Form and Content
Ivor Brown’s Dr. Johnson and His World, which is attractive to the eye and easy to browse through, is composed of equal portions of text and illustrations. Because the book is short and not divided into chapters, a reader may skim some pages and pause to read others when an illustration catches the eye. It is, in essence, a coffee-table book for young adults.
Brown takes as his starting point the life and writing career of Samuel Johnson, using Johnson’s life as a springboard to describe the world in which he flourished. Johnson’s England is a country of great contrasts (such as the gap between the wealthy and poor) and fascinating contradictions (such as a passion for progress amid laments for vanishing traditions). Leisurely and informally, Brown describes numerous features of British life in Johnson’s time, including fashion, building design, carriages, eating habits, military equipment, and industrial machines.
Dr. Johnson and His World is a work of social history that depicts people, places, and objects and forgoes the focus of traditional history on governmental structure, political changes, and wars. The distribution of topics among the sixty-six illustrations reveals this fact: Twenty illustrations are of important writers, scientists, and explorers; five depict geographical places, mostly London; and forty-one show ob-jects. Some are important technical breakthroughs, such as an iron bridge, a spinning...
(The entire section is 408 words.)