John Wain’s biography of Samuel Johnson came out in 1974, and won several literary prizes, including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Samuel Johnson has been called ‘the best life of Johnson since Boswell’s’. It was reissued in a new edition by the original publisher, Macmillan, in 1994, with a new preface by the author, in which he writes:
“Of course, if my attitude to Johnson had changed fundamentally over the last two decades, I would have to say so, perhaps by writing another book. But it hasn’t. The only change I discern is that if anything I love and revere Johnson even more than I did two decades ago. I believe now, more profoundly than I did then, that even Solomon in his glory was not so beautiful as this big clumsy Englishman with the short sight and the food-stained clothes who walked the earth with such giant strides and who pondered on human life so long and so generously, and won through in the end to so much wisdom.’
John Wain’s last published work was his play about the last days of Johnson’s life, Johnson Is Leaving.