Talk:Samuel Johnson

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Featured articleSamuel Johnson is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
Main Page trophyThis article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on January 31, 2009.
Article milestones
August 4, 2008Peer reviewReviewed
October 7, 2008Featured article candidatePromoted
January 31, 2009Today's featured articleMain Page
July 6, 2009Featured topic candidateNot promoted
Current status: Featured article

May 2018[edit]

I have corrected a number of citation and MOS errors, and removed some text that has been added since the FA version. This article uses Summary style; when adding new text, please consider if it would better fit into a sub-article. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:10, 5 May 2018 (UTC)

I saw that you reverted some of the changes made to the article of Samuel Johnson, some of those edits being added by me. Your justification for doing this is, as per your words, either because you haven't verified the text or because you feel the edits are not needed. It's good that you're vigilant, but I wasn't aware that the article was under special status where Wikipedia rules don't apply. Unless an article is protected, as far as I'm concerned, we can edit it and add sources without having someone verify them. On top of that, you removed content because you felt it wasn't significant, but if that's the case, you can discuss the issue, and not just remove the text. The reason why I added his height--and him being three-in-one-thousand of that stature--is because his height and "robust figure" is mentioned in the article (as it should), and if we are to know that he was tall, we can just as well know how tall he was. Not only that, but Johnson's physique is, as you must know, a topic of interest due to his mannerism and unique way of expressing himself (his tics included). On top of that, the section deals with Johnson's physical appearance. Overall, the information about his height adds substance to that insight.
Since I believe that you have the best interest at heart--since no Johnson reader would be anything but sensible and aim for precision--I like you to believe the same about me and anyone who invests in that article, so I'm asking you to take a second look and perhaps find a context for that information and improve the flow. Note. You also removed the sourced info about Adams remark about Johnson and you say it's a repeat, but I searched the article and I don't find this information elsewhere. Thanks. --Cei Trei (talk) 20:33, 6 May 2018 (UTC)
@Cei Trei: in fact, I kept quite a few of your edits, and I did not revert any edits because I hadn't verified them (I noted that I hadn't verified edits when cleaning up MOS and citation errors that should not be introduced to an Featured article). For example, I did not remove his height; I moved it to a footnote, because it was introduced in a way that didn't flow. Please review the policy page at WP:OWN#Featured articles; after you have done that, we can discuss your edits on article talk. The article is quite large, and uses summary style, so often, new text can be added to a sub-article. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 21:20, 6 May 2018 (UTC)

Character Sketch - Views on women[edit]

Given the Character sketch section covers his views on slavery, religion, politics and cats - it probably deserves a sentence on his view of women in society. I don't have access to the books referenced, and don't want to change the article without context, but this thesis [1] is a good place to start -- Spacepine (talk) 12:24, 22 June 2018 (UTC)

@Ealdgyth: what do you think of that source? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:01, 25 June 2018 (UTC)
Masters theses are rarely good sources, unless they are widely cited in scholarship. It may be useful for other sources to use, however. Ealdgyth - Talk 22:07, 25 June 2018 (UTC)

List of works needs references[edit]

@Xover: Per Wikipedia:WikiProject Bibliographies#Sourcing bibliographic entries, WP:V is applicable here as well. This needs some sort of off-Wikipedia reference to verify the names, publication dates, etc. Thanks. howcheng {chat} 19:15, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

@Howcheng: First of all, WP:BIB's guidance to its members has no particular bearing: it's a local consensus for WP:BIB that binds no one else. Second, WP:BIB's scope is standalone bibliography articles (i.e. the hypothetical Samuel Johnson bibliography), not lists of works in other kinds of articles. Third, even were it relevant, the applicable phrasing there is If an entry does not have a Wikipedia article and there might be any doubt that it belongs in the bibliography, it should be cited with a reliable source that verifies its relevance (my ephasis). Most of the works there have their own article (cf. the first bullet in the list you linked to), and if you genuinely and non-POINTily believe that any of the works in that section are not relevant in a list whose inclusion criteria is "major [as opposed to minor or incidental, and also as opposed to a comprehensive list of all works] by Samuel Johnson", then please tag each such item individually including a specific (actionable!) rationale.
But WP:BIB's guidelines are, as mentioned, not really relevant here. The bottom line is that all items in that list are already cited: they are implicitly cited to themselves, as they are reliable primary sources for their own existence (per WP:PSTS and WP:RS). Thus to require further sourcing (from a secondary source, say) there must be some actual additional concern, and that concern must be explicit and specific (just a {{refimprove|section}} is not sufficient). --Xover (talk) 20:36, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
The question being, how does one verify that these titles and dates are actually accurate, especially the ones without articles, and when they aren't even mentioned in the article text? I don't see how you can just ignore WP:V. howcheng {chat} 20:53, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
One consults the primary source, as with all other information on Wikipedia that is verifiable through citation to a reliable primary source. A list of works contains no interpretive statements or novel synthesis (i.e. OR), so there is no particular need for a secondary (vs. primary) source. V in the sense you (aiui) mean it, comes into play if, for example, there is genuine dispute over authorship, or where there is genuine uncertainty about a date of publication (over and above the normal uncertainty of these dates I mean: even modern publications are often off by a year, or provide a completely bogus date at day-resolution, for marketing or logistical reasons) in a way that matters (was it written before or after an event, say: in these cases, ironically enough, the secondary sources will discuss it and thus tell us that we need a secondary source :)).
Also, don't get me wrong: I'm sure there's lots of discussions to be had about that list (are the inclusion criteria too wide, too narrow, specific enough; should it be covered in prose rather than be a list; etc.), and while I'm not aware of any instances of genuine controversy there I'm also not saying it is impossible that one or more such exist. I'm only saying that the mere listing, in general, satisfies WP:V (i.e. {{refimprove|section}} does not apply) and any specific concerns must be dealt with individually.
PS. My Wikipedia time is a bit erratic and unpredictable so I always appreciate a ping in replies so I don't forget to check back in to a discussion next time I'm online. And apologies in advance if I'm late in replyiing, for the same reason. --Xover (talk) 22:00, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
@Xover: I disagree with the statement that the mere listing is verifiable to itself. Now if you can put links into the works at Google Books or the Internet Archive or OCLC numbers, I'm happy with that. Something to prove that the item actually exists, you get what I'm saying? howcheng {chat} 23:41, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
(thanks for the ping. and apologies: dashing off this reply in a few minutes before heading out the door.)
The listing isn't verifiable to itself: that would be the very definition of circular. Each individual work listed, though, is verifiable to the physical work itself. And we don't generally require existence proof for works or simple facts about that work: again, the work itself serves as a source for that. Since my plot summary example appears to be insufficient, let me add that of track listings for a CD: we don't need secondary sourcing to say that a CD contains tracks "Foo", "Bar", and "Baz". Simple facts like that can be readily found on the work itself with no specialist knowledge.
We also do not place external links in the article body (I'd have to dig to check whether that's a policy or a MoS thing, but my impression is that the consensus for that is both wide and strong). I would also personally object to Google Books links as advertising for a commercial actor with a problematic record for georestrictions and really rotten bibliographic data (I'm afraid I'd be unable to characterise their observed quality there without resorting to profanity: it's pretty grim in my experience).
Of the 29 works listed, 17 have Wikipedia articles. A further 6 are discussed in article prose (and, as interpretive statements, are cited there) or are adjunct to such an entry. That leaves 6 out of 29 works in the list that are only supported by an implicit primary source citation to that work itself. And so far as I know—with the caveat that Johnson is somewhat peripheral to my field—there is no controversy regarding Johnson's authorship of these works (or related issues that would require a secondary or ternary source). Thus, absent specific concerns regarding specific works, the "Major works" section is more than sufficiently cited for the purposes of WP:V. --Xover (talk) 06:56, 12 December 2018 (UTC)

"Influence on Johnson"[edit]

I have removed this section as it is undeveloped and so creates a problem of undue weight, as well as generally diluting the quality of the article. There is the problem that influences are discussed in the "Character sketch" section and elsewhere in the article but not in this new section, for example. It needs major work before it is re-added if it is to be in keeping with the article's featured article status. Hrodvarsson (talk) 04:42, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

Here is the section as written:

As I young man, Johnson was rather stubborn and wanted to go his own ways. Regarding his life as a student when he was nineteen, he wrote: "I was miserably poor, and I thought to fight my way by my literature and my wit; so I disregarded all power and all authority."[1]

Later, one of the writers who influenced Johnson, was the Church of England priest William Law. Commenting on Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1729), Johnson wrote: "But I found Law quite an overmatch for me; and this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest of religion after I became capable of rational inquiry."[2]

In her book Abyssinia's Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author (Oxford University Press, 2012), Princeton professor Wendy Laura Belcher argues that Johnson was "formed by the texts on the Abyssinian highlands in today's Ethiopia."[3] She demonstrates how Johnson's translation of A Voyage to Abyssinia, by Jeronimi Lobo, "left an indelible imprint on Johnson."[4]

Belcher also finds traces of African discourse in Johnson’s only work conceived for the stage, Irene; several of his short stories; and, in his most famous fiction, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. Thus, she "proposes a new model of transcultural intertextuality – one that illuminates how the Western literary canon is globally produced".[5]


  1. ^ Boswell, James; Malone, Edmond (1830). The Life of Samuel Johnson ... With copious notes and biographical illustrations, by Malone, etc. John Sharpe.
  2. ^ Boswell, James (1847). Life of Samuel Johnson, Comprehending an Account of His Studies, and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order: With His Correspondence and Conversations.
  3. ^ Belcher, Wendy Laura. Abyssinia's Samuel Johnson : Ethiopian thought in the making of an English author. New York. ISBN 9780199793211. OCLC 755004191.
  4. ^ "Abyssinia's Samuel Johnson - Wendy Laura Belcher". Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  5. ^ Herbjørnsrud, Dag (2019-05-10). "Beyond decolonizing: global intellectual history and reconstruction of a comparative method". Global Intellectual History. 0 (0): 1–27. doi:10.1080/23801883.2019.1616310. ISSN 2380-1883.

Be aware that "undue weight" is weighted against "reliable sources", not the personal views among Wikipedia editors, cf the guidelines: "Keep in mind that, in determining proper weight, we consider a viewpoint's prevalence in reliable sources, not its prevalence among Wikipedia editors or the general public."
Normally, an Oxford University Press book by a Princeton professor is considered a reliable source, not a "dilution". The info seems relevant, scholarly, and interesting. Leanne47 (talk) 11:56, 19 June 2019 (UTC) Leanne47 (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic.
A book published by OUP is a (presumably) reliable source, but due weight is determined relative to the entire body of knowledge on the topic. --Xover (talk) 14:01, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
  • The first two points are sourced only to Boswell's Life, a primary source which we wouldn't replicate in full, so a secondary source would be needed to evaluate if these were so significant as to feature in this article – if they are, they should be incorporated into the relevant bio sections, and not separated out into a new "Influbences" section.
    Boswell's translation of the book by Jerónimo Lobo is already covered in the article, the "book by a Princeton professor" might supplement that but not by adding a new section for the non-notable Wendy Laura Belcher and her vague argument that Boswell was "formed" by the translation from French and abridgement of Lobo's book. More detail is needed even to evaluate if something of her argument should be in the article, preferably another source commenting on anything new she's said. . . . . dave souza, talk 16:28, 19 June 2019 (UTC)