SAMUEL JOHNSON by Peter Martin

Phoenix, £14.99

THERE’S more to Johnson than meets the eye – at least according to the author of this giant biography.

Well-known as rationalist and sage, many know Johnson for his caring words on the human condition, his concerns over colonialism, slavery, gender equality and underprivilege. But here we also presented with a portrait of an outsider, a depressive and a character marked by an impoverished youth, an abandoned education and his service as a hack.

It is a fascinating construction and deconstruction of a literary and social icon and Martin’s sympathetic depiction uncovers an unpredictable rebel, but a formidable figure all the same.