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O M Brack Jr. on James Boswell's Biography of Samuel Johnson

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Date and time
Monday, October 05, 2009

O M Brack Jr., curator of the Johnson Tercentenary exhibition at the Huntington Library, discusses the life of one of the world's greatest men of letters, Samuel Johnson. It is Johnson, of course, who is the subject is what is regarded as the greatest biography ever written, James Boswell's *Life of Johnson*. Dr. Brack has just edited the very first but little-known biography of Johnson written by one of his contemporaries, Sir John Hawkins, and published in 1787.

O M Brack, Jr. teaches courses in Restoration and 18th century English literature, bibliography and research methods, textual criticism, textual editing, and the history of the book. He has directed 36 dissertations and twenty-seven theses to completion. In 1991 he received the ASU Alumni Association Faculty Achievement Award, and in 2000 the ASU Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award. For both of these honors he was nominated by his students. He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Education, and Who's Who in the World. He is a member of The Johnsonians, Samuel Johnson Society of Southern California, and the Grolier Club. Brack is an authority on the life and writings of Samuel Johnson. The tercentenary of Johnson's birth is in 2009, and he has been asked to arrange an exhibition, "Samuel Johnson, Professional Author," for the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California, for June through September 2009, and write a catalogue for it. As part of the tercentenary celebration he is critically editing, and providing an introduction and historical annotations, for Sir John Hawkins, *The Life of Samuel Johnson*, LL.D. (1787), the first full-length biography of Johnson, which will be published by the University of Georgia Press in 2009. Since 1977 he has been a member of the Editorial Committee of the Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, and has published in this edition "A Commentary on Mr. Pope's Principles of Morality," or "Essay on Man" (2004), and is completing a second volume, "Biographical Writings." For the same series he is critically editing the text of the three-volumes of *Debates in the Senate of Magna Lilliputia*, with introduction and annotations by Thomas Kaminski and Benjamin B. Hoover. He has co-authored *The Early Biographers of Samuel Johnson* (1971) and co-edited *The Early Biographies of Samuel Johnson* (1974), both with Robert E. Kelley. He has critically edited *Journal Narrative Relative to Dr. Johnson's Last Illness, Three Weeks before his Death, Kept by John Hoole* (1972), and written *Samuel Johnson in New Albion. A Descriptive Census of Rare and Useful Johnson Books and Manuscripts and Johnsoniana Now Located in California* (1997). His "The Macaroni Parson and the Concentrated Mind: Samuel Johnson's Writings for the Reverend William Dodd" appeared in 2004. He has also written more than 30 essays on Johnson for scholarly journals, or for keepsakes for The Johnsonians and the Samuel Johnson Society of Southern California. Brack is Founding Editor for the "Works of Tobias Smollett," University of Georgia Press. He serves as Textual Editor for this edition and has critically edited the texts for "The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom" (1988), "The History and Adventures of an Atom" (1989), "The Expedition of Humphry Clinker" (1990), "Poems Plays" and "The Briton" (1993), "The Adventures of Telemachus, the Son of Ulysses" (1997), "The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote" (2003), and for the forthcoming "The Adventures of Roderick Random" and "The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle." He has also critically edited "The Devil upon Crutches" (2005), and the forthcoming "The Adventures of Gil Blas," and, with Leslie A. Chilton, provided an introduction and historical annotations. He has also edited a collection of essays, "Tobias Smollett, Scotland's First Novelist: New Critical Essays In Memory of Paul Gabriel Bouc" (2007), which includes an essay by him in which Smollett's authorship of "The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality" in Peregrine Pickle is for the first time clearly established. He has written an additional ten essays on Smollett, as well as essays on other aspects of eighteenth-century literature, bibliography, and textual criticism.