I am ~1/6 of the way through an abridged (at 600 pages!) edition of this work, right about the point at which Samuel Johnsonis writing prologues for the benefit of granddaughter;John Milton's granddaughter; this part is particularly lovely, and the first actual criticism of Johnson's work. I wonder, had I chosen to try the unabridged work, if there would be more of this? I feel like I've been reading list upon list of works that Johnson has written, but have learned nothing about them, except that James Boswell thinks that they are wonderful. For example in a chapter entitled 'The Life of Richard Savage', [Also the title of a work of Johnson's:], we learn that Richard Savage didn't have the comportment of a man that Johnson would deign to dine with and that Johnson didn't like actors. Can someone who has read the real thing please let me know if I'm wasting my time on the abridged version? Or was the abridgment worth it because this is what I can expect from Boswell?
Now am finished. Phew! Let me add first, that I can tell that this abridgement is a poor one. Boswell clearly references events that were cut out of this edition. There are moments of beauty . . . and then the editor took a hacksaw to them.
Samuel Johnson was perhaps one of the most learned and accomplished men of English letters, falling nicely between Milton/Richardson and Shelley/Byron. He wrote the first dictionary of the English language, a comprehensive biography of the English poets, several travel memoirs, poems, a novel or two and plenty on politics and religion. He was a deeply religious man who dedicated his life to rational inquiry. Boswell, one of his closest friends, tells his story with much love and honesty.
I, though I haven't read it, highly recommend the unabridged version.