I am carrying out research for the book in some of the same ways that any researcher or scholar would. In addition to the primary sources, there are several full, authoritative, scholarly biographies of Johnson that have been published over the years, as well of course as a small mountain of articles and other smaller pieces. Many books on specific aspects of Johnson’s writings or of his life have also been published. And there have even been some very short biographies and other books, aimed more at a popular readership (like my own), and some heavy with illustrations and photos, that have also been published, especially in the last couple of decades. The quality and dependability of this giant corpus are variable.
I am also supplementing my standard research with other sources that are traditionally not used in scholarly books. I spent part of May 2019 in London, where I carried out in-person interviews with scholars who live in the city (and in Oxford). These were really excellent, and I had the opportunity to carry on a conversation with them as scholars and Johnson enthusiasts, which can be a nice change of pace from simply reading articles. I was very appreciative that these scholars took the time to meet with me and share their knowledge. One of them, for example, is an expert in theatre buildings and management from the late 16th century onwards, and was able to provide me with insights into the relationship between Johnson and his friend (and later actor and theatre manager) David Garrick.
I am still chiefly in the research phase of the book, but I have done some writing, and established roughly the chronology of Johnson’s life. Part of the latter entails selecting the aspects of Johnson’s person and the incidents in his life that I want to focus on, given my hoped-for readership.
It continues …