Books: Hero of the Will

SAMUEL JOHNSON by W. Jackson Bate Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 646 pages; $19.95

Few books have ever more deserved that worn encomium "long awaited" than Walter Jackson Bate's biography of Samuel Johnson. "Like so many others who have thought to write on Johnson," Bate observed in his earlier book on the subject (1955), "I have found that every year that passes leaves one feeling less qualified to do it." But undergraduates who thronged to his celebrated lectures on Johnson at Harvard would not have been disheartened by such a modest dis claimer. Even so, Bate's biography surpasses every expectation. It is an...

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