Samuel Johnson and Sir Thomas Browne
This thesis explores the literary and intellectual relationship between Samuel
Johnson and Sir Thomas Browne. It demonstrates the importance of
Johnson's contribution to the history of criticism of Browne, and also
constitutes a case study of Johnson's methods in compiling his Dictionary.
I show what grounds there are for believing that Browne was of special
importance to Johnson, and that there were significant affinities between the
two writers. I set my work against the background of existing scholarship,
which tends to neglect the links between Johnson and Browne. I consider the
decline of Browne's reputation in the years that followed his death,
suggesting how it is possible to see Johnson's work on Browne as a
significant recuperation. I then examine Johnson's Life of Browne and the
edition of Christian Morals to which it was prefixed, arguing that the Life is
an important event in the development of Johnson's biographical method.
I next consider the relationship between Browne's natural philosophy and
Johnson's, focusing on three particular areas in which their thinking is allied:
the emphasis on experiment and observation, the moral purpose of natural
philosophy, and the attraction of `strangeness'. Thereafter I examine in detail
Johnson's extensive use of extracts from Browne's works in his Dictionary.
First I provide a description of Johnson's deployment of illustrative
quotations culled from Browne, showing the distribution and sources of
quotations, including those added for the fourth edition; the result is a `map'
of the Dictionary's use of Browne. I then analyse these findings, in order to
determine what fields of knowledge they delineate, as well as how they
illustrate Johnson's critical interests and priorities.
Finally, I consider Browne's nineteenth-century afterlife. I chart the influence
of Johnson's critique and uses of Browne, and examine the championing of
Browne by Coleridge, Hazlitt, Lamb and others