Joe of New York City alerts me to an excellent essay on Samuel Johnson, "The Teacher of Morality at Harwich Beach," at First Things. The author is Shalom Carmy, chair of Bible and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva College and editor of Tradition, the theological journal of the Rabbinical Council of America, where the essay originally appeared. Here's a sample:
"Because Johnson is so much a moralist of common sense, he is more bent on reminding readers of what they already know than in announcing paradoxical discoveries, and his most original observations often seem uncontroversial once grasped. For those who continue to enjoy and admire his shrewd moralizing, the commonplace nature of his characteristic moral themes commands our attention due to the gravity of his prose and the balance of his judgment; his formal weightiness is redeemed by the accurate, knowing deployment of his huge vocabulary and encyclopedic learning."