Samuel Johnson has been described as “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”. Born in 1709, he was a poet, essayist, biographer, travel writer, critic and more. Key achievements included the first ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ (1755), an annotated edition of the works of Shakespeare and ‘Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets’, a biographical and critical assessment of the key 17th and 18th Century poets. He was conservative, a devout Anglican and opposed to slavery. He lived to the age of 75, despite suffering from scrofula, gout, testicular cancer, hypertension, Tourettes Syndrome (this was not a known condition at the time) and extreme bouts of depression. His contribution to the content and form of English letters is immeasurable; after his death, his friend James Boswell published ‘The Life of Samuel Johnson’, the first example of what we now recognise as the modern biography.