Samuel Johnson’s Relationship with Women

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Samuel Johnson is not only known for his texts such as Rasselas and The Rambler but also because of the beliefs that he held about various aspects of society. One aspect of society in particular that he was very vocal about, was how he viewed women and the relationship he had with women. The primary way people are able to formulate opinions on Johnson and women is through James Boswell’s Life of Johnson. However, at times Boswell’s text or inclusion of certain passages and entries isn’t telling of how Johnson actually felt or how other biographers characterized him.

In Life of Johnson Boswell tries to depict a masculine Johnson. The way in which Samuel Johnson is depicted in Life of Johnson is as a chauvinist and misogynist. On the other hand, Jeffrey Meyers in Samuel Johnson: the struggle reveals to reader’s a different type of Johnson. For Meyers Johnson isn’t as much of a chauvinist as Boswell makes him out to be. In addition, readers are able to see a side of Johnson that is sympathetic towards women and also supported them in their educational pursuits. Even though, at times Johnson can be seen as a misogynist in reality Johnson did support women. That becomes evident , when looking at Johnson through a broader scope, and not just through Boswell’s biography. The reason for this is because Boswell doesn’t reveal all aspects of Boswell’s character, just the manly ones and exaggerates those.

Moreover, there are several passages and entries in Life of Johnson that don’t do Johnson’s character justice and show him as being extremely chauvinistic. They show him as being degrading and insulting towards women. The first example that the readers get of this is when Johnson’s servant didn’t come to pick him up from school, the scho...

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...e was “protecting” Johnson’s reputation by doing such especially for that time period. However, it becomes clear that if Johnson can’t be seen as respecting women, at the very least he isn’t as misogynistic as he might come off as at first. That is what Meyer’s biography shows, and that there is more to Johnson than what Boswell reveals. There are many times where Boswell quotes him and Meyers has a quote and they contradictory, and that highlights the inconsistency between the different texts. By pulling examples from each text it becomes more and more apparent that one can’t just pass judgment on him based off of one text. Rather Samuel Johnson is a complex person with many layers to his character. Therefore, readers shouldn’t rely on just one account to have an accurate representation of Johnson but have a more holistic approach and look at various texts.
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