Young Sam Johnson


Jerónimo Lobo. A Voyage to Abyssinia. London: A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, 1735. *2003J-SJ5

In 1733, Johnson was unemployed and living in Birmingham with his friend Edmund Hector (1708-1794), who rented a room from the printer Thomas Warren (d. 1767). For the sum of five guineas, Warren hired Johnson to make an English translation of a French translation of a travel narrative by the Portuguese missionary Jerónimo Lobo (1596?-1678). This, Johnson's first substantial published work, was the first of many occasions in which Johnson contracted his services to a publisher, and set a pattern of procrastination which he repeated throughout his literary career. Boswell writes:

[H]is constitutional indolence soon prevailed, and the work was at a stand. Mr. Hector, who knew that a motive of humanity would be the most prevailing argument with his friend, went to Johnson, and represented to him, that the printer could have no other employment till this undertaking was finished, and that the poor man and his family were suffering. Johnson upon this exerted the powers of his mind, though his body was relaxed. He lay in bed with the book, which was a quarto, before him, and dictated while Hector wrote.