Lives that Never Grow Old
Part of a radical series –edited by Richard Holmes – that recovers the great classical tradition of English biography. Johnson’s book is a biographical masterpiece, still thrilling to read and vividly alive.
When he first came to London, young Samuel Johnson was befriended by the flamboyant poet, playwright and blackmailer, Richard Savage. Walking the backstreets at night, he learned Savage’s extraordinary story – supposedly persecuted by a ‘cruel mother’, sentenced to death for a murder in a brothel, appointed Volunteer Poet Laureate to the Queen, and finally broken and outcast.
With this moving and intimate account, Johnson created a brilliant black comedy of 18th-century Grub Street which revolutionised English biography by its psychological realism. Yet Savage’s destructive charm and delusions of grandeur sometimes even threatened to entangle Johnson himself.
About the author
Richard Holmes is our greatest living biographer. His biography of Shelley won the Somerset Maugham Prize. ‘Footsteps’ (1985) revolutionised the way biography was thought about and written. The first part of his biography of Coleridge won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year Prize. ‘Dr Johnson and Mr Savage’ won the James Tait Black Prize. The concluding volume of his Coleridge biography won the Duff Cooper Prize and the William Heinemann award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy.