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Biography - The Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries

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The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

The English term biography was first used by John Dryden in 1683. The seventeenth century and the early eighteenth century witnessed expanded production of many types of life writing, including diaries, letters, and memoirs. Biographies by women appeared in this period, such as Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson by Lucy Hutchinson (1620–after 1675) and The Life of William Cavendish (1667) by Margaret Cavendish (1623–1673). Some important biographical works were the five lives of eminent figures by Izaak Walton (1593–1683), the Lives of Eminent Men by John Aubrey (1626–1697), the diary of Samuel Pepys (1633–1703), and Roger North's Lives of the Norths (1742–1744). The most influential English biography was James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson (1791). Boswell adopted the methods of earlier biographers, but artfully combined letters, personal documents, conversation, anecdotes, and his own observations to present a vivid portrait of Johnson. His in-depth treatment had a major impact on biography throughout the world.

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