The list of births, marriages, and deaths in the December 1784 issue of Town and Country Magazine contained a deceptively short entry for the 13th: “Dr. Samuel Johnson, a gentleman much celebrated in the literary world.” The death of Samuel Johnson—English author, moralist, conversationalist, and celebrity—became a literary spectacle in late eighteenth-century Britain. Newspapers carried details of Johnson’s last moments, his will, and his funeral, while Johnson’s contemporaries brought forth epitaphs and tributes to his life within days of his death. As his life was to become, Johnson’s death became a matter of public literary property. “Pour forth your streaming tears, sweet Muses,” wrote the author of an epitaph in the December issue of Gentleman’s Magazine (1784), “For, oh! your God-like Johnson is no more.”

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