Writing Style and Light Wine
The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell, Boswell distinguishes between the two very different writing styles of Joseph Addison and Samuel Johnson. Boswell believes both are very esteemed writers but it is evident Boswell favors Johnson’s style over Addison’s. Boswell conveys his perspective on both styles with diction and devices, namely similes and metaphors. At first Boswell defends Addison against claims made on Addison’s writing style as “nerveless and feeble” compared to that of Johnson’s.
In his passage, Boswell considers the social position from which Addison is writing from. He states “Addison writes with the ease of a gentleman”, indicating Addison’s style has a casual, eloquent, and polite manner. Addison’s style is flowing and easygoing like a conversation, indicating that he writes the way he speaks. He is more like an “accomplished companion” and does not write like he is above his audience from an intellectual standpoint but rather a knowledgeable colleague. Boswell signifies Addison is more relaxed with his writing and is easy to understand from the beginning to end.
Addison “insinuates his sentiments” with an “imperceptible influence”. The way Addison communicates his ideas is not imposing and not very forceful. He causes his audience to consider his point of view and supports it with viable arguments bringing the reader to respect him. He is more like a “light wine” where he appeals to everyone. In contrast, Johnson’s style is bolder and more forceful. Boswell observes that “Johnson writes like a teacher”; Johnson as opposed to Addison makes himself known as the higher intellectual to his audience.
Johnson does not hold back and states his arguments firmly like a professor speaking in front of his students. He “dictates to his readers as if from an academical chair” and does not simply suggest his point like Addison but conveys it with a commanding nature. Johnson’s readers do not just respect him, they look at him with “awe and admiration”. Boswell is one of those readers who finds Addison’s writing pleasing but prefers a more intellectually exciting read that can be found in Johnson’s work.
Boswell sees Johnson’s writing as more invigorating and captivating to the ear, writing that others aim for. “Highly relished” and “like liquor of more body” is how Boswell describes his view on Johnson’s writing. The after effect of Johnson’s work is more lasting and is far more appreciated by those looking for more substance. It is apparent Boswell favors a more mind stimulating read. Readers find enjoyment in Addison’s work but are astounded by Johnson’s. He states both styles appeal to different audiences, with readers fancying Addison but admiring Johnson.
Boswell respects Addison and does not show any disrespect to him in the least but clearly favors Johnson’s style. He praises both authors but elevates Johnson in a subtle way. Boswell contrasts both writers as Addison being more like “light wine” and Johnson as “liquor of more body”. Liquor is more complex while light wine is simpler. It takes one with refined taste to fully appreciate the boldness of liquor versus a common wine that is simply pleasing to everyone. Addison’s work can still be enjoyed but Johnson’s work is for those who wish to be intoxicated with knowledge.