Born on this day in Lichfield, England, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was a man of diligence and skill who overcame childhood blindness and adversity. Desperately poor until his fifties, his face was scarred by scrofula, a tuberculous infection.
"No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous," wrote Johnson. Often quoted, highly respected, he was considered an 18th century giant of literature. With superb style, he celebrated morality and mankind.
He is best known for the massive Dictionary of the English Language (1755), which took him over seven years to create. Johnson's masterpiece, which included 43,500 words, became one of the most important works ever compiled and standardized the language.
"The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope," he wrote in The Rambler.
Johnson's Shakespeare (1765) translated obscure passages and was the model for later interpretations. A lover of biography, his collection of essays in Lives of the Poets (1779-81) demonstrated his lighthearted wit and reflective wisdom.
"The applause of a single human being is of great consequence," Dr. Johnson said.
In 1764, Johnson founded The Literary Club for writers and artists. One member, James Boswell, wrote The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), the famous biography which captured the wisdom of Johnson's conversations and brilliance of his judgment and writing.
"A man may be so much of everything that he is nothing of anything," Johnson believed.
More Samuel JOHNSON Quotations
Success blesses diligence and skill.