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