The Age of Johnson:
A Scholarly Annual

Preface to Volume 16 (2005)

In July 1987, in the Preface to the first volume of The Age of Johnson, Paul J. Korshin described his plans for his new venture. His hopes about the journalís likely "success and longevity" can only strike readers today as unduly modest: the success and longevity of this journal since its inception are a testimony to his remarkable scholarly energy and his role in shaping Johnsonian studies.

In the sixteen volumes of The Age of Johnson, Paul almost single-handedly commissioned, evaluated, edited, revised, proofread, and oversaw the printing of some eight thousand pages of articles, reviews, review essays, notes, and exchanges on eighteenth-century literature, history, and culture. Thatís around three million words — roughly the length of Johnson's Dictionary, or three Clarissas. Some of the contributions have come from the most distinguished names in the field; others are from rising young scholars who now list an article or review in The Age of Johnson as the first publication on their CV. This attention to a new generation of scholars was an important part of his project of broadening the scope of Johnsonian studies, a project that also included soliciting pieces from contributors around the world. He was always willing to take risks — publishing articles both shorter and longer than the norm in academic journals, printing facetious squibs alongside sober historical research, and encouraging unconventional takes on familiar material. Largely as a result of his efforts, the field of Johnsonian studies is flourishing, with a more energetic and diverse group of scholars than ever before.

Paul was, of course, a meticulous scholar, and his encyclopedic mind made him one of the most learned members of the profession. He was also one of the most energetic teachers: his undergraduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania were held in some of the campusís largest lecture halls to accommodate the students clamoring to get in. But it is probably his service to the profession as a whole for which he will be longest remembered. Many dix-huitiemistes may not realize just how much they rely on projects he initiated or worked on. He collaborated with the founding members of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and served as its Executive Secretary for much of its early history. He was an important figure in the American Council of Learned Societies. He was active in the production of The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography. He was instrumental in creating the Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue: in a recent essay Robin C. Alston, the ESTC's Editor in Chief, called him "in more ways than one the projectís first mover." Itís hard to imagine what eighteenth-century studies would look like today without these resources.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine what eighteenth-century studies will look like without Paulís own larger-than-life personality at the center of it — no one can be said to put you in mind of Korshin. He made eighteenth-century studies lively, even rambunctious. Like Johnson, he was unafraid of controversy — like Johnson, he often actually enjoyed it — and sometimes that was enough to raise tempers. His own articles and reviews could be feisty, and he encouraged similarly spirited exchanges in the volumes he edited. But even at his most boisterous, Paul was invariably supportive of others and generous with his time and advice. Many members of the profession owe him a debt of gratitude for his careful (albeit often anonymous) readings of manuscripts or evaluations of grant proposals.


Paul J. Korshin died early on the morning of 2 March 2005 after a struggle with lymphoma. A dedicated scholar to the end, he had the page proof for this volume beside his hospital bed. In my last discussion with him, the day before his death, he was energetically making plans for Volume 17 and beyond.

Volume 9 was the first volume of The Age of Johnson to have a dedication — Donald J. Greene, who was instrumental in the creation of the journal, died in 1997. This volume is the second to bear a dedication, and this time it goes to the journalís founder and long-time editor, as well as my own mentor and friend.

Jack Lynch

15 April 2005