“. . . but he suffered from the empiricist illustion that what was real was what you could smell with your own fingers. Samuel Johnson held much the same view – and if Johnson is the kind of ‘character’ the English adore, it is not only because they take a stoutly individualist delight in the idiosyncratic, but because a ‘character’ represents the tangible truth of a person rather than the abstract truth of an idea.
Hence the English obsession with biography, which is among other things a covert anti-intellectualism.”
(Terry Eagleton, “Reach-Me-Down Romantic” in the London Review of Books, 19 June 2003)