In Place of “Alcott”: the First Modern Biography— Boswell’s “Life of Johnson,” Using Rare Books from UMW’s Special Collections

Dear Friends,

As will happen from time-to-time, technology let us down. After filming author Harriet Reisen’s presentation on Louisa May Alcott, we discovered that the digital file was corrupt, unusable. This is a loss, of course. Fortunately, she gave a similar talk on C-SPAN2’s BookTV in 2009 and you can watch it here.

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds

In place of Ms. Reisen’s presentation in Dodd Auditorium on March 13, we offer this special talk about the first modern biography, Boswell’s Life of Johnson with books and materials from University of Mary Washington Simpson Library Special Collections. We use music, portraits, pages from books hundreds of years old, and a narrative to tell the story of how James Boswell met and befriended the large, gruff Samuel “Dictionary” Johnson and later wrote a biography of him that became a classic.

This presentation was a collaborative effort among Simpson Special Collections librarian Carolyn Parsons; Tim Owens, Instructional Technology Specialist in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies; library student intern, Stephanie Hall; and Charles J. Shields, Associate Director, Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series.