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MS Hyde 50

Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784. Samuel Johnson manuscripts, 1725-1784: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b (shelved with bMS Hyde 51), Hyde Case 9, Hyde Back Stacks
Call No.: MS Hyde 50
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784.
Title: Samuel Johnson manuscripts,
Date(s): 1725-1784.
Quantity: 1 collection (1 1/2 boxes, 13 volumes, and 1 framed item (2 linear feet)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English and Latin.
Abstract: Manuscripts and documents of the English lexicographer and poet Samuel Johnson, including diaries, poems, prayers, and other papers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2003JM-64, 2003JM-112-119, 2003JM-123, 2003JM-125-128, and 2003JM-236 (in part). Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.
All material described below is from accession 2003JM-64 unless otherwise noted.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Rick Stattler

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Samuel Johnson Manuscripts, 1725-1784 (MS Hyde 50). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Separated Materials

Other Johnson autograph material in the Hyde Collection is located in the Samuel Johnson Letters (MS Hyde 1); the Frances Reynolds Papers (MS Hyde 25); the William Dodd Papers (MS Hyde 37); and two Thrale estate documents bearing Johnson's signature (MS Hyde 36 and MS Hyde 39).
One minor item credited to the Hyde Collection in the Fleeman Handlist 252 and IELM, JoS 319 (a list of six place names) was not accessioned with the collection. Mary Hyde Eccles's annotated copy of Fleeman noted this item as lost. Another copy, also in Johnson's hand, is at Yale University.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was one of the leading literary figures of eighteenth-century England. He is best remembered for compiling the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, published in 1755. Prominent among his diverse other works are the satirical History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759), The Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare (1765), and his edition of Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the Works of the English Poets (first collected in 1781). He wrote the bulk of the essays released in periodical form as The Rambler (1750-1752) and The Idler (1758-1760).
A native of Lichfield, Johnson attended Oxford in 1728 and 1729, but left without receiving a degree. He married the widow Elizabeth Porter (1688-1752) in 1735; they had no children together. Johnson resided primarily in London from 1737 onward, although he continued to maintain a house in Lichfield. He received an honorary M.A. from Oxford in 1755, and honorary LL.D. degrees from Trinity College, Dublin in 1765 and from Oxford in 1775. He supported himself modestly from his literary endeavors until being granted an annual pension in 1762. He was memorialized in James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791), generally regarded as an early landmark of the biographical craft.

Sources cited:


Organized into the following series: Within each series, the papers are arranged alphabetically by title.

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of items in Johnson's hand, other than his letters (cataloged separately as MS Hyde 1). Highlights include a 77-page diary which Johnson kept sporadically from 1765 to 1784; drafts of his Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language and The Vanity of Human Wishes; and the last known document in his hand, a pension receipt he signed on the day of his death in 1784. The collection also includes significant early transcripts of documents authored by Johnson, such as several pages of extracts that James Boswell made from Johnson's lost diary, and two fragments prepared by an amanuensis for Johnson's Dictionary. Item (54) is a facsimile.

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