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Samuel Johnson biographer visits Lichfield Literature festival

David Nokes

David Nokes

The author of a leading biography of Samuel Johnson will be among the star attractions at the Lichfield Literature festival.

It’s thanks to Boswell’s Life of Johnson that so much is known about the first scholarly dictionary of the English language. But how much of our perception of Dr Johnson is a creation of Boswell’s? And what is known about the private man behind the myths?

Now leading biographer David Nokes visits Lichfield Literature on October 10 to discuss his work, Samuel Johnson: A Life, which reaches beyond the scope of Boswell’s Life to create a new and illuminating portrait of the great 18th-century lexicographer and wit.

Coinciding with Johnson’s 300th birthday celebrations this year, Nokes’ book explores Johnson’s shame at having to leave Oxford for lack of money; his charitable work (he gave a quarter of the government pension he received to the poor and bequeathed his wealth to his emancipated black slave, Francis Barber); his troubled marriage to Elizabeth Porter and his intimate relationship with Mrs Thrale.

A Professor at King’s College London, Nokes is a specialist in 18th-century literature. His book Jonathan Swift, A Hypocrite Reversed, won the James Tait Black prize in 1985 and he has also published biographies of John Gay (1995) and Jane Austen (1997). His adaptation of Clarissa for BBC TV was nominated for a BAFTA in 1991.

David Nokes appears at The George Hotel, Lichfield, on October 10 from 8pm to 9pm. Tickets cost £6 and can be booked in person at 7 The Close, Lichfield, by phone on 01543 306270, or by emailing

For more information on the Lichfield Literature festival visit

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1 Comment

  1. glassfan

    6th October, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    guardian gave this book an excellent review last weekend.