Sermons, Prayers, and Meditations
The religious side of Johnson's life is probably best revealed in his
diaries and prayers. He burned most of the diaries before his death, but
those that survived have been published several times.
Johnson also wrote around forty sermons, of which twenty-eight
survive. Only two were published during his lifetime, and none
of the twenty-eight were published with his name on them: he
wrote them for friends (most for John Taylor), and after he sold
the copyright, he gave up all claim to them. Most weren't
published until 1788-1789.
(This has made determining authorship an important part of the
scholarship on the sermons.)
The best place to read the diaries and prayers is Diaries, Prayers,
Annals, ed. E. L. McAdam, Jr., with Donald and Mry Hyde, vol. I of the
Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press,
1959). A less complete and reliable text is available in Hill's
The only good complete edition is Sermons, ed. Jean H.
Hagstrum and James Gray, vol. XIV of the Yale Edition of the
Works of Samuel Johnson (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1978).
The only monograph devoted to Johnson's sermons themselves is
James Gray, Johnson's Sermons: A Study (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1972). But the sermons come up often in discussions of
Johnson's religious thought in these works:
- Hean H. Hagstrum, "The Sermons of Samuel Johnson," Modern
Philology, 40 (February 1943), 255-66.
- Nicholas Hudson, Samuel Johnson and Eighteenth-Century
Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).
- Chester Chapin, The Religious Thought of Samuel
Johnson (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1968).
- Maurice Quinlan, Samuel Johnson: A Layman's Religion
(Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1964).
- Maruice Quinlan, "The Rumor of Dr. Johnson's Conversion," Review of
Religion, 12 (March 1948), 243-61.
- J. D. Fleeman, "Some Notes on Johnson's Prayers and Meditations,"
Review of English Studies, n.s., 19 (May 1968), 172-79.
- Richard E. Brantley, "Johnson's Wesleyan Connection,"
Eighteenth-Century Studies, 10 (1976-77), 143-68.
- Owen Chadwyck, "The Religion of Samuel Johnson," Yale University
Library Gazette, 60 (1986), 119-36.
This is part of a Guide to Samuel
Johnson by Jack Lynch. Comments are welcome.